Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday offered what might be his toughest criticism yet of President Donald Trump, after Trump incited a violent mob to storm the U.S. Capitol and stop certification of a vote that would remove Trump from office.
Yet the governor refused to withdraw his support from the president, for whom DeWine served as Ohio co-chair in the Nov. 3 election. Nor would DeWine say whether he thought Trump should run for another term in 2024.
Why? Because Trump made good trade deals and appointed conservative judges to the courts, DeWine said.
The governor opened his Thursday coronavirus press conference by saying that he and his wife, Fran, were riveted and appalled by Wednesday’s events in Washington, D.C.
After a year of raising doubts of the integrity of the election and months making a bogus case against its validity, Trump lost scores of court cases attempting to overturn it. Then the president called state election officials directly and tried to cajole and threaten them into stealing the election on his behalf.
As those attempts to avoid being the loser failed, Trump called supporters to Washington Wednesday for a rally just before Vice President Mike Pence and Congress gathered in the Capitol to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani strode onto the stage and called on supporters to settle the election dispute through “trial by combat.” Decrying Congressional Republicans who were unwilling to throw the election, Donald Trump Jr. exhorted the crowd to “send a message to them: This isn’t their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party.”
Then Trump himself took the stage and incited the conspiracy-fueled mob to head to the Capitol.
“And after this, we’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down… to the Capitol and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” Trump told the crowd. “And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
The match lit, Trump went back to the White House, but the mob took the cue. They went to the Capitol, stormed the building and forced Capitol Police — who were somehow badly outnumbered — to stop vote certification. They had to focus instead on protecting Pence and Congress.
For the next few hours people carrying Confederate flags and wearing Holocaust-celebrating t-shirts vandalized and looted the Capitol while essentially holding Pence and the entire Legislative Branch hostage. One replaced an American flag flying on the exterior of the building with a Trump flag.
NEW: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed on Fox News minutes ago that he heard on a Capitol Police radio that there were “shots fired” in the Capitol building.— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) January 6, 2021
“People are hurt,” he said. https://t.co/JBFiW7Saln
Trump, who was reported to initially be pleased with the spectacle, issued a video and tweets with mild appeals to “stay peaceful” and “go home,” but Titter removed several that repeated Trump’s false election grievances while saying he loved the mob of “patriots.”
At the same time, Trump resisted calls to order out the D.C. National Guard to reinforce the beleaguered Capitol Police.
Trump had to be convinced to deploy the National Guard this afternoon as rioters -- a mob of his supporters -- breached the Capitol, a person familiar with the matter confirms to @PeterAlexander. NYT first reported.— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) January 7, 2021
Twitter later locked Trump’s Twitter account, saying he was inciting violence. One woman was shot and killed in the Capitol and three others died of other causes.
When congressional staffers rushed to save mahogany boxes containing the vote-certification forms from the mob, it was hard to see how this wasn’t an attempted coup.
On Thursday, DeWine spent about 10 minutes outlining past disputed elections and praising erstwhile Trump supporters such as Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before turning his attention to Trump.
He said that the president’s refusal to accept the result of the Nov. 3 election “has started a fire that has threatened to burn down our Democracy.”
“The speech that he gave preceding the march, that he gave to the protesters served only to fan those flames, encouraging the mob behavior that ensued,” DeWine said. “Yesterday’s acts were shameful and all Americans must denounce them, even those Americans who feel — incorrectly — that Donald Trump won.”
But the governor wouldn’t concede that he and other Republicans should have done more to stand up to a president who had long refused to say he’d respect the results of an election that he lost.
Asked in September if he condemned that refusal, DeWine said, “I’m not going to condemn anything. I don’t know what’s in his heart or in his mind.”
DeWine added, “Whatever the situation, however hotly contested each race is, however riled up everybody is on each side — and we’ve had those throughout our history — when the results are in, people accept them.”
While the Ohio governor on Thursday went further than he has in the past criticizing Trump, that criticism had its limits.
He wouldn’t say whether he thought Trump should run again in 2024.
“Let’s get one person elected and in office first,” he said.
DeWine also refused to rescind his support for Trump.
“President Trump, I didn’t always agree with everything he did,” DeWine said. “But I thought he negotiated good trade agreements and by and large, I thought he was more aggressive for the United States. I liked the judges he put on the Supreme Court, the circuit courts, the district courts.”
The Ohio governor diagnosed what problems plaguing American democracy resulted in Wednesday’s disgrace. But he seemed not to understand his connection to them.
He said the rioters were “plagued” with the “disease” of not trusting the electoral system.
“They need to work the system,” DeWine said. “They need to go back. They need to get back up and fight another day. Go fight another election. Go run people for office. They can run for office themselves,” he said. “That’s what we’ve got to get back to. We’ve got to get back to trusting the system.”
But DeWine didn’t mention Trump’s relentless attacks on elections, courts and other democratic institutions throughout his presidency. He also didn’t mention his own, McConnell’s and other prominent Republicans’ refusal to call them out.
In fact on Thursday, DeWine said, “Nobody cares more about the Constitution than Mitch McConnell.”
This about a Senate majority leader who waited six weeks to acknowledge Biden’s victory — later, even, than Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.