How 7 North Carolina Republicans helped set the stage for Jan. 6

Support of President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

By Michael McElroy

January 5, 2024

Nearly all of the state’s Congressional Republicans voted against certifying the 2020 election and helped spread the lies that fueled a violent attack on the Capitol.

Donald Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes. 

But three years ago, Trump’s lies that the election was stolen prompted thousands of his supporters to break into the US Capitol, assault police officers, and threaten to hang his political opponents. 

The Jan. 6 riots were a threat to democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. But while Trump was the main catalyst for the violence and the meritless claims of voter fraud that fueled the riots, a simultaneous effort to decertify the election results by Republicans in Congress also played a prominent role.

Ultimately, 147 Republicans—including seven of North Carolina’s 10 members of Congress at the time—voted against certifying the election on Jan. 6, after the mob had been cleared from the building. 

These seven had cast doubt on the integrity of the elections in the weeks between Election Day and Jan. 6, voted against establishing a House committee to investigate the attacks after Jan. 6, and declined to impeach Trump over his role in inciting the riots. 

Dubious claims

In the six weeks between the election and the riot, several North Carolina Republicans repeated Trump’s unsupported accusations of voter fraud and “irregularities.” Though many NC Republicans had drifted away from those easily refutable specifics by Jan. 6, they veered instead toward vague charges that the states Biden won had made unconstitutional changes to their election laws during the pandemic, essentially making it easier to vote by mail and avoid crowds. 

Many of the changes, Republicans said, were enacted by elections officials or heads of state, not by state legislatures. Most of the North Carolina Republicans who voted against certifying the elections cited these changes as their reasoning. Seven North Carolinians signed on to an amicus brief in a case asking the US Supreme Court to intervene based on this argument. The court declined.

Since all Democrats and a third of Republicans rejected these dubious arguments, Congress did, of course, certify the election. 

In the weeks after the riot, nearly all of North Carolina’s Republicans denounced the violence to some degree, though now-Sen. Ted Budd minimized its significance and recast the rioters as patriots. 

Here is a look at the role NC Republicans played in the lies that fueled the violent Jan. 6 attack.

Rep. Dan Bishop (currently running for NC Attorney General)

When it came to election lies, Dan Bishop was a super-spreader event all by himself. 

He frequently repeated Trump’s evidence-free claims of widespread fraud in the weeks before and after the election.

“I’m echoing the President’s claims,” he tweeted two days after Election Day, when the race had not been called, but it was clear Trump would lose. 

“Indications of grossly improper conduct from election officials right here in my district,” Bishop wrote. 

“Trump’s points are persuasive: concerted use of fraudulent polls; stunning and implausible ballot dumps overnight; observers barred.”

But none of those things actually happened, and PolitiFact rated his accusation about his district as False. 

Bishop, alongside his fellow NC Republicans Ted Budd, David Rouzer and Greg Murphy, signed a letter with nearly 40 other Republicans calling on then Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate “a number of anomalies, statistical improbabilities and accusations of fraud.”

Barr soon after said there was zero evidence of widespread fraud. 

Bishop voted against counting the electoral votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona. He also voted against impeachment and against the House commission investigating the riot.

Bishop ended the Nov. 5 tweet with a call to action.

“Fight!,” he wrote.

Two months later, the mob stormed the capitol. 

Bishop is the leading candidate to be the Republican nominee for North Carolina’s Attorney General.

Sen. Ted Budd

In the days after the election, then-congressman Ted Budd sent text messages to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff and a former North Carolina congressman, offering ideas on how to overturn the results.

Budd accused the voting software company Dominion Voting Systems of conspiracy.

“On the evening of Nov. 7, Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) shared a message claiming there were links between Dominion Voting Systems and billionaire George Soros,” a Talking Points Memo analysis found. 

This was the same basic accusation Sidney Powell, a Trump lawyer involved in his efforts to overturn the election, leveled against Dominion. They sued her for libel and won.

Budd also signed on to the amicus brief and the letter to Barr. 

He voted against certifying the Arizona and Pennsylvania results, citing “irregularities and Constitutional violations.”

After the riots, Budd criticized the violence, but soon dismissed its significance, telling a conservative radio station in August of 2021 that Jan. 6 “was nothing. It was just patriots standing up.”

Budd voted against impeachment and against the House commission investigating the riot.

He successfully ran for US Senate in 2022, replacing former Republican Sen. Richard Burr. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx

Like most of her colleagues, Foxx immediately tried to cast unfounded doubt on the election results, though she didn’t actually use the word fraud. 

“Transparency in free and fair elections has always been an underpinning in elections past, and 2020 is no different. The American people deserve certainty that their votes count, and that their voices will not be rendered mute,” she wrote. 

“Integrity must be our touchstone, and the courts must be our final arbiter of disputes. The American people will receive the truth and nothing less.”

She voted against certifying the Pennsylvania results.

“I could not vote in good conscience to certify electors from the state given the blatant contravention of state law that occurred,” Foxx wrote.

The decision to use the election changes implemented during the pandemic as a basis to contest the results was the brainchild of Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, now the Speaker of the House. 

Foxx and other Republicans stood beside him at a press conference announcing his candidacy for the speakership last October. A reporter asked him about his efforts to invalidate the 2020 election.

“Shut up!,” Foxx screamed. “Shut up!”

Foxx also voted against impeachment and against the House commission investigating the riot.

Rep. David Rouzer

In the weeks after the election, Rouzer cited his “wide-spread and grave concerns,” about the results, telling a Wilmington TV station that there were  “too many irregularities” in the vote. He provided no details. (Again, several state and independent audits found no wide-spread fraud in the 2020 elections.)

On the morning of Jan. 6, Rouzer wrote on his website that he would vote against certification because in four states, elections officials, rather than the legislatures, had made election changes in response to the pandemic that made it easier to vote by absentee ballot. 

He voted against accepting the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Rouzer also voted against impeachment and against the House commission investigating the riot.

Rep. Greg Murphy

Greg Murphy’s public statements also shifted from fraud to arguing that changes to election laws were unconstitutional. 

“Contrary to what many in the mainstream media would have you believe, this is not about a person, but rather about upholding the Constitution,” he wrote in a press release ahead of the Jan. 6 vote. 

“[The Constitution] very clearly states in Article II Section 1 that state legislatures are charged with writing election laws, not executive officials and judges. Unfortunately multiple states, some more egregiously than others, violated that section of the Constitution.”

He did not mention fraud. But in the weeks after the election, he was all about it. 

Murphy signed the letter to Bill Barr, and a few days before Jan. 6, he told a conservative talk show audience “Fraud has occurred in this election … I know it for a fact.”

Though Trump beat Biden in North Carolina, Murphy, like tried to cite a local example. But also like Bishop, he got things wrong. 

Murphy voted against accepting Pennsylvania’s electoral votes and against the House commission investigating the riot.

He did not cast a vote on impeachment. 

Rep. Richard Hudson

Richard Hudson also cited the nebulous Constitutional issues, but dug in on the fraud claims, too, telling a CBS affiliate in Raleigh on Jan. 4 that “millions of people do not trust the outcome of this presidential election because there is incontrovertible evidence of voter irregularity—if not outright fraud.”

Like with most Republicans who made such claims, he provided no evidence or specifics. 

And in a letter he, Murphy, Rouzer, and 34 other Congressmen signed on the morning of Jan. 6th, he acknowledged “we have no express authority or ability to independently prove the many allegations of fraud in the subject states.”

Hudson voted against counting the electoral votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania. He also voted against impeachment and against the House commission investigating the riot.

The others

Sen. Thom Tillis, former Sen. Burr, and Rep. Patrick McHenry were the only members of the North Carolina delegation who rejected Trump’s accusations and voted to certify the election. 

 

Author

  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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