WASHINGTON — Arizona U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s outspoken support for the rioters who briefly occupied the U.S. capitol building in a recent congressional hearing has reignited calls by some Democrats for a censure resolution.

However, Gosar has in the meantime doubled down on his description of the rioters as “peaceful patriots” and the shooting death of a demonstrator climbing through a broken window as an execution. In his most recent action, he’s blasting the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly interfering with the Arizona Senate’s effort to audit all the Maricopa County ballots in search for fraud.

Gosar and several other Republicans vehemently defended the rioters who broke into the U.S. capitol building during a recent House Oversight Committee Hearing. The representatives in the hearing asserted that police have been harassing the more than 400 people arrested for breaking into the capitol, beating police and ignoring orders to disperse. Stop the Steal organizers have referred to him as the “spirit animal” of their movement. Gosar has said he’s proud of that designation, but says he has never urged or condoned violence, but merely said people have a right to defend the integrity of the U.S. elections.

Gosar has long insisted the election in Arizona was “stolen” as a result of fraudulently cast ballots and manipulation of voting machines, although half a dozen judges dismissed lawsuits claiming fraud in the Arizona results. Gosar was in the act of urging the House to set aside the election results in Arizona when rioters broke into the capitol building — forcing the hasty evacuation of the representatives.

House colleagues have in the past criticized Gosar for his frequent tweets claiming election fraud and referring to President Biden as an “illegitimate usurper,” his appearances before militia groups that later participated in the riots and his frequent calls to action to fight election fraud.

His comments last week prompted several fellow representatives to support a censure resolution prepared by David Ciccilline, D-R.I. A censure motion would not remove Gosar from Congress or affect his participation in committees and votes. The House has censured only 23 members in its long history. The resolution would also censure Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-GA and Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ala, for comparing the events of Jan. 6 to “a normal tourist visit” and saying the demonstrators “marched peacefully and patriotically to make their voices heard at the capitol.”

The rioters injured at least 138 officers — 73 from the Capitol Police and 65 from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington — during the siege, the departments have said. Injuries included bruises and lacerations, broken ribs, concussions, burns and a mild heart attack. One officer lost the tip of his index finger, several were hit in the head with baseball bats, flag poles and pipes, one lost consciousness after rioter used a metal barrier to push her into the stairs as they surged up onto the capitol steps. One officer — Brian Sicknick — died sometime after he was sprayed with pepper spray by the rioters. Two officers committed suicide in the days after the confrontations.

During the oversight hearing, Gosar stressed that the coroner’s report indicated Sicknick died of natural causes, although the coroner said the events that took place during the riots were a contributing factor. Gosar also stressed that the police had not confiscated firearms from the arrested demonstrators.

Gosar, of Prescott, represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Florence and San Tan Valley in Pinal County.

In his most recent objection to the Justice Department’s handling of the issue of possible election fraud, Gosar wrote a letter to the Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan objecting to a letter expressing concerns about the conduct of a ballot audit ordered by the Arizona State Senate.

The senate hired a private contractor — Cyber Ninjas — to conduct a recount of more than 2 million ballots cast in Maricopa County as well as a review of all of the ballot machines used in the election.

The Justice Department letter said that “Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials and are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors and are at risk of damage or loss.”

The letter grew out of media reports that the ballots and voting machines had been left unattended during certain periods of time and that people with partisan connections had been given access to the ballots and machines in the course of the audit.

Gosar objected that the Justice Department assertions mirror claims by “left leaning” organizations — the Brennan Center for Justice, The Leadership Conference and Protect Democracy.

“Cribbing from these Leftist groups suggests you are more concerned with your political fellow-travelers than election integrity,” Gosar wrote.

He asserted the Maricopa County elections officials had been the ones who carelessly handled materials — including allegedly deleting an entire “database directory of election information.”

That assertion stemmed from a statement made by State Senate President Karen Fann, suggesting Maricopa County elections officials had somehow deleted a database before turning over the ballots and elections materials to the senate consultants, under threat of lawsuit. Former President Donald Trump in a statement had also commented on the alleged deletion saying “the entire Database of Maricopa County Arizona has been DELETED! This is illegal and the Arizona State Senate, who is leading the Forensic Audit, is up in arms.”

Republican Maricopa County Stephen Richer tweeted in response to Trump’s statement, “wow. This is unhinged. I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now.”

The auditing consultants subsequently sad they found the supposedly deleted database in the materials Maricopa County had provided.

Gosar called the Justice Department letter to the Sen. Fann as a “attempt at intimidation, with the goal of convoluting this important audit… Unlike yourself, Congressman Andy Biggs personally visited the site of the election audit and we are confident in the integrity of the process and look forward to reviewing the results, no matter what is found. In a constitutional republic, the most important thing you can do is make sure the integrity of our election system is protected, free, transparent and open. That is what is taking place today.”

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Peter Aleshire is Consulting Publications Editor for the Payson Roundup and White Mountain Independent, publications of Kramer Media. Contact the writer at paleshire@payson.com

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