Utah Sen. Mitt Romney was furious after protesters — fired up by President Donald Trump at a rally saying he was robbed in the election — stormed the U.S. Capitol and managed to stop the official count of the Electoral College vote.
“This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection,” he told New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin after senators arrived at a secure location.
Reporter David Freedlander with Politico tweeted that Romney earlier yelled in the Senate chamber, “This is what you’ve gotten” to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his colleagues who raised objections to the electoral vote counts.
After violent protesters were cleared from the Capitol and the Senate reconvened in the evening, Romney gave a speech where he again blasted Trump saying that the storming of the Capitol was the result of “a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of supporters who he had deliberately misled for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning.”
He added, “What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States.... Those who choose to continue to support his 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.”
Romney said the “best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth.... The truth is that President-elect Biden won the election. President Trump lost. I’ve had that experience myself, it’s no fun.”
He concluded, “I urge my colleagues to move forward in completing the electoral count, to refrain from further objections, and to unanimously affirm the legitimacy of the presidential election.”
His comments came after protesters managed Wednesday to gain entrance eventually into the Senate chamber, and even pose in senators’ chairs. Television pictures showed protesters firing tear gas, and carrying weapons. Members of Congress were evacuated by police reportedly to secure locations.
Outside, news footage showed members of the mob gleefully stomping on video cameras and other news media gear, apparently taking to heart the president’s label of journalists as enemies of the people.
Other Utah members react
Like Romney, Sen. Mike Lee urged the Senate to continue the electoral count, and not let protesters stop it.
“Congress was elected to govern. We need to get back on the floor,” he tweeted after the count was interrupted by the violence “The Senate should continue the work of the American people immediately. This outrage cannot be allowed to disrupt that work for a minute longer.”
Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, after noting that he and his staff were safe, condemned the violent protesters and called for Trump to do the same.
“The riots both in and outside the building are unacceptable and un-American. The President owes it to the American people to publicly call for an end to these riots,” he said.
“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.”
That came shortly before Trump released a video on Twitter that said to protesters, “This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace, so go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, who had joined the challenge to the election, also tweeted, “Watching and hearing what’s going on here continues to make me sick and angry. I’ve spent my life in the military and serving my country in Congress. I understand people’s fears and frustrations over the election. But nothing excuses this behavior. Its selfish and destructive. Stop it now!”
Stewart also praised Capitol Police. “I was locked in a small room with them for a couple of hours surrounded by violence and anger. They were calm and professional every moment. They represent the best our nation has to offer.”
Newly installed Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, who also was challenging the election results, tweeted, “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.”
New Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, tweeted, “I was evacuated from the House Floor. My team and I are safe. Appreciative of Capitol Police and their service. This saddens and troubles me greatly.”
Other Utah politicians condemn violence
Utah leaders outside of Congress also condemned the violent protesters.
Former Rep. Ben McAdams said he was absolutely shocked by the scene unfolding in D.C.
“It’s a sad day for our country. One of the things I learned as a schoolchild was the peaceful transition of power. We are all Americans. This is not American democracy,” said the Utah Democrat.
“President Trump needs to call to end this, to recognize he lost the election. We need the president to step forward and put the country first.”
Former Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a strong ally of Trump, said “without any pause, caveat, or equivocation, I condemn the riots taking place at the US Capitol.”
He added in a written statement, “Enough is enough. Our institutions are undergoing a stress test that they can only survive if our elected officials show unity in this critical moment. We are a nation of laws, not individuals — and the foremost responsibility of every member of Congress is to uphold our Constitution and the integrity of the democratic process.”
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, another strong Trump ally, said, “I condemn, in the strongest terms, the acts of violence at our nation’s Capital Building today. ... There is no place for violence in our political discourse, even over the most serious issues and disagreements. We are a nation of laws. This is not how conservatives and Republicans behave. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Reyes has gone so far as to try to sign Utah onto a lawsuit challenging the presidential election results, and he took a weekend trip to Nevada to “investigate” claimed election fraud.
Utah’s new governor, Spencer Cox, said in a video, “I am deeply troubled at the chaos, at the devastation, at the cowardly acts of violence that we are seeing in our nation’s capital. … I urge you to stand up and speak out against the violence, against the terrorists, against the evil that we have seen in our nation’s capital today.”
State Auditor John Dougall, a conservative Republican, said this on Facebook on Wednesday evening: “Trump is seditious and treasonous. He needs to resign or be officially removed from office. Let there be no doubt of my opinion.”
Former Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, who had her run-ins with Trump, tweeted, “The Capitol Police are some of the best individuals I know. They’re friends of mine — men and women who love their beautiful families and country. I’m praying for them and our country today. Violence is not the way.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also tweeted, “What’s happening in the U.S. Capitol right now is disgraceful. I condemn it unequivocally. Every leader should be, in the strongest terms, calling on the White House to do everything in its power to stop this. This is not what democracy looks like; this is a national tragedy.”
The Utah Republican Party also released a statement saying in part, “The Utah Republican Party condemns this intrusion into our electoral process. Our Constitution protects the right to peacefully protest, and to engage in vigorous debates over politics and ideas, but violence or destruction in any form are an affront to who we are as Americans.”
Jeff Merchant, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said, “The violence we witness today is the fault of the President and his Republican enablers — including Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens. President Trump has stoked the dangerous flames of anger by repeating the false allegation that the 2020 election was rigged against him.”
Utahns’ stands on the electoral challenge
As Congress finally reconvened after the violent protests Wednesday evening, Sen. Lee told the Senate that congressional challenges against the electoral count are unconstitutional, noting that he was an ardent campaigner for Trump.
“Our job is to convene, open the ballots and count them — that’s it,” Lee said about what he found to be the constitutional role of Congress with the Electoral College after study and calls to many lawyers and different sides.
He said Congress may become a judge of ballots only when a state submits two competing sets of electoral votes, but that did not happen this year.
“That being the case, our job is a very simple one,” Lee said, and noted that supporting a challenge of electoral votes would be unconstitutional.
Earlier in the day before the violence, Owens joined a group of 37 House Republicans urging others to join their challenge of electoral votes contending several states broke their own election laws.
“Proud to sign this statement alongside so many of my colleagues,” Owens tweeted. “We owe it to the American people to protect the integrity of our electoral system. Period.”
However, later on Wednesday night, after violence earlier in the day, Owens tweeted, “It is time for us to unite and focus on healing our country. I look forward to working with my colleagues to identify solutions that will restore faith in our democracy, and to getting back to the people’s work.”
Owens earlier had used a football analogy in an interview last week to explain why he was joining the challenge that was likely to fail.
“In 10 years in the NFL, I played in a lot of losing games,” he said. “If you leave everything on the field and you’ve done everything you can and there’s nothing left, then it’s a winning game regardless of what the score might be.”
He added, “I plan to leave everything on the field” for Trump by helping to challenge electoral votes in states he believes the president actually won. Owens added, “There’s no question in my mind that I think he won.”
Courts, however, have repeatedly and universally dismissed cases by Trump and his allies claiming fraud for lack of evidence.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Romney told reporters in Washington earlier Wednesday that Trump has “disgraced the office of the presidency,” as the Utah senator decried the effort by some of his GOP colleagues to object to Electoral College votes.
“The gambit that we’re seeing today, very disappointing,” Romney told reporters. “President Trump has disrespected the American voters, has dishonored the election system and has disgraced the office of the presidency, and I’m confident that we’ll proceed as the Constitution demands and tell our supporters the truth, whether or not they want to hear it.”
Also this week, Stewart said he will join the challenge of electoral votes.
“Until we have resolved the issues surrounding voting irregularities, ballot integrity and security, and the implementation of state election laws,” he tweeted. “I cannot, in good conscience, uphold the oath I took to protect and defend our Constitution by voting to certify the election.”
Others in the Utah delegation have denounced the effort to try to keep Trump in office.
Curtis on Tuesday denounced the challenge before it began.
“I have faith in America’s election system and those who work tirelessly to ensure our elections are secure,” he wrote. “I plan to respect each state’s decision, certify the election, and continue to work with my colleagues on solutions for Utah.”
Moore said in an interview last week, “I would need to see very, very substantial evidence to challenge the Electoral College. … I have not seen that to the degree that would change the outcome of the election. So that’s where I am currently on that.”