Saturday, February 24

EDITORIAL | The ignoble censure of Cheney, Kinzinger

When it comes to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, rhetoric has begun to obscure reality. So take it from four of the heroes who defended our democracy that deadly day: The police officers who testified in July to the congressional committee investigating the attack.

“In Iraq, we expected armed violence because we were in a war zone, but nothing my experience in the Army or as a law enforcement officer prepared me for what we confronted on January 6th,” Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police said in his testimony.

What Gonell and other officers confronted was a violent MAGA mob — egged on by former President Donald Trump’s lies about the election — in an illegal, lethal breach of the Capitol that injured 140 officers and directly threatened the lives of elected officials, including Trump’s own vice president.

Each of the four detailed devastating injuries many officers received in a clash that fellow officer Michael Fanone called “nothing short of brutal.”

What’s even worse, Fanone added, are those in Congress who are “downplaying or outright denying what happened” on Jan. 6. “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them,” Fanone said. “The indifference to my colleagues is disgraceful! Nothing, truly nothing has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so betray their oath of office.”

The congressional deniers are all Republicans. But not all Republicans are deniers. And two have stood out as profiles in courage for holding Trump accountable in his second impeachment and for being bold leaders on the panel: Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

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For defending the Constitution and by extension, Congress, Cheney was stripped of her leadership post and now has a Trump-backed primary opponent. Kinzinger is not running for re-election. And in the most disgraceful display of a once-principled party defining itself to fealty to the “big lie” and a big liar, the twice-impeached former president who has made belief in his false claims a litmus test, the Republican National Party voted last Friday to officially censure and no longer support as party members both Cheney and Kinzinger.

According to reports, the resolution, taken up at an RNC meeting in Salt Lake City, passed overwhelmingly on a voice vote without a debate or even discussion. In language that might make George Orwell blush, Cheney and Kinzinger were said to have engaged in “behavior which has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic, and is inconsistent with the position of the Conference.”

In fact, the two intrepid representatives are trying to protect, not destruct, the institution, the party and the country by preserving the nation’s laws.

But the most egregious language was found in this phrase: “Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” — a euphemism for an attack that Gonell said included bear spray, pepper spray, hammers, rebar, eye-damaging lasers, police batons and shields taken by force, and other weapons — including a pole holding an American flag.

The intense blowback led the GOP to scramble to clarify that the passage didn’t apply to violent rioters. But evidently no such clarifications transpired during the drafting and publishing of the resolution. Some GOPers, to their credit, have belatedly begun to push back, including an unqualified denunciation from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Tuesday called Jan. 6 a “violent insurrection.” This came after Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney tweeted: “Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol. Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”

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How much, if any, of this shame came from Republican Party of Minnesota officials is unclear. State GOP Chairman David Hann did not respond to an editorial writer’s phone calls or e-mails. The state party, and in particular Minnesota’s four Republican representatives, should seek the truth and defend the Constitution and the nation with the same guts as Cheney and Kinzinger.

They need look no further than Gonell for inspiration. A police officer and veteran — two groups the GOP supposedly supports — said in his testimony that, “Even though there’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including hours and hours of videos and photographic coverage, there’s a continued shocking attempt to ignore or try to destroy the truth of what truly happened that day and to whitewash the facts into something other than what they unmistakably reveal: an attack on our democracy by violent domestic extremists, and a stain on our history and our moral standing here at home and abroad.”

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