No sitting member of Congress is to appear at the “Justice for J6” event in Washington, DC, which is hosted by a former Donald Trump campaign staff member to support the rioters who have been arrested for taking stormed the US Capitol on January 6.
But even without a presence on the ground, several Republican lawmakers have offered their public support to the insurgents who have been jailed, and at least one House Republican – Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina – is expected to speak in a “Justice. for J6 ″ local. »Gathering at his State Capitol. Meanwhile, Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have become a litmus test in the GOP, with 78% of Republicans in a new CNN poll saying Biden did not win the 2020 election, while efforts to downplaying the deadly events of January 6 have become ubiquitous on the right. And several Republican congressional candidates either took part in the January 6 “Stop the Steal” protest that sparked the riot, or spoke at the next protest.
The revisionist story running through the GOP – and which will take center stage at Saturday’s rally – threatens to become a political liability for the GOP, although Republican agents believe the economy and inflation will be the issues. most important in the medium term. . At the very least, events like this weekend open up old wounds for the GOP and put Republican leaders in an awkward position: they are eager to turn the page on a lousy chapter in their party’s history. , but are forced to grapple with a fiery base that is increasingly sympathetic to rioters.
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, already defines next year’s election as follows: “Democrats want to move infrastructure and Republicans want to be insurgents.
Specifically, Democrats are signaling that they plan to portray vulnerable Republican lawmakers as radicals loyal to Trump – especially after efforts to impeach the Democratic governor of California failed on Tuesday, which Maloney said was a rejection. the Trump brand and the GOP message.
“This should shudder Kevin McCarthy, who thinks he can do this toxic Trump thing without the involvement of Trump who covered up how bad this message is for swing district voters,” Maloney said. .
Republicans, however, strongly rejected the idea that any general election trend could be extrapolated from the recall effort in the Golden State, where the registered Democrats are almost 2 to 1.
“The recall election will have no impact on the mid-terms and anyone who claims otherwise has no idea what he is talking about,” said Torunn Sinclair, spokesperson for the campaign arm of the House GOP, in a press release.
The Republican leadership has yet to condemn the rally
As Democrats refine their message, law enforcement officials brace for potential violence and unrest on Saturday. The event comes the same week that U.S. Capitol Police arrested a man near the Democratic National Committee headquarters who was expressing white supremacist views and had illegal knives in Washington in his truck – a reminder of the growing threat posed by the far right extremists and domestic terrorism.
Yet even though the right-wing rally sparked new fears of political violence, GOP leaders did not publicly condemn the upcoming event and its cause or actively encourage people to ignore it, although McCarthy said to reporters that he didn’t think a Republican member would. attend and top Republicans, including Trump, did not promote the event.
McCarthy also remained silent after first-year Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina suggested a “rigged” election could “lead to a place, and it’s a bloodbath” and Rep. Mo Brooks of the Alabama offered measured sympathy to a suspect who claimed to have a bomb in his truck near the Capitol last month and criticized Democratic lawmakers.
Democrats are amplifying their warnings that the GOP’s continued adherence to Trump’s election lies and other extremist rhetoric could lead to a repeat of January 6. And Democrats are also criticizing some on the far right for turning rioter Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed while trying to storm the Capitol, into a martyr. An internal memo reviewed by CNN warned that there had been heated discussions online about Babbitt in connection with Saturday’s rally, which Rep. Eric Swalwell called a Republican celebration of “cop killers.”
Even some GOP members want their own party to do a better job of exposing the lies about the 2020 election.
“Frankly, I think we need more honesty,” said first-year Representative Peter Meijer of Michigan, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting insurgency, at a recent Washington Post Live event. “We’ve seen what can be done when people feel like they’re winking and nodding. “
“These are literally life and death implications,” he added, “and leaders need to be clear about where they stand and what they believe. “
Saturday’s rally is expected to be smaller than that of January 6, but law enforcement is bracing for the possibility of the crowd turning violent or armed. As a precaution, the temporary fence around the Capitol is being reinstalled, while Capitol Police have called for help from the National Guard if they need it that day.
Matt Braynard, the event’s organizer, insisted it would be peaceful and urged attendees not to wear Trump or election-related gear. Some of the most haunting images and videos from January 6 are of the pro-Trump mob hitting police officers with American flag poles.
The list of speakers for Saturday includes Joe Kent, who is running to overthrow Washington State Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, another of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, and Mike Collins, who aims to replace Rep. Jody. Hice, a Republican from Georgia who is running for secretary of state in Peach state after pushing to overturn last year’s presidential election results in Congress. The public appearance of the pair of congressional candidates, both of whom are facing the GOP primaries, suggests that supporting jailed rioters is something they believe could give them a boost with their conservative base.
Although no sitting member of Congress attends, several House Republicans – including Representatives Louie Gohmert of Texas, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Paul Gosar of Arizona – have aligned themselves with a cause. similar, referring to the imprisoned insurgents as “political prisoners”.
“I’m not sure I can do [the rally], but we know there were people who were arrested for the January 6 activities, and they were so abused, ”Gohmert told CNN before the break. “So we didn’t give up. “
Ahead of the rally, the four top Congressional leaders received a safety briefing from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the forces of the United States. order seemed better prepared this time around.
“The leadership of Congress, on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, has been briefed by the Capitol Police Board of the nature of the threat and the unprecedented preparations to deal with yet another attempt to sully our national goal,” Pelosi said on Wednesday. in a “Dear Colleague”.
Describing the rally, Pelosi added, “There are some who wish to continue the assault on the United States Capitol with misinformation and malice. … By working together, we will honor our oath to support and defend the Constitution, as we engage in reconciliation and pass legislation for the people. “
Whitney Wild and Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.