MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s newest member of Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, said Thursday he didn’t know if President Donald Trump incited the riot last week at the U.S. Capitol and wants a full investigation to find out what motivated the mob.
“I don’t think we know yet,” Fitzgerald said when asked at a virtual WisPolitics.com and Milwaukee Press Club event if Trump was to blame. “There has to be more to this entire episode and it needs to be investigated top to bottom to see who was involved and exactly what motivated them to get to where we were, which was a very, very frightening day.”
Trump extolled his supporters at a Jan. 6 rally to “fight like hell” and head to the U.S. Capitol where Congress was meeting to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. Fitzgerald said that while Trump did call on people to head to the Capitol, he did not think he wanted or expected them to turn violent.
“I’m not making any excuses, I’m just saying that’s why we need a thorough investigation,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s just hard for me to believe right now that the entire crowd was somehow fired up just by the speeches of the day to take that action. I’m not going to say there wasn’t an element of them.”
More than 100 people across the country have been arrested so far for participating in the siege on the Capitol, including one person from Wisconsin. Security is being tightened at the U.S. Capitol in advance of Wednesday’s inauguration of Biden, as well as at state Capitols across the country amid threats of possible violence.
Madison’s police chief said Thursday that he is not aware of any specific threat to Wisconsin’s Capitol, but that law enforcement is prepared. Gov. Tony Evers has activated the Wisconsin National Guard to assist if needed.
Fitzgerald was in the House chamber when rioters breached the Capitol, which he described as a “very scary event.” He described a chaotic scene of not knowing where he was in the halls of the Capitol as police escorted him and other House members to safety.
“To be honest with you, we were kind of lost for a certain point of time,” he said.
Fitzgerald was one of the Trump’s earliest and loudest advocates in Wisconsin before being elected to Congress in November. He represents the 5th Congressional District, which includes northern and western Milwaukee suburbs and rural communities east of Madison. Fitzgerald, who estimated he has attended about a dozen Trump rallies, said he understands the feelings of the president’s supporters and that 99% of them are “very good people.”
Fitzgerald, along with U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, were the only members of Wisconsin’s delegation to vote last week against certifying election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Fitzgerald also joined with all Wisconsin Republicans in voting against impeachment of Trump.
Tiffany had said prior to the riot that he would participate in Thursday’s Press Club event with Fitzgerald, but did not attend due to a traveling conflict, organizers said.
Also on Thursday, the state Assembly Democratic leader called for four Republican lawmakers to be removed from a key committee for signing a letter asking Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the presidential election results.
Fifteen Republican Wisconsin Assembly members were among more than 100 lawmakers from five states who signed a letter dated Jan. 5 asking Pence not to certify the election results. Four of them are members of the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee, including Chairwoman Janel Brandtjen and Vice Chair Joe Sanfelippo.
Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz called on Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to remove them from the committee, saying the letter “calls for sedition, plain and simple.” Vos did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Lawmakers from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia asked Pence in the letter for at least a 10-day delay in certification of the vote so they could investigate the election.
The Republicans on Wisconsin’s elections committee who signed the letter are Reps. Brandtjen, Sanfelippo, Jeremy Thiesfeldt and Dave Murphy.