Missoula Current: Tester: Members of Congress who enabled deadly insurrection must be held accountable

by Martin Kidston

MISSOULA – An opinion piece authored by Sen. Jon Tester received national attention on Tuesday after he called on Congress to do its constitutional duty and hold those who enabled last week’s deadly insurrection accountable.

That includes members of Congress, such as Rep. Matt Rosendale, who joined a minority faction in the U.S. House in voting to overturn the election results in certain states lost by Trump.

Sen. Steve Daines had intended to join a coalition of Senate Republicans in voting to do the same. However, he changed course after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in an unprecedented coup attempt, which many place on the shoulders of President Donald Trump.

Any members of Congress who helped fan the flames of violence should be held accountable, Tester said.

“A few days before the violent insurrection, as the president pressured Georgia’s Secretary of State to find enough votes to overturn his election loss, 13 of my Senate colleagues took the shocking step of announcing plans to challenge the outcome of the election,” Tester wrote. “Whatever their reasons, blame rests squarely on their shoulders, and history will never forget who they are – no matter how much they try to explain it away now.”

Tester said 13 members of the Senate enabled Trump’s continued effort to spread lies about the election being “stolen.” Dozens of courts, including the conservative U.S. Supreme Court and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, also a Republican, have said no such evidence exists.

Later on Tuesday in an interview with CNN, Tester said what the nation’s elected officials say and do matter, and words have consequences. When they help incite an insurrection, they should be held accountable, he added.

“(Trump) was enabled by 13 more people who wanted to spread his lies. Lies are lies and we need to stick to the truth,” Tester said. “What we say and what we do matter. Those actions deserve consequences. What those consequences are should be determined by the United States Senate.”

A spokesperson for Daines accused Tester of hypocrisy, saying the Democrat has used “dangerous rhetoric” in the past. She said Daines played no role in the insurrection and placed the blame on the rioters alone.

“Calling senators and congressmen traitors is inexcusable. His outrage is an effort to silence not the criminals who assaulted the Capitol but the vast majority of peaceful, patriotic supporters of President Trump, and (a) strong majority of his own Montana constituents who just overwhelmingly elected Senator Daines and Congressman Rosendale over his preferred candidates,” Katie Schoettler said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, Daines called upon social media companies to reinstate Trump’s accounts, calling his use of the platform free speech and his banning akin to censorship. Trump has used social media to spread lies and misinformation to incite his base.

On Tuesday, Daines also issued a statement labeling those who participated in the violence and destruction of the Capitol as criminals. As such, he said they “must be brought to justice.”

On that front, Tester and Daines agree.

“The line was crossed when they broke through the doors of the capitol,” Tester said. “We cannot allow that to continue. Folks need to be held accountable. Actions matter and consequences to those actions also matter.”