Capitol Riot

One Year Since Capitol Riot, Republicans Try to Shift Blame. But Here's What They Said at the Time

A look at what prominent GOP lawmakers said in the days after they fled the mob that took over the U.S. Capitol

A year ago, after rioters took over the U.S. Capitol, threatening to hang former Vice President Mike Pence and forcing lawmakers to flee, many Republicans joined with Democrats in condemning the violence. 

They called it a tragic day for America, an unimaginable display of anarchy not patriotism.

Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the mob attempting to overturn the election results had been provoked by former President Donald Trump. Former House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the destruction and chaos undemocratic. Senators and representatives demanded accountability.

A year later, with Trump still capable of political retribution, Republicans are publicly minimizing Trump’s role and accusing Democrats of politicizing the riot. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found the 58% of Republicans still believe that Biden was not elected legitimately.

McConnell thanked the Capitol Police for their bravery on the anniversary and called the deadly insurrection a "dark day for Congress and our country."

But in a statement, he criticized Democrats for tying the riot to changing a filibuster rule to pass voting rights legislation, saying, "it is beyond distasteful for some of our colleagues to ham-fistedly invoke the Jan. 6 anniversary to advance these aims."

McCarthy again said those who broke the law should face legal repercussions, but tried to turn the focus to the security of the Capitol, a message being repeated by other Republicans.

“Unfortunately, one year later, the majority party seems no closer to answering the central question of how the Capitol was left so unprepared and what must be done to ensure it never happens again,” he wrote in a letter to House Republicans. “Instead, they are using it as a partisan political weapon to further divide our country."

Republicans leaders were not planning to be at the Capitol on the anniversary, but in a speech on the anniversary, Biden said “This isn’t about being bogged down in the past. This is about making sure the past isn’t buried.”

Biden said Trump had spread a web of lies about the 2020 election results and refused to accept the will of the American people.

“He's done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country's interest and America's interest, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution," Biden said.

“While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principle of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else,” he said.

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, who a year ago was photographed cleaning up the Capitol, on Wednesday tweeted a compilation of Republican statements, writing “These are their words from a year ago. Let’s not let them forget them.”

Here’s a look back at what was said the night of January 6 after the U.S. Capitol was secured and in the days after:

Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol… We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms… To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, January 6, 2021

Today, the people's House was attacked, which is an attack on the Republic itself. There is no excuse for it. A women died. And people need to go to jail. And the President should never have spun up certain Americans to believe something that simply cannot be.

Rep. Chip Roy, January 6, 2021

Read the full Congressional transcript here.

Chaos, anarchy. The violence today was wrong and un-American.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), January 6, 2021

When it comes to accountability, the President needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution, that the rally yesterday was unseemly, it got out of hand... I said on the floor of the Senate, I cast my vote accordingly, that Joe Biden is the legitimate president-elect of the United States.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, January 7, 2021

This has been a truly tragic day for America. We all join together in fully condemning the dangerous violence and destruction that occurred today in our Nation's Capitol. Americans will always have their freedom of speech and the constitutional right to protest, but violence in any form is absolutely unacceptable. It is anti-America, and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, January 6, 2021

Read the full congressional transcript here.

On Wednesday the Capitol of the most powerful nation the world has ever known was stormed by an angry mob. Americans surely never thought they’d see such a scene: members of Congress barricaded inside the House chamber, Capitol Police trampled, and four Americans dead. A woman was shot near the elevator I use every day to enter the House floor. It was a display not of patriotism but of frenzy and anarchy.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, January 11, 2021

Read his full statement here.

Let me be clear: Last week’s violent attack on the Capitol was undemocratic, un-American and criminal…And make no mistake: Those who are responsible for Wednesday’s chaos will be brought to justice…The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, January 13, 2021

Read his full statement here.

January 6th was a disgrace... American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like... Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President...

They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he’d lost an election.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, February 13, 2021

Read his full statement here.

Other statements:

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.): "This violence and destruction have no place in our republic. It must end now." – January 6, 2021

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.): "These actions at the U.S. Capitol by protestors are truly despicable and unacceptable. While I am safe and sheltering in place, these protests are prohibiting us from doing our constitutional duty. I condemn them in the strongest possible terms." – January 6, 2021

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Miss.): "The events unfolding at the Capitol are shameful. There is no justification for violence and destruction. It has to stop now. This is not who we are as a nation. Thank you to the Capitol Police who are keeping us safe." – January 6, 2021

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.): "Today is a sad day for our country. The destruction and violence we saw at our Capitol today is an assault on our democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law, and must not be tolerated. As Americans, we believe in the right to peaceful protest. We must rise above the violence. We must stand together. We will not let today’s violence deter Congress from certifying the election. We must restore confidence in our electoral process. We must, and we will, have a peaceful and orderly transition of power." – January 6, 2021

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.):  "Mr. President. You have got to stop this. You are the only person who can call this off. Call it off. The election is over. Call it off. This is bigger than you. It is bigger than any member of Congress. It is about the United States of America." – January 6, 2021

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.): "Call it what it is: An attack on the Capitol is an attack on democracy Today we are trying to use the democratic process to address grievances. This violence inhibits our ability to do that. Violent protests were unacceptable this summer and are unacceptable now." – January 6, 2021

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): "I condemn the violent and criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol today. These shameful actions to disrupt a session of Congress and vandalize the Capitol building should never happen in our great republic. The U.S. Capitol belongs to every American and is a symbol of the citadel of democracy. An attack on the Capitol building is an attack on every American...

It is time for President Trump to embrace the peaceful transfer of power, which is mandated under the Constitution and a hallmark of our democracy." – January 6, 2021

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.): "Today, we saw an assault on our democracy. I love this institution. I love the United States Congress, and I love the United States of America. And what I saw today was mob rule that spat upon the blood of my father that is in the soil of Europe and in the soil of Korea, and who gave us through that blood this sacred Constitution and the sacred ability to lead this world as a power that says we settle our differences not with mob rule; we settle our difference through elections. And when those elections are over, we have a peaceful transition of power." – January 6, 2021

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.): "What we have seen today is unlawful and unacceptable…I have decided I will vote to uphold the Electoral College results and I encourage Donald Trump to condemn and put an end to this madness." – January 6, 2021

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): "This building has been desecrated, blood has been spilled in the hallways…This isn't what America is. What happened today isn’t what America is." – January 6, 2021

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.): "Everyone has a right to peacefully protest. No one has a right to commit violence. What happened today at the Capitol is disgraceful and un-American. It is not what our country stands for." – January 6, 2021

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.): "I hope that the types of people who stormed the Capitol today got a clear message that they will not stop our democracy from moving forward…We need to get our work done and this kind of thuggery would not keep us from doing the people’s work" – January 6, 2021

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