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Utah Rep. Blake Moore describes scary day at the Capitol, defends his vote for a Jan. 6 investigation

He called his wife during the siege: “I’m getting some really disturbing text messages from my team. I don’t have all the information. I love you, hon.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Blake Moore talks about his experience in the Capitol on Jan. 6 during a town hall meeting at the Weber County Library North Branch in North Ogden on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

North Ogden • Rep. Blake Moore is ready to move on from the debates over the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. This freshman Republican wants to talk about inflation and the debt. He wants to discuss military spending and cybersecurity.

But are voters ready?

Moore met Tuesday night with a cordial group of conservatives at the Weber County Library’s North Branch. During a two-hour town hall, the attendees pressed him over and over about claims of voter fraud, the legitimacy of the election and why he would support the Jan. 6 commission to study the insurrection attempt when many Republican objected and ultimately blocked its creation.

Moore was one of 35 House Republicans who bucked party leaders May 19 to support the commission. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, was another. Moore said his office received “a ton of calls” about the commission and those callers were split relatively evenly.

He’s made some hard decisions in his first five months in office, including one he said was the hardest call of his life. But this wasn’t one of them.

“I was comfortable with the legislation,” he said.

When Moore decided not to vote to impeach President Donald Trump in January — what he called “the most painful decision I have ever made” — Moore said he favored a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. That commission was negotiated over months and, in the end, its members would be half Democrats and half Republicans, though there was concern that Democrats could have more influence in the hiring of staff.

The bill was based on the 9/11 Commission, and Moore told the people who attended his town hall that the 9/11 Commission of those terrorist attacks uncovered systemic miscommunication between the intelligence services that have since been addressed.

He said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., supported the idea of a Jan. 6 commission during the impeachment only to oppose it before the vote. And Moore identified topics that the commission could have studied, starting with the lack of a plan inside the Capitol and the fallout from the attack.

“There was no clear protocol on how to handle a situation like this. The head of Capitol Police got fired as a scapegoat,” he said. “Political people like [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi were making decisions about security. There was enough intelligence to say that we need to bulk up, we need to get the National Guard days before. And those were dismissed. That’s what a commission could study.”

The House passed the bill, and Senate Republicans filibustered it, meaning they blocked it from coming up for debate. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was among those who voted to block debate, while Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted against the filibuster. The bipartisan independent commission is now considered dead and Pelosi is looking at her options, which includes creating a House select committee run by Democrats.

“That’s what I have a real concern with,” Moore said.

He feared for his life during Capitol siege

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Blake Moore speaks at a town hall meeting at the Weber County Library North Branch in North Ogden on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

The congressman also noted that he took the oath of office Jan. 3. He’d been on the job all of three days before the traumatic events of Jan. 6, a day when he feared for his life.

He gave the small group in attendance Tuesday a detailed account of that day. How he had been on the House floor when rioters broke into the Capitol. Police started to secure the doors. He called his wife.

“I don’t know what is going on,” he said he told her. “I’m getting some really disturbing text messages from my team. I don’t have all the information. I love you, hon.”

He helped a colleague get a gas mask and then he got one for himself. He saw police with guns drawn. The chaplain gave a rushed prayer amid the chaos.

“It’s crazy,” he said at the town hall. “It is one of those moments where you are like, ‘I don’t have control of this right now.’”

He called the Capitol Police “absolute heroes that day.” Officers escorted a group of representatives off the House floor and through tunnels to a nearby office building, gathering in a cafeteria. Moore, who was wearing his House pin identifying him as a member of Congress, felt unsafe and that he was making it unsafe for others who were gathered there.

“We’re the target right now,” he told a colleague as the mob was hunting for members of Congress. He left, made his way back to his office and huddled there with his staff for hours.

A ‘doomsday’ scenario

When the mob was forced out of the Capitol, Congress returned to finish counting the electoral votes in the presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. This is normally a perfunctory process, but it was the reason the intruders came in the first place.

The violence didn’t change how Moore voted. He already had decided that the House had no constitutional right to disqualify a state’s electors unless a state indicated there was a problem. No state did.

But on this vote, like the Jan. 6 commission tally, Moore was in the minority of his party, with 121 Republicans voting to object to Arizona’s electors and 136 Republicans, including Utah Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens, voting to object to Pennsylvania’s.

Moore said that if Congress took the action of decertifying a state’s electoral votes, it could cast doubt on the Electoral College as a system, and he noted during his town hall, “Republicans have greatly benefited for decades from the Electoral College.”

Trump won in 2016 with an Electoral College victory, though he lost the popular vote. George W. Bush pulled off the same feat in 2000.

He also described a “doomsday” scenario. He asked the crowd to envision Jan. 6, 2025, when a Republican has won the election by two states, Texas and Georgia, and the Democrats still hold the House and Senate. He asked what would stop Democrats from saying that because of controversial voting legislation, they would decertify the electors from those two states, and throw the race to the Democrats.

“All of a sudden, folks,” he said, “we have a civil war.”

Moore didn’t appear to change many minds Tuesday night, and he said he expects to receive similar questions as he continues to serve in his first term and seeks a second one in 2022.

“The easiest thing for me to say on the commission was, ‘Oh, I support a bipartisan commission, just not this one,’” he said. “I probably would have avoided a lot of issues, but I will show up here, talk to the delegates and state my case. That is why you gave me the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”

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