Connecting state and local government leaders
Many officials said the episode was incited by President Trump, with some suggesting that he should be removed from office. But at least one Republican governor said the president is not to blame for the actions of his supporters.
State and local officials largely condemned Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Trump’s supporters and far-right extremists, though they differed mostly along party lines in terms of who was to blame and what should be done in response.
A number of state and local leaders placed blame for the chaos squarely at the feet of President Trump, with some calling for him to be removed from office, or to step down, prior to Jan. 20 when president-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn in.
“There is no question that America would be better off if the president would resign or be removed from office and if Mike Pence would conduct a peaceful transition of power over the next 13 days,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said on Thursday.
Other Republicans in Congress and at the state and local level defended the president against assertions that his actions incited the riot, in which parts of the Capitol were ransacked and one woman was shot and killed inside the building by police.
The violent breach forced evacuations and delayed the certification of Biden’s presidential election win, although congressional lawmakers later completed the process of counting electoral votes
At the same time, state capitals across the country saw “Stop the Steal” protests organized by people backing Trump.
Democratic state and local leaders were quick to react as the situation at the Capitol unfolded. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called it “one of the darkest days in American history.” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called it an act of "terrorism” while Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings described it as “treason.”
Some elected officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, described what happened on Wednesday as an attempted coup.
Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp also condemned the violence, calling it "a disgrace and quite honestly un-American."
On Wednesday morning, Trump gave a speech to a crowd of supporters in which he repeated unsupported claims of election fraud he has pushed for weeks and said he would “never concede.”
Hours after the siege began, Trump posted a video message to social media in which he urged supporters to go home, but also told them they were “special” and that “we love you.” Twitter and Facebook later removed the video and temporarily locked Trump out of his accounts for violating community guidelines and inciting violence.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said Wednesday night that “words have consequences, and your angry words have dangerous consequences.”
New York state Attorney General Letiticia James went even further in condemning Trump for his role in inciting the riots.
“The coup attempt initiated by outgoing President Trump has been despicable," James said. "These actions, fueled by lies and wild conspiracy theories espoused by President Trump, must be unequivocally condemned by every corner of our society."
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said people should “absolutely not” place the blame on Trump or the Republicans who voted to block the certification of election results. “When you try to blame the president or blame somebody else, you know, my understanding is the president told them not to commit any crimes,” he said.
At least one Republican leader from Parson’s state contradicted him. U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner told St. Louis Public Radio that Trump “should never have incited this to begin with.”
Some state and local leaders joined a growing number of Congressional Democrats who are calling for Trump to be removed from office, either through impeachment proceedings or the use of the 25th amendment. (The 25th amendment requires the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to declare the president unable to “discharge the powers and duties of his office.” If Trump disputed this, two-thirds of both Congressional chambers would have to vote to install the vice president in Trump’s place.)
Illinois’ J.B. Pritzer, a Democrat, was the first governor to say Trump shouldn’t be allowed to remain in office until Biden’s inauguration, saying “two weeks is too long for Donald Trump to remain in office, where he can continue to incite more untold violence.”
In California, where state and local officials have frequently clashed with the president, at least one state senator said Trump should be removed from office and the mayor of San Jose said Trump should be tried for sedition.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, also called for Trump’s removal on Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, at least one Congressional Republican, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, said Vice President Mike Pence should invoke the 25th amendment.
One state elected official from West Virginia actually took part in the attack on Wednesday. State Rep. Derrick Evans, a Republican, live-streamed on social media as he entered the Capitol Building, shouting “We’re going in! We’re going in!” Evans later claimed he was there to be an “independent member of the media." As of Thursday afternoon, more than 30,000 people have signed a petition asking for him to be removed from the state House of Delegates for “leading and participating in terrorism."
At the epicenter of the chaos, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser used the moment to express anger over the District’s lack of statehood. Because D.C. is not a state, Bowser does not have the same powers as a governor to deploy the National Guard, a situation that contributed to confusion as law enforcement agencies responded.
“We step up daily to support the federal government … to ensure safety in the nation’s capital, despite having zero representation, having no votes in the same Congress where this siege took place today,” she said.
In an interview with NBC Washington on Thursday morning, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said the District would work closely with federal agencies to gather evidence. “I think it’s really important to hold people accountable for the incursion on the Capitol of the United States and the pillar and symbol of our democracy,” he said.
This post was updated with comments from Maryland's governor and to include information about a West Virginia state representative who took part in Wednesday's events.
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.