Lankford Takes No Responsibility For Attack; Not Ruling Out Voting For Trump Impeachment
[Click here to hear and read the transcript of the full, unedited 21 minute interview with Public Radio Tulsa and Sen. Lankford.]
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, one of the Senate Republicans who championed the idea of objection to full certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election after weeks of lies about voter fraud from defeated GOP President Donald Trump, said Wednesday he does not believe he shares in responsibility for the pro-Trump insurrection at the Capitol fueled by lies and conspiracy theories of a "stolen election."
"Each person that carries out acts of violence is responsible for their own actions to be able to do it," Lankford said during a phone interview with Public Radio Tulsa. "And while I'm very aware that there were people there that were caught up and were saying that there were problems [with the election], I'm also very aware that when I talk to people one-on-one and I say, 'Hey, do you think that there are some people that voted twice? That there are people that voted who were dead? That there are people that voted in two different states?" the typical response I hear back is, 'Yes, but that happens in every election.' The problem is we've heard that for so long that we've become accustomed to [it]."
"We've got to actually seek answers to questions, and people can seek to accept truth or not accept truth, but you've got to be able to get answers to questions," Lankford said. He did acknowledge that conspiracy theories around Dominion voting machines and rejected Trump ballots in Arizona had been debunked, and that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the legitimate winners of a free and fair American election. To date, despite dozens of court cases, affirmations by election officials in all 50 states, and efforts by Trump and his allies, there has been absolutely no evidence to support any claims to the opposite.
Calling Trump's lies since Election Day "unwise" and "inflammatory," Lankford said, when asked if he himself had done enough to denounce them, that, "I spoke out on those issues. I answered questions. My team answered questions. When people reached out to us, we responded back to them to try to get them factual information."
"[There's] no way to be able to actually see that if I'd have done one more tweet, if I'd have done one more Facebook post, it would have suddenly drowned out the president and what he was saying. No, I don't believe that's true," Lankford said. "So if that's your question, is if I'd have done just one more tweet it would have fixed all that -- or, as some are trying to say, if only I would have just told Oklahomans that wanted answers to questions, 'No, I'm not going to help you get answers to questions, you're just going to have to just deal with it,' that that would have suddenly quelled a riot in Washington, D.C. -- I just don't believe that's true."
Lankford ultimately withdrew his objection to certification of the legitimate results of the election after Trump supporters attacked the Capitol building in a violent effort to overturn the election that left five people dead. Lankford's Oklahoma Republican colleague, Sen. Jim Inhofe, said before the joint session of Congress began that he would not join Lankford because to challenge certification would be a violation of a senator's oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
Mark Wright, executive editor of the conservative National Review, said last week that Lankford's actions "aided and abetted" the insurrection and its foot soldiers, regardless of his withdrawing the objection.
Lankford said Wednesday he only planned to object to one state as a sort of protest vote and had no intention of interfering with the certification of Biden's win, noting Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) objected to the certification of Ohio's election results in 2005 during the Electoral College proceedings for the victory of Republican George W. Bush. Public Radio Tulsa noted that Boxer, however, was not doing so after months of lies and incitement by a President of the United States who had been urging supporters to convene in the nation's capital to "fight like hell" and whose attorney called for "trial by combat" to "stop the steal."
"I absolutely understand that," Lankford said. "But again, when we have protests that are there, we fully expect protestors to be able to honor the law of the United States."
"There's no way you can look back and say, 'There was a protest at the Capitol. You should have known it was going to turn violent,'" Lankford said. In fact, the FBI had warned of violence and the potential for "war" before Jan. 6th, and many pro-Trump extremists had announced their plans to lay siege to the Capitol publicly online.
Lankford would not say whether he would vote to convict Trump in the Senate impeachment trial expected to begin next week, but he did not outright reject the possibility.
"Yeah, that's not something I'm going to say now, nor did I say before the last impeachment trial that we had. We're going to go through the facts and the issues on this," Lankford said.
Lankford did say that he disagreed with the president's rhetoric since Election Day, including in his speech on Jan. 6 in which he called on his followers to march on the Capitol and show "strength."
Asked if that meant he would support calls for the president's resignation, Lankford sighed.
"Ultimately, again, we're back to the same issue there. We're in the very last week. If this was two years ago that we were dealing with this exact same issue, it's a very different issue than it is for the country when there's already been a street [unintelligible] and into the Capitol and we're already dealing with the transition of one president to another," Lankford said.
Lankford said, moving forward, he will tell any Oklahoman with unfounded doubts about the results of the election that Biden and Harris legitimately defeated Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
"Yeah, they are the president-elect and vice president-elect," Lankford said, "and I will be sitting on the dais with them on January the 20th, applauding them as the next president representing four million Oklahomans."