Local Republicans denounce Capitol violence, defend President Trump

Posted 1/12/21

Leaders of the Park County Republican Party say Wyoming’s members of Congress should “withhold judgment” about last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol until “all the …

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Local Republicans denounce Capitol violence, defend President Trump


Leaders of the Park County Republican Party say Wyoming’s members of Congress should “withhold judgment” about last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol until “all the facts ... become clear.”

“What was said [Wednesday] night by our delegation — our representative, specifically — was totally premature,” County GOP Chairman Martin Kimmet said at the party’s Thursday night meeting. “And I would tell Liz Cheney that to her face.”

After hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the halls of Congress, leading to the death of a Capitol police officer and the fatal shooting of a protester, U.S. Rep. Cheney, R-Wyo., harshly criticized Trump’s actions.

”There is no question that the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame,” Cheney said in an appearance on Fox News.

Trump had addressed a large crowd of supporters at a “Save America” rally Wednesday morning, reiterating his claims that Democrats “stole” the election and that he won by “a landslide.”

Former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden prevailed in the election with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232; he also collected about 7 million more votes than Trump overall, according to tallies compiled by The Associated Press. But Trump has disputed the results. He encouraged the “Save America” audience to march to the Capitol building, saying they would do so “peacefully and patriotically,” to encourage Congressional Republicans to challenge the final certification of November’s results.

“... If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump warned the crowd toward the tail end of his hour-long remarks.

Although they were a fraction of the generally peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., that day, a sizable mob later broke into the Capitol building, resulting in property damage and injuries — and disrupting Congress’ work to certify the election.

Trump later told the rioters to be peaceful and to go home, while reiterating his claims about a stolen election and adding that, “we love you; you’re very special.”

In her remarks on Fox News, Cheney said Trump’s response was “completely intolerable and insufficient.” She also called it unprecedented in American history to have a president refuse to concede an election after the Electoral College vote.

“The president is abusing the trust of the American people and abusing the trust of the people who supported him,” Cheney said.

However, the Park County Republican Party said Thursday the condemnation of Trump was premature and “currently without merit.”


‘Jumping the gun’

The party called Wednesday’s assault “extremely troubling,” and encouraged law enforcement officials to pursue lawbreakers in the criminal justice system — while affording them due process.

“That’s very important,” Kimmet said. “Some people kind of jumped the gun on that [Wednesday] night.”

He added, “Nobody knows who the people were that broke into the Capitol.”

Since Thursday’s meeting, dozens of people have been identified and charged with crimes in connection with the assault; they include far-right supporters of Trump. Despite various conspiracy theories that far-left “Antifa” members donned disguises and instigated the riot, authorities and media organizations have yet to find any significant evidence to support those claims.

The Wyoming and Park County Republican parties also made a point of condemning the violence and destruction that accompanied protests in other parts of the country last year, over the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police.

In a Thursday statement, the Wyoming Republican Party said the “corrupt media” had expressed no outrage about those protests, but rushed to label the rioters at the Capitol as Trump supporters.

“It is our hope that the media will report the truth, and that the justice system will prosecute those responsible, first for the riots in the spring of 2020 and then, when the facts come out …, those responsible for [Wednesday]’s chaos,” the state party wrote.

Meanwhile, the Park County Republican Party said in a weekend letter to the Congressional delegation that, “Republicans and Democrats alike in Wyoming and Park County were equally upset at the unlawful and violent protests” in the Capitol. Conservatives, they added, “were equally shocked and upset at the comparable riots and looting that have taken place across this nation all summer long, most without police intervention.”

“Unfortunately, when violence in the name of politics is given a pass, and in some cases encouraged by elected officials and the media, such violence is far more likely to become the commonplace outlet for groups and individuals that feel that their voice is being ignored,” the Park County GOP leaders wrote, calling that “the root cause” for last week’s assault.


Impeachment and removal

On the other side of the political aisle, Wyoming Democratic Party Chair Joe Barbuto said what happened in D.C. was “the culmination of the Trump presidency.”

“These people are not protesters or patriots, they are domestic terrorists who were beckoned by the dog whistle of Donald Trump,” Barbuto said in a statement. He added that Trump, Wyoming’s Congressional delegation and those “who have enabled and defended his actions, conspiracy theories and words over the last four years” are “complicit in this violence.”

Democratic leaders, and a handful of prominent Republicans, have called for Trump to be removed from office via the invocation of the 25th Amendment or impeachment.

However, the roughly three dozen members of the Park County Republican Party’s Central Committee present at Thursday’s meeting voted unanimously to oppose the president’s early removal.

“We in Park County can think of no greater affront to the voters of Wyoming than the breathless calls to remove the president from office, mere days before his term will end,” says the letter the party sent to Wyoming’s Congressional delegation, noting the overwhelming support that state voters showed for Trump in November.

None of the members of Wyoming’s Congressional delegation had called for Trump’s removal from office at the time the letter was sent, but Park County GOP Vice Chairman Bob Ferguson proposed sending the letter considering some of Cheney’s remarks. (On Tuesday, after this story was published, Cheney announced she would vote to impeace the president.) The delegation does respond to local Republican leaders, with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., calling Kimmet in the middle of Thursday night’s meeting. (Kimmet explained he’d have to call the senator back.)

The county party’s letter predicted impeachment would “exacerbate the resentment of the more than 74 million voters that supported President Trump.”

“Attempting to blame the entirety of this political upheaval on one man,” they wrote, “is an insult to us all and is far more likely to increase the prospect for confrontations going forward.”


Predicting a war

Last month, Park County Republican Party Treasurer Robin Berry wrote a post for the party’s Facebook page in which she predicted a civil war unless the military oversaw a new election.

“We should have Martial Law due to foreign intervention and a return of our troops to conduct an in-person, voter vetted with picture ID, paper ballot with a multi-witness manual count,” the party’s post read, “or this country WILL fall in to a civil war or a free for all, where brother will kill brother and the multitudes will be in the streets with no food nor utilities and the fault WILL be at the feet of our US Congress who choose to do nothing.”

After the Tribune inquired about the post, Secretary Vince Vanata said it did not reflect the opinion of the party’s executive committee or Kimmet; Berry later removed the text from the party’s page, saying she’d been asked to do so, and instead posted it from her personal account.

Following Wednesday’s riot, Berry wrote on a local Facebook group, “This is what happens when a minority of democrats attempt to usurp the majority of people in this country by voter fraud and refuse to allow the allegations to be investigated and proved 80+ million Americans will not sit idly by and be led to ‘concentration camps.’”

The tone was more reserved at Thursday night’s GOP meeting at the Cody Cowboy Church, where bumper stickers were offered up that read, “Why worry, God is in control.”

Jacob Dillinger, a Republican precinct committeeman from Powell who produced the stickers, said he thought they were “very appropriate” for the times.

“We worry a lot,” he said, “but God is in control.”

Cody Cowboy Church Pastor Pat Alphin made similar remarks in opening and closing prayers, asking for healing. Alphin also prayed for the safety of  Trump, and asked God to shut the mouths of those calling for the president’s removal from office.