WASHINGTON – Minnesota's congressional delegation is deeply split over the insurrection one year after a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Democratic members see Jan. 6 as an attack on democracy. But in a stark contrast to a year ago when they denounced the violence, their Republican counterparts unanimously declined to discuss the deadly siege.
"There are some in our delegation that wish to ensure that that day is commemorated and recognized in a solemn and meaningful way," Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips said. "There are some in our delegation that would like to see it forgotten and dismissed and removed from our collective memory."
All four GOP members in Minnesota's delegation refused multiple requests to comment on the anniversary of the siege. Yet a year ago, they decried the attack. Rep. Tom Emmer, who also leads the House Republican's campaign arm, said in a statement that night that "today's events in Washington were an unacceptable display of violence that runs counter to everything we stand for as a country." GOP Rep. Michelle Fischbach had tweeted earlier, "the violence that we're seeing, especially toward law enforcement, is unacceptable."
But in the hours afterwards, Fischbach and fellow Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn voted against certifying the presidential election in two swing states won by Democrat Joe Biden, breaking from Emmer and GOP colleague Pete Stauber, who joined Democrats in opposing those attempts. Neither Fischbach nor Hagedorn responded to a question about whether they regret their votes against certification.
Thursday marks one year since the insurrection that resulted in roughly $1.5 million in damage, according to the Justice Department. Some 140 law enforcement officers were injured in the attacks that involved everything from the use of chemical irritants to flag poles and fence pieces wielded as spears.
When the violence was described as an attack by a reporter, the chairman of Minnesota's Republican Party pushed back.
"I certainly would call it a disturbance of some kind, but I have not been spending a lot of time thinking about it, and I don't know anybody else who has other than Democrats and I guess the media," David Hann said.
In interviews over the past month, Minnesota Democrats looked back on the violence and rioting at the Capitol as lawmakers met to certify Biden's win over Trump in the 2020 election. The events laid bare the dangers of the then-president's falsehoods attacking the outcome of the race.
"There's only a few Republicans, like Liz Cheney, who've now been willing to stand up to get to the root causes of this. I believe if you don't respect history, and don't get to the truth of history, it's hard to move forward," Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.
The Justice Department announced last month that more than 700 people have been arrested in connection with Jan. 6. At a time when Trump's power over Republicans remains strong and the GOP seeks to regain control of Congress in this year's midterm elections, some in the party have downplayed the severity of the insurrection.
"No one seems to talk about it on our side," said Jeff Schuette, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party's Second Congressional District. "I'm sure the other side is trying to drum it up, but there isn't much there as far as we're concerned."
The state's four GOP congressional members voted against impeaching Trump after the attack. They refused to answer specific questions about the decision to remove Cheney from House Republican leadership after she became one of the fiercest critics of Trump for his efforts to overturn his election loss that culminated on Jan. 6.
They also opposed a bipartisan effort to establish an independent commission to investigate the attack — legislation that was passed by the House but rejected by the Senate. The four then voted against creation of a House committee tasked with the same purpose; that committee's work continues and counts Cheney as an influential member.
All four Minnesota Democrats in the House voted to impeach Trump last year. The state's two Democratic senators voted to convict him in the Senate trial where he was acquitted. The entire Democratic delegation on Capitol Hill also supported the bipartisan commission bill.
No credible evidence backs Trump's claims of a stolen election in either Democratic or Republican-led states, and a controversial review in Arizona pushed by Republicans confirmed that Biden won the state's largest county, and even gave Biden a wider margin of victory.
As the one-year anniversary of the attack neared, Democrats reflected on what Jan. 6 has come to mean and its ongoing impact on the country.
"I think it was a coup," Rep. Angie Craig said. "I think the intention was to put us into a constitutional crisis and somehow overturn the will of the voters."
Rep. Ilhan Omar said that in conversations with her, ambassadors and foreign ministers expressed shock over the insurrection. Sen. Tina Smith said she has "come to believe that Jan. 6 was not an aberration."
"It is part of a movement in this country to deny our democracy," Smith said. "And it is unfathomable to me that there are people who are serving in Congress, who pledged to uphold our Constitution, who continue to, with no factual basis, either explicitly or implicitly support the view that the election was stolen and that Joe Biden is not the authentic president."
Spurred on by Trump's falsehoods in what has been dubbed "the big lie," segments of the GOP base continue to voice baseless doubts over the 2020 presidential election results. Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum said in an e-mail that "as long as Trump and Republicans continue to use their 'big-lie' to inspire hate, violence, and false grievances for political gain then the U.S. Capitol, state capitols, elected officials from Members of Congress to school board members, and our entire democracy are at risk."
Klobuchar, however, has found some bipartisanship in the insurrection's aftermath. She helped lead a report involving both Republicans and Democrats that detailed security failures, and she conducted oversight of Capitol Police as head of the Senate Rules committee. Klobuchar also successfully pushed for passage of legislation honoring law enforcement with Congressional Gold Medals for their defense of the Capitol on Jan. 6 and sponsored a bill recently signed into law addressing an emergency issue evident during the attack.
"We had to upgrade our security because it wasn't just this mob that saw what happened," Klobuchar said. "The whole world saw what happened, and it was so obvious that the security wasn't up to the task and wasn't prepared. It wasn't the fault of individual officers. There was no plan in place."
Phillips was in the House chamber that day and shouted at one Republican lawmaker, "this is because of you!" when the rioters stormed the Capitol. A year later, the congressman is finding it hard to reconcile the lack of bipartisan acknowledgement of what happened with a commitment to work together to prevent it from happening again.
"The rioters, insurrectionists, who stormed the Capitol that day deserve to be punished. Many are being punished, many will be incarcerated," said Phillips, who is introducing a resolution to declare Jan. 6 Democracy Day.
"What is quite repulsive to me is that those that encouraged them, those that enabled them, those that continue to inspire them, not just walk free, but they walk the halls of the United States Capitol and the halls of Mar-a-Lago," he said. "That to me is a remarkable injustice."