Rep. Mark Finchem walks through the crowd right in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after rioters had overtaken police and stormed the building. Finchem has said for months that he never got within 500 yards of the Capitol, but these images show he was much closer than that. Screencaps via Getty Images | Edited by Nick Martin/The Informant
Oro Valley Republican Mark Finchem has been publicly tight-lipped about his whereabouts on Jan. 6 and his connections to #StopTheSteal organizer Ali Alexander, but his testimony to the Congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection gives new insight into a man who has been instrumental in misinformation around Arizona’s electoral process.
On Friday, the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol released a slew of transcripts of depositions of individuals who had participated in interviews with the committee including Finchem. Some interviewees have chosen to invoke their Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate, but Finchem answered the committee’s questions with an attorney present.
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Ali Alexander, the lead organizer of the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that turned violent has said publicly that Arizona’s #StopTheSteal movement started with Mark Finchem.
“Arizona started with one man, State Representative Mark Finchem,” Alexander said in an interview on Jan. 10, 2021. “I’m very confident that the Stop The Steal movement has taken over Arizona.”
Ali Alexander and Jan 6
Finchem has built a national profile as a key proponent of misinformation about the 2020 elections, and was the driving force in Arizona for an event at a Phoenix hotel in late November 2020. At that event, Trump’s lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and other pro-Trump figures gathered with state GOP lawmakers and the president’s supporters to discuss baseless theories that Joe Biden won Arizona’s election by fraud.
Alexander claims that only nine prominent Arizona Republicans were involved in the movement before that meeting, but that the number had swelled to 50 afterward.
“I think he’s giving credit where it’s not due,” Finchem told the committee about Alexander’s comments. “Frankly, I think it’s probably an exaggeration. I was just a guy who was representing his constituents (and) called for a hearing to take testimony and evidence.”
Finchem said he met Alexander at the hearing, where he introduced himself to Finchem and other members of the Arizona legislature who were present. At the time, a #StopTheSteal protest had gathered outside and Alexander said that he wanted to know if protesters could come inside, Finchem said.
The GOP lawmaker said he was later invited to speak at a number of #StopTheSteal events, including one in Washington, D.C., and in Arizona. Finchem continued to deny the claim made by Alexander that he started the movement in Arizona, saying instead he was just trying to do a “purely legislative fact-finding hearing.”
“Now, if he wants to say that’s the beginning of the Stop the Steal movement, well, okay, go ahead,” Finchem said. “But… that was his thing, not mine.”
Finchem’s denials that he spurred the movement on are undercut by his social media posts in the weeks after the 2020 election. In total, Finchem used the hashtag 62 times from Nov. 19 to Jan. 6 on a Twitter account that was later permanently suspended for spreading election misinformation. After the violence of Jan. 6, Finchem stopped using the hashtag.
On Jan. 2, Finchem wrote that he would be heading to the nation’s capital.
“I will be in Washington DC on January 6 to #StopTheSteal and fight for President @realDonaldTrump,” Finchem said. “This is one of the most important days our republic has ever seen. We need all hands on deck.”
The tweet included a location and time for the event as well as a link to RSVP. The location was the U.S. Capitol.
Finchem has since said that he was in D.C. “to deliver an evidence book and letter to Vice President (Mike) Pence” to persuade him to delay presiding over the certification of the presidential election. He said he was scheduled to speak at a press conference on the Capitol steps while Congress was certifying the election, but was delayed in arriving because he attended Trump’s speech at the Ellipse and joined the march to the Capitol “at the rear of the crowd.”
In his deposition, Finchem repeatedly called the crowd “festive” and falsely claimed there were likely one to two million people in attendance. He also echoed conspiracy theories around police presence around the Capitol being overly sparse. Finchem has also historically not been truthful about how close he was to the Capitol on that day.
Footage reviewed by the Arizona Mirror appears to show Finchem riding in the back of a golf cart. Finchem confirmed in his deposition that he rode to the area in a golf cart, but he did not say who it was who picked him up.
Finchem, a former police officer, also claimed that he did not see a text message from Coudrey that said that protesters were storming the Capitol and Coudrey thought it was unsafe. Finchem said he left the area because he thought the protest was becoming “disorganized” and because he saw a barricade on the ground.
“It was like, these guys are totally unprepared for what’s happening here, and I think it’s time for Mark to leave,” Finchem said.
On his suspended Twitter page, Finchem posted a photo he took of the Capitol after rioters and protesters had breached the inner areas of the Capitol grounds.
“What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud,” he wrote, praising the rioters. Finchem in his deposition said this crowd was peaceful.
Finchem condemned the violent protesters, saying those that did damage to federal property were not peaceful protesters, however, he continued to push conspiracy theories that doors to the Capitol were left unlocked and that police were letting people into the building.
The Hyatt Hearing and Trump ties
Prior to Jan. 6, Finchem began gaining notoriety for holding an unofficial hearing to discuss alleged election fraud in Arizona, gathering people like Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and election misinformation peddlers and QAnon believers like Bobby Piton.
Alexander cited the hearing as a pivotal moment for Arizona’s #StopTheSteal movement. For Finchem, it was a key moment where he connected with pivotal people within Trump’s inner circle.
Finchem said his initial point of contact was with OANN anchor and Trump campaign attorney Christina Bobb, who contacted Finchem with “credible evidence” that Giuliani and his team would like to present. When asked why a representative from the Trump legal team might want to participate in the hearing, Finchem said he “didn’t question motives.” He also didn’t inquire what their alleged evidence was.
“All I had was, you know, the statement, we’ve got evidence and testimony we’d like to present to you,” Finchem said. “Sure. Everybody is welcome as long as we can fit you in timewise.”
Finchem told investigators the hours-long testimony during the hearing was “mind-numbing.”
Some who testified at the event would later become involved in one way or another in the Arizona Senate’s partisan “audit” of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County. Lyle Rapacki, a self-proclaimed “devil expert” who was also connected to far-right extremist Matt Shea, ran security for the event and would later go on to vet volunteers for the election review.
Phil Waldron, who gave incorrect testimony about electronic voting machines, was at first chosen by the Senate to lead the “audit” effort before later being replaced by Cyber Ninjas. Waldron also helped with vetting volunteers and was in communication with Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan.
The reason the hearing was held at the Hyatt was due to Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers “blocking” Finchem’s request to use the House chambers, Finchem said. At the time, Bowers was being called by Trump and Giuliani personally, asking him to hold a hearing, but he refused when they would not provide him with any evidence.
Due to the delay in getting his “hearing” and the fact that elections are held close to the holidays, Finchem said that was the real reason for him wanting to delay certification in his deposition, to allow more time for “sunshine” on issues of nonexistent fraud.
“So, you’ve got Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. Basically, that window of time burned, okay?” Finchem said. “Now, as an aside, I’d love to have elections during the summer as opposed to at the end of the year so that we don’t have holidays interfering with things that are major questions, but… we have the system that we have.”
Finchem also told the committee that he did not know of or speak with members of the Trump administration and did things of his own accord, though he said he spoke highly of and said he spoke with former Assistant to the President Peter Navarro as well as ex-Trump aide Garrett Ziegler.
“He’s a guy who walks around with two brains,” Finchem said of Navarro who is currently facing contempt of Congress charges.
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