As the country continues to grapple with the riots last week at the U.S. Capitol, many of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation have called for arrests and prosecutions for some rioters, while the five House of Representatives members who objected to vote certification — actions some have said helped fuel the riots in the first place — continue to defend their decision to do so.
More than 50 people have been charged federally in relation to the riot, according to the Department of Justice, and allegations in the charging documents outline the danger of the riot itself. Some of the rioters had threatened lawmakers in text messages, and weapons, restraint devices and multiple explosive devices were found either near the Capitol building or in the vehicles of rioters, according to charging documents.
Sen. James Lankford, who was in the process of objecting to the certification of Arizona’s electoral votes on Wednesday when the mob first breached the Capitol building, called the riots “very violent” in a lengthy statement he released in a newsletter.
Lankford had hoped to create a commission to look at “voting irregularities,” though the Trump campaign has already lost in court dozens of times without presenting any evidence of the alleged irregularities. But after the riots ended, he did not object to the vote certification, saying that he feared it would cause more unrest and was ultimately a doomed proposition anyway.
He said in his statement that rioters “trashed multiple offices, broke windows, and occupied the Capitol,” though he didn’t call for arrests of those who rioted on Wednesday. He has since said the rioters committed “illegal” acts, but in his statement last week, the only references to arrests or prosecutions was when he spoke about the occasional voter fraud allegation in Oklahoma, something records show rarely happens and is mostly accidental.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, who said prior to last Wednesday that he would not object to the certification of Arizona’s votes, told the Tulsa World that the events were “really a riot.”
And, Inhofe told the Tulsa World that he never felt personally in danger, though perhaps he should have, given that he fit the profile of the type of person — Republican who wouldn’t stand in the way of Joe Biden being inaugurated — that President Donald Trump had railed against and seemingly sent his supporters out to target.
Both Inhofe and Lankford agreed in separate interviews that Trump played a role in creating Wednesday’s riot, though both said they did not blame him for what ultimately took place. Lankford told KRMG that Trump was “unwise” to urge his supporters to “fight” for him at the Capitol.
“Some of those things could be called inciting a riot in that sense. The President wasn’t down there smashing windows, but this was a crowd exceptionally loyal to him, and they were coming to do what they, I assume, felt like that was what he wanted to happen,” Lankford told KRMG.
Inhofe told the Tulsa World that Trump “should have shown more disdain for the rioters.” Instead, Trump released a video hours after the riots started, telling the rioters to “go home,” while also calling them “beautiful” and saying he “loved” them.
House of Representatives
While Lankford backed down from his calls to object to vote certification, all five of Oklahoma’s representatives forged ahead with their objections after the riot was quelled.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who had one of the closest views of the riots — photos show him crouched near law enforcement with guns drawn as rioters were smashing windows in an attempt to get into the Senate chamber — called Wednesday “a dark day for our country.”
Mullin’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the riot, but he said in his emailed newsletter last week that the riots were “unacceptable.”
“What happened at the Capitol is unacceptable and every perpetrator must be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Mullin said in an emailed statement. But in the same email he defended his decision to contest the election.
“The reason I contested the results was not a political decision. It is because I firmly believe the procedures surrounding how the electors in several states were chosen violates our Constitution,” he said. “The future of our election system is at stake. Our country is and always will be worth fighting for.”
Rep. Kevin Hern, like Mullin, said he supported arrests and prosecutions of rioters. Hern did not place blame at Trump’s feet, and did not respond whether he believed it was Trump supporters or another group — some have claimed without evidence that anti-fascists were posing as Trump supporters during the riot — who was responsible for the violence and damage.
“Rep. Hern supports the prosecution and arrests of criminal riot participants regardless of their political affiliation. There is no excuse for their actions,” a Hern spokeswoman said in an email.
Rep. Tom Cole has not spoken much about the riots, though he tweeted on Wednesday that he was “outraged by the lawless protests at the U.S. Capitol.
“While Americans have the right to passionately voice their views & peacefully dissent in protest, I strongly condemn the perpetrators of this destructive & violent activity,” he said.
Rep. Stephanie Bice, Oklahoma’s newest Congressional member, defended her decision to object to vote certification by saying her vote “represented my desire to ensure the security of elections across the country, not to overturn an election. Any other reason for my support of challenging the certification of the votes is categorically false.”
A spokesman for Rep. Frank Lucas, who also objected to vote certification following the riots, said Lucas “unequivocally condemns the lawless actions and violence that occurred in and around the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.”
As for where the blame lies, Lucas went further than most. His spokesman said Lucas “believes the ultimate blame for Wednesday’s violence lies with the criminals who attacked law enforcement and broke down the doors of the Capitol, and those who incited them with disinformation and harmful rhetoric.”