ELECTION 2020

Iowa congressional delegation decries Capitol mob

Supporters of President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Supporters of President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators who for years pushed the reelection of President Donald Trump, fled a mob of the president’s supporters Wednesday afternoon who breached the U.S. Capitol.

Grassley, third in the line of succession to the presidency, evacuated the Senate with his usual Capitol Police protective detail, an aide said.

Later, Grassley tweeted thanks to police and condemned the riots.

“Today’s violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself. I condemn today’s violence in the strongest terms & perpetrators deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Grassley tweeted.

In a statement, Grassley noted that “we’ve vigorously debated differing philosophies and have endured disagreements on policy and leadership. Through it all, our shared values have held strong. We must not lose grip of those shared values today. This is a sad day for America. As a nation, we must be better than this.”

Ernst, who was reelected to a second term and just sworn in Sunday, tweeted she and her staff also were safe, calling the riot “anarchy.”

“I served in uniform to defend the right to peacefully protest,” tweeted Ernst, the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate. “What’s happening at the Capitol right now is not peaceful nor a protest. It’s anarchy, & a betrayal of the American ideals we all hold dear.”

Leading up to the chaos Wednesday, neither Grassley nor Ernst would say publicly how they intended to vote on debate over certifying the Electoral College results showing Joe Biden handily defeating Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

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Freshman Republican 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was sworn in Sunday while a dispute over her own election continues, said she and her staff locked the doors to her office.

“This is a sad day for all of us ... and many of us see this as a sad day in our democracy,” Miller-Meeks told reporters on a Zoom call. A day earlier, she said she would support certifying the Electoral College vote.

Miller-Meeks said Wednesday evening she was encouraging people to disperse and to peacefully protest away from the Capitol. She said it was “incumbent” on Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to do the same “and to decry and denounce any violent activities that are going on on the Capitol grounds.”

While “strongly in support of the Constitutional right to protest, protesting should be peaceful and should not be breaching buildings or storming the Capitol,” Miller-Meeks told reporters. “People are angry. They’re frustrated. They’re disappointed. All of that is understandable. ... People can be engaged. They can be passionate, but should not rise to the level of destroying property.”

Iowa U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne, Ashley Hinson and Randy Feenstra said after the incursion they and their staff were safe.

In a message to the Sioux City Journal, Feenstra, a Republican in his first week representing western Iowa’s 4th District, said he was “devastated by events that are happening.”

That came about an hour after Feenstra tweeted about the unrest, writing, “It’s every American’s right to protest peacefully. Violence is never the answer. Thank you Capitol Police for working today & every day to keep us safe. If you or someone you know are a part of the protest, please remain peaceful & ask others to do the same. The world is watching.”

Axne, a Democrat reelected to represent the 3rd District, made a personal plea to Trump on Twitter: “Please sir, tell them to stop.”

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“These people are attacking Congress at the invitation of @realDonaldTrump,” she tweeted.

“It’s been a very challenging day for our country,” said Republican freshman U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, explaining that because of COVID-19 protocols she was in the Longworth House Office Building and had no contact with the rioters.

“We’re hunkered down like many other members,” she said in an interview shortly before 5 p.m. Iowa time.

A day earlier, her office said she had joined several other House Republicans in saying they did not have the Constitutional authority to block the Electoral College results as Trump has pressed for to overturn the election.

Shortly before Trump called on his supporters to go home, Hinson implored him over social media “to address the nation and call for an end to this violence and disruption to our democratic process. This is not how we do business in the United States of America.” Later, she called for a stronger response from him.

“Violence is not the answer and we need the president to say so,” she said. “Inciting violence is not the answer. I think we need a stronger response from the president as a result of what happened today.”

The invasion of the Capitol raises safety concerns, she said.

Hinson was a member of the Iowa House when thousands of people gathered in the Statehouse to protest changes in the state’s collective bargaining law. Unlike the situation at the U.S. Capitol, Hinson said she never felt unsafe then.

“I know people’s tempers were hot, and they used their First Amendment right to tell me so, and that’s what, that’s what they should do,” she said. “That’s why I think what happened today was unacceptable. People should never resort to violence. What we had happen here is unacceptable.”

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Despite the breakdown, Hinson believes many members of Congress remain committed to upholding the Constitution and the democratic process.

“I’m one of them and I’m calling on everybody to let this process play out as our Founding Fathers intended, as we’ve done every four years for hundreds of years,” she said.

Democrat Dave Loebsack, whom Miller-Meeks replaced in Congress with his retirement, tweeted that “what is happening at the Capitol is beyond belief and utterly unacceptable in our democracy.”

“This is nothing less than an attempt at mob rule,” Loebsack tweeted. “President Trump needs to address this situation immediately and tell his supporters this is completely beyond the pale.”

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, who has been a staunch supporter of Trump throughout his presidency, tweeted his opposition to the rioting.

“We are the Party of law and order. This is NOT a peaceful protest. What is happening in Washington, D.C. is utterly unacceptable,” he said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, who also has been a steady supporter of and campaigned for Trump’s reelection, also issued a statement about Wednesday’s events.

“Standing with and praying for the brave men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police and all who have been endangered by the violence and unrest happening at our nation’s capital,” she said. “This behavior is unacceptable and not who we are as Americans.”

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