In recognition of the fact that their effort to gin up paranoid hysteria among their supporters had perhaps gone a little too far, some Republicans, such as Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, said when Congress reconvened Wednesday night after the breach of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters that they would no longer object to electors in certain battleground states President Donald Trump had lost. But not the Republicans from New York.
In the House of Representatives, all four Republicans from New York who had pledged to object made good on their promise. Although Republicans originally planned to object to a number of different battleground states, including Michigan and Georgia, lawmakers only voted on Arizona and Pennsylvania. The Arizona objection was raised shortly before the breach. Reps. Nicole Malliotakis, Chris Jacobs and Lee Zeldin were three of the 121 Republicans who voted to reject the results of the Arizona election. Rep. Elise Stefanik, who never intended to object to Arizona specifically, joined them in objecting to Pennsylvania’s slate of electors, along with 134 other House Republicans.
Prior to casting their votes, each New York Republican condemned the violence that forced them to evacuate the House chambers and take shelter in undisclosed locations in the Capitol. “Americans will always have the freedom of speech and the Constitutional right to protest,” Stefanik said during her floor speech, “but violence in any form is absolutely unacceptable, it is anti-American, and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” In a tweet, Zeldin wrote that “There must be ZERO tolerance for violence in any form!” and that “in our republic we elect people to voice our objections in the Capitol on this day.” Malliotakis and Jacobs issued similar statements, calling the violence in Washington “un-American” and “unacceptable.”
But whatever reservations they may have about violent attempts to overthrow the American government, the pro-Trump New York Republicans have none about the person who brought it about. Although all four objecting New York Republicans condemned the violence, none said a word against Trump for stoking the flames by pushing false claims of voter fraud and insisting without evidence that the election had been stolen from him. Until Thursday morning, Trump did not even commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
Even statements from those who did not offer objections, like Rep. Tom Reed of Western New York, did not mention Trump. Reed, a founder of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, did not use Trump’s name during his floor speech which he gave from the Democratic side of the aisle. “I think we need to move forward,” Reed said when asked at a Thursday press conference about Trump’s responsibility for the riot. “I think people will judge the president, I think history will judge the president and his legacy.” He added that he’s right now just focused on the peaceful transition of power. Rep. Andrew Garbarino of Long Island, who did not take a public position on how he would vote prior to the session, issued a statement Wednesday evening condemning the violence without mentioning Trump, and did not return requests for an interview on Thursday.
The lone exception was Rep. John Katko of Central New York, who said at a press conference Thursday that Trump “incited this violence that was completely unacceptable,” making him the only Republican member of the New York delegation to publicly condemn the president. Although Katko said he didn’t think enough time is left in Trump’s term to remove him from office, he said he’ll be happy when the president is gone. “If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have endorsed him, obviously,” Katko said.
Trump and his surrogates have failed to produce any meaningful evidence to prove widespread voter fraud and the campaign failed in 61 out of 62 lawsuits it filed. Republican and Democratic election officials in battleground states, after recounts and audits upheld Biden’s victory, made exasperated pleas to Trump to accept that he had lost fair and square. Trump even asked the Georgia secretary of state to “find” 11,780 votes so he could win the state.
Many Democrats and nonpartisan observers including The Washington Post editorial board observe that Trump incited the riot through his inflammatory rhetoric, refusal to concede the election and efforts to undermine the democratic process. Organizers of the terrorist attack on the Capitol apparently took to heart Trump’s December 19 tweet instructing them to attend a “wild” protest on Jan. 6. “We’ve got our marching orders,” read a top reply on the right-wing social media site Parler.
Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from California and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York called for Trump’s immediate removal, if not by the 25th Amendment, then by impeachment. “What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president," Schumer said in a statement. "This president should not hold office one day longer." Pelosi later called Trump “a dangerous man.”
And some New York Republicans have been critical of the House members who stood with Trump in opposing certification. “They know who won the election; playing along with Trump's farce helped delude millions of undereducated Americans, some of whom stormed the ramparts yesterday thinking they were the good guys,” New York Republican consultant Bill O’Reilly said in an email. “It's unforgivable.” O’Reilly added that voters should “jettison this group from office at the earliest possible opportunity.” Before Wednesday’s events, former New York Republican Gov. George Pataki criticized attempts to overturn the election. “The ongoing effort to get friendly politicians to decertify the election results is a grave threat to our freedom,” Pataki said in a statement posted January 5 on Twitter. “President Trump doesn’t want to leave office, but he must.” Pataki could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
But the four New York Republicans who favor stealing the election from the American people – so long as it is done through legal and political power rather than an unruly mob – still said that concerns about fraud were great enough to object to certifications. “My constitutional oath is sacred, and I have a duty to speak out about confirmed and evidence-filled issues with the administration of the 2020 presidential election in certain battleground states,” Zeldin said in his floor speech after the Capitol lockdown. “Many of my constituents have been outraged and demanding that I voice their objections here today.” Stefanik was quick to point out that Democrats formally challenged the 2004 election results, although in that instance only one senator and one representative supported the objection in a single state. In a Fox News interview the morning after certification, Malliotakis even expressed sympathy for those at the Capitol on Wednesday, before adding that the time has finally come to move forward. “As a matter of fact, they did not have their day in court, and that’s a part of the problem,” Malliotakis said, likely referring to the many Trump lawsuits dismissed by judges for lack of standing or evidence. “And I think that’s why you’re seeing so much frustration, and why you had tens of thousands of Americans come to the Capitol yesterday.”
Malliotakis, Stefanik, Jacobs and Zeldin did not return calls or texts asking for interviews about their objections and what role, if any, they felt they played in causing the riot. A spokeswoman for Stefanik said she was not available and had not provided answers to a series of written questions before publication time. A spokesperson for Malliotakis provided footage of her Fox News interview this morning. A spokesperson for Zeldin provided a statement that amounted to a condensed version of his floor speech. And a spokesperson for Jacobs did not return a request for comment.
NEXT STORY: Dispatches from inside the Capitol