PHOENIX — Eight Democratic legislative leaders are asking the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate four Arizona Republican officials over their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 riot where protesters breached the U.S. Capitol, resulting in five deaths.
In their letter, the Democrats say that state Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley and now-former state Rep. Anthony Kern of Glendale were present in Washington, D.C., “and actively encouraged the mob, both before and during the attack on the the Capitol.”
Finchem and Kern “sought to conceal the consequences of their conduct by falsely blaming ‘Antifa,’” the letter says.
Additionally, the Democrats’ claims against GOP U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar stem from a claim by Ali Alexander, who organized the “Stop the Steal” movement, that he worked with them and Alabama U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks on the plan for the Jan 6. demonstration.
“We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a now-deleted video on Periscope.
The Washington Post reported Alexander said the plan was to “change the hearts and minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”
“They did all of this in public,” wrote the eight Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding of Laveen and Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios of Phoenix. “What they did outside of plain view we do not yet know.”
But they said there is “evidence” that the four “encouraged, facilitated, participated and possibly helped plan this anti-democratic insurrection on January 6.”
“It is vital to any current or future federal investigations, and ultimately to the Arizona public they represent, that we learn what these elected officials knew about this planned insurrection and when they knew it,” they wrote.
None of the four responded to requests for comment.
But Biggs, in a statement to the Washington Post by an aide, denied ever having been in contact with Alexander, “let alone working with him to organize some part of a planned protest.”
The letter provides no evidence that either Finchem or Kern were involved in trespassing at the Capitol. And Biggs and Gosar were inside the building during the Jan. 6 session.
Nor is there anything specific saying they were part of any plan to breach the Capitol.
But the Democrats say that some of the people in Washington were clearly there with something more than peaceful protests in mind.
“Many in the mob wore military or police tactical gear and carried zip-tie restraints, signaling a high level of preparation and coordination for the events that occurred,” they said.
They are suggesting that, at the least, it was the actions and rhetoric of the four Arizona Republicans — and potentially others — that led to what happened.
“For weeks prior to the breach, a group of Republican Arizona legislators and legislators-elect publicly advocated for the overthrow of the election results which encouraged precisely the kind of violent conduct that we witnessed,” the Democrats wrote.
The others signing the letter were Tucsonans Sen. Victoria Steele and Rep. Domingo DeGrazia, along with Reps. Athena Salman and Jennifer L. Longdon and Sens. Lupe Contreras and Martin Quezada.
Finchem in particular sought to get people to the rally.
On Twitter, he promoted that day’s 9 a.m. speech by President Trump on the Ellipse, followed by the 1 p.m. demonstration at the Capitol building.
The day before the riot, Finchem sent out a picture of himself “holding the line in D.C.”
And in a separate post he asked whether the country will become “a republic in name only, or will we as a nation governed through consent of the governed realize our full potential, fighting off those who would pervert our national design?”
During the rally — before there were disturbances — Finchem sent out a picture of people on the steps of the Capitol, saying this is “what happens when the people feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.”
Then, as people began breaking into buildings, Finchem sent out another post of a photo of the melee — but with a caption, “Trump supporters stop Antifa from breaking into Capitol.”
Finchem in particular has adopted a stance since the riot that none of this was the fault of supporters of the president or those who were pushing Congress to overturn the election returns, but of left-wing agitators, despite numerous reports rejecting that narrative.
Capitol Media Services asked Finchem on Monday what credible evidence he has to back his claims. “Try the Capitol police and the FBI,” he responded.
The FBI itself has rejected the whole idea. At a press briefing late last week, a reporter asked if antifa activists had disguised themselves as Trump supporters during the riot.
“We have no indication of that at this time,”’ said Steven D’Antuono, the FBI Washington field office assistant director.
And Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, also said he saw no evidence antifa was involved in the riot.
The Washington Times, a conservative publication that had promoted the idea of antifa, removed an article it had written claiming that a company that does facial recognition through software identified antifa members as infiltrating Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol. The company had denied the claim.
Arizona leaders react to storming of US Capitol
In America, we have fair elections and peaceful transfers of power; democracy prevails over chaos; and those who commit violent acts are held accountable. That won’t change today. This unpatriotic attempt to overturn our election – and silence the voices of Arizonans – will fail.— Senator Mark Kelly (@SenMarkKelly) January 6, 2021
In America, we practice peaceful transitions of power. We respect the law and law enforcement. The scene at the United States Capitol right now is wrong and has no place in our form of government. All should denounce, and it should end now.— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) January 6, 2021
You know what could have prevented this? #ElectionIntegrity and full transparent investigations into 2020 fraud. Audits, eyes on paper ballots, full audit of ALL digitally adjudicated and all duplicated ballots, full evaluation of Dominion machines. Remember: Democrats refused.— Dr. Kelli Ward 🇺🇸 (@kelliwardaz) January 6, 2021
I am shaken and gravely concerned watching the act of domestic terrorism in the US Capitol today. It is time for every American, no matter our political affiliations, to collectively denounce this behavior and unite behind our democracy and Constitutional processes.— Kathy Hoffman (@kathyhoffman_az) January 6, 2021
I am safe and was evacuated to a secure location almost immediately after defending the integrity of Arizona’s elections on the House Floor.— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) January 6, 2021
Thank you for your concerns.
I am safe.— Kyrsten Sinema (@SenatorSinema) January 6, 2021
Abigail O’Brien, chief of staff for Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, said around 1:15 this afternoon:
“We are safe right now, remaining calm,” O’Brien said. She called the feeling at the moment “pretty anxious.”
“We are sheltering in place” in one of the House office buildings, O’Brien said.
They were evacuated from a House office building around 11 a.m. due to a report of a suspicious item. The evacuation lasted about 45 minutes. Shortly after they returned to the office building, they were put on lockdown. They remain on lockdown. They are in what she called a “holding pattern” waiting for further guidance about what they should do.
She has not heard of any injuries. Kirkpatrick is calm and spoke with her family by phone.
“I’ve been in and seen a lot of different marches and protests in D.C.,” O’Brien said. “I was at the Women’s March, the Black Lives Matter march and it was not like this. This certainly feels wildly different.”
“I believe that the majority of these people just want to have their voices heard, but there are some that are behaving more aggressively,” she said. “Entering the building when you’re not supposed to pass the barricades is aggressive and wrong.”
“I’m just hoping to get me and the congresswoman out of here before night time, but I don’t know how that’s going to work,” O’Brien said.
By Arizona Daily Star reporter Curt Prendergast
I am safe. Democracy is not. We need national guard to clear the Capitol so we can continue with our jobs.— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) January 6, 2021
Ok. I said let’s do an audit. Let’s not get carried away here. I don’t want anyone hurt. We are protesting the violation of our laws. We are builders not destroyers. BLM burns and loots. We build. If anyone on the ground reads this and is beyond the line come back. pic.twitter.com/cSu6CLKbby— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) January 6, 2021
Are we suddenly a banana republic? Police officers injured; violence inside and around the Capitol; members of Congress and the VP evacuated; Entire D.C. National Guard being called in. This is complete lawlessness to overturn a legal election as upheld repeatedly by the courts. pic.twitter.com/npVDgSsGTv— Chris Magnus (@ChiefCMagnus) January 6, 2021
The Office of Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick released the following statement Wednesday evening:
Tonight, the Office of Rep. Kirkpatrick responds to ongoing violence and disruption of democratic processes in the nation’s capital. Rep. Kirkpatrick and her staff remain safe and locked down.
“Today will go down as a dark day in American history,” Rep. Kirkpatrick said. “What should have been a peaceful, honored, and routine process — the congressional certification of electoral votes — was shattered by senseless violence incited by the lame duck president.
“Make no mistake: today’s acts have been brewing for four years under the outgoing president. The cowardly assault on our democracy is not new — it’s simply more visible. It paves the way for a terribly slippery slope to fascism.
“Those who infiltrated the Capitol Building and threatened the lives of law enforcement, journalists, elected officials, essential workers, and many others, will not bring down democracy. Together, we are stronger than the mob.
“When it becomes safe to do so, we will return to the People’s House and affirm the people’s choice. Once we complete our certification, the work to regain our country and our values will begin immediately — and we will do so with grace, dignity, and honor.”
Congressman Raul Grijalva Wednesday evening released the following statement:
“Today’s events will go down as one of the darkest and most shameful days of our republic as domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol in an effort to threaten and intimidate lawmakers into overturning our free and fair elections. They interrupted just as Arizona’s Democratic Delegation began defending the integrity of Arizona’s election and the will of the people to cast Arizona’s Electoral College votes to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
“For years, President Trump has engaged in a relentless assault on our values, sought to divide us, and pitted communities against one another. He’s denigrated our institutions, attacked our values, and winked and nodded to the ideas of dangerous militias and conspiracy theorists.
“What occurred at the Capitol today was the product of Trump and all the havoc he’s wrought on our system—all with the tacit approval of his willing congressional enablers. Calling it a disgrace isn’t enough. It’s an outright abomination to this country, and those who engaged in these acts must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“It remains my duty to certify the election and no domestic terrorists will stop that. I will certify the results for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, and will not yield to conspiracy theorists and zealots attempting to overthrow our government.”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer released the following statement:
"First and foremost, the violent events unfolding at the Capitol in Washington D.C. are shameful, uncalled for, and need to stop immediately. We are praying for the safety and well-being of our leaders and staff in Congress, law enforcement officers, the Navajo Nation Washington Office staff members, and all citizens of the Navajo Nation and our country.
Today was a special day for the Navajo Nation as we held a peaceful inauguration for chapter and other local officials to carry out duties and service for our Navajo people. Unfortunately, this special day for many of our new and returning leaders and their families is being overshadowed by the violence occurring in Washington D.C. We pray that law and order will be restored for the federal government, and we pray that our nation heals from the divisive politics that has driven so much of the discord in our country. We must remember that the peaceful transition of power has always been a cornerstone of our country’s democracy and for the Navajo people.
The division and the violence that has escalated today is unacceptable and must not be condoned or perpetuated by anyone, including our own Navajo people and leaders. We must be united as Navajo people, and not let the divisiveness we are seeing in Washington D.C. unfold in our homelands. Remember the teachings of our elders and the examples set by our past leaders and ancestors. Despite differences in views of society, politics, and values, we must always maintain respect and dignity for all people and each other.
Our country and the Navajo Nation are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties, but we are strong, and we are resilient — our grandparents, parents, and many others have proven this time and time again throughout our history. In the midst of this pandemic, unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 infections, and the overwhelming of our health care system, it is important for all Americans to come together and to protect the institutions of democracy, the spirit and hope of democracy, and most importantly to protect the health and safety of all Americans. We ask you to join us in prayer for our Navajo people and our country at this time. Ahe’hee’"
Greater Phoenix Chamber President and CEO Todd Sanders released the following statement with Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer:
"What we are seeing today on Capitol Hill is shameful and wrong. We urge a stop to this lawlessness.
Congress must be allowed to perform its constitutional duties and should be able to do so under calm and peaceful circumstances.
We are thankful that our delegation members are safe and we extend our deepest appreciation to Capitol Hill law enforcement for protecting them. We join leaders across the state of Arizona in calling for an immediate end to any violence."