While continuing to condemn the mob violence that gripped the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, freshman Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks on Thursday suggested President Trump and congressional Republicans should not be held accountable for stoking the violence.
And while recognizing Democrat Joe Biden as president-elect, Miller-Meeks insisted "there was fraud" in the 2020 presidential election, despite a series of reviews and court cases that found no evidence of widespread issues.
"I think there is plenty of blame to go around to all of us," Miller-Meeks told the Quad-City Times of the "feeling of helplessness and powerlessness and hopelessness" Americans feel, fueled by a pandemic, racial turmoil and a contested presidential election, that has led to unrest across the nation.
Miller-Meeks said that if Democrats were not blamed or held accountable for violence that erupted during protests this summer over police killings of unarmed Black men and women, Trump and Republicans likewise should not be held to blame for the U.S. Capitol riot and Americans expressing "grievances" over what numerous state and federal courts and election officials have found was a free and fair election.
"Just as over the summer when we saw social unrest and violence and destruction of public and private property, and encampments in various cities, the Democrats did not demand that this action stop," Miller-Meeks falsely claimed.
Before he spoke out against violence in Portland at the end of August, Biden had condemned violent protests soon after the death of George Floyd.
"The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable […] as a country we must condemn the incitement of hate and resentment that led to this deadly clash," Biden said in a statement on his campaign website. "It is not a peaceful protest when you go out spoiling for a fight."
Other Democrats as well have condemned violence linked to the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-fascist protests.
"And no one asked that they (Democrats) be held responsible for that," Miller-Meeks said. "I think it's important that we as a nation understand that you have a large percentage of Americans, millions of Americans — 60 million to 70 million Americans — who feel that their voices have not been heard" and feel aggrieved over election "irregularities that were not addressed."
"And just as there was violence and destruction of property over the summer and fall, there was, unfortunately, yesterday as well," she said. "Now, we condemn that. ... We do not support and we denounce all violence."
U.S. Senators and House of Representative members sheltered in place Wednesday after a mob of Trump supporters broke through police barricades and made their way into the U.S Capitol Building as the House and Senate debated objections to the certification of Biden's Electoral College victory. The skirmishes came shortly after Trump addressed thousands of his supporters, riling up the crowd with his baseless claims of election fraud at a rally near the White House ahead of Congress' vote.
Trump called the outcome of the election "this egregious assault on our democracy," and told supporters they should "walk down to the Capitol."
The president pressed his supporters to "fight" for him, "because you will never take back our country with weakness."
Four people died in the riot. One woman with a Trump flag wrapped around her waist was shot and killed by Capitol police during the insurrection, while three others died of unspecified medical emergencies, according to news reports.
Miller-Meeks voted Wednesday to reject a challenge to Biden's Electoral College victory, believing Congress did not have the constitutional authority to overturn state election results. But, on Thursday Miller-Meeks continued to give credence to the false claims of widespread voting irregularities.
"I think in order to listen to people and to heal our nation — to answer those grievances — that there should be either an investigation or a commission to look into that," she said. "There was fraud. There were irregularities. There were states that did not follow their state law, and/or election officials violated state law. I think all of those things are worthwhile to address so that everyone has faith and confidence and trust in the election system."
Courts across the country — including the U.S. Supreme Court, with a now conservative 6-3 majority — have roundly dismissed the allegations made by the president, his campaign and his allies. Additionally, Trump's own U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, declared that the U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.
Miller-Meeks called for "a federal baseline" for absentee ballots cast by mail and signature verification.
"It has to be looked into," she said of how some states conducted elections during a pandemic. "And, if we don't do that, then there will still be suspicion that it was an election that had irregularities."
At the same time, Miller-Meeks is objecting to a challenge filed by Democrat Rita Hart with the U.S. House contesting the election results in southeast Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, which includes Scott, Clinton and Muscatine counties.
Miller-Meeks defeated Hart by just six votes after a bipartisan state canvassing board certified the election results following a district-wide recount in all 24 counties. Hart contends 22 ballots were unlawfully excluded from the certified election results.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday said President Trump should immediately be removed from office under the 25th Amendment or Congress might proceed to impeach him.
Miller-Meeks said Trump should finish his term.
"With two remaining weeks of the presidential term and the inauguration of President-Elect Biden coming on Jan. 20, I don't think that would be an action that would continue to heal our nation," she said. "To go through another impeachment process, I think, would create a bigger wedge and divide in our country. ... It is time for compassion. It is time for understanding.
"It is time for us all to be more respectful of each other's position and voice, and to try to move forward as a nation binded by those things which we hold dear in our country and are common to all of us."