Georgia leaders denounce riot at U.S. Capitol as Senate vote count halted

By: - January 7, 2021 9:08 am

Gov. Brian Kemp held a press conference Wednesday with fellow Republicans Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston to condemn the mob violence seen at the nation’s Capitol building Wednesday. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

This story was updated 9:45 a.m. 

Several Georgia officials have condemned the mob violence inside the nation’s Capitol building that unfolded on live TV Wednesday as Congress began the process of certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s win over President Donald Trump.

But at least two of the state’s congressional leaders have argued for a more aggressive response to the violent and deadly outbreak that disrupted the electoral college certification process. The riot followed a nearby Trump rally where the president continued to claim that widespread voter fraud robbed him of a second term.

Newly sworn-in Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Suwanee Democrat, has pressed for Trump’s impeachment, and Rep. Lucy McBath, a Marietta Democrat, urged Vice President Mike Pence to begin the process of removing Trump from office under the 25th Amendment.

“The eyes of the world are upon us, and the President’s incitement of violence, his inducement of chaos, and his inability to faithfully ‘discharge the powers and duties of his office’ make it clear. The President has refused to protect our democracy and must be removed,” McBath said in a statement late Wednesday.

Bourdeaux said in a statement that “it has never been more urgent for my colleagues to uphold the pillars of our democracy and put an end to the conspiracy theories that fueled this insurrection attempt.”

Congress had started deliberating on the Arizona election results when the proceeding was abruptly suspended and Pence quickly removed from the chamber. The results of other swing states, including Georgia, were previously expected to be challenged. Lawmakers reconvened around 8 p.m. Wednesday and worked through the night.

Dozens of Republican lawmakers – including five Georgia members of Congress – planned to formally object to the election results during the Electoral College certification.

Newly elected Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde and Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk supported the GOP push to continue to challenge the election results once Congress reconvened.

In the Senate, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost her election bid Tuesday, had announced earlier in the week that she planned to object to the electoral college vote. But by the time the chamber resumed its work late Wednesday, Loeffler was among those who backed away from their challenge after the day’s chaos and violence.

“When I arrived in Washington this morning, I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes,” Loeffler said on the Senate floor. “However, the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors.

“The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect – the sanctity of the American democratic process,” she said.

Congress certified Biden’s win early Thursday morning. After the vote, Trump issued a statement through a spokesman that there would be an “orderly transition” on Jan. 20.

“Despite a domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol, the United States Congress moved forward with the next step in the peaceful transfer of power. The votes representing nearly five million Georgians were certified without objection,” newly sworn in Congresswoman Nikema Williams said in a statement early Thursday. “Yesterday’s unfortunate events proved fear and intimidation will not win.”

Back in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday afternoon that he would extend an executive order activating the National Guard and said they “will be called up as needed.” State lawmakers return to Atlanta Monday for the new legislative session where a new eight-foot security fence is taking shape.

Georgia has had regular “stop the steal” demonstrations, including that one Wednesday that news reports described as small and peaceful.

But some protesters gathered outside of the state Capitol Wednesday afternoon were armed and the potential threat prompted Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and some staff to leave their Capitol office to work remotely. 

The state’s top election official and his family have also faced death threats since the Nov. 3 election after Biden upset Trump by about 12,000 votes. And Trump repeatedly threatened Raffensperger’s political aspirations and, during a recent call with him, also mentioned potential criminal charges for refusing to overturn the election results.

An aide to Raffensperger, Gabriel Sterling, called for Republicans who have been challenging the election results with unfounded accusations of fraud to step down, charging them with inciting the violence that played out on Wednesday.

Sterling, who is a Republican, expressed outrage as the pro-Trump mob took over the U.S. Capitol.

“I said several weeks ago that the words and actions of the President were going to get someone shot, hurt, or killed. Shots were just fired in the US Capitol. Let that sink in for a moment,” Sterling said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon.

The potential safety threats also stopped counting votes a couple of blocks away as Fulton County poll workers were wrapping up their tally of the Senate runoffs at the downtown Atlanta courthouse. Election staffers in the state’s most populous county have been the target of recent conspiracy theories, including several spun by the president during the phone call to Raffensperger last weekend in which he berated Georgia’s top election official for not overturning the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

Trump has focused much of his anger at fellow Republicans Kemp and Raffensperger in the weeks since the secretary of state certified his loss to Biden by nearly 12,000 votes out of about 5 million cast.

Kemp stood with Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston – all Republican state leaders – during a Wednesday evening press conference to condemn the violence carried out Wednesday by Trump extremists. The trio did not take questions.

“Today is an incredibly sobering reminder of how delicate our democracy truly is,” Duncan said. “It is also a reminder of how dangerous it is when people in power act as if they are more important than that democracy.

“I call on President Donald Trump to speak with all the clarity in the world as to exactly what Americans should do at this point in Washington D.C.,” he continued. “They should exit the Capitol peacefully, and they should allow democracy to once again shine.”

Lawmakers in both chambers have held hearings in the wake of the November election that have provided a platform for Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, as he tried to convince legislatures in swing states to overturn the presidential election results.

“For those of you who have been calling on a special session, you can now see what that would have looked like,” Kemp said. “Rudy Giuliani saying ‘trial by combat’ is simply outrageous and there is no place for that in our nation.”

Georgia Recorder reporter Stanley Dunlap contributed to this report.

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.