Wisconsin Republicans decry rioters as 'social misfits'

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation decried supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the halls of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday during the hearing to certify the Electoral College votes, with one Republican referring to them as “a bunch of social misfits" and another calling it “banana republic crap.”

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Democrats blamed Trump for inciting the violence, while the president's staunchest supporters were more measured in their criticism and instead called for a peaceful end to the occupation of the building.

Wisconsin Republicans split on objecting to certifying Electoral College votes. Reps. Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald objected to counting Arizona's votes, while U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Reps. Bryan Steil, Glenn Grothman and Mike Gallagher voted against objecting.

The objection failed 93-6 in the Senate and 303-121 in the House.

Johnson, one of Trump's staunchest supporters, signed on to objecting to Arizona's electoral votes prior to the riot. But hours later, after the violence in the Capitol, Johnson joined with Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in voting against the objection.

“We needed to have the debate, but we also need to respect the rule of law and our constitutional constraints,” Johnson told The Associated Press when asked to explain his vote.

Gallagher, the only Republican in Wisconsin's congressional delegation to publicly oppose the challenges to Biden's win before Wednesday, forcefully denounced the chaos.

“This is banana republic crap that we’re watching right now,” Gallagher said in a video that he posted from his Capitol office while under lockdown. He said the effort to overturn the election result spurred the storming of the Capitol.

“This is the cost of this effort,” Gallagher said. “This is the cost of countenancing an effort, by Congress, to overturn the election and telling thousands of people there is a legitimate shot of overturning the election today even though you know it is not true.”

Grothman called the storming of the Capitol “horrific.”

“It’s not a coup attempt. It’s just a bunch of social misfits who have an opportunity to commit violence, right?” Grothman said.

Grothman, with no evidence, insinuated that the rioters may not all have been backers of the president.

“I’m sure there are some Trump supporters,” Grothman said. “I am anxious to see what the background of these people are. Are they general psychopaths? Are they violent people looking for a scuffle? I don’t know.”

Tiffany said a phone interview that he was in the House chamber as debate was ongoing.

“And then all hell broke loose," Tiffany said. He was escorted to a safe location.

Tiffany, one of Trump's staunchest backers, said Democrats and Republicans need to urge calm among their supporters. He pointed to the sometimes violent protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last May and the shooting of another Black man, Jacob Blake, in August by police in Kenosha.

“What needs to happen is people on both sides of the aisle, they need to start calling this out and make people stop it," Tiffany said.

Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, who was in his Capitol office, blamed Trump for the violence.

“Donald Trump needs to be presidential for once in his presidency,” Pocan tweeted. “Admit you lost, and call off the domestic terrorism you’ve incited.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said as soon as the vote is certified, Congress should start the process to remove Trump from office.

“Every day he remains in office is a threat to the republic," Kaul said.

Biden won Wisconsin by 20,695 votes, an outcome that was confirmed after Trump sought a recount in the two most populated counties. Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump and his allies filed eight lawsuits challenging Biden’s win on a variety of fronts and lost in both state and federal court.

Biden, who won the Electoral College 306-232, is set to be inaugurated Jan. 20.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbauerAP