Senator James Lankford Weighs in on January 6th at the US CapitolThu, 07 Jan 2021 20:33:27 CST
The following is an email "letter" sent on Thursday by Oklahoma Junior Senator James Lankford- it includes details from his time on the floor as rioters invaded the US Capitol building:
Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:
I am aware this is a long letter, but it is a serious issue that requires a serious response.
January 6, 2021, was a terrible day for our country and for our democracy. Americans do not all agree, but we settle issues through elections, legislation, and conversation. Ronald Reagan once said, “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Obviously that did not happen January 6. At 1pm eastern, the Joint Session of Congress started normally. Within a few minutes, a small group of Senators and House members, including me, challenged the election of Arizona to start a two-hour debate in each chamber on election integrity.
About 30 minutes into the debate in the Senate, I stepped up to speak. I gave some background on how an election challenge has happened to the last three Republican presidents and how previous Democratic Senators have challenged electors in 1969 and 2005. I stated my desire to get all the facts out about any election problems in the country for the sake of transparency and building trust for people who do not believe this year’s election was fair. As I started to transition my speech into specific election irregularities and my call for a 10-day commission to audit the election results, Secret Service ran into the chamber and removed the Vice President from the presiding desk, then the presiding officer gaveled the Senate into a recess and a floor staff member came to me and told me that protesters were in the building.
None of us had any idea what was going on outside the Senate chamber. But within a few minutes, the protests had turned very violent around the Senate, and security was forced to move all Senators and staff out of the Capitol for our safety. For the next five hours, they kept all of us secure in a separate building while Capitol police worked to clear the Capitol building after rioters trashed multiple offices, broke windows, and occupied the Capitol. Those painful images will forever be burned into my mind.
I am very grateful for the Capitol police, Secret Service, area law enforcement, and National Guard who all played a part in securing the Capitol during such a tumultuous time. They were professional but clearly overwhelmed at the size and determination of those coming to occupy the Capitol. Violence and terror are not acceptable ways of handling disagreements. In fact, they completely undermine any peaceful conversation to get answers and enact reforms. Doing the right thing is important, but it must be done in the right way.
When we were finally able to regather in the Senate chamber six hours later, we were determined to finish the debate and count the electoral votes. I had worked for a week to build a coalition around a simple idea to pause the electoral count for 10 days to give time for additional review of the election. This was designed to honor the constitutional requirement that states select their electors, not Congress; but also give states more time to resolve any remaining questions. People have questions, and they legitimately deserve answers.
By the time we started floor debate, we were certain our idea was not going to be successful. After the riot in the Capitol, not only did I know the commission would not pass, I also knew delaying the vote would only add more uncertainty and opportunities for risk in our nation. Rioters interrupted and destroyed an opportunity to have a serious dialogue on election issues in the days ahead. Any hope of getting resolution in the next few days was gone. So, after making the motion to challenge the electors in the House, I voted to accept the electors in the Senate debate. I was also able to finish speaking in the Senate chamber about the violence that interrupted our debate and the continued importance of election transparency.
I believe this was the right choice for Oklahoma and the nation. We absolutely had voting issues in November that need to be addressed, but the only way to resolve those issues consistent with the Constitution was to create a commission because the Constitution does not allow Congress or the Vice President to just decide to reject certified state electors. Vice President Pence addressed the issue of his role in the elector certification process as President of the Senate in a letter to Congress. If you want to read his letter, please CLICK HERE.
Free and fair elections are at the heart of our democracy, and regardless of our political affiliation or who we voted for, it is absolutely essential that our elections are safe and secure and that we can be confident in the results—no matter who the winner is. The integrity of our system depends on it—now and in the future.
This was about every election in the future of our country. Demanding elections to be fair and transparent is not an obscure issue; it is an American issue. In normal days it is also a bipartisan issue. Two years ago, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, and Amy Klobuchar sent a letter about their concerns for electronic voting machines, including Dominion voting. They wrote:
We are particularly concerned that secretive and ‘trouble-plagued companies,’ owned by private equity firms and responsible for manufacturing and maintaining voting machines and other election administration equipment, ‘have long skimped on security in favor of convenience,’ leaving voting systems across the country ‘prone to security problems.’
Four years ago, after allegations of foreign interference and questions that arose after the 2016 election, I worked earnestly to ensure our elections are safe. I was one of the first authors of major election security legislation and worked with the Trump Administration to enact several major reforms to our voting systems including ensuring that states could conduct paper ballot audits and that state election security officials could access classified information in regards to threats against their systems. We have made progress, but any accusation of fraud and irregularities is too many, and we have much work to do in the days ahead.
Let me take a minute to clarify some rumors and ideas: I have talked to friends who have told me this is such a critical and urgent moment that we should ignore the Constitution and the law to save the election and keep President Trump in office. I have even had people tell me that, “They cheated first, so we don’t have to follow the law anymore.” I have also had people tell me that Congress is the last line of defense from our nation becoming a socialist nation so you need to do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening, including overturning the state’s electors. I wholeheartedly disagree. I will not violate the Constitution to save the Constitution. I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and I have a responsibility to not ignore the questions and the problems. I will also not sit idly by if individuals or groups have committed voter fraud. In Oklahoma we typically have about 50 people a year that commit voter fraud, like voting twice in an election. Those individuals are turned over to local district attorneys for investigation and prosecution, which is entirely appropriate.
I have spent weeks going through the statements of fact, accusations of fraud, court cases, the law on elections, and talking with election officials. I have spoken with numerous legal scholars about this question. This issue is not as simple as some pundits on television make it sound, on either side of the issue. Even after the lawsuits and the state determinations, there are legitimate questions that still exist. This was the heart of my I announcement on January 1, 2021, that I would support an election commission to conduct a 10-day review of state results and determine the actual facts to be presented back to the states to make a final determination on their electors.
The idea of the commission was based on the election commission of 1877 after the disputed election of 1876. In that election, four states (Oregon, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina) had questions of election fraud that Congress had to resolve. It was a complicated mess. Congress created a 15-member commission (five Senators, five House Members, and five Supreme Court Justices) to make recommendations on how to resolve the dispute. They completed their work before the constitutionally mandated inauguration day.
Several of my Senate colleagues and I asked for the same format, a 15-person commission, limited to 10 days of work to complete an investigation before the January 20 inauguration. The commission cannot select the next president; it can only do fact or fiction research and work to put rumors and allegations to rest so states can make their determination on what to do with that information according to the Constitution. That is the way to really solve this challenge. Fighting doesn’t help our nation; solving the problem helps our nation and brings truth to light.
My goal was never to put our constitutional system at risk, nor was it ever to overturn an election; it was to get the facts into the open and allow the truth to direct our steps. I am well aware that some in our state have said—along with the national media—that more than 50 court cases have already settled this election. The problem with that argument is that clearly they haven’t. Thousands of people still have questions.
Congress did not agree to hold a 10-day election commission regarding voting irregularities this year, and the Senate and House have completed deliberation and certified the states’ electors. On January 20, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.
Let me also provide some historical election context that the media has not provided on challenging electors.
On January 6, 1969, 33 Senators challenged a “faithless elector” from North Carolina, an elector that was pledged for Nixon, but actually voted for Wallace. It was the first time in history that a Representative and a Senator had challenged an elector under the 1887 Electoral Count Act. That national conversation led to changes in state laws around the country that banned electors from changing their votes after the election. In fact, Oklahoma banned “faithless electors” in 2013. That electoral challenge of more than 30 Senators in 1969 did not destroy our Republic, it strengthened it.
On January 6, 2005, California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer challenged the electors in Ohio because she believed that urban minority neighborhoods had too few polling locations compared to non-minority neighborhoods. She was not wrong. Her electoral count protest pushed many states to provide more urban locations for voting. That electoral contest did not destroy our democracy or throw out an election; it improved our democracy.
In 2018, Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia. After the election, she complained bitterly about Georgia election systems and election law. Two years later, she still has not conceded the race. Last year, the Democratic caucus in Iowa was an electoral disaster. It took almost a month to get the results after Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders called for multiple recounts. It was never fully resolved to the satisfaction of either. To say there are no issues is turning a blind eye to an imperfect system. We must all work together to ensure that regardless of your political affiliation that your vote matters.
Most Oklahomans know me well enough to know that I do not run to the microphone first and then think second. I have a responsibility to get the facts straight and a constitutional obligation to protect our Republic. My decision to ask for an electoral commission to review the facts of this election before it was finalized was not done flippantly, nor was it intended to overturn an election. It was an opportunity to put the facts on the table in front of the American people and allow our nation to settle an election.
The turmoil of the 2020 election should not be allowed to happen again. Americans do not demand perfection, but we do demand we learn from our mistakes. States could immediately convene hearings and/or put legislation forward to address the vulnerabilities that this election exposed, and Congress needs to incentivize the states that actually step up to fix the problems. I’m already working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to make these changes.
If you have read this letter to the end, I am grateful. We may not all agree on every aspect of this issue, but you deserve to know my perspective and my reasons for challenging the election results this year. I am passionate about our Republic, as obviously you are. As a nation, we have lost trust in some of our institutions of government, and I am convinced that it does not get better until we have the maximum amount of transparency and the all aspects of government working with the highest amount of integrity. We may not always agree, but I can assure you that I am always working to help us make a more perfect union. I pray we never have another day at the US Capitol like January 6, 2021.
Please feel free to contact me or my office at any time if I can serve you and our state in the days ahead.
In God We Trust,
United States Senator for Oklahoma
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