On January 6, just before noon, President Trump addressed around 5,000 ardent supporters, telling them, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. Demand that Congress do the right thing… fight like hell.”
By 1:10 p.m., the first groups of Trump supporters reached the Capitol and clashed with police. By 2:20 p.m., the group had breached police lines. A rampage was underway that would eventually leave 5 people dead, including a Capitol Hill police officer. By 4:17 p.m., after prompting by his staff, Trump tweeted, in part, “I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. … So go home. We love you, you’re very special. … I know how you feel.”
Among the activities of the mob that had entered the Capitol were calls for Vice President Pence to be hanged, for Speaker Pelosi to be killed, and the parading of a confederate battle flag through the halls. Various protesters had loaded guns, wore anti-Semitic clothing, and smashed windows. Molotov cocktails were found in the cars of some of the protesters.
Just after 8:00 p.m. the House of Representatives reconvened to continue consideration of an objection to the electoral college vote. Tensions were high, with many legislators questioning why anyone would want to continue to fight the election results after the day’s event. Trump, in the view of many, had incited the riot. He had watched the riot from the White House and reportedly did not understand why aides in the White House were not as excited about the “protests” as he was.
Representative Andy Harris was not one of those whose views of President Trump were changed by the insurrection. He returned to the House Floor and came close to getting into a fight with Representative Conor Lamb (D-PA) after Lamb suggested Republicans were lying about election fraud. Only the intervention of a Texas Democrat, Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL player, prevented Dr. Harris, an anesthesiologist, from knocking-out Lamb.
What was Andy Harris’ role in last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol? Why would Harris, knowing that, after the riot, the effort to overturn the election was even more unlikely to succeed than earlier in the day, continue to support it? What made him want to pummel Rep. Lamb?
The answer is that he continues to believe the challenges to the validity of the election results are “legitimate.” He also seems to have been less troubled by the mayhem than most of his colleagues. While he now claims to condemn the violence of January 6, he noted that “People have the right to the Capitol grounds, we have protesters every day on the Capitol grounds.”
Also, consider this statement made after Wednesday’s events:
The Capitol police does such a great job that I never felt unsecure. I was in the military, I’m a veteran, you know, tear gas doesn’t frighten me. Obviously, later we heard there was a gunshot, but other than that, there was no indication that this was a truly violent protest, as violent as one that you’d worry about. This should have never occurred in the U.S. Capitol. I never support a protest that breaks windows, breaking into the Capitol, disobeying a lawful command of a Capitol police officer not to enter the building. So it definitely got out of hand, no question about it. It shouldn’t happen like that. But, again, people are very discouraged, they’re disappointed, the country is polarized, people have watched riots over the summer for valid reasons, but they’ve turned violent with no repercussion, and I think the message has gotten out to Americans, I’m sad to say, that violent protests are somehow acceptable in America. . . .
Harris appears to be telling us that the violence at the Capitol resulted from “violence” at Black Lives Matter protests last summer that “turned violent with no repercussion.” Really? Is that what Trump told him?
Who does Harris think he is representing in Congress? Does anyone on the Eastern Shore still want Harris representing them after last week’s events? Why does Harris appear more interested in serving Trump than his constituents? What is going on inside his head?
Who is this guy?
In talking to people after last week’s events, I realized that not everyone is familiar with Rep. Andy Harris. Who is he?
Other than kowtowing to Trump whenever possible, Harris may be best described as an ethically-challenged right-winger. His record includes voting against the most recent economic stimulus bill. He voted “present” on a resolution condemning QAnon and the conspiratorial theories it promotes. He’s one of the leaders in opposing Obamacare. He also routinely sponsors anti-LGBQT legislation.
In 2018, Harris also was subject to ethics charges for failing to disclose payments made to his wife’s political consulting firm. Harris responded by saying the omission was “a mistake” and filed an amended disclosure firm.
Harris won re-election in 2020, defeating Democrat Mia Mason. Here’s Ms. Mason’s comments on Harris’ performance of last week:
Andy Harris’s behavior is a disgusting display of a politician who will do anything to try and agitate the new base of the Republican party. He has desecrated the office he holds and embarrassed the entire district to which he serves. He has done as much as anyone, including the President, to incite this riot and even when he saw what destruction his words helped to cause, he doubled down on pushing baseless conspiracy theories.
Mason continued, “Make no mistake, Andy Harris does not believe what he is saying. He is taking advantage of people who continue to put him in office.”
Don’t hold your breath for Mr. Harris to resign. It’s also doubtful that the House of Representatives will expel him for his role in the insurrection. That’s unfortunate. We deserve better.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.