Lower Hudson Valley Republicans weigh in on D.C. riot, Trump, and their party's future
Newly minted Republican Assemblyman Michael Lawler was sworn in as the representative of the 97th District on Wednesday, the same day a mob invaded the U.S. Capitol as they protested the impending certification of President-elect Joe Biden's win.
Lawler, who is also Orangetown Republican chair, called the Washington, D.C., violence "abhorrant."
"It's not what we do in a civilized society or in a democratic Republic," said Lawler, a Pearl River resident. "We fight out our differences at the ballot box and we have to respect the will of the people."
Lawler was one of many Lower Hudson Valley Republican elected leaders to weigh in on Wednesday's chaos at the Capitol, calls for President Trump's removal and the future of their party.
Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann called the scene in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday "horrifying."
"I hope these folks are found out and that they're prosecuted." Hoehmann said. "Just as folks that did vandalism in Minneapolis and New York City. "
Several GOP officials attempted comparisons to summer demonstrations seen nationwide after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis.
"What is interesting to me is people who were silent over summer," Lawler said. "You have to be consistent."
Lawler, whose district includes portions of Ramapo, Clarkstown and Orangetown, acknowledged that the several Black Lives Matter demonstrations in his jurisdiction and in Rockland were peaceful.
Lawler said that that when exercising one's First Amendment rights turns into a violence outbreak, "I don't care who it is, when it happens . . . there is no justification."
Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, 94th Assembly District, said many who went to Washington on Wednesday practiced their freedom of speech and peaceful assembly rights.
"But what many of us witnessed inside the Capitol and surrounding area was violence and vandalism," said Byrne, whose district includes parts of Westchester and Putnam counties.
Byrne, who resides in Putnam, is the lone Republican state legislator representing Westchester. He said he has friends and former colleagues from both political parties who work in Washington, D.C.
"I’m glad our New York delegation is safe, and wish all in the D.C. area a safe return home," he said.
'Keep him away from Twitter'
Various leaders called for cooler rhetoric.
"From the president on down, every elected official has an obligation that the general public does not engage in violence," Lawler said. When asked about Trump's language specifically, Lawler added, "People did not choose their words carefully . . . I'm only responsible for my actions. I have always chosen my words very carefully because there are consequences of those words."
Lawler did note though, that "over the course of the summer, obviously the president talked extensively about law and order" — Trump frequently used the phrase when tweeting about Black Lives Matter demonstrations — "you have to be consistent in that."
Lawler said Trump "needs to continue to encourage people to express their views peacefully and not engage in any level of violence."
Rockland County Executive Ed Day said that, "at this juncture," Trump should "take whatever stepsnecessary to have healing and calm. I would say the same thing to President-elect Biden."
But all eschewed calls for another impeachment trial or the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which offers a pathway to replace the president in certain cases, including an incapacity to fulfill the roles of the office.
Southeast Supervisor Tony Hay said Trump shouldn't be removed from office before his term expires.
But, Hay, one of three Republican supervisors in Putnam, suggested tamping down on Trump's access to the public in other ways.
“Keep him away from Twitter,” Hay said.
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have imposed locks on Trump's accounts since the chaos.
Party going forward
Early Thursday, the House and Senate proceeded with the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory, the process that was at the heart of Wednesday's invasion of the Capitol building.
Some Republicans in Congress declined to support the vote and called for more investigation into claims of fraud that courts had so far called unfounded.
Putnam GOP Chairman Tony Scannapieco, who is also the county’s GOP election commissioner, said he did not know if the election was fair. But, he said, "what's done is done.”
Scannapieco said that Trump “sometimes goes a little overboard,” but people are “pissed off” how the election was decided.
"I think in the end, cooler heads prevailed," Lawler said after members of Congress "fulfilled their obligation to certify the Electoral College."
"Most everybody understands that one of the greatest traditions of our country is the peaceful transfer of power," Lawler said, "... and you fight it out at the next election."
Asked if he would support Trump again in four years, Lawler demurred.
"Four years is a long time from now," he said. I don't think many Democrats thought Joe Biden would be president-elect right now."
Day leaned on baseball analogies to address Republicans upset with Trump's loss. "The point is at the end of the game you don't go beat other people's brains in. You go onto the next game."
As for continued skeptics of the election, Day said, "If we're not going to believe that process is correct, you are not going to believe this nation itself."