ELLSWORTH — The violent events of Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, scaling walls, breaking windows and looting, have been widely condemned by local political leaders.
“I was scared, I was shocked, it was just very upsetting,” said state Sen. Kimberley Rosen (R-Hancock County) of the attack on the Capitol building as lawmakers met to certify the 2020 Electoral College results.
“I was hoping that President Trump would leave peacefully, and I was not a supporter of overturning the election,” she said.
Prior to the attack, Trump held a nearby rally urging supporters to march to the Capitol Building. He told the crowd they should “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” but also said supporters “have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
In a statement issued Friday, State Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) said, “On Wednesday, a mob loyal to President Trump attacked our Capitol. These lawless insurrectionists endangered the lives of lawmakers and staff, murdered a police officer and temporarily disrupted the Electoral College count that correctly affirmed President-elect Biden’s victory. Those who participated in or incited this coup attempt have blood on their hands and must be held accountable in the strongest possible terms. We must also take immediate steps to guarantee that what happened in Washington, D.C. does not happen here in Maine.”
State Rep. Lynne Williams (D-Bar Harbor) called the event “very disturbing.”
Williams is an attorney and has represented protesters as well as training them to remain peaceful.
She said when she saw the events unfold, she thought, “I am sure the Capitol Police are putting up everything we have seen them put up for Black Lives Matter folks and other current protesters,” adding, “and I was shocked to see there was no security there.”
State Rep. William “Billy Bob” Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) was upset by what happened.
“It’s a bad moment, just a sad, sad event that happened,” Faulkingham said.
“I think it was an incredibly stupid decision by some people and I hope everybody that broke in and entered [the Capitol], I hope they’re all arrested and prosecuted.”
He said that he does think that concerns over the election process need to be investigated further.
“The thing that I hope that comes out of all this is a really deep look into election integrity in all the states by all the states,” he said.
Then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, told the Associated Press in a Dec. 1, 2020, article that, “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
The Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-appointed justices, rejected a December lawsuit brought by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, who argued that all Pennsylvania mail-in ballots cast in the general election should be thrown out.
That same week, the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit disputing results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Asked about the attack on the Capitol, State Rep. Sherman Hutchins (R-Penobscot) referenced Black Lives Matter protests.
“Well, it’s too bad the way it ended, but all summer long we’ve been looking at these violent protests and this one, like many of the others, didn’t start off as a violent protest,” he said.
Sherman said public faith in the election process must be restored.
“We have to come up with a better way to make certain that if something is counted by machines, we can trust the machines,” he said.
Hutchins noted that in Maine, voters have “always been very trustful of the counts we’ve had.”
Vote-tabulating machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems were used in the 2020 election in Georgia and other states.
According to the Associated Press, Georgia’s Secretary of State’s Office found “no sign of foul play” following a forensic audit of Dominion machines used to tabulate votes.
Dominion has filed a defamation lawsuit against former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell seeking $1.3 billion in damages for statements made about the company.
Dmitry Bam, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law, said failed legal challenges of the election results in various states partly “have been about who gets to set the rules [regarding elections] in the state,” and whether that power is strictly for state legislatures.
“Those challenges have been reviewed by the courts,” he said, adding the many of the rulings provided “a pretty clear answer on that.”
A Washington Post review of court filings found that at least 86 judges across the country have “rejected at least one post-election lawsuit filed by Trump or his supporters.”
Bam said that state legislatures set the rules for conducting elections, but for clarity and in cases of emergency, other government branches and offices can interpret and apply those laws.
Measures taken to ensure voter access amid the coronavirus pandemic, such as expanding the number of early voting days and providing “greater flexibility for mail-in ballots,” can be made by the executive branch as an interpretation of a state’s laws, Bam said.
Whether Trump’s comments at his rally prior to the attack incited the violence that ensued is a more of a gray area, Bam said.
To incite violence means “being the direct cause of the violence and the action” and that the violence is “clearly imminent and foreseeable,” Bam explained.
The bar to legally prove that is high, he added.
Trump’s rhetoric was “clearly improper and blameworthy,” but probably does not warrant prosecution, Bam said.
In the charged atmosphere following the Capitol attack, a social media post by a group identifying itself as The Swinging Gate circulated locally.
The post was an invitation to an event Saturday at Calvary Church in Orrington and stated, “It’s time to fight!” and “We will be organizing our next calls to action and will commence activist training.”
One of the organization’s members, former state Rep. Dick Campbell, said the group’s goal is “to help people understand what they can do to address the grievances that they have with their government.”
He said the event is not in response to the attack on the Capitol, which he said was “absolutely irresponsible, unacceptable and very, very unfortunate.”
The Swinging Gate is “trying to help people who are absolutely frustrated,” Campbell said. He said members object to the Legislature not being in session over the summer amid the pandemic.
He said Saturday’s event is a planning session during which participants will learn how a bill becomes a law, how to contact a legislator and “how you can affect the outcome of government.”