Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information regarding the death of one officer after the Capitol riots. Police now say he was not beaten with a fire extinguisher and did not suffer blunt force trauma. At this writing, police continue to investigate whether he was sprayed with chemical irritants by a protestor and whether that may have contributed to his death after the demonstrations. He may have died of a stroke.
The congressmen representing northern Arizona offered sharply contrasting reactions to former President Trump’s acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial for allegedly inciting the riot that led to the occupation of the Capitol building and the deaths of five people — including a Capitol Police officer.
Rep. Paul Gosar hailed the Senate vote that fell 10 short of the two-thirds majority needed to impeach. Seven Republicans joined all the Democrats in voting for impeachment.
“The entire impeachment process was divisive, absurd, and illegal,” said Gosar in his regular email newsletter to constituents. “Mr. Biden continues to say he wants unity, but actions speak louder than words. It is my sincere hope that Congress and the administration turn its focus to the struggles currently facing the nation, including fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening our fragile economy.”
Gosar’s District 4 represents most of western Arizona, the Verde Valley and northern Gila County. He praised the Senate for finding Trump innocent of the “trumped up charge brought against him earlier this year by angry, liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives. I strongly opposed this impeachment trial and voted against the ridiculous charge.”
Rep. Tom O’Halleran had a very different reaction. His district includes Flagstaff, the Navajo Reservation, all the White Mountains and southern Gila County, as well as a sizable chunk of Pinal County.
“A bipartisan majority in Congress found that former President Donald Trump incited insurrectionists that attacked the Capitol while we were fulfilling our constitutional duty. The insurrection, a direct assault on our democracy, resulted in deaths and numerous injuries. The complexity of the issues and impacts to our nation must be understood and addressed,” he said in a prepared statement.
“We have seen leadership and courage in the actions of the Capitol Police, D.C. Metropolitan Police, House Impeachment Managers, and the Republicans who faithfully upheld their oath to the Constitution by following the facts and voting to impeach and convict former President Donald Trump. We have also seen stark examples of a lack of leadership for the common good. The unrefuted evidence demonstrated that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy knew that the former president denied Congressman McCarthy’s request for help and that Rep. McCarthy explained the insurrectionists were the former president’s supporters. Yet, Representative McCarthy stayed silent during the impeachment and trial.”
He quoted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said President Trump was morally responsible for provoking the lethal violence. However, McConnell then voted against conviction on the grounds the Senate had no constitutional authority to impeach a former government official — a claim many constitutional experts contest.
“In doing so, he abdicated his constitutional responsibility as a juror,” O’Halleran added. He said that lawmakers who voted to acquit “need to explain why they voted the way they did after walking past the same people who risked their lives and protected the senators and us all on Jan. 6.”
The Senate hearings detailed the extensive injuries suffered by Capitol Police as they battled the rioters to buy time for the congressmen and senators to flee the chambers, often moments before the rioters battered open the doors. At least 138 officers were hurt, with injuries ranging from bruises and lacerations to concussions, fractures and a heart attack. One officer died after having been sprayed by protesters with a chemical irritant. Police initially said he died several days after the demonstrations after having been beaten with a fire extinguisher, but later said he was not beaten and may have died of a stroke. His death remains under investigation. Two other officers two officers have apparently committed suicide. Another 38 officers have tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with a known case. Some 200 National Guard personnel who were called in to protect the Capitol have also tested positive.
Rep. Gosar has drawn national attention for his appearances at “Stop the Steal” rallies and his social media links to both demonstration organizers and militia groups like the Proud Boys. Several leading members of the Proud Boys and other militias like the Oath Keepers are now facing prosecution for their role in inciting the riot.
However, Gosar maintains that the impeachment had no legal or moral basis and was part of the long-standing effort to destroy Trump. He has also been one of the most outspoken members of Congress in claiming the election outcome was influenced by widespread voter fraud, claims which courts all over the country have rejected.
“The precedent that was set this week is deeply troubling and the optics for the rule of law are horrible,” he said of the impeachment trial mounted after Trump had left office. “President Trump did not violate his oath of office and always acted to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Furthermore, impeaching a president after he or she has left office is unconstitutional.”