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Montana law makers respond to Capitol violence

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State political leaders condemn the violence that happed at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6. 

Montana’s congressional delegation and Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte disavowed those actions on social media. The comments come after Montana’s two Republican members of Congress, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, said this week they planned to object to certifying the vote in some states and called for an audit of the vote based on false allegations of widespread election fraud.

Rosendale condemned the actions of protesters on Wednesday. “I am safe and so is my staff,” Rosendale said in a Tweet. “I condemn political violence of any kind. There is a peaceful process to resolve this, which is what we were attempting to do. Thank you to the Capitol Police for keeping us safe.”

Likewise, Daines disavowed the protesters on Twitter. “I condemn any kind of violence and intimidation,” he said. “This is unacceptable.” In a follow-up email, Daines spokeswoman Katie Schoettler said Daines and his staff were safe, but otherwise provided no other details.

Democratic Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester also took to Twitter to release a statement condemning “this despicable and dangerous attack on our democracy.”

Congress was meeting Wednesday to certify the vote of the Electoral College, which last month confirmed Joe Biden’s 306 to 232 vote victory in November’s election.

Over the weekend and on Tuesday, Daines and Rosendale said they would join numerous Republicans in rejecting the electoral count of several states, even as other congressional Republicans and party leaders discouraged the effort as divisive and likely to fail. Daines and Rosendale said allegations of election fraud had eroded public confidence in the election. No credible evidence of widespread fraud has been presented, and dozens of court cases, state election officials and Trump administration officials have affirmed the legitimacy of the election and of Biden’s victory.

Trump supporters gathered in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, where speakers, including Trump, encouraged them to pressure Congress to not certify the Electoral College’s vote. Many of those protesters later moved to the Capitol building, storming the building, and forcing Congress to adjourn.

Former Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who lost November’s election for governor, blamed the chaos partly on Daines and Rosendale. “Good job Steve Daines, Matt Rosendale and Donald Trump,” he said in a Tweet. “You are responsible for today’s chaos.”

Gianforte, who has previously acknowledged Biden’s victory, said on Twitter: “Violence has no place in our civil society, and I categorically condemn what’s happening in the U.S. Capitol.”

Republican and Democratic state legislative leaders also denounced the D.C. protests on Wednesday. In a joint statement, Senate President Mark Blasdel and Speaker of the House Wylie Galt encouraged protesters to remain peaceful. 

“We are blessed in Montana to have a long tradition of respectful and spirited dialogue and peaceful expression of diverse viewpoints through our First Amendment rights. Violence is not an acceptable response to political differences,” their statement said. “Already this week, we’ve had multiple peaceful demonstrations here at the State Capitol in Helena. We encourage Montanans to continue serving as an example for the nation during these times of intense division.” 

Daines’ office released a short statement at 6:30 p.m. saying Daines would change course and not object to certifying Electoral College votes, saying it is important to have a “peaceful and orderly transition of power,” while continuing to say that confidence in U.S. elections needs to be restored. 

“Today is a sad day for our country. The destruction and violence we saw at our Capitol today is an assault on our democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law, and must not be tolerated,” the statement said. “We must rise above the violence. We must stand together. We will not let today’s violence deter Congress from certifying the election.”

Spokespeople for Rosendale did not respond to MTFP questions on Wednesday afternoon about whether he still planned to object to certification of the vote. Neither Daines’ nor Rosendale’s office responded to requests seeking comment on claims that their amplification of false allegations is partly responsible for the violence, and how they would characterize the people who stormed the Capitol and disrupted Congress. 

On Jan. 7, early Thursday morning, Congress ratified the results of the Electoral College vote. 

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