A year after Jan. 6, divisions and disinformation persist

Trump supporters gather outside the U.S. Capitol building.
A pro-Trump mob gathers outside the U.S. Capitol building following a "stop the steal" rally on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images 2021

A year after an angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol where Congress was certifying the presidential election results, it's notable how much hasn't changed. 

Former President Donald Trump continues to hammer false claims of “massive” election fraud. Many Republican officeholders, including many in Minnesota, won't publicly disagree with him.

“I think about how fragile our democracy is, and I hope Minnesotans don't forget that as they look back at what happened that day,” said Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who as chair of the Senate Rules Committee has a key oversight role over security at the Capitol.

Klobuchar said that progress has been made in making the Capitol more secure, even as threats against members of Congress have increased dramatically over the past few years.  

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An NPR/Ipsos poll this week found two out of three Republicans believe "voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election." The same poll found a solid majority of Americans — 64 percent — believe the nation’s democracy is "in crisis and at risk of failing." 

People shelter under furniture within the House Chamber.
Members of Congress shelter in the House gallery as rioters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
Andrew Harnik | AP 2021

The most senior member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, 4th District Rep. Betty McCollum said she views the Jan. 6 anniversary in much the way she remembers the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, the year she entered Congress. 

McCollum, a Democrat, adds that little normalcy has returned to Washington over the past year as so many Republicans perpetuate what’s come to be known as Trump’s “big lie.”

“I still have colleagues who are lying about what happened or trying to downplay about what happened,” McCollum said. “There's more angst between members — because how do you move forward on trusting anyone to work on legislation in an honest and open and forward way and agree on facts to move legislation forward when you have fellow members who continue to lie?”

A mob storms the U.S. Capitol.
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.
Roberto Schmidt | AFP via Getty Images

None of the four Republicans in Minnesota’s House delegation responded to MPR News interview requests regarding the one-year anniversary of the assault on the Capitol.

Two of them, Jim Hagedorn from the 1st District and Michelle Fischbach from the 7th, voted against certifying the election results a year ago, even after the mob stormed the Capitol. No Minnesota Republican voted to impeach Trump on the charge of inciting the day's events or to form a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6. 

During a debate last month, five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor sidestepped a debate question about whether they believed Joe Biden won the presidential election.

One of the moderators pressed Republican State Sen. Michelle Benson on the query. 

“He was certified by Congress as having won the Electoral College,” Benson replied.

Rallies in support of democracy are planned throughout the country Thursday, including five in Minnesota. 

“We don’t want people to forget that day and the horrifying events of that day,” said Lisa Erbes, an organizer of the Spotlight on Democracy rally. It’s scheduled outside the Minnesota Capitol where several elected Democrats are expected to speak.

Erbes wants federal legislation to pass that would override efforts in some states to make voting more difficult. Republicans in the Senate are blocking that legislation, and Democrats are contemplating changing the filibuster rule to pass it on a party-line vote. 

“We want to make sure that nothing like that ever, ever happens again,” Erbes said of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. “There needs to be yes, accountability, but also things to strengthen our democracy to keep that from occurring again.”

Capitol Riot Justice Investigation
Seeking information flyers produced by the FBI are photographed on Dec. 20, 2021. The Justice Department has undertaken the largest investigation in its history with the probe into rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Jon Elswick | AP