Utah's Congressional Delegation Decries Insurrection At U.S. Capitol
Members of Utah’s Congressional delegation have condemned the insurrection that happened Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol.
Thousands of people stormed the building Wednesday afternoon, as Congress was set to certify results of the presidential election. Video and reports from Washington D.C. showed police were overwhelmed, as protesters breached Capitol security and forced their way inside the House and Senate chambers.
Rep. John Curtis, R-UT, tweeted saying it “is totally inappropriate what’s happening here at the Capitol.” In a video from inside his office, he called for people to tone the violence down and said “It’s not who we are. We are better than this.”
Curtis also called on President Donald Trump to “publicly call for an end to these riots.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, issued a strong rebuke of the pro-Trump extremists. In a statement Wednesday evening, Romney said what happened at the Capitol “was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.”
He said Congress should not be “intimidated or prevented from fulfilling our constitutional duty” when it comes to certifying election results.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, tried to quell the violence by saying what is happening does not match the character of the country.
“Protesters who are breaking windows, threatening violence, and accosting police are behaving inexcusably,” Stewart said. “It is un-American. This must stop now!”
Newly elected Rep. Burgess Owens, R-UT, tweeted he and his team were safe inside the Capitol. He said he was “deeply saddened by what is happening right now. Americans are better than this. Senseless violence is never okay. We have to do better.”
Fox News previously reported Owens planned to object to the results of the election.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, said Congress shouldn’t be distracted by the chaos surrounding the Capitol. “Whether we get back in the chamber or convene in a different location, the Senate should continue the work of the American people immediately,” Lee tweeted. “This outrage cannot be allowed to disrupt that work for a minute longer.”
Newly elected Rep. Blake Moore, R-UT, tweeted the violence “saddens & troubles me greatly.”
Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes has joined lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results in a number of states. But on Wednesday he tweeted that he “condemned, in the strongest terms, the acts of violence at our nation’s [Capitol] building.”
Utah Capitol Protest
A group of about 250 Trump supporters also took the steps of the Utah State Capitol Wednesday protesting what they called a “stealing of the election.”
Protesters also criticized COVID-19 public health restrictions and mask mandates, as well as chanted that they wanted to recall Sen. Romney. There is currently no legal process to recall a U.S. Senator.
Jenna Robertson protested outside the Utah Capitol and shared her message with the crowd using a megaphone.
“We know that election fraud was committed,” Robertson said to cheers. “And that is a personal assault to every voting American.”
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud or election irregularities.
Joseph Carlisle drove up from St. George with his family to attend the protest. His kids held signs reading “We the people stand with Trump.”
“We have to stand up for ourselves,” Carlisle said. “Freedom is a personal responsibility that no
one can give you. ‘We the people’ have to give it to ourselves. That’s why we’re here.”
Small groups of members from several militias, including the Proud Boys and the Utah Citizens’ Alarm, were present.
Jim Sterner said part of the reason he came out to the protest was to connect with the militias.
Sterner and his wife, Clara Sterner, sat on chairs on the Capitol lawn waving an American flag. Jim said he thought Utah’s election, but not other states’, was conducted well.
“There are some states, I believe, that leave it alone and other states are willing and wanting and able to try to run subterfuge,” Jim said. “Utah seems to not be that. I may not agree with a lot of things here, but you know what? All in all, they do a pretty good job. There are people like Mitt Romney that need to go away. But other than that, yeah.”
Jess Anderson, commissioner of the state’s Department of Public Safety, said everyone had left the building midday Wednesday.
“There is no need to storm the capitol,” Anderson said. “There is no need to come inside. There is no need to come and look around. Nobody’s here.”
A spokesperson from Gov. Spencer Cox’s administration said they were asked to work from home.
Cox posted a video on Twitter responding to Utah’s protests and the insurrection in Washington, D.C. He condemned the violence at the U.S. Capitol and called on every Utahn to join him in doing so.
Cox also encouraged people to protest if they wanted to.
“But again, to do so in the right way,” he said. “To do so loud. To do so proud. But to do so in a respectful manner and by no means resort to violence or property destruction.”
U.S. Senate Debate
After law enforcement secured the U.S. Capitol Wednesday evening, Congress resumed debates on the Electoral College votes.
Utah’s Sen. Lee said the Senate can’t change the results of a presidential election once they’ve been certified by the Electoral College. Before he became a senator, Lee was an attorney and worked as a law clerk for multiple federal judges.
Lee didn’t speak publicly about how he would vote before Wednesday night.
He said he reached out to officials in swing states that some Republicans falsely allege held fraudulent elections.
“In none of the contested states, no, not even one, did I discover any indication that there was any chance that any state legislature or secretary of state or governor or lieutenant governor had any intention to alter the slate of electors,” Lee said. “That being the case, our job is a very simple one … Our job is to convene to open the ballots and to count them. That's it.”
Sen. Romney had harsh words from the Senate floor for Trump and lawmakers who planned to object to the Electoral College votes.
“Those who choose to continue to support this dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy,” Romney said.
KUER's Ross Terrell, Sonja Hutson, Emily Means and David Fuchs contributed reporting to this story.