Washington congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler on Friday pushed back against the national Republican Party’s framing of the House investigation into the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol as a persecution of “legitimate political discourse.”
In a statement, Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, criticized the Republican National Committee’s vote to formally censure two Republican members of Congress, Reps. Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, and Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois, for participating in the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
“January 6th left the realm of legitimate political discourse when it became a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol. I didn’t support the creation of the January 6th committee because I believed the committee’s makeup was too partisan, but I also don’t support the censure of a Member of Congress for attempting to uncover the truth,” Herrera Beutler said.
As part of the censure at an RNC meeting in Salt Lake City, the RNC resolution declared that by participating in the committee’s investigation of the Capitol attack, Cheney and Kinzinger were abetting “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”
The censure passed with no debate on a voice vote, with few opposed, according to media accounts.
Caleb Heimlich, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, said in a phone interview that he was among the few RNC members who voted against the censure resolution, saying he generally opposes RNC resolutions as not a core piece of the party’s business of electing candidates. He said he generally also does not favor censures.
But Heimlich defended many of the core sentiments of the RNC resolution, criticizing the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation.
“I am frustrated that Kinzinger and Cheney are choosing to participate in a political process that is turning into a witch hunt that is bad for the country and bad for the party,” he said, arguing Democrats had “weaponized the committee to focus on political gain” ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Heimlich criticized media outlets whose headlines have prominently quoted the resolution’s statement that the House investigation of the Capitol attack was “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”
Heimlich insisted that statement did not endorse the violence on Jan. 6. “I think that is an egregious misreading of what the resolution says and does,” he said.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel similarly said the resolution was not an endorsement of violence after the censure was passed.
Heimlich said the references to “ordinary citizens” and “legitimate political discourse” were about the treatment of people who did not participate in the Capitol assault — several members of the RNC who have been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee.
“Should volunteers legitimately engaging in the political process be forced to lawyer up and go before a Democrat committee on a political witch hunt?” Heimlich said. “Do you think that discourages political involvement?”
Former Washington GOP Chairman Chris Vance, who quit the party over its continued allegiance to Trump, condemned the censure on Twitter.
“Today I am ashamed to say I was once a member of the Republican National Committee,” he wrote.
Washington’s other congressional Republicans, U.S. Reps Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Spokane, and Dan Newhouse, of Sunnyside, did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse have attracted the ire of former President Donald Trump and drawn Republican primary challengers over their votes last year to impeach Trump in the wake of the attack. Both also voted to accept the election results.
Herrera Beutler briefly upended the impeachment trial when she disclosed a Jan. 6 phone call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in which McCarthy reportedly asked Trump to call off the rioters and Trump reportedly responded “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Craig Wheeler, a spokesperson for Herrera Beutler, said Friday she had not been contacted by the Jan. 6 committee to testify, and that “she’s shared publicly all the information she has regarding Jan. 6th.”
House Democrats attempted to call her as a witness, before changing course and entering her statement into the record.
The state GOP’s central committee condemned the impeachment vote in a resolution last year, expressing “particular disappointment” in Newhouse and Herrera Beutler.
Both Herrera Beutler and Newhouse then voted for an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. But when that effort was killed by Senate Republicans, both voted against creating the select committee that is now investigating the attack.
McMorris Rodgers initially said she would vote against accepting the election results, but switched her vote after Congress returned late on Jan. 6, after the attack.
McMorris Rodgers voted against impeaching Trump, saying at the time that he “showed a complete lack of leadership in the face of an attack on the U.S. government,” but that his words did not “constitute an incitement of violence as laid out in Supreme Court precedent.”
She faulted Democrats but also said, “Trump supporters like me” have turned “a blind eye to arrogant, prideful, and bullying behavior.”
Both McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse, after the election results were clear but before the Jan. 6 attack, signed on to a legal brief seeking to overturn the election results.
Washington’s two other members of the RNC, Jeff Kent and Marlene Pfeifer, also did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
Neither did Republican state House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, of Yelm.
Republican state Senate Minority Leader John Braun, of Centralia, last year on Jan. 6, called the attacks “unacceptable” and, again without mentioning Trump, said “Violence is not the path forward.” A spokesperson said his position has not changed since a year ago.