UPDATE: This story has been updated with U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’s votes on certifying the election results from certain states and with her statement on her votes. It has also been updated with a statement from Wyoming GOP chairman Frank Eathorne. —Ed.
Wyoming’s congressional delegation condemned violence on a dark day in Washington D.C. as a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol building after being directed there by President Donald Trump.
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis all condemned the violence in D.C., which led to the death of one woman from a gunshot wound, according to national news reports. The delegation had entered the day divided, however, with Lummis one of 12 Republican senators backing Trump’s bid to contest congressional certification of the Electoral College results — a bid built on the baseless claims of a stolen election that drove rioters to storm the capitol.
Cheney accused the president of inciting the assault. “Sending an angry, violent mob to disrupt proceedings at the Capitol cannot stand,” she said, on the phone to MSNBC from a location she said she could not disclose, but where she sheltered with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
“The president of the United States called his supporters to Washington D.C. and has dispatched them without telling them to stop it,” Cheney told the news station.
Among the Trump supporters traveling to Washington and attending the rally was Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican party, according to a post on the party’s Facebook page. Eathorne did not return calls for comment. In a statement Thursday morning, Eathorne said he participated in peaceful protests near the White House and did not witness any violence or property destruction.
Trump released a video message asking his supporters, who were then occupying the capitol, to leave peacefully. He also told the rioters “we love you,” referred to his political opponents as “so bad and so evil” and repeated his unfounded and disproven claims of electoral fraud. That message was “completely inadequate in what he has done and what he has caused here,” Cheney told MSNBC when asked about the president’s brief speech.
Cheney’s stance on respecting the election results drew the president’s ire before the riot. At his rally in the morning — when he directed his supporters to march to the Capitol — Trump called for getting rid “of the weak Congresspeople,” and then specified “the Liz Cheneys of the world, we have to get rid of them.”
Sen. John Barrasso also condemned the mob in a tweet. “This violence and destruction have no place in our republic,” he wrote in a tweet. “It must end now.”
Lummis called the riot an attack on democracy.
“Call it what it is,” she wrote on Twitter: “An attack on the Capitol is an attack on democracy. Today we are trying to use the democratic process to address grievances. This violence inhibits our ability to do that. Violent protests were unacceptable this summer and are unacceptable now.”
Lummis did not vote to object to Arizona’s electoral votes, but did object to Pennsylvania’s. Wyoming’s newest senator has changed her position on whether to interfere in other states’ election processes several times in recent weeks.
“Congress cannot fix problems with election integrity,” she said in a statement. “Only states can fix these problems. But Congress can investigate those problems and raise awareness. The allegations of fraud during this election were unprecedented, and left millions of Americans concerned that their votes don’t count. Discussions of election integrity must occur and I will seek another forum to continue that discussion.”
There is no evidence of widespread fraud during the 2020 election. The Trump campaign has had a number of lawsuits rejected in court for a lack of evidence, and officials from the U.S. Department of Justice to the state level have said there is no credible evidence of widespread fraud.
All three members of the congressional delegation were left “sheltering in place” by the rioters’ takeover of the capitol, the Casper Star Tribune reported. As of 5 p.m. MST, officers from various law enforcement agencies had ejected the rioters and declared the Capitol secured, according to national media reports.
The Electoral College certification process resumed and Congress certified President-Elect Joe Biden’s win.
Tension in Cheyenne too
In Cheyenne, state troopers locked down both the State Capitol and the adjoining Herschler Office Building as the events in D.C. unfolded. Several hundred people protested in Cheyenne, according to a spokesperson for the Wyoming Highway Patrol and others. It was the second sizeable protest in three days.
Troopers decided to lock down the buildings when they heard “worrying remarks” from the crowd in Cheyenne as word spread of the breach of the U.S. Capitol, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lieutenant Kyle McKay told WyoFile.
Protesters gathered in front of the Capitol to support Trump’s backers in D.C., Tea Party organizer M. Lee Hasenauer told WyoFile. Hasenauer condemned violence, which he said “was never the answer.” But he also suggested the rioters in D.C. might have been “antifa.” If they were “patriots,” they acted because “they’re fed up and they want this vote stopped,” he said.
As protesters threatened the U.S. Capitol, Hasenauer told the crowd in Cheyenne that “we the people have invaded the Capitol of Washington,” according to a tweet from Wyoming Tribune Eagle reporter Tom Coulter, who was present at the protest. The Cheyenne protesters later prayed for the safety of people in D.C. and for peaceful protests.
The protest in Cheyenne ended peacefully, McKay said, and the crowd dispersed by early afternoon. In a statement condemning the violence in D.C., Gordon praised the Wyoming protest for staying peaceful.
“I believe America will not — cannot — stand for this assault on our democracy,” Gordon said in the brief statement. “I am heartbroken. I encourage the entire country to follow the example that we have demonstrated here in Wyoming, a proper and peaceful expression of dissent — the cornerstone of free speech.”
The governor was referring specifically to Wednesday’s protest, his spokesperson Michael Pearlman told WyoFile.
Protesters in Cheyenne weren’t done, Hasenauer said. “We will crank things up big time if they don’t stop trying to steal this election,” he said. He was not suggesting violence, he said.
Some state capitol buildings were evacuated amid protests Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Groups of Wyoming residents traveled to D.C. for Wednesday’s protest, Hasenauer said. The group included “Oathkeepers, constitutionalists and Tea Partiers,” he said.
The Wyoming Republican Party chaired by Eathorne posted a short video that the poster said was “near the White House,” an area that escaped the riots, according to national media. Time stamps say the post, a video of cheering and chanting, was made even as rioters were pushing and smashing their way into the Capitol.
“Chairman Eathorne is there with other great Wyoming patriots!” the post read. In a Thursday morning statement, the Wyoming Republican Party said Eathorne participated in “peaceful protests.”
“No violence or property damage was observed during my time there including a brief stop in the vicinity of the Capitol building property,” Eathorne said in the statement. “I retired from the public gathering near mid-afternoon and watched the news of some reported events I personally had not witnessed.”
The statement from the Wyoming Republican Party did not comment on the violence at the Capitol, but said “the President’s statement tonight urging peace and love is the right course of action.”
Week of unrest
Cheyenne protests kicked off Monday with a rally called by former lawmaker Scott Clem. That assembly mixed grievances about Gov. Mark Gordon’s public health orders with outrage over his decision not to join Wyoming to a since dismissed Texas lawsuit to overthrow the election results. During that event, a large crowd of protesters called Gordon a tyrant, burned a small pile of masks and marched around the building to chant under Gordon’s office windows. The chanters called for Gordon to “do as you’re told.”
During that protest, the capitol building was open to the public though state troopers observed from the top steps. At one point, a WyoFile reporter observed a squad of troopers in helmets, carrying wooden clubs and zip ties. There was no serious confrontation between officers and the crowd, however.
Troopers on Wednesday again had helmets and such gear on site for their own protection, McKay said.
Amid such conditions, members of the 66th Wyoming Legislature have been taking their oaths of office in small groups out of COVID-19 concerns. Six lawmakers were sworn in this morning before the protests, according to Legislative Service Office staff.
Some lawmakers spoke at both events. Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) and Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) spoke on both Monday and Wednesday. Neither lawmaker responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Earlier in the month, 48 current or outgoing state legislators called on Gordon to join an effort to overturn the election that cited claims of widespread voting fraud in certain states. Those claims have been rejected by various courts because of a lack of evidence, and have been dismissed by the U.S. Department of Justice and election officials in all 50 states.