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Cotton holds to tweets on rioting; Capitol mobs deserve same justice as summer mobs, he says

by Frank E. Lockwood | January 10, 2021 at 3:41 a.m.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is shown in this file photo.

WASHINGTON -- After suggesting the use of military force to quell rioting in the summer, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton received social media kudos from President Donald Trump and condemnation from The New York Times.

Cotton's message -- "No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters and looters" -- was true then, and it's true now, the Little Rock Republican said in an interview Friday.

"I know that [statement] caused many liberals to have a meltdown in the summer, but many of them seem to be joining the chorus this week," he said, two days after a pro-Trump mob stormed the halls of Congress, killing a member of the U.S. Capitol Police and terrorizing the entire legislative branch.

Calls for swift retribution have been bipartisan in the wake of Wednesday's violence.

Now that the unrest has been quelled, Cotton is calling for the insurrectionists to be brought to justice.

This time, there haven't been any Twitter shout-outs from the White House. And there won't be.

On Friday, the social media giant said it had "permanently suspended the account" of @realDonaldTrump after reviewing recent tweets, citing "the risk of further incitement of violence."

Wednesday's assault, seen in extensive television coverage, left some Americans stunned and struggling for words to describe what they'd seen.

"Insurrection" is an apt choice, according to Cotton.

"Insurrection is simply violence against organized authority," Cotton said Friday, adding that the term applies to thugs of all political stripes.

Cotton's summer tweets coincided with sometimes violent demonstrations after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who spent his final moments with a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck.

"Anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight. If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let's see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they're facing off with the 101st Airborne Division," he tweeted on June 1, adding, "We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction."

"And, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry -- whatever it takes to restore order," Cotton wrote in a subsequent tweet, concluding, "No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters."

Trump quickly agreed, retweeting the initial message and adding: "100% Correct. Thank you Tom!"

Cotton's tweets drew swift condemnation, and coincided not only with violent disruptions but also with peaceful and constitutionally protected protests.

The senator argued at the time that he trusted the troops to differentiate between law-abiding demonstrators and criminals. Shortly after Cotton's call for action, law enforcement officials in Washington forcibly removed thousands of protesters, using police batons, riot shields, flash grenades, projectiles and chemical irritants.

Video showed peaceful protesters, onlookers and journalists being assaulted. One Australian television news team came under attack in the midst of a live, on-air broadcast.

Once the crowds were removed and the pepper spray had dissipated, Trump passed through, eventually posing with a Bible for photographs in front of a historic and riot-scarred Episcopal church.

It'll be easier, this time, to separate the peaceful demonstrators from the domestic terrorists.

Wednesday's insurrectionists committed their crimes in broad daylight. Most were maskless, many were videotaped. A sizable number boasted about their lawlessness on social media in real time.

Cotton compared last week's assault with previous unrest in the Pacific Northwest.

"You saw it in the summer, when you had assaults on local, state and federal properties, symbols of local authority like courthouses in Portland, for instance, [and] organized efforts to exclude civil authorities from entire neighborhoods in Seattle. You saw it again on Wednesday, organized violence directed towards the United States Capitol," he said.

There was mayhem in Little Rock, as well, including in June, hours after Cotton demanded a tougher approach.

An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter, Tony Holt, was attacked while covering a spasm of vandalism and violence in the heart of downtown.

Businesses were targeted. The Arkansas Pharmacists Association building was set ablaze.

Nowhere in the nation should this type of lawlessness go unpunished, Cotton said.

"Mob violence can never be tolerated, no matter the circumstances, no matter what the mob chants or what kind of signs they carry," he said.

Trump has been criticized by Democrats and many Republicans for falsely claiming that he won the Nov. 3 election, for making unsubstantiated claims about widespread election fraud, for refusing to accept the vote of the Electoral College and for urging his followers to march on a Capitol building closed because of covid-19 risks.

After Cotton said he would follow the U.S. Constitution and respect the vote of the Electoral College, Trump publicly excoriated his longtime ally, tweeting Monday, "@SenTomCotton Republicans have pluses & minuses, but one thing is sure, THEY NEVER FORGET!"

In a follow-up, Trump denounced what he called "The 'Surrender Caucus' within the Republican Party" saying its members would "go down in infamy as weak and ineffective 'guardians' of our Nation, who were willing to accept the certification of fraudulent presidential numbers!"

Despite Monday's rebuke, Cotton declined to unleash a tweet storm of his own.

Once Wednesday's pro-Trump mob had been driven from Capitol Hill, Cotton proceeded to recognize electors Trump had sought to replace.

[RELATED: Full coverage of elections in Arkansas » arkansasonline.com/elections/]

Since then, other members of the Arkansas congressional delegation have expressed fears that the 45th president's recent conduct is tarnishing his legacy.

Asked how Trump's leadership, these last days, will be remembered, Cotton said, "I have no comment."

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray said Cotton did the right thing Wednesday by accepting the will of the Electoral College.

But he criticized Cotton for waiting until January to do so.

In November and December, Gray said, Cotton helped Trump undermine public confidence in an election that had been free and fair.

"They got behind the president and continued to push this narrative that the election was rigged, that there was voter fraud. Sen. Cotton was very much a part of that," he said.

Arkansas' junior senator needed to "stand up when it counted, before it came to this, and tell his constituents the truth, however unpopular it might have been," Gray said. "His failure to do that led to what we saw [Wednesday]."

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