In a stark contrast, the two congressional representatives representing northern Arizona have taken opposite positions on the demonstrations that led to violence in the nation’s Capitol and the second impeachment effort those events spawned.
Rep. Paul Gosar remained silent last week about national media reports linking him to the effort to organize the demonstrations that turned violent after President Donald Trump addressed thousands of supporters on Jan. 6. The mob brushed past a small Capitol police force, occupied the Capitol building, disrupted the certification of electors as lawmakers fled — and resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.
On the other hand, Rep. Tom O’Halleran vowed this week to impeach President Trump for “stoking the flames of unrest.” In a prepared statement O’Halleran said, “Wednesday was a dark day in American history. I wholeheartedly condemn the violent acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol. Over the course of these last few months, Donald Trump has proven himself unfit for office and must be immediately removed for his role in this national nightmare.”
Gosar did not respond to a request for comment on national media reports that he and Arizona Republican Andy Biggs played a leading role in helping Ali Akbar Alexander organize the “Stop the Steal” demonstration in the Capitol, which ultimately spun out of control after President Trump urged demonstrators to march on the Capitol and confront “weak” lawmakers who voted to accept the certified election results from a handful of disputed states — including Arizona.
On a now widely circulated video, Alexander talked about how the Stop the Steal demonstration came together. “I was the person who came up with the idea with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Sala.) and then Congressman Andy Biggs. We four schemed up putting max pressure on Congress while they were voting so that who were in that body hearing our loud roar from the outside.”
A spokesman for Biggs has denied working with Alexander or encouraging the protests.
At a Dec. 19 “Stop the Steal” rally in Arizona, Alexander played an 80-second message from Biggs saying “I wish I could be with you. I’m in the D.C. swamp fighting on behalf of Arizona’s residents and freedom fighters all over the country,” according to an account in The Arizona Republic.
Biggs’ staff told the Republic that the congressman taped the message at Gosar’s request.
Gosar did not respond to requests for comment from the Payson Roundup.
He has repeatedly linked to Alexander on his Twitter account, including at least 23 times since the Nov. 30 meeting in Phoenix during which Rudy Giuliani presented the Trump campaign’s claims of election fraud. In the same period. Gosar tweeted iterations of “Stop the Steal” at least 25 times.
Alexander has emerged as a leading social media figure in supporting President Trump and protesting the election results. He has pleaded guilty to various minor crimes including credit card fraud dating back a decade ago — but worked at the Republican National Convention last year.
The Arizona Democratic Party also put out a release criticizing Gosar for his rhetoric in trying to overturn the results of the presidential election.
“Alexander referred to Gosar as ‘the animal spirit of the movement’ and ‘my Captain,’’’ according to the Democratic party statement.
At the Dec. 19 rally, Gosar “called the courts that ruled against Trump ‘pathetic’ and challenged the crowd to show the country what they are made of — stating ‘live free or die,’” said the release.
The Democrats insisted that Gosar’s district illustrates the malign effect of gerrymandering, with an irregular shape that includes most of western Arizona as well as Prescott, the Verde Valley, Payson and the northern half of Gila County. Gosar won re-election in the district with 70% of the vote — after brushing off a challenge in the primary from a more moderate Republican.
The voter-established Independent Redistricting Commission drew the legislative and congressional lines in the state, which has made Arizona less vulnerable to manipulation of district lines than most states. However, the Democrats complain that Gov. Doug Ducey has this year stacked the commission, which will draw new lines based on the 2020 Census. “Gerrymandered districts from the last decade have elevated the most extreme voices in the Republican Party. The results have yielded potentially treasonous officials that are more interested in advancing their radical agenda than in solving real problems facing all Arizonans,” said the statement.
Biggs and Gosar both voted to reject the state-certified electors from Pennsylvania and Arizona and took leading roles in presenting the case in the House. Gosar repeated claims that 20,000 illegal aliens voted in the election, although the claim has been repeatedly rejected by state and federal judges for lack of evidence.
O’Halleran this week joined as one of 185 co-sponsors of a House move to impeach Trump, this time based entirely on his actions that led to the riot in the Capitol. During the riot, police shot and killed one demonstrator and a police officer died from his injuries after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. One person was reportedly trampled to death by the crowd and two others died as a result of medical issues. The rioters occupied the House chamber and looted several congressional offices.
O’Halleran called on the Cabinet and Vice President to remove Trump from office a week before his term ends in accord with the 25th Amendment, then joined in the second impeachment vote this week.
During the Jan. 6 session after Congress, O’Halleran said the Arizona election was fair, transparent and free of any fraud that would affect the results. Arizona has relied on mail-in voting for 30 years and the record turnout in Arizona was recorded in both Republican and Democratic areas. O’Halleran noted that officials from both parties had administered and overseen the election and certified the results. Moreover, a state supreme court with all of its members appointed by Republicans unanimously rejected eight different lawsuits challenging the results.
“Attempting to mislead the American public only weakens us. For the good of our country, this must stop. Now is the time to come together, preserve our democracy and protect our national security. We must stay focused on fighting the pandemic. We must get all Americans vaccinated as soon as possible so we can save American lives.”
In a statement issued before the impeachment vote, O’Halleran said, “The general consensus from sources in and out of the White House is that the president has effectively abdicated his position as Commander in Chief to focus on baseless claims of a stolen election. Even for the next two weeks, America cannot depend on someone who places his own desires over the needs of an entire country.”
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