Utah Sen. Mitt Romney placed responsibility for violent protesters storming the U.S. Capitol while Congress counted Electoral College votes Wednesday squarely on the shoulders of President Donald Trump.
“We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,” the Republican senator said in a statement and in a Senate floor speech.
“What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States.”
Trump encouraged his supporters gathered at a rally in Washington, D.C., to march on the Capitol after again falsely asserting that he had won the election and Democrats had stolen it from him.
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, also blamed Trump.
“My anger continues to grow over today’s desecration of the United States Capitol, our nation’s home. What happened was an act of domestic terrorism inspired and encouraged by our president,” he tweeted.
Romney also condemned Senate and House members who raised objections to the electoral vote with the claim that that they were doing it on behalf of voters. Utah GOP Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens said they would not vote to certify the election.
He said their call for an audit to satisfy people who believe the election was stolen would do no good.
“Please! No congressional led audit will ever convince those voters, particularly when the president will continue to claim that the election was stolen. The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth,” Romney said to lengthy applause in the Senate chamber.
The truth, he said, is that President-elect Joe Biden won, and Trump lost.
Congress reconvened after rioters were removed from the Capitol and continued to debate an objection to Arizona’s electoral votes for Trump on Wednesday night The Senate rejected the objection 93-6, while the House voted it down 303-121.
Despite their earlier statements, Stewart and Owens were among the Republicans who voted against the objection, as did the other four members of Utah’s delegation.
Romney said those who choose to continue to support Trump’s “dangerous gambit” by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.
“They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy,” he said.
Stewart also tweeted that “any encouragement of violent and illegal behavior is inappropriate, especially from our commander in chief.”
The extraordinary day in Washington laid bare deep divisions both between the two parties and within Republican ranks, when the ceremonial counting of electoral votes that unfolds every four years in Congress was transformed into an explosive spectacle, with Trump stoking the unrest, according to the New York Times.
“This is what you’ve gotten, guys,” Romney yelled as the mayhem unfolded in the Senate chamber, apparently addressing his colleagues who were leading the charge to press Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.
Looking tired and disheartened during his speech, Romney said he was “shaken to the core” as he thought about people he met in Russia, China, Afghanistan and Iraq yearning for freedom. He said it broke his heart to see the images of violence at the Capitol broadcast around the world.
In a Senate floor speech, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, explained why he decided to not join in objections to the electoral vote. He said he spent an “enormous amount of time” studying the law, talking with Trump lawyers and in phone conversations with legislators and other leaders from the contested states.
The Constitution makes it clear that only states are charged with appointing presidential electors, he said. The 12th Amendment, he said, calls for the vice president to open the ballots and the “votes shall then be counted.”
“It’s those words that confine, define and constrain every scrap of authority we have in this process,” Lee said. “Our job is to open, then count, open, then count. That’s it. That’s all there is.”
New Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, said in a video recorded from the governor’s mansion that he was “deeply troubled at the chaos, at the devastation and the cowardly acts of violence we are seeing at our nation’s Capitol.”
“As patriots. As Utahns. As Americans. As people who care deeply about each other and care deeply about this great nation, I urge you to stand up and speak out against this violence, against the terrorists, against the evil that we have seen at our nation’s Capitol today,” he said.
Members of Utah’s congressional delegation were safe after Trump supporters breached the Capitol and made their way into the House and Senate chambers as lawmakers were debating an objection to Arizona’s electoral slate. They also condemned protesters’ actions.
Curtis tweeted that he and his staff were safe and thanked the Capitol Police for “working tirelessly.”
“It’s totally inappropriate what’s happening here at the Capitol. This is not who we are, we’re better than this. My plea is that we use all our influence to tone this down & return to reasonable debate,” Curtis said.
My staff and I are safe— thank you to @CapitolPolice for working tirelessly.— Rep. John Curtis (@RepJohnCurtis) January 6, 2021
It’s totally inappropriate what’s happening here at the Capitol. This is not who we are, we’re better than this. My plea is that we use all our influence to tone this down & return to reasonable debate. pic.twitter.com/I2X3e7nGt0
Lee was safe in the Senate chamber, according to his spokesman Conn Carroll. Lee tweeted that the “outrage” must stop.
“Whether we get back in the chamber or convene in a different location, the Senate should continue the work of the American people immediately. This outrage cannot be allowed to disrupt that work for a minute longer,” he said.
Lee also tweeted, “Congress was elected to govern. We need to get back on the floor and gavel in the Senate as soon as possible.”
Whether we get back in the chamber or convene in a different location, the Senate should continue the work of the American people immediately. This outrage cannot be allowed to disrupt that work for a minute longer.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) January 6, 2021
Lee followed with another tweet calling for protesters to disperse.
“The violence at the United States Capitol is completely unacceptable. It is time for the protesters to disperse. My staff and I are safe. We are working to finish our constitutional duty to finish counting votes today. God bless the Capitol Police keeping us all safe,” he said.
The violence at the United States Capitol is completely unacceptable. It is time for the protesters to disperse.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) January 6, 2021
My staff and I are safe. We are working to finish our constitutional duty to finish counting votes today.
God bless the Capitol Police keeping us all safe.
Lee and Romney were initially locked down with their colleagues in the Senate chamber. They later “evacuated to a safe location in the complex,” said Romney spokeswoman Liz Johnson.
Stewart called the protesters’ actions “un-American.”
“Protesters who are breaking windows, threatening violence, and accosting police are behaving inexcusably. It is un-American. This must stop now!” he tweeted.
Watching & hearing what's going on here continues to make me sick & angry. I've spent my life in the— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) January 6, 2021
military & serving my country in Congress. I understand people's fears & frustrations over the election. But nothing excuses this behavior. Its selfish & destructive. Stop it now!
Owens, R-Utah, condemned the violence at the Capitol.
“My team and I are safe and beyond grateful for the service of Capitol Police. I am deeply saddened by what is happening right now. Americans are better than this. Senseless violence is NEVER okay. We have to do better,” he tweeted.
My team and I are safe and beyond grateful for the service of Capitol Police.— Rep. Burgess Owens (@RepBurgessOwens) January 6, 2021
I am deeply saddened by what is happening right now. Americans are better than this. Senseless violence is NEVER okay. We have to do better.
Retired Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump while in office, issued a statement saying enough is enough.
“Without any pause, caveat, or equivocation, I condemn the riots taking place at the US Capitol,” he said. “The lawless incursion on our Capitol is both a physical and spiritual attack on an institution I love — an institution I spent more than four decades protecting.”
Trump did little to quell the rioting, only asking protesters to “remain peaceful. No violence!”
“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” the president tweeted.
I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2021
The president later posted a brief video on Twitter telling protesters to go home, while at the same time claiming the election was stolen.
Curtis said Trump owes it to Americans to publicly call for an end to the riots.
“If this were in any other country, we would be condemning these actions and calling for their leaders to stop the violence. Those protesting say they are doing so in the best interest of America — but if that were true, they would end their assault on this sacred institution,” he said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, Trump took a verbal shot at Romney during a Washington, D.C., rally on the Electoral College vote certification.
“I wonder if he enjoyed his flight in last night,” the president mocked, referring to videos of Trump supporters seen harassing Romney at Salt Lake City International Airport that were posted on social media.
Romney was en route to Washington for the joint session of Congress to tally states’ Electoral College votes for president.
Ahead of the session, Owens was among 37 Republican House members who signed a statement saying they are “convinced” that election laws in certain states were changed in an unconstitutional manner and that their slates of electors are not valid.
“Given these inescapable facts, we believe we have no choice but to vote to sustain objections to those slates of electors,” the group wrote.
Owens said in a tweet, “This is not about “overturning an election”. This is about protecting the integrity of our elections.”
Vice President Mike Pence issued a three-page letter Wednesday explaining why he will not attempt to oppose Biden’s victory as Trump has pressured him to do.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote to lawmakers.
Romney is among GOP senators who will vote to certify the election results, drawing derision from Trump supporters.
In the nearly two-minute video posted to Twitter on Tuesday night, Romney is seen wearing a mask and typing on a laptop while sitting alone at the airport when he is approached by a Trump supporter who calls him a “disgusting shame.”
“Are you going to support him in the fraudulent votes?” the woman asks, referring to Wednesday’s congressional confirmation of the Electoral College vote.
“To overturn the election?” Romney asks. “No, I’m not.” The senator refers the woman to a statement he released Saturday on efforts to contest the results of the election, which he called “an egregious ploy to reject electors” that “dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic.”
The woman continues to accost Romney, telling the senator that he hasn’t been supportive of the president and that he was “voted in as a conservative to represent the conservative constituents. Period.”
As the woman raises her voice, Romney folds the laptop and walks away.
“You’re a joke. An absolute joke,” the woman says. “It’s a disgusting shame.”
The woman also says “and your little friend Cox, too,” as Romney walks away, apparently in reference to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.
“You know what? He assaulted me last night, Cox did,” the woman said.
A video of apparently the same woman confronting Cox also surfaced Tuesday. In that video, the woman asks Cox if he is going to support Trump on Wednesday.
“President Trump lost,” Cox replied.
The woman goes on to say that Utah voted Cox into office to support the “conservative” president. Cox appears to gently reach out toward the woman as they talk but it’s unclear if he makes contact.
“Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me,” the woman says.
Cox tells the woman it was nice to meet her and hopes she has a good night before turning to walk away.
“You said protesters are your enemy and, you know what, I will be your No. 1 enemy,” the woman says.
In another video posted to Twitter on Tuesday night, a group of passengers on the same flight with Romney from Salt Lake City to Washington can be heard chanting “traitor.”
“Resign, Mitt,” a woman yells.
“We love you, Mitt Romney. You’re great!” another passenger yelled in response.
Romney’s office had no comment about the incidents.
Trump brought up Romney during his rambling speech at the rally while talking about not conceding the election.
“Don’t forget when Romney got beat ... Romney. I wonder if he enjoyed his flight in last night,” the president said.
“But when Romney got beat, you know, he stands up like, “Well, I’d like to congratulate the victor,’” Trump said in a mocking voice. “The victor. Who is the victor, Mitt? They don’t go and look at the facts. Now, I don’t know. He got slaughtered. Probably, maybe it was OK. Maybe that’s what happened.”
Trump said, “But we look at the facts” before he again called the 2020 election the most corrupt in history.
Despite Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, state officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence of fraud or other problems that would change the outcome. The states have certified their results as fair and valid. Of the more than 50 lawsuits the president and his allies have filed challenging election results, nearly all have been dismissed or dropped. Trump also lost twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lee, a Trump supporter whom the president said Monday he’s angry with while both were at a rally in Georgia, was among those calling for civility after Romney was verbally assaulted at the airport.
“No matter our political differences let’s all treat each other with respect and decency. Harassing your political opponents on a plane is not acceptable. Harassing your political opponents at their home is not acceptable. We as a country need to be better than this,” Lee tweeted.
Lee appears to be among GOP senators who do not support objecting to the Electoral College certification.
No matter our political differences let’s all treat each other with respect and decency. Harassing your political opponents on a plane is not acceptable. Harassing your political opponents at their home is not acceptable. We as a country need to be better than this.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) January 6, 2021