facebook-pixel

Where Utah’s congressional delegation stand on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack one year later

Utah’s all-Republican representatives initially condemned the insurrection, but some of their opinions have diverged.

(Jason Andrew | The New York Times) A pro-Trump mob storms the Capitol building in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. "Almost five months later, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, fought like hell to block a bipartisan independent commission to investigate what happened during that insurrection and what caused it," writes New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow. "It is yet another clear indication to me that America wasn’t ceasing to be a country, it was ceasing to be a democracy."

A year ago Utah’s six congressional representatives walked into the nation’s Capitol with the task of certifying President Donald Trump’s election loss.

Some of them, including Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens, were staunch allies of the outgoing president and wanted to challenge Trump’s defeat in the swing state of Pennsylvania — despite no evidence that the results were tainted by widespread fraud.

On the other end, Sen. Mitt Romney was fresh off a flight where Trump supporters heckled him as an “absolute joke” and chanted he was a “traitor” to the president.

But no matter where they stood on the president’s false claims about a rigged election, all six Utah Republicans were engulfed by an angry pro-Trump mob that invaded the Capitol and stormed the halls of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021. Each condemned the unprecedented attack.

But in the year since, representatives from the Beehive State have diverged on much of the rest about the Capitol riot, including whether Trump was culpable, whether the insurrectionists are being treated fairly and how Congress should investigate the invasion.

Here’s how Utah’s representatives handled the Jan. 6 attack and what they’ve said and done in the year since then.

2021 U.S. Capitol Attack

On the day of the attack, members of Utah’s congressional delegation condemned the violence at the U.S. Capitol.

And despite violence and chaos transpiring outside and inside the building, Romney and Sen. Mike Lee pushed to certify the results of the election the same day.

“The violence at the United States Capitol is completely unacceptable. It is time for the protesters to disperse,” Lee tweeted that afternoon. “My staff and I are safe. We are working to finish our constitutional duty to finish counting votes today.”

Romney deemed the riots an attack on U.S. democracy during a floor speech.

“Mr. President, today was heartbreaking and I was shaken to the core,” Romney said, addressing the Senate president and then-Vice President Mike Pence. “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.”

Rep. John Curtis called on former President Trump to put an end to the violence.

“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 tweeted. “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.”

Owens, who challenged the election results and was just days into his freshman year in Congress, said he was “deeply saddened” by the riots and referred to the mob as “protesters.”

“Americans are better than this. Senseless violence is NEVER okay. We have to do better,” he said via Twitter.

In the evening, Stewart called the event “a disgusting demonstration of lawlessness.” He also expressed support for Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s advisory committee to investigate results from the 2020 presidential election.

The next morning, freshman Rep. Blake Moore urged a peaceful transfer of power between Trump and Biden and validated Utah’s election system.

“I urge states across the USA to follow Utah’s secure & efficient election process to address serious concerns about the integrity of their systems,” he tweeted.

Election certification and Trump’s second impeachment

Romney, Lee, Moore and Curtis all fought efforts to overturn election results. And instead of saying “no” on one of the votes, Lee voted “Hell no.”

Before his vote, however, Lee investigated whether Pence could name Trump the winner of the election, according to The Washington Post.

Owens and Stewart, who each fanned baseless election fraud conspiracies, voted to reject Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. In the aftermath both received scrutiny from left-leaning organizations, including the Utah Democratic Party and Alliance for a Better Utah, for undermining the integrity of the presidential election.

Soon after the riots, Trump faced a second impeachment trial for allegedly inciting the U.S. Capitol attacks.

While five of Utah’s congressmen voted to acquit Trump, Romney voted to impeach the president — again. During Trump’s first impeachment trial, Romney was the only Republican in Congress to vote to impeach Trump for abuse of power.

“President Trump incited the insurrection against Congress by using the power of his office to summon his supporters to Washington on January 6th and urging them to march on the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes,” Romney said in a statement, defending his vote to impeach Trump a second time. “He did this despite the obvious and well known threats of violence that day. President Trump also violated his oath of office by failing to protect the Capitol, the Vice President, and others in the Capitol. Each and every one of these conclusions compels me to support conviction.”

Owens and Curtis expressed that impeaching Trump a week before Biden’s inauguration would “deepen” divides and “serve little purpose.”

“With only seven days until President-elect Biden takes office, any debate on impeachment will not only deepen the divide, it will also be rushed, purely political, and distract from the unprecedented challenges facing Utah families,” Owens said in a news release.

A changed of tone?

On Jan. 15, Stewart posted a tweet of gratitude for the National Guard troops that were protecting the Capitol, as uncertainty lingered in the aftermath of the violent insurrection. It wasn’t long, though, before he began downplaying the need for troops in Washington.

“America needs to strengthen its defense. Not waste resources on defending Capitol Hill. Not politicize the military,” he tweeted two months later. “Not deny a growing threat at our southern border.”

A few days later, he wryly tweeted that it’s “easier to cross our southern border than it is to get through the fencing around Capitol Hill.”

Though Stewart and every other member of Utah’s congressional delegation voiced shock and dismay immediately after the Jan. 6 attacks, some of those expressions faded over time. Stewart and Lee began to equate the attack on Capitol Hill with unrest in U.S. cities following the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.

“I can tell you that the vast majority of the American people consider these nightly riots ... at least as dangerous as the one event on January 6th,” Stewart told former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo during a tense interview in June.

Lee complained in a June letter to the U.S. Department of Justice that the Jan. 6 rioters were facing “harsher treatment” than people who had joined in the civil unrest after Floyd’s murder.

Owens has barely mentioned the Jan. 6 attacks since his initial statements condemning the violence.

The three Utah representative — Lee, Stewart and Owens — also voted against the creation of an independent commission to look into the attacks, claiming they support investigating the insurrection but didn’t trust the plan put forward.

Lee went so far as to blast the commission proposal as a “recipe for a political witch-hunt,” even though it was the result of bipartisan negotiations and had won support from half of Utah’s all-Republican delegation.

Romney became the first Senate Republican to get behind the independent commission idea, and in the House, Moore and Curtis also supported its creation.

However, after Lee and other Senate Republicans blocked the independent commission, the House formed a select committee to investigate the attacks, over the objection of nearly all the chamber’s GOP members.

In recent months, Moore said he has been disappointed by the House inquiry that has been unfolding.

“Rather than using this time as an opportunity to implement the 104 recommendations issued by the Capitol Police Inspector General to secure the Capitol, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi continues to weaponize January 6th for partisan purposes,” he said in a statement.

But Curtis said he holds out hope that the truth will ultimately come to light.

“While I have been disappointed with the politicization of some investigative efforts that appear more to score political points than to uncover details and bring about answers,” he said, “I believe time will reveal the information we need to prevent an event like this from happening again.”

On the one-year anniversary of the attack, Romney warned on Twitter: “We ignore the lessons of January 6 at our own peril. Democracy is fragile; it cannot survive without leaders of integrity and character who care more about the strength of our Republic than about winning the next election.”

The Salt Lake Tribune asked all members of Utah’s congressional delegation for a comment on the Jan. 6 anniversary, but Curtis and Moore were the only ones to respond.

“After a year of reflection, two thoughts are clear to me,” Curtis responded. “We need to fully understand the events of that day, so an event of that magnitude doesn’t happen again, and our nation needs to tone down the rhetoric and start treating each other like human beings instead of adversaries.”


Return to Story