Republican Party calls Jan. 6 attack 'legitimate political discourse'

The Republican Party on Friday censured two of its own over their involvement in a congressional investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill, which the party described as "ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

The party is punishing two of its own members for participating in an investigation of Jan. 6 attack

In this file photo from Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of former president Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Friday passed a resolution describing participants in the riot as 'ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.' (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

The Republican Party on Friday censured two of its own — U.S. Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — over their involvement in Congress' probe of former president Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and an attack led by his supporters on Capitol Hill.

Cheney and Kinzinger voted to impeach Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection after last year's deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot and are the only Republicans taking part in the House of Representatives' investigation of the attack.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger listen during an October 2021 meeting of a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Capitol Hill. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Friday passed a resolution rebuking Cheney and Kinzinger for their involvement on the Jan. 6 select committee, accusing them of "participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse," according to a copy obtained by Reuters.

Four people died on Jan. 6, and a Capitol Police officer died the next day. About 140 police officers were injured, and four later died by suicide.

The resolution passed on a voice vote as 168 members of the RNC gathered for their winter meeting in Salt Lake City. The yes votes were overwhelming, with a handful of nays, according to reporters at the meeting.

It said their actions have damaged Republican efforts to win back majorities in Congress.

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In this file photo from Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of former president Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

The measure said the RNC will "immediately cease any and all support of them" as party members, but stops short of calling for their ouster from the party, as initially proposed.

Trump, who retains a strong grip over his party as Nov. 8 midterm congressional elections draw closer, has been on the 
warpath against Republicans who have taken a stand against him. Republicans are trying to take control of both the House and the Senate from President Joe Biden's fellow Democrats.

Pence says Trump was 'wrong'

Also on Friday, former vice-president Mike Pence directly rebutted Trump's false claims that Pence somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election, saying that the former president was simply "wrong."

In a speech to the conservative Federalist Society in Florida, Pence addressed Trump's intensifying efforts this week to advance the false narrative that he could have done something to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.

"President Trump is wrong," Pence said. "I had no right to overturn the election."

While Pence in the past has defended his actions on Jan. 6 and said that he and Trump will likely never see "eye to eye" on what happened that day, the remarks Friday marked his most forceful rebuttal of Trump to date. And they come as Pence has been laying the groundwork for a potential run for president in 2024, which could put him in direct competition with his former boss, who has also been teasing a comeback run.

'Willing hostages' 

Cheney and Kinzinger both issued statements in anticipation of Friday's RNC vote.
"The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy," Cheney said, referring to the hundreds of Trump supporters accused of various crimes in the violent attack. 

Kinzinger, who is not seeking re-election, said he has been a conservative Republican since before Trump entered politics. He vowed to continue "working to fight the political matrix that's led us to this point."

Not all Republicans are lining up against the two.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney praised Cheney and Kinzinger as honourable in a Twitter post on Friday. "Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol," he wrote.

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy came to their defence late Thursday, writing on Twitter, "The RNC is censuring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger because they are trying to find out what happened on January 6th - HUH?" 

With files from The Associated Press