With the Senate poised to begin debate on whether Donald Trump is guilty of “incitement of insurrection” as charged in the House resolution of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that some Republican House members might also face consequences over their actions leading up to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“You have to have evidence for what has happened,” Pelosi said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “There is no question that there were members in this body who gave aid and comfort to those with the idea that they were embracing a lie — a lie perpetrated by the president of the United States that the election did not have legitimacy.”
Capitol Police have been investigating allegations that some members of Congress may have helped the rioters plan their actions by giving them tours of the Capitol building in advance.
“Everything has to be based on evidence, and remains to be seen,” Pelosi continued. “In that regard, I’m very pleased that we will have an after-action review that will review many aspects of what happened. If people did aid and abet, there will be more than just comments from their colleagues here, there will be prosecution if they aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died.”
Since the insurrection, Republican members of Congress who contested the election results have been accused of inciting pro-Trump demonstrators by spreading discredited claims of voter fraud. Three Texas newspapers — the El Paso Times, the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle — have called on Sen. Ted Cruz to resign for his role in sowing doubt about the election results.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has also faced calls for his resignation from newspapers including the Kansas City Star.
At a separate Thursday news conference, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was pressed on whether he took any responsibility for the attack on the Capitol based on his own strenuous efforts to challenge the election results in key swing states, in court and in Congress.
McCarthy responded with a popular Republican talking point, drawing an analogy between the storming of the Capitol and the sporadic street demonstrations last year protesting police brutality.
“I denounce any violence. Denounced it that day, denounce it now, I denounced it in the summer, I denounce what happened in Portland and Seattle as well,” McCarthy said. “I’m very consistent. What I voted on wasn’t to overturn an election, because it wouldn’t. It would not overturn. What I signed on to amicus was the exact same question that you did, a constitutional question, about did a legislature have the right, or did the legislature move through to make any changes.”
McCarthy declined to answer a reporter’s follow-up question as to why he had declined to state that the election had, in fact, been “free and fair.”
Distinguishing constitutionally protected free speech from incitement of insurrection will likely be at the heart of Trump’s impeachment defense. But Capitol Police and the FBI have been looking into whether any House members took actions that went beyond simply expressing an opinion.
No House member has received more scrutiny than Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. In a lead editorial that ran last week, the Denver Post said the freshman lawmaker should be investigated.
“We can say with certainty that her words on Twitter, in interviews and on the floor of the U.S. House supported the lie that the U.S. election was fraudulent and that Democrats were stealing the election from President Donald Trump,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. “Without those lies, we believe there would not have been an insurrection, and U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick would still be alive.”
On the morning of Jan. 6, Boebert, who has indicated sympathy for the QAnon cult, tweeted her support for the protests meant to stop the certification of the Electoral College votes that would install Joe Biden as president.
Later in the day, as the mob descended upon the Capitol and the House and Senate were evacuated, Boebert continued tweeting. “The Speaker has been removed from the chambers,” she wrote, in what some have interpreted as a tipoff to the rioters about Pelosi’s whereabouts.
Dozens of Colorado lawmakers have cited those tweets in their request to House leadership that Boebert be investigated.
Boebert took a group on a tour of the Capitol the day before the insurrection, which some House Democrats regard as suspicious. Boebert has said the tour was for her family members who were in Washington to attend her swearing-in.
Cover photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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