Georgia Republicans change their tone about Jan. 6 riot at U.S. Capitol

Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
caption arrowCaption
Rioters loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Credit: Jose Luis Magana

Credit: Jose Luis Magana

WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Republican members of Congress from Georgia joined their Democratic colleagues in condemning the attack.

“This is, this is not a time for violence,” a shaken U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said in a video posted shortly after she was escorted to safety. “This is a time to support President (Donald) Trump, support our election integrity and support this important process that we’re going through in Congress where we’re allowed to object. So I urge you to stay calm.”

Georgia’s most senior GOP lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, put out a statement that evening.

“The violence and destruction we saw yesterday at the U.S. Capitol was disgraceful, and it is tragic that a woman lost her life and others died from secondary causes,” the Tifton Republican wrote.

A year later, these same elected officials and other Republicans have taken a different tone, if they are saying anything at all. While Democrats are holding events to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly riot, including recounting their personal stories of Jan. 6, most Republicans say they have no plans to participate.

Scott declined a request to speak about his experiences one year ago, including his decision to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes in contested states.

He and U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson were the only two Republicans from Georgia who voted to sustain Biden’s victory when Congress reconvened after the riot. The other six GOP members were among the 147 Republicans who attempted to overturn the election. Scott said at the time that he felt lawmakers did not have the constitutional authority to do that.

All eight Georgia House Republicans, plus then-U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, had supported efforts by Trump and his loyalists to challenge the 2020 results. Even today, many of them express skepticism that votes were accurately counted.

“I objected on Jan. 6, and I would do it again today,” Greene said Wednesday.

Greene’s plans for the anniversary include talking about what she views as mistreatment of Jan. 6 defendants on a special edition of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast. She has also scheduled a news conference with Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz to provide a Republican response to Democrats’ speeches marking the riot.

The Republican from Rome says she remains horrified about the violence that took place on Jan. 6, but she also continues to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about what happened. She also said she isn’t sure one year later who entered the Capitol during the breach or what made them do it.

“As far as that question, I can’t even begin to answer it,” she said. “I have no idea.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently published an in-depth investigation into efforts by Trump loyalists in Georgia to undermine the election. Nearly all defendants charged with participating in the attack have been identified as Trump supporters in court dockets or by their own admission.

ExploreInside the campaign to undermine Georgia’s election

Recent polling shows a majority of Republicans still believe falsely that Trump won the 2020 election.

Republicans lawmakers know this is what their voters believe, and they feel pressure to fall in line, said Doug Heye, whose former roles include Republican National Committee spokesman and deputy chief of staff for then-House GOP Leader Eric Cantor.

Heye pointed to the Cobb County GOP’s plans — now canceled — to hold a prayer vigil to honor the “J6 patriots” who participated in the riot. These are the constituents that members of Congress will need to get elected in 2022, Heye said.

Some Georgia Republicans, such as U.S. Reps. Jody Hice and Buddy Carter, continue to question whether the 2020 election results were fair despite recounts, audits and dozens of court cases. No widespread fraud or mismanagement was ever confirmed that would have altered the results in Georgia or anywhere else.

Hice, who is challenging Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year’s Republican primary, said recently that more investigations are needed.

“The question is: What were valid ballots and what were not valid ballots?” the Greensboro Republican said.

Trump endorsed Hice in his effort to unseat Raffensperger. Carter is running for reelection in his Savannah-based district.

Carter was on the House floor last year when rioters broke into the Capitol, but he recently echoed Greene’s questions about the identity and intentions of the rioters.

Carter said the issues that caused him to vote that day against accepting Electoral College votes for Biden still need further examination. He faults Raffensperger for striking an agreement with the Democratic Party to settle a lawsuit stemming from the 2018 election, saying the General Assembly should have had the final word. But Carter won’t say if whether a year later he believes this settlement led to a flawed election in 2020.

“It may have; I do not know,” he said.

ExploreFive fraud claims: What investigators found

Greene and U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde have done the most among Georgians in the House to misrepresent the violence of Jan. 6 or tried to deflect attention away from the attack.

Clyde was among the lawmakers who protected the House chamber that day.

“We’re the ones who defended the floor of the House during the riots of January the 6th,” he told conservative radio host Martha Zoller in February. “You know, I was actually one of the ones inside the House helping the sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol Police barricade the door with furniture.”

By May, he was downplaying the violence in remarks during a committee hearing.

“There was no insurrection,” he said during that meeting. “And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie. Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you’d actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

ExploreTimeline: How the campaign to undermine Georgia's election unfolded


HOW THEY VOTED ON OBJECTIONS TO JOE BIDEN’S ELECTORAL COLLEGE VICTORY IN ARIZONA & PENNSYLVANIA

Voted to reject Biden’s victory

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville

Voted to accept Biden’s victory

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee

U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton

U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta

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