January 7, 2021

Right-wing mob of Trump supporters takes over U.S. Capitol; NM and other lawmakers evacuated

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The U.S. Capitol.

Domestic terrorism. Insurrection. Insanity.

That’s what elected officials from New Mexico called what happened when a mob of right-wing Trump supporters stormed and briefly took over the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, as the House and Senate were debating challenges to election results based on unfounded conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

The Senate voted against any objections that would undermine the majority of voters in any states. While the House also defeated the attempt to challenge the electors in Arizona and Pennsylvania, more than half of the Republican caucus voted in favor of overturning the election results, including New Mexico’s only Republican member of the delegation.

Despite the efforts by some Republicans, Congress validated the count of electors, again affirming that Joe Biden won the presidency.

The count took until early Thursday morning, after which Trump appeared to concede via a tweet from a senior aide.

On Wednesday, a crowd of Trump supporters, some armed, also gathered at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, which was evacuated. Protesters attempted and in some cases succeeded in entering state capitol buildings across the country.

The protest in Santa Fe did not include rioting.

The chaos in Washington, D.C. included tense scenes of members of the House and Senate evacuating the chambers as protesters swarmed past capitol police.

Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the Senate, was also evacuated to an undisclosed location.

President Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol in a speech earlier Wednesday, then voiced support for those who rioted, causing Twitter to lock his account.

Some lawmakers and others called on Trump to be removed from office.

The actions of Trump and his supporters received widespread condemnation from Democratic elected officials, while Republicans stopped at condemning violence.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said in a statement on Twitter that “this is not how we do things in America.”

“None of this insanity does anything to change the outcome of the election,” Heinrich said. “When order is restored, we are going to go back and do our jobs and certify the election.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján called the riot “an insurrection and attack on our democracy.”

The lone Republican in the New Mexico delegation, Yvette Herrell of the 2nd Congressional District, was one of the Republicans who sought to challenge the count of certified electoral votes.

On Wednesday afternoon, she wrote on Twitter, “I am safe, but the violence at the Capitol is entirely unacceptable. I urge all those in Washington today to allow Congress to continue its business as the Constitution requires.”

New Mexico’s other freshman Representative, Teresa Leger Fernandez, said the perpetrators were “domestic terrorists.”

“This morning, I woke up excited to come to work and cast my vote to uphold the will of the people and certify the election that President-elect Joe Biden won fairly,” she said in a statement. “Instead, we were faced with domestic terrorists fueled by the words and actions of President Trump and his political enablers. I stand determined to certify the presidential election results. I will continue working for the beautiful people of New Mexico – no matter what.”

“Our country has more than 200 years of peaceful transitions of power from one President to the next, no matter the Party,” U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who is Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Interior, said in a statement. “It’s part of what makes our country great. Violence is never the answer.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham placed the blame on President Donald Trump.

“The president of the United States has stoked this anti-democracy sentiment,” she said in a statement and said law enforcement personnel in New Mexico would monitor the situation in the state.

“It is nothing less than domestic terrorism, enacted in an effort to overturn a free and fair election. I am praying for the law enforcement and military personnel working to protect American lives from this anti-democratic riot and attempted insurrection,” Lujan Grisham said. “Law enforcement personnel here in New Mexico will continue to monitor any analogous protests that are occurring or may occur in our state.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico said that Herrell chose to oppose a peaceful transition of power.

“After a day of riots fueled by election misinformation, conspiracy theories, and divisive rhetoric, Herrell voted to object to the certification of this election,” Democratic Party of New Mexico chairman Marg Elliston said in a statement. “When our country needed its elected officials to honor election results and unite behind a peaceful transition of power, she chose to oppose it.”

Some other Republicans changed their minds on whether to object, including Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, who lost her election bid this week.

The Republican Party of New Mexico said in a statement they denounced the riots. The party has advanced claims of voter fraud and even elected an alternate slate of electors to vote for Trump, though Trump lost New Mexico, and its five electoral votes, by nearly 100,000 votes and nearly 11 percentage points.

No one objected to New Mexico’s electors.

“The Republican Party of New Mexico condemns the acts of violence happening at the U.S. Capitol. While we support the right for free speech and to demonstrate peacefully, such violence and threatening actions cannot be tolerated,” Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Steve Pearce said.

State House Democrats condemned the riot as well. 

“We need leaders to speak with a unified voice and condemn any and all violence,” the written statement read. We are a nation of laws, not anarchy. The 2020 election results represent the will of American and New Mexico voters. These actions of sedition must end.”

Earlier in the day, the House Republican caucus sent out a press release announcing a bill by State Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, saying that she would seek to decertify New Mexico’s electors, alleging voter fraud.

New Mexico certified its election results in November and the legal electors cast their ballots in December, along with electors from across the country. 

After the protests, a statement attributed to House Republican leadership said that House Republicans “condemn violence in any form.”

“Our American values are important, our Constitution must be preserved and it is within each of our rights to peacefully protest, however violence is not acceptable,” the statement read.

Senate Republican leadership said in a statement, “While we support the constitutional freedom to peaceably protest, we strongly condemn any and all acts of violence and destruction. Law and order are is a bedrock of American democracy and we encourage all New Mexicans to join us in praying for peace and stability across our nation.”

Michelle Garcia Holmes, the Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District in 2020, appeared to support the attack on the U.S. Capitol, writing on Twitter, “Fighting back is not a bad thing…it is how America became the home of the free land of the brave.”

Later she baselessly tweeted that “antifa” attacked the police.

Washington, D.C. police said as of Wednesday evening they had arrested 15 individuals.

Update: Added information about the joint session validating the results and Trump’s apparent concession.