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‘In the thick of it’: Several GOP state lawmakers observed or joined assault on Capitol. One has been arrested

Derrick Evans is given the oath of office in the West Virginia House of Delegates on Dec. 14, 2020.
(Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislature)

A West Virginia state lawmaker has been charged with entering a restricted area of the U.S. Capitol after he livestreamed himself rushing into the building with a mob of President Trump’s supporters.

Republican state Del. Derrick Evans is facing bipartisan calls for his resignation as federal prosecutors step up their pursuit of those who participated in the assault.

Evans was among Republican lawmakers from at least seven states who traveled to Washington for demonstrations rooted in the baseless conspiracy theory that President-elect Joe Biden won the presidential election through fraud. Wearing a helmet, Evans ultimately joined a screaming mob as it pushed its way into the Capitol, and livestreamed himself joyfully strolling inside.

Ken Kohl, a top deputy federal prosecutor in Washington, announced the charge against Evans on a call in which he presented dozens of new charges against members of the crowd that violently stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.

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Evans’ lawyer, John Bryan, said he hadn’t seen the complaint against his client and couldn’t comment. He did not say whether Evans had been taken into custody, but television station WSAZ posted a video on Twitter showing FBI agents escorting the handcuffed legislator from a home.

“He’s a fine man. And thank you, Mr. Trump, for inviting a riot at the White House,” a woman identifying herself as Evans’ grandmother told station reporters as her grandson was being taken into custody.

Legislators from at least seven other states traveled to Washington to back Trump and demonstrate against the counting of electoral votes confirming Biden’s victory.

It’s unknown if any other elected official joined the attack on the Capitol.

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A Capitol Police officer died Thursday evening. A homicide investigation is underway into the violent confrontation he had with the mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol.

In Tennessee, legislation was introduced Friday that would require the state authorities to investigate any Tennessean participating in Wednesday’s events.

The proposal from Democratic state Rep. London Lamar says that any “seditious and treasonous acts” that took place at the U.S. Capitol by an elected official would constitute grounds for immediate removal.

The legislation comes days after Republican state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver described Wednesday night as “epic” after attending the demonstrations that preceded the riot. It’s unclear whether Weaver entered the Capitol.

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A growing number of Republicans and Democrats said they want to expel Evans from the Legislature if he does not resign.

Bryan said late Thursday that the delegate did not commit a crime and doesn’t plan to resign. “He committed no criminal act that day,” Bryan said in a statement late Thursday.

No one in the office of West Virginia Republican House leader Roger Hanshaw responded to an email requesting comment. Wednesday night, Hanshaw said Evans would need to “answer to his constituents and colleagues” for his actions. Democratic leaders called for his prosecution.

About 40,000 people signed a petition on change.org asking for Evans’ removal.

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West Virginia’s two U.S. attorneys said in a statement that they were in touch with counterparts in other states and were “prepared to enforce the rule of law and the laws of these United States.”

82 people arrested so far after a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. The search for more suspects continues, authorities say.

It’s unclear if Evans was the only elected official to participate in what Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and many others called a “failed insurrection.”

Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania said he helped organize a bus ride to the demonstrations but left the Capitol area after the eruption of violence, which he called “unacceptable.” The top Democrat in the Pennsylvania Senate and eight of Mastriano’s colleagues want him to resign, saying his actions and words disputing the election’s integrity encouraged a coup attempt and inspired the people behind it.

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Weaver, the Tennessee state representative, said Wednesday night that it had been an “epic and historic day.” The Republican lawmaker told the Tennessean newspaper she was “in the thick of it” but hadn’t seen any violence. Weaver did not respond to emailed questions from the Associated Press about whether she entered the Capitol.

Incoming Nevada Assemblywoman Annie Black, also a Republican, said she marched from the White House to the Capitol, where she saw men on megaphones riling up the crowd to storm the security barrier. She said she retreated to avoid being associated with the mob.

“We all had a choice when that fence came down,” she said. “Whether it was our group that incited that to happen or another group, every single person had the choice to make.”

Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem posted photos of himself attending the initial pro-Trump protest outside the Capitol, but his office said he observed from afar. Liberal groups in the state want him expelled for backing the effort to overturn the election.

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Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase, an outspoken Trump supporter who is running for governor, attended the president’s rally Wednesday in which he urged supporters to march to the Capitol. Chase said in a Facebook video that she left near the end of the rally on the advice of her security team, and there is no indication that she was part of the group that stormed the Capitol.

Republican state Reps. David Eastman of Alaska and Justin Hill of Missouri both said they went to Washington to object to the electoral college votes of several states won by Biden, but didn’t participate in the storming of the Capitol.

President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration was already going to be scaled back, but the Capitol siege raises further security concerns.

Hill described the Trump rally as “very peaceful.”

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“But what I saw at the Capitol was not the same people,” he said. “I wasn’t there rallying troops to overthrow the government.”

The president of the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Jessica Post, said that “any Republican legislator who took part in yesterday’s insurrection, in Washington, D.C., or anywhere else in the country, should resign immediately.”

“Yesterday was a stain on our country’s history and a dangerous affront to democracy — all those involved have no place making laws,” Post said in a news release.

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Evans, a vocal conservative activist with more than 30,000 followers on Facebook, has not publicly posted on social media since issuing a statement Wednesday that he attended the Capitol events as an “independent member of the media to film history.” He took his Twitter account private late Wednesday and didn’t respond to emailed questions.

“At no point was Mr. Evans located in the crowd on the west side of the [Capitol] building, nor anywhere else on the Capitol grounds, where violence and destruction of property was, or had been, occurring,” Bryan said.

In his now-deleted video, widely shared online, Evans is clamoring inside a jam-packed Capitol building doorway, trying with others to push his way inside. He hollers along with other Trump loyalists and thanks a law enforcement officer for letting them in.

Strolling the grand Capitol Rotunda, where historic paintings depict the republic’s founding, Evans implores others not to vandalize artwork and busts, some of which would indeed be vandalized.

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The president and his enablers sent a mob of domestic terrorists to take over the Capitol building. It was a day of infamy and epiphany — a terrible, horrible Hollywood reveal.

“Our house!” Evans yells inside Capitol halls. “I don’t know where we’re going. I’m following the crowd.”

Like several other political first-time winners in November’s West Virginia elections, Evans swept aside a Democratic rival to win his seat representing Wayne County. High GOP turnout credited to Trump elevated down-ballot Republicans in the state and gave the party a statehouse supermajority.

The chairwoman of the state GOP, Melody Potter, declined to answer questions about Evans.


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