WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar has hit back against a House ethics complaint with a slashing defense of his speeches and social media posts prior to the Jan. 6 riots that led to the brief occupation of the Capitol building.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Gosar helped instigate the violent riot at the Capitol building, which interrupted the effort of Gosar and others to prevent the certification of the presidential election.
Gosar dismissed that complaint as “frivolous, ill-conceived and defamatory” and vowed to seek vindication in civil court.
In a 30-page response, he reiterated his claims of voter fraud and said he was proud of his support for the Stop the Steal demonstrations and his speeches at rallies that included militia groups like Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Some members of those groups are now facing charges connected to the riots.
Gosar said he was exercising his free speech rights by protesting voter fraud and urging people to protect their democracy. However, he said he has never condoned violence. He said his references to President Biden as an “illegitimate usurper” and calls to fight for democracy were not incitements to violence.
“It is clear, over 90 days since the riot, that it was not a rebellion, not an insurrection, and not a revolution. It was then, and now, a riot by hundreds of people that afternoon. And I neither condoned, encouraged, assisted, planned or had any role in that riot whatsoever,” he wrote.
In a letter, 30 members of Congress asked for a criminal investigation into whether Gosar or other members of Congress incited the riot or helped organizers plan the violent demonstration. In response, Gosar wrote, “I condemn my colleagues’ irresponsible actions and their use of their official powers to fuel a media spectacle for their own political benefit.”
The ethics request came as other groups have also focused on Gosar’s role. Rep. Zoe Lofgren released a compilation of social media posts by Republicans, including a 177-page section on Gosar’s posts. Gosar’s brothers and sisters have made recent comments suggesting he instigated the riots. Moreover, CNN recently reported that the Justice Department is investigating whether any House members played a role in the riots.
In addition, Gosar has denied teaming up with controversial Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green to write a proposal to form an “America First” caucus, which would oppose the existing immigration system and advocate for a variety of other controversial policies — including protecting the nation’s Anglo Saxon cultural and architectural heritage. Gosar has called for a halt to immigration, but said he had nothing to do with drafting the seven-page proposal for an America First caucus released online. Both Republican and Democratic House leaders promptly denounced the document as racist and nativist. Rep. Greene — who was at one point a proponent of QAnon conspiracy theories — said the proposal was drafted by an outside group and reviewed by staff, but she hadn’t read it.
Gosar has adamantly rejected all criticisms of his behavior, insisting the election was in fact fraudulent and his efforts to overturn the results justified. He maintained he was exercising his free speech rights in criticizing the conduct of the election and none of his language amounted to an incitement to violence. He said he’s proud of his connection to the Stop the Steal rallies and organizers. He has condemned the riots themselves — although even in his defense suggested left-wing groups likely played a role — a view law enforcement officials have rejected.
Gosar represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Florence, Apache Junction, Gold Canyon and San Tan Valley in Pinal County. In the 2020 election he easily defeated a moderate Republican challenger, then won the general election with 70% of the vote.
The request by Jayapal for an ethics investigation maintained that Gosar maintained a close relationship with Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander and the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys militias. The request alleged Gosar repeatedly used inflammatory language inciting action prior to the Jan. 6 demonstration and repeatedly insisted without evidence that widespread voter fraud invalidated the election results.
Gosar’s response said, “Know this: I have never instigated violence. I have no criminal record of any kind. I have never aided or abetted violence. I have not urged or supported violence. A review of Jayapal’s unsupported and fraudulent allegations suggest they are devoid of reality and smothered in Blue Anon conspiracy theories, ad hominem attacks, and baseless speculation.”
Here’s a summary of some of the latest claims and counterclaims.
Jayapal based her request for an ethics investigation on six claims, including:
- Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander in an interview cited Gosar as the “spirit animal of this movement” who had offered to call donors and urged him to march on the Supreme Court. On Twitter, Gosar called Alexander “a true patriot” and tagged him on Twitter three times on Jan. 6.
- On Jan. 4 Gosar tweeted an image advertising the Jan. 6 rally that included the text “#FightforTrump. The Time is Now. Hold the Line. Who is joining me?”
- At the rally prior to the storming of the Capitol, Gosar told attendees, “you get to go back home once we conquer the Hill (and) Donald Trump is returned to being president.”
- On Dec. 7 Rep. Gosar published an op/ed titled “Are we witnessing a coup d’état?” in which he said he helped organize the first Stop the Steal rally “after it became clear that voting patterns emerged that could not occur in the absence of fraud” and urged readers to “be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House.”
- Gosar “perpetuated the vote-stealing myth first promoted on Steve Bannon’s podcast and radio show” and in a series of tweets suggested that the governor call a special session to investigate the election results and that no results be certified until all Dominion software machines were audited due to “massive fraud potential.”
Gosar “maintained relationships with far-right extremist groups, such as Oath Keepers.” In September 2020, the leader of an Arizona Oath Keepers chapter said that, “We asked (Gosar) flat-out, at that time, do you think we’re heading into a civil war? ... And his response to the group was just flat-out ‘we’re in it, we just haven’t started shooting yet.’”
Gosar’s response did not flinch from acknowledging his support for the Stop the Steal demonstrations and most of the actions listed in Jayapal’s complaint.
“Alexander is correct when he says he had my support for the speeches at the White House, and the support of others. I am proud if he thought I was ‘the spirit animal’ of election integrity. The event that morning at the White House was flawless and was a beautiful example of freedom of assembly. When I left, there was no sign of any type of riot that was to come two miles away at the Capitol. That riot took place two hours later, two miles away, was not planned by me or anyone I know. Ms. Jayapal conflates the riot at the Capitol with the speeches at the White House. Those are separate events. Ms. Jayapal’s false allegations will be dealt with in civil court. Suffice to say, her allegations are mendacious and in clear and reckless disregard for the actual truth.”
He said that he has spoken to groups that included members of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, but that he speaks to lots of people without being members of their groups. He said the meetings at which he spoke were peaceful, full of prayers and songs and patriotism.
He noted that Rep. Jayapal herself protested the 2016 election results in a floor speech before the results were certified, citing voter suppression claims in Georgia and allegations that Russian hackers attempted to interfere on President Trump’s behalf.
Gosar denied that he or anyone in his office gave tours of the Capitol building to people who ended up participating in the assault on the Capitol. He also denied that he sought a pre-emptive pardon for anything he had done before Trump left office. However, Gosar said he did successfully seek a pardon for Rep. Rick Renzi and Steve Bannon — but regrets not being able to obtain a pardon for Brian Kolfage, a triple-amputee war veteran who helped raise $25 million in GoFundMe donations to build a wall on the border.
Gosar said Capitol security forces did not know riots would follow the rallies — so clearly he could have had no idea violence would follow the speeches. As a result, none of his exercise of free speech cited by Jayapal represented a violation of House ethics standards.
Statements by Gosar’s siblings
One of Gosar’s sisters and two of his brothers recently released a video produced by the Republican Accountability Project condemning Gosar’s actions prior to the Capitol riots.
His siblings have twice before during elections publicly criticized him and endorsed his political opponents.
His sister, Jennifer, on the video said, “there is no one member of Congress more responsible for the attack on the Capitol than Congressman Paul Gosar.”
His brothers Tim and David on the video criticized him because he “pushed the baseless conspiracy theory” that Dominion Voting Systems were switching votes from Republicans to Democrats.
Half a dozen lawsuits in Arizona challenging the election results and the machine vote count were dismissed by judges who said the lawsuits presented no evidence of fraud or irregularities that would change the outcome of the election in which Biden barely won the presidential vote, Sen. Mark Kelley narrowly won the senate seat and Republicans retained narrow majorities in the state House and Senate.
America First Caucus
The online Punchbowl News reported that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Gosar jointly developed a seven-page proposal to create an “America First Caucus.”
Several media outlets, including the Arizona Republic, reported that effort and linked Gosar to the document, although the Republic story did not say that he wrote it.
However, Gosar has adamantly denied any role in writing the document.
Gosar’s chief of staff, Tom Van Flein, told the Republic, “Congressman Gosar has not formed a new caucus. He has not reached out to members of Congress about forming a new caucus.”
Rep. Greene also told CNN she “wants to make clear that she is not launching anything. This was an early planning proposal and nothing was agreed to or approved.”
House leadership criticized the document. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a tweet said, “The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln & the party of more opportunity for all Americans – not nativist dog whistles.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo) in a tweet said, “Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil. History teachers, we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate.
The document said the caucus would seek to ensure “a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions… America’s legal immigration system should be curtailed to those that can contribute not only economically but have demonstrated respect for this nation’s culture and rule of law.”
The document also suggested that any infrastructure spending should adhere to Anglo-Saxon traditions in architecture.
“America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions. History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country...The America First Caucus will work towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value the befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful.”