Dem lawmakers ask DOJ to investigate Republicans over Capitol attack

By: - January 13, 2021 3:44 pm

Supporters of President Donald Trump vandalized a sign at the Arizona Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020, during a rally to support the president and call on Congress to overturn the 2020 election, in which Trump lost to Joe Biden. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Legislative Democrats are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate four Arizona Republican officeholders for their possible involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

All of the 43 Democrats serving in the Arizona House of Representatives and Senate co-signed the letter to Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and FBI Director Christopher Wray seeking a federal probe into Congressmen Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, state Rep. Mark Finchem and former state Rep. Anthony Kern. Finchem and Kern were part of the demonstration whose participants later forced their way into the Capitol, while an organizer of the rally has claimed that Biggs and Gosar helped him plan the event.

“They did all of this in public. What they did outside of plain view we do not yet know. But there is evidence to indicate that Arizona Representatives Mark Finchem, Anthony Kern, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs encouraged, facilitated, participated and possibly helped plan this anti-democratic insurrection on January 6,” the letter read. “It is vital to any current or future federal investigations, and ultimately to the Arizona public they represent, that we learn what these elected officials knew about this planned insurrection and when they knew it.”

The Democratic lawmakers suggested that the four Republicans could be found criminally liable. They also argued that they might be ineligible for public office under a provision of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring people who have participated in rebellion or insurrection against the United States.

Ali Alexander, a conservative activist who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” protest on Jan. 6 claimed in a now-deleted video that he, Biggs, Gosar and Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks “schemed up” the plan to put “max pressure on Congress while they were voting” on whether to certify the results of the Electoral College. President Donald Trump and many of supporters hoped that Congress or Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the results during the certification vote.

It was while the House of Representatives and Senate were debating Arizona’s 11 electoral votes that a violent mob pushed its way into the Capitol, forcing members of Congress and their staffs to hide and sparking a disturbance that ultimately killed five people.

Finchem and Kern were part of the crowd at the Stop the Steal rally. Photos circulating on social media show Kern in the crowd standing in front of the Capitol, though no pictures have emerged of him inside the building. Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said in a press statement that he never went inside the Capitol and didn’t get closer than 500 feet from the building. 

Neither Finchem nor Kern returned messages seeking comment. Kern, a Glendale Republican, is no longer a member of the legislature after losing his re-election bid in November.

Gosar was a featured attendee at a Dec. 19 “Stop the Steal” rally that Alexander organized at the Arizona Capitol, and Alexander played a video message from Biggs in which the House Freedom Caucus chairman told the crowd, “We are going to keep fighting, and I implore you to keep fighting, too,” the Arizona Republic reported on Sunday. The Republic reported on Wednesday that Alexander said in a Dec. 21 video that he was “working closely” with Biggs, Brooks and Gosar. 

A spokesman for Biggs told the Republic and other media outlets that he didn’t help Alexander plan anything and said the Congressman doesn’t recall ever meeting the activist. The two were both interviewed on a Dec. 14 radio show by a conservative talk radio host.

Spokespeople for Biggs and Gosar did not return messages from Arizona Mirror

The legislative Democrats alleged that elected Republicans spent weeks before the Capitol siege advocating for throwing out the presidential election, in which former Vice President Joe Biden defeated Trump, sparking widespread, baseless allegations of election fraud among the president’s supporters. Biggs, Finchem, Gosar and Kern have repeatedly spread those falsehoods.

The Democrats also alleged that the Republicans “encouraged precisely the kind of violent conduct that we witnessed,” though the only example they presented was a tweet by Kern in which he compared to the Jan. 6 rally to the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe on D-Day during World War II.

The lawmakers ended their letter by suggesting that the four Republicans could be ineligible to hold office under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that any federal, state or judicial officer who has engaged in insurrection and rebellion against the U.S. after swearing an oath to uphold the Constitution is not permitted to hold state or federal office. The provision was aimed at preventing former Confederate officials from holding office after the Civil War. Congress approved mass amnesties for former Confederates in 1872 and 1898.

Only once since the post-Reconstruction era has the Fourteenth Amendment been used to deny office to someone who wasn’t a former Confederate. In 1919, the House of Representatives voted not to seat Victor Berger, a Wisconsin Socialist who was elected to a Milwaukee-area district. Berger had been convicted of violating the Espionage Act for editorials that appeared in his newspaper that were deemed harmful to U.S. participation in World War I.

It would require a two-thirds vote for the U.S. House of Representatives to expel Biggs or Gosar, or for the Arizona House to expel Finchem.

UPDATED: This story was updated to reflect that all 43 legislative Demcorats signed the letter. An earlier version of the letter that was initially distributed to the media erroneously included only 42 signatures.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”