Former president Donald Trump may have slunk off to exile at Mar-a-Lago, but the toxic residue he leaves behind will take more than a deep cleaning of the White House to correct. For Virginia Republicans, it means confronting the lies Trump told about the election and repairing the damage those lies did to voters’ trust — all before the 2021 elections.
The process begins at the top. Virginia’s four U.S. House members — Reps. Ben Cline, Bob Good, H. Morgan Griffith and Rob Wittman — all supported electoral vote challenges in the House on Jan. 6, even after insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol sent all four men scurrying for safety.
Calling their decision to return to the House floor and pick up right where they left off after the first sacking of the Capitol since the War of 1812 bizarre or craven lets them off too easily. Each one indulged the Big Lie the president reportedly concocted, rehearsed and repeated about a stolen election.
They indulged it because that’s what the folks back home wanted to hear — having heard it again and again and again form the White House, Trumpism pundits and the populist media echo chamber.
Former attorney general William P. Barr reportedly privately told Trump it was all BS.
To be fair to Virginia’s four GOP House members, those private remarks became public well after the insurrection and Trump’s second impeachment (all four voted against impeachment, too).
And their votes occurred before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor to say the mob that stormed the Capitol had been “fed lies” and were “provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like.”
The test for the four GOP House members now is whether they join the effort to remove fellow Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership post for supporting impeachment. Because it will be conducted via secret ballot, we may never know how they voted.
But Virginia Republicans’ problem with lies goes deeper than just the four House members. There’s also the three GOP House of Delegates members — Dave LaRock, Mark Cole and Ronnie Campbell — who, before the insurrection, sent their infamous letter to former vice president Mike Pence asking him to “nullify” Virginia’s slate of electors and wait until a “forensic audit” of the election could determine who actually won. Hint: It was President Biden.
The three said that unless Pence acted, they “fear[ed] for the consequences for the union.”
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) stripped each man of one committee membership. LaRock says he is looking at legal options to regain his post on the House Transportation Committee.
Oh, and yes, LaRock was at the Jan. 6 rally in D.C. And he still firmly believes Trump’s Big Lie about a stolen election.
So, too, does Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield). The GOP gubernatorial hopeful who also attended the Jan. 6 D.C. rally is currently fighting a Democratic-backed censure motion, which alleges that Chase’s “inflammatory statements and actions … before, during, and after the events that led to the insurrection” represent a “failure to uphold her oath of office and conduct unbecoming of a Senator.”
Chase’s committee posts have been taken away, without much grumbling from the Republican senators with whom she’s still feuding. But, despite the mutual disdain, those same Senators don’t support censure.
Virginia’s Republicans say they want to move on, put an end to the conspiracy theories and restore their voters’ confidence in elections. Fair enough.
They need to join Barr, McConnell and others in admitting that Trump, his lawyers and far too many Republican elected officials repeatedly lied about the election. It’s the first and most important step Virginia Republicans can take to winning back voters’ trust.