Stolen election lie had backing from party’s governing class at every level, extending far beyond Congress and the White House.
One month before the riot at the Capitol, more than 60 Republican state lawmakers from Pennsylvania signed onto a letter urging the state’s congressional delegation to object to results of the presidential election. Across the border in Maryland, a Republican state legislator helped organize buses to take people to the protest that preceded the riot. A West Virginia lawmaker went even further, donning a helmet as he filmed himself rushing the Capitol.
As the Republican Party begins to reckon with the fallout from the deadly insurrection, it’s being forced to confront a disquieting truth: the lie that ultimately led to the violence — that the election was stolen from President Donald Trump — drew far-reaching support from the party’s governing class at every level, extending far beyond Congress and reaching deep into America’s statehouses.
Lawmakers from more than a dozen states attended the Jan. 6 rally, while scores more cheered on the “Stop the Steal” movement from afar. And in the days since the insurrection, these Republicans continued to question the election while giving air to debunked claims that antifa or other leftist agitators — not pro-Trump rioters — were primarily responsible for the destruction that followed.
“I wouldn’t trust a word that comes out of the FBI’s mouth at this point,” Mark Finchem, a Republican state representative from Arizona, said when asked about an FBI briefing of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy that suggested no reason to believe antifa was involved.
One week after the deadly insurrection and the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, institutionalist Republicans are desperate to move the party past the events of last week. But in statehouses across the country, the prospect of a clean break has never seemed more remote.
In Nevada, newly elected Assemblywoman Annie Black, facing calls to resign after attending the rally preceding the riot, told her supporters, “I’m not going anywhere,” defending her attendance at an event she said was “marred by some fringe elements.” In Florida, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini on Tuesday was tweeting lists of Republicans “WITH courage” and those without, the latter group including Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, who have been critical of Trump. He called Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who plans to support Trump’s impeachment, a “national security threat.”
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