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Politics & Government

Oregon, California Lawmakers React To Insurrection In The Nation’s Capital

U.S. Capitol in 2006
DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

A violent mob supporting President Donald Trump broke windows and overwhelmed police in Washington D.C. Wednesday, forcing their way into the Capitol building. Their actions drew rebukes from members of Oregon and California’s Congressional delegations, though some officials responded more forcefully than others.

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden called the riot at the capitol “an assault on democracy.”

“Today's riots by insurrectionists in the nation's Capitol caps off four years of Donald Trump fanning the flames of fanaticism,” Wyden said on Twitter. “Every Republican lawmaker who supported his efforts to overturn a legitimate election shares responsibility for today's violence.”

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley was on the Senate floor when he was evacuated as a crowd forced its way into the chambers.

“This situation is the result of really what has been the failure to have a strong bipartisan pushback to the lies and conspiracy theories promoted by the President of the United States,” the Democrat said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Democrat Jared Huffman represents California’s Second District, which encompasses much of the North Coast. On Twitter, he called the mob “white nationalist terrorists.” He later tweeted, “This is sedition. This is terrorism. Trump is a danger to democracy and unfit to serve as president—now or ever again. I’m calling on VP Pence & the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump immediately and will work to fast-track impeachment.”

While in his office at the capitol complex during the lockdown, Huffman told JPR that President Donald Trump should also be criminally prosecuted for sedition, a felony crime.

“There’s no ambiguity about what he set in motion about his role in it and what it is,” he said. “This is a violent coup attempt underway right now.”

The region’s Republican representatives were somewhat more muted in their response the events at the Capitol. California’s First District Rep. Doug LaMalfa remained mostly silent on social media. As of the late afternoon Wednesday, LaMalfa hadn’t posted any updates to Twitter. In the past, he’s used the platform to call the presidential election “fraudulent.” He’s also made unfounded claims about voter fraud. Later in the day, LaMalfa issued a written statement through his chief of staff, in which he condemned the violence.

“The actions at the Capitol today hurt our country,” he wrote. “We intend to resume our duties soon. The voice of the House of the People will not be silenced for long by a small group that violates the goodwill of all Americans to the right to redress their grievances.”

For months, LaMalfa and other Republican lawmakers have supported Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him. The riot at the capitol came as Congress was preparing to officially recognize Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election.

Newly sworn-in Oregon Representative Cliff Bentz also had to evacuate part of the U.S. Capitol when the mob broke in. Bentz, a Republican, represents Eastern Oregon and the Rogue Valley.

In a statement, Bentz wrote, “Peaceful protest is essential to our society – violent protest is not.” He urged respect for the Capitol police and to let Congress deliberate on the certification of the electoral college results. Bentz is among the Republican House members who have cast doubt on the outcome of the presidential election by calling for a congressional investigation into baseless allegations of “voting irregularities.” Those allegations have been repeatedly debunked and more than 60 lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and its supporters have been dismissed by federal and state courts.

Bentz was later reached by phone while sheltering in place in his office.

He bristled at the suggestion that there was any connection between the congressional investigation that he and other Republicans were demanding and the pro-Trump extremists that broke into the capitol.

“To suggest that somehow my request that we look into this led to today is – as I said earlier, this is the third time – ridiculous,” he told JPR.

Bentz did not say whether he would agree to the certification of states’ electoral votes, a step which is traditionally a mostly-ceremonial part of the peaceful transfer of political power in the U.S..