U.S. Rep. Estes: Violent Trump supporters derail peaceful appeal for fair elections

Kansas delegation unites to denounce rioters for storming Capitol

U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

TOPEKA — U.S. Rep. Ron Estes wants people involved in mob violence at the U.S. Capitol to be held accountable without undermining seriousness of Electoral College challenges stemming from Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election despite claims to the contrary by President Donald Trump.

Estes, the 4th District Republican from Wichita and champion of an effort to raise vote-fraud objections in Congress, said he was surprised Trump loyalists forced their way into the Capitol on Wednesday following a rally highlighted by the president’s appearance. Estes said freedom of speech was a revered constitutional right, but dissent resulting in dangerous violence and property destruction couldn’t be tolerated.

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes appears Wednesday on PBS NewsHour to talk about the violence in the Capitol and his ongoing objections to the way states handled oversight of the Electoral College. (Screen capture by Kansas Reflector)

“We should have been able to go through that process peacefully because that’s what we’ve done for the last 240 years in our country,” Estes told the PBS NewsHour when asked in an interview about Trump’s culpability. “You have to look at and hold accountable those individuals that committed these acts of violence.”

The five other members of the Kansas congressional delegation also criticized the melee at the Capitol. When the House and Senate reconvened Wednesday night once order had been restored, the first test was the vote-count objection for Arizona. Estes joined U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall and U.S. Reps. Tracey Mann and Jake LaTurner, all Republicans, in support of that objection. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids voted against it. Both chambers overwhelmingly rejected claims misconduct spoiled the Arizona vote tally.

Estes was pressed in a PBS NewsHour interview to consider whether the president invited chaos in Washington, but the congressman deflected the questions. He also didn’t address potential responsibility of politicians who provided traction for Trump’s assertions corrupt state officials thwarted his landslide re-election.

Davids, a Democrat serving the 3rd District in Johnson and Wyandotte counties, said she was disturbed Trump fueled conspiracy theories about the election that encouraged aggressive responses.

“Today is a dark day for our country,” Davids said. “It’s unacceptable that we have a president who has repeatedly condoned and even encouraged this despicable behavior. It must stop.”

Estes pointed a finger at protests in 2020 designed by Black Lives Matter to draw attention to institutional racism and law enforcement shootings of Blacks or the protests by Antifa groups opposed to right-wing ideologies.

“When you have a crowd that gets together, conducting a protest, you’re at risk any time that there could be violence,” Estes said. “We saw it earlier last year with all the Antifa protests and we saw the violence in Seattle and Wisconsin.”

The Kansas Republican Party also responded to the Capitol incursion by comparing it to “mob violence we saw in the streets of our cities this summer. It was wrong then and it is wrong now.”

Moran condemned in the “strongest possible terms” the violence and destruction at the Capitol. He said the invasion was “completely unacceptable and unpatriotic.”

LaTurner, who defeated a GOP incumbent to win the 2nd District seat in the U.S. House, said lawless behavior in Washington was a “stain on American history.” The Republican said the right of people to peacefully assemble was a bedrock constitutional ideal, but events of the day were an outrage. He added: “This is unAmerican and an utter betrayal of that founding principle.”

Mann, a Republican elected in November to fill a vacancy in the 1st District, said the Electoral College challenge was warranted because “credible allegations of fraud must be investigated.” Amid chaos at the Capitol, the freshman Republican said he would pray for the nation.

State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Democrat who lost the U.S. Senate race in November, said she was disturbed Marshall, Mann, LaTurner and Estes endorsed challenges of state-certified election results. Bollier implied the four Republicans’ endorsement of the Electoral College appeals inspired aggression among the crowd.

“Absolute travesty that Kansas’ junior Senator Marshall, along with three congressmen, have chosen partisan politics over the Constitution,” Bollier said. “Look what is being facilitated!! This behavior is unprecedented in American history. It is shameful that Kansas supported this pathway.”

Marshall, who said he was compelled to hold accountable any state that disregarded the law or constitution in the presidential election, said he was frustrated by outcome of the presidential election. He said he was a supporter of freedom of speech and assembly, but that didn’t mean people should express those views through violence.

“What happened at the U.S. Capitol today is unreasonable and unacceptable,” Marshall said. “I condemn it at the highest level.”

Before the House and Senate convened, the Kansas Republican Party praised Estes, LaTurner and Mann for “joining the fight for election integrity.” The Kansas Democratic Party was critical of Marshall and the three U.S. House members from Kansas.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, used the words sickening, shameful, inexcusable and counterproductive to describe conduct of Trump fans in the nation’s Capitol.

“This riot, like others before it over the past year, offends the law and order we fight to preserve every day,” he said. “It insults the men and women who fought and died for our Constitution and who serve the rule of law.”

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly responded to events in Washington by declaring it unacceptable for “acts of violence or destruction, especially when targeted at law enforcement and members of the press, is unacceptable. Now more than ever, we need to come together and fight this virus — not each other.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.