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January 8, 2021

Conservative Response to the Capitol Building Riot

Condemnation from conservative political and thought leaders was swift and unequivocal.

Editor’s note: This piece is regularly updated.

There was rarely any Democrat leader or Leftmedia condemnation to the burning, looting, and murdering that took place in leftist urban centers over the last six months. But when there is disruptive behavior on the Right, à la the actions at the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday — ostensibly in the name of “conservatism” — condemnation from genuine conservative political and thought leaders was swift and unequivocal. You will find below a compendium of their righteous anger.

Though Democrats will call for Trump’s resignation and/or impeachment to keep this disgraceful occurrence front and center until the day he leaves office, this much is abundantly clear: While the actions of this fringe group of rioting miscreants reflect poorly upon conservatives, it does not represent to any degree the broad spectrum of more than 100,000 Trump supporters at his DC rally, or the millions of Americans across the nation who have supported his administration’s conservative agenda — none of whom would approve of this inexcusable behavior.

Key Republican Lawmakers & Cabinet Members

“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins, and this is still the people’s house. And as we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy, for even in the wake of unprecedented violence and vandalism at this Capitol, the elected representatives of the people of the United States have assembled again on the very same day to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” —Vice President Mike Pence

“The United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. … Whether our nation has been at war or at peace, under all manner of threats, even during an ongoing armed rebellion and Civil War, the clockwork of our democracy has carried on. The United States and the United States Congress have faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today. We have never been deterred before and we will not be deterred today. They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed.” —Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

“When it comes to accountability, the president needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution. … There has been a constant effort by people from the president’s legal team to provide misinformation, to distort the facts, to make accusations that cannot be proven. That needs to stop.” —Sen. Lindsay Graham

“China’s laughing. They’re loving this tonight. In Beijing, they’re high-fiving because they point to this and say, ‘This is proof that the future belongs to China; America’s in decline.’ Vladimir Putin? There’s nothing that Vladimir Putin could come up with better than what happened here. Makes us look like we’re in total chaos and collapse. Not to mention the Ayatollah, who’s probably bragging to his buddies — if he has buddies — ‘Look what’s happening to the Great Satan.’ I think politics has made us crazy! Everybody in this country has lost their minds on politics. And we have forgotten that America is not a government. America is not a president. America is not a Congress. Let me tell you what America is. America is your family. America is your faith. America is your community. That’s America. That’s what our adversaries don’t understand, and that’s what we need to remember. That is how we’re going to rebuild this country and turn the page and have a future even brighter than our past.” —Sen. Marco Rubio

“While law-abiding citizens are the immediate victims of the mob, they aren’t its ultimate target. Mobs attack property like the Capitol and public monuments because they are symbols of civilization. Attacks on these institutions demoralize our people and shake their faith in our government and way of life. The final victim of what Lincoln called ‘the mobocratic spirit’ is thus ‘the attachment of the people,’ the very spirit of civic-minded patriotism that’s necessary to preserve our republic. Strong leaders maintain order not only to protect their people from criminal violence but also to preserve confidence in civilization. Too many leaders have failed in this foundational task over the past year.” —Sen. Tom Cotton

“I think [Trump] plainly bears some responsibility. At the end of the day, criminals are responsible for their own conduct, and the [Capitol rioters] bear the responsibility –but I think his angry rhetoric was reckless and I think it was harmful.” Sen. Ted Cruz

“Our democracy cannot be disrupted by criminal behavior. We will not falter. We will not bend. We will not shrink from our duty. Mobs don’t rule America — laws do.” —House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

“The real cause of Wednesday’s unrest was that many officeholders and commentators misled millions of Americans to believe that the vote count was their final chance to have a say, and their last, best chance to fight for election integrity. Millions were lied to and told they had to fight at our Capitol or all would be lost. But Jan. 6 was merely ceremonial — with or without the protesters, the unconstitutional right of objection some lawmakers invoked would have resulted in nothing more than a couple of hours of debate.” —Rep. Dan Crenshaw

“Orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable. The President’s conduct yesterday was a betrayal of his office and supporters.” —former Attorney General William Barr

“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me. Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgment and model the behavior we hope they would emulate. They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired [Wednesday].” —Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who resigned

“Our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.” —Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who resigned

Columnists & Political Analysts

“I was the first editor-in-chief of an intellectual review to support President Donald Trump. Possibly, I was the first editor to do so. Yet now, after a thorough review of last week’s bruising events, I most emphatically condemn his reckless rhetoric, and I affirm that I can no longer support him. If anything, I should have done so earlier. Too much wreckage has accumulated around him. Too many reputations have been destroyed by him. One of the most admirable virtues in politics is loyalty. I know who has been loyal to Donald. Whom has he been loyal to? … Donald was an amazing man, but now his legacy is endangered, and the man who endangered it is Donald Trump. He never took advice from anyone, and he went through many first-rate advisers. He treated staff horribly, men such as Jeff Sessions, Mick Mulvaney and Mark Meadows. He had the best vice president that I have seen in my lifetime. For a while, he treated Mike Pence with dignity. When it came down to last week — Washington’s Hell Week — he treated the vice president as shabbily as he treated everyone else.” —R. Emmett Tyrrell

“Trump sees other humans only in terms of what they can do for him. He will ask for favor after favor after favor, no matter how humiliating or burdensome, but the moment someone says ‘no,’ will viciously attack him. Ask Jeff Sessions. Thus, Trump came up with the manifestly insane idea that his vice president, Mike Pence, should refuse to certify the electoral votes. ‘All Vice President Pence has to do,’ Trump said at the rally, ‘is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people.’ … On and on he went: ‘So I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do, and I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs and the stupid people that he’s listening to.’ The vice president, not being a lunatic, had already declined Trump’s very special offer — limited time only! — earlier that morning. Trump was setting up his supporters to be furious with Pence when they got to the Capitol and realized he had not awarded the election to Trump. At 2:24 p.m., as Trump watched the mob streaming through the Capitol, he tweeted: ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution …’ Whereupon, some in the crowd began chanting, ‘Hang Mike Pence!’ Trump never called to find out if Pence and his family were safe. For 48 hours, Trump didn’t lower the White House flag to half-mast in honor of Brian Sicknick, the Trump-supporting Capitol Hill Police officer who died from injuries sustained during the siege. … Nor did he call Sicknick’s family. Pence did. Sometimes you get the feeling Trump’s not really thinking about other people.” —Ann Coulter

“Trump has to stop making false claims that the election was ‘stolen’ or ‘rigged.’ No credible evidence has been presented showing widespread fraud, and the fact that so many millions of people have bought into that fantasy is astounding. Many have supported the president during his term and celebrated his accomplishments. But some concluded that his actions on Jan. 6 were simply unacceptable, as were many of his actions since the election. To put the onus on the vice president was misguided. There was absolutely no constitutional basis for Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the will of the people and somehow reverse the election from the floor of the Senate on Jan. 6. All 50 states have certified the election. It is finally over, and President-elect Joe Biden will be our next commander in chief. Threatening the vice president in remarks at the rally in Washington was beyond the pale. The rhetoric at his event in the hours leading up to the insurrection was dangerous, and the events of Jan. 6 proved that. … Words matter. And the words of the president matter the most of any person on the planet. But the words of the president have wounded us as a nation and harm our image overseas.” —Armstrong Williams

“The shocking events in Washington on Wednesday … have soiled his legacy forever. … Trump could have prevented Wednesday’s national embarrassment and saved Republicans from disaster, but his ego and his narcissism got the better of him. Like Hillary Clinton, who is still blaming her embarrassing defeat in 2016 on the Russians, Trump has proved for nine weeks that he doesn’t know how to lose. He could have taken the high road and left office with a phenomenal legacy — and a solid conservative one. … He’s still a hero to millions of Flyover Americans and still a major political player. But the country he wanted to make great again is going to pay the ultimate price for his character flaws. … Ronald Reagan’s legacy was tearing down the Berlin Wall. Donald Trump’s legacy is going to be tearing down the Capitol. So sad.” —Michael Reagan

“The rioters — and the president — have claimed the mantel of ‘law and order’ and ‘support the police’ and yet when it came to obeying the law, preserving order and respecting the police they would have none of it. Conservatives and evangelical Christians, like myself, have for too long rationalized that ignoring the president’s language and behavior was tolerable because of his policies. There comes a time, however (even at this late hour) when one must ask one’s self if this was a Faustian bargain that overwhelmed legitimate policy disagreements. I have been called a traitor, weak, a relic of the past and words unrepeatable in the newspaper because of past criticism of President Trump for lesser things, but in order to retain one’s credibility a standard of right and wrong must be sacrosanct. On Wednesday that standard was jettisoned by people who claim to adhere to it. The excuses, the comparisons with what the left does and the ‘whataboutisms’ won’t cut it this time. This is not conservatism. This is not Republicanism. The Republican Party was founded largely as an anti-slavery party. Too many among today’s members and among conservatives (not always the same thing) have become enslaved to the person and personality of Donald Trump. This is not hero worship. It is idolatry. Conservative principles and ideas are not the property of any one person. It is undeniable that President Trump has done many good things for the country, but at what cost? Republicans have lost their claim to be the party of balanced budgets. Do they also want to lose their claim to be the party of morality and ‘family values’?” —Cal Thomas

“‘What abouting’ what the nation saw on Wednesday is shameful. As someone who condemned the summer riots and criticized the media coverage, we should at least acknowledge the summer rage came from outrage over the deaths of citizens at the hands of the police and the Wednesday rage that led to deaths was based on outrage fueled by lies. The truth, like it or not, is that the President of the United States stoked the passions and fanned the flames of a mob that stormed the United States Capitol in a physical attack on the separation of powers designed to disrupt the democratic processes and institutions of our republic.” —Erick Erickson

“The breaching of the building during one of the longest-running ceremonies under our system of government is the starkest domestic assault on our democracy in memory, and means that in 2021, we indeed failed to have a peaceful transfer of power.” —Rich Lowry

“Political violence begets political violence. That is an iron law. We have to be against that, no matter who commits the violence or under what pretext, no matter how many self-interested demagogues assure us the violence is justified or necessary, as they have been assuring us, lying to us, for the past six months. We have a duty to oppose all of this.” —Tucker Carlson


“Although President Trump cannot take all the blame for every action taken by those who stormed the Capitol grounds Wednesday — each person has personal responsibility — his lies about a stolen election and his request that angry protesters march to the Capitol mark a disgraceful and irresponsible incitement that led to an act of mob rule. Trump’s after-the-fact encouragement of the protesters to be ‘peaceful’ was far too little, too late, in addition to being marred by his further wallowing in self-pitying, false conspiracy theories about how the election was stolen from him. Republicans may feel one way or the other about the election. But any Republican official who equivocates about the violence that occurred, or about Trump’s contribution to it, evinces a lack of character that voters should take seriously in the next election. … Wednesday’s violence was different because it took place in the sacred space of the U.S. Capitol. This was not merely another use of violence in order to get attention, like so many others. It was an act of physical intimidation of the people who make the nation’s laws. But political violence is equally destructive of civic bonds whether it comes from the Left or the Right. The founding fathers understood and wrote in explicit terms about the danger that democracy can devolve into mob rule. This is why they established a system of checks and balances in which power is diffused and majoritarian impulses are deliberately frustrated.” —Washington Examiner

“Peace-loving Americans are slow to anger, and it took four years of provocation for it to boil over. The tragedy of the shocking outbreak of disorder in Washington is that, barring one misstep, it likely never would have happened at all. … By calling for the upending of proper constitutional order, Mr. Trump opened the door to an un-American torrent of emotion. At his prompting, the throngs paraded up Pennsylvania Avenue to the West Side of the massive, domed Capitol, and the dogs of chaos were loosed. Their only reward was dishonor and regret. … By giving rein to raw emotion on the Mall … the president and his ardent followers have only made the path back to national greatness a steeper trek.” —The Washington Times

“Donald Trump managed the seemingly impossible yesterday and found a new low. He whipped up and urged on a mob toward the U.S. Capitol, where it breached the building and forced his vice president and lawmakers to flee. He didn’t immediately address the violence and reportedly resisted calling out the National Guard. He finally issued a brief video telling the rioters to go home but expressing his love for them. At no point did he condemn their conduct and at the end of the day, he tweeted that such acts are what happen when an election is stolen (leading to the temporary suspension of his Twitter account). … Trump has never had any interest in the peaceful transfer of power, and yesterday’s events mean that the transfer this year, indeed, hasn’t been peaceful.” —National Review

“Patriots enlist and defend their country. They work hard, do their best, raise good families. They help their neighbors. They perform civic duties. They grit their teeth and pay their taxes. Then they show up and vote. They compete, they win or lose, but they do both with grace. These are some of the things patriots do. Patriots do not storm their own Capitol over a lost election. They do not bum rush members of Congress. They do not assault strangers. They do not push and shove police officers and trash federal buildings. These are things criminals do, and criminals of any political stripe deserve one thing: the rule of law. … The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of western democracy. It is the cornerstone of everything we love. It is apple pie. It’s lining up and shaking hands when the clock hits zero. We have ways to resolve political disputes, including election disputes. What happened in Washington is not on the list. If we want to end the cycle of political violence — and it has become a cycle — now is the time to set the precedent. The left excused this summer’s rioting as ‘mostly peaceful.’ The same could be said of the events in Washington. It’s irrelevant. ‘Mostly’ is not the standard to which we should aspire. Political violence is wrong. Period.” —The Daily Caller

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