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Pa. lawmakers who support Trump’s election falsehoods respond to insurrection at U.S. Capitol

None of the central Pa. Congressional representatives, nor state House or Senate leadership, responded to attempts by WITF to reach them.

  • Scott Blanchard
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud.

John Minchillo / AP Photo

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud.

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania Republican politicians who have supported President Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election are now decrying the violence of pro-Trump extremists who attacked the U.S. Capitol.

The mob breached the building as Congress was set to take the final step in affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Shortly after Trump spoke to his supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., and encouraged them to march to the Capitol, a violent group — many waving Trump flags and dressed in Make America Great Again clothing — breached security at the facility, breaking windows and entering the building.

U.S. Capitol Police hold protesters at gun-point near the House Chamber inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.

Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

U.S. Capitol Police hold protesters at gun-point near the House Chamber inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.

Some lawmakers were evacuated. Photos from inside the Capitol show an armed standoff taking place just outside the House chamber.

Pennsylvania Republican members have supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of an election that county, state and federal judges and public officials of both political parties, and election experts, have concluded was free and fair.

Eight congressmen, including Scott Perry (R-York), Fred Keller (R-Bedford, Centre, Clinton), John Joyce (R-Adams, Bedford, Blair), Dan Meuser (R-Berks, Lebanon and Luzerne counties) and Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), have said they would not vote to support Pennsylvania’s electors on Jan. 6, despite the state’s legal certification of those electoral votes on Dec. 14 and multiple courts having dismissed election-challenge cases for reasons including lack of evidence and lack of standing to sue.

On Tuesday, Joyce tweeted, “Today I signed the official objection to the Pennsylvania electors ahead of tomorrow’s Electoral College certification vote. We must fight for free and fair elections – and the rule of law.”

Less than a day later, Trump exhorted his followers to go to the Capitol, and violence followed.

Biden called it an “assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: the doing of the people’s business.” He implored President Trump to fulfill his oath to protect the U.S. Constitution and tell his supporters to stop. Shortly after Biden’s statement, Trump released a video repeating his lies about a rigged election multiple times, telling his supporters who were attacking the Capitol that they were “special” people, and saying they should go home.

None of the central Pa. Congressional representatives, nor state House or Senate leadership, responded to attempts by WITF to reach them to answer the following questions:

  • Do you acknowledge that Biden won a free and fair election?
  • Given what’s happened today, are you going to drop your objection to the vote counting in Congress?
  • Because you have backed President Trump’s baseless claims about the election, do you feel partly responsible for the unlawful occupation of the U.S. Capitol, and for the physical attempt on the part of Trump supporters to prevent the peaceful transfer of power?
  • Do you rescind your support of Trump’s lies about a rigged election, which have provided fuel for what is happening at the capitol right now?
  • Do you support the attempt to keep President Trump in power by physical force?

Wednesday afternoon, Perry and Keller tweeted they condemned the violence.

State House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Center/Mifflin) released a joint statement defending the right of members of Congress to object to the electoral process.

“However, that process leads to debate and dialogue, not violence and mayhem,” they said. “We strongly condemn any act of violence and destruction and pray for all those impacted today.”

Smucker tweeted that he and his staff were safe, and:


Meuser tweeted that “rioters” had stormed the Capitol.

“I stayed back trying to help secure the doors,” his tweet continued. “Capitol Police kept everyone safe, while putting themselves at risk.”

In a statement, a contingent of South Central Pennsylvania Republicans referred to Wednesday’s events as “a mob raiding a U.S. government building.”

“As Americans, we pride ourselves on civility. On the ability for two sides to come together and discuss matters in a meaningful and respectful fashion. This display is neither of those things. … It must be stopped, and cooler heads must prevail for the sake of our nation and our future.”

The group included state senators Dave Arnold (Lebanon), Kristin Phillips-Hill (York) and Mike Regan (York/Cumberland).

Arnold, Phillips-Hill and Regan are among the 21 state Senate Republicans who, two days ago, signed a letter to GOP leadership in Congress asking them to “delay certification of the Electoral College to allow due process as we pursue election integrity in our commonwealth.”

Reached in her office, Phillips-Hill stressed “what is transpiring in Washington today … is not acceptable.”

But she said state Supreme Court decisions and quickly changing guidance from the Department of State created “serious challenges” during Pennsylvania’s election this year and that the results require a “full” audit in addition to audits already mandated by law.

There has been no evidence that would call Pennsylvania’s election results into question.

Asked whether she supports keeping Trump in office using physical force, Phillips-Hill said:

“Congress will act today. I do not support violence as a means to an end.”

Last week, Rep. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon and Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, falsely insinuated that more ballots were counted in the presidential race than the number of voters who turned out. On Wednesday, Ryan denied that he supports efforts to overturn the election. And he appeared to acknowledge that Biden has won Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.

“Let’s engage in civil dialogue and perhaps we can use this as a time now for our nation to heal across the board, and based upon the results of the electoral college, then we can all perhaps get on with a better way and hopefully fix this election process going forward,” he said.

Diamond, reached on his cell phone, claimed not to have been following the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

He declined to comment, and hung up.

WITF reporters Alanna Elder and Emily Previti contributed to this story.

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