Cline tries, fails, to play both sides in response to U.S. Capitol attack
At 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sixth District Congressman Ben Cline condemned the actions of those who breached the U.S. Capitol and suggested that they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Later Wednesday, and into the overnight, Cline followed through with the promise he’d made to vote to reject electoral votes cast for Joe Biden – which, as we know, was the source of the motivation for those seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by force.
“While people have a right to peaceably protest, those who breached the Capitol and assaulted Capitol Police officers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Violence is never the answer, and I condemn their actions in the strongest possible terms,” Cline said in a statement posted to his Twitter page, his only statement, to this point, on the violent attack against democracy that had members of Congress locked down as the Capitol was pillaged by Trump supporters.
Notice how the statement from Cline doesn’t even mention Trump by name.
This is no accident.
Cline’s Sixth District is among the reddest in the nation. Trump got 59.5 percent of the vote in the Sixth in the November election, his second-best showing among the 11 congressional districts in Virginia.
Cline actually ran 5.1 points ahead of Trump in his own re-election campaign, but even so, you don’t run the risk of running afoul of the base if you’re a Republican these days.
Cline would only need to look over the Blue Ridge to the Fifth District for a reminder to that. Denver Riggleman, a Republican elected to represent the Fifth District in 2018, whose votes sided with Trump 91.9 percent of the time in his two-year term, was defeated in his bid for the GOP nomination by Bob Good, a former member of the Campbell County Board of Supervisors, whose main beef with RIggleman was that Riggleman wasn’t sufficiently pro-Trump.
Cline, whose pro-Trump voting record is a career 94.4 percent, according to the measure from fivethirtyeight.com, knows not to poke at the bear.
Which is why, hours after pro-Trump extremists attacked the U.S. Capitol, engaging in an armed standoff with Capitol Police at the entrance to the House chamber, pillaging member offices, in an obvious display of force intended to cow Congress into not certifying the outcome of the presidential election, Cline joined with Good and Ninth District Republican Morgan Griffith in voting to reject the results of elections in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
The fourth member of the Virginia GOP congressional delegation, Rob Wittman, voted to certify the Arizona vote, but then did vote to reject the Pennsylvania vote.
This is history – through these votes, Cline and his fellow Republicans are in the Congressional Record in perpetuity as rejecting the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.
Cline and Griffith have been mum since the overnight votes. Good, in a statement on Twitter, noted being “proud” to join in formally objecting to the electoral votes.
Wittman, who, it’s worth noting, represents the least pro-Trump of the four congressional districts in Virginia that went for the president, at 51.3 percent, did issue a statement.
“(M)y oath to this office is to defend the Constitution and faithfully discharge my duties. Regardless of my personal opinion of who I believe is best to lead this country, this is bigger than just this election. This is about upholding the Constitution and ensuring integrity and faith in elections to come. Americans’ concerns deserve to be heard; we must have faith in the electoral process and continue to take steps to ensure fair and free elections,” Wittman said.
Trump has been sowing distrust in American elections since his first run for president five years ago. For months leading into November 2016, Candidate Trump rallied supporters around the idea that the only way he would lose would be if Democrats stole the election from him.
He reinforced that message throughout the summer and fall of 2020, and predictably, when his loss to Biden in the November election became clear – Biden outpolled Trump by 7 million votes, four and a half percentage points, a 306-232 margin in the Electoral College – he turned up the heat.
In the days leading up to the pro forma certification of the election, which took all of 34 minutes four years ago, Trump whipped his supporters into a frenzy, calling on them to descend upon Washington in a show of strength that you can only assume he thought might pressure a reluctant Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to do his bidding.
What took 34 minutes in 2017 took 14 hours four years later, but the vote has, finally, been certified.
The actions of the Clines, Goods, Griffiths, Wittmans to add legitimacy to Trump’s Hail Mary means there’s blood on their hands, too – literal blood, with four deaths attributed to the U.S. Capitol attack, and then the figurative.
Their votes, forever in the record, will sow more of the distrust that led to what we saw yesterday, a sort of gift that will keep on giving.
To their eternal shame.
Story by Chris Graham