Fitzgerald also defends vote against impeaching Trump. Tiffany backs out of virtual forum.
Wisconsin Republican Congressman Scott Fitzgerald said he didn’t know who was to blame for the attack on the US Capitol last Wednesday by the violent mob of President Trump supporters, adding it was a “terrifying experience” that needs to be investigated “top to bottom.”
Fitzgerald said it is hard for him to believe that the entire crowd was “fired up, just by the speeches of the day,” given by Trump and his sons, to then march down and break into the Capitol. Fitzgerald said it is more likely there was a coordinated, organized effort.
“The investigation needs to go to who organized this and if there was an infiltration,” said Fitzgerald, Wisconsin’s newest member of Congress, during a virtual forum hosted by WisPolitics and the Milwaukee Press Club Thursday. “There are still theories out there that not only was it pre-planned but there was some cooperation from some law enforcement prior to the day the speeches were delivered. That is absolutely troubling and disturbing.”
He added if that is the case, “those individuals need to be dealt with by legal authorities and charged.”
Fitzgerald says he doesn’t think Trump intended for the situation to turn violent.
“I think he definitely fired up that crowd in a way that some people may have thought he meant , “Go to the Capitol and intimidate,’” Fitzgerald said. “If that’s how some people perceived it, that’s troubling.”
When pressed by panel moderator Jeff Meyers, president of WisPolitics, on the fact Trump did tell the crowd to go down to the Capitol, Fitzgerald said, “He did.”
“I don’t think he necessarily … I don’t know who would have said, “Break down the windows of the Capitol. Bust down the doors. Do those types of things,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m not making any excuses [For President Trump]. I’m just saying that’s why we need a thorough investigation.”
Rather than directly advocate insurrection and violence, Trump convinced thousands of people to come to Washington, D.C., on the day Congress was counting electoral votes because of his continuous false claims that the presidential election had been stolen from them. Fitzgerald and 7th District Republican Tom Tiffany supported the false narrative by voting to object to the state-certified election totals from Arizona and Pennsylvania. And both congressmen said they would have objected to certifying the votes from Wisconsin as well, if that had been brought up for debate.
Fitzgerald, who served in the Wisconsin Senate from 1995 until elected to Congress in the Nov. 3 election, was supposed to be joined by Tiffany for the panel, which had been scheduled prior to the Jan. 6 riot. Tiffany, who was elected to Congress in April, did not participate, citing conflicting travel plans.
Fitzgerald defended his Wednesday House vote not to impeach the president and his vote in the hours following the mob violence to still challenge the Nov. 3 election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania.
He said the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump “can’t stand the president’s personality,” adding that when Trump comes into a room he “dominates.” He said Democrats are moving forward with the second impeachment effort of Trump’s presidency “because they are afraid of the movement, not necessarily Donald Trump.”
“We would be fools if we didn’t bring these people into the Republican Party,” said Fitzgerald of Trump supporters. He added he attended close to a dozen Trump rallies in the run up to the election and “99% of Trump supporters are very, very good people” who are tired of the gridlock in Congress and feel their voices are not being heard.
On multiple occasions, Fitzgerald mentioned how 77,000 more votes were cast in his 5th Congressional District than in 2016. He said changes and accommodations made by many levels of government due to the pandemic are the reason.
He specifically cited decisions made by judges, clerks, and the Wisconsin Elections Commission to ballot access, ballot design, the outside envelopes, whether or not witnesses signed the envelopes, and how the envelopes were returned as examples.
Fitzgerald said these pandemic-driven decisions to use absentee ballots didn’t only happen in Wisconsin. This is why he still voted to challenge election results last week following the mob violence, he said.
“I’ll say the two scariest words to me in this whole deal, since our debacle in April in Wisconsin, are ‘voter intent,’” Fitzgerald said. “It is something that continues to be used on a regular basis. The Elections Commission too often says, ‘What was the voter’s intent? What do you think they were trying to do to cast this ballot?’”
He said it wasn’t an issue when only a few people were casting absentee ballots. Then came the pandemic and Wisconsin voters mailed in a record number of them.
“You cannot continue to grant this type of leeway in decision making and decentralize it to the point a clerk makes a monumental decision,” he said, citing how only five polling places in April opened in Milwaukee and an event hosted by the Madison clerk called “Ballots in the Park.”
“All I’m saying is, we better be aware of it because it changed the numbers. Whether or not it changed the outcome is a different question. But it changed the last three elections in Wisconsin,” he said, without providing evidence that higher numbers of absentee ballots led to fraudulent results.
In reality, the Milwaukee Clerk faced difficulty recruiting poll workers for the April election, which was occurring less than a month after schools and many businesses were forced closed and a safer-at-home order was issued by the governor. Additionally, the city of Milwaukee was experiencing a disproportionate number of its citizens being infected by the virus.
The Madison event was challenged by Trump’s legal team, which Fitzgerald described as “completely dropping the ball,” but it was held up in court as a legal manner for voters to safely participate in the election process.