Pennsylvania Republican Laments Jan. 6 Convictions: ‘Is This Really America?’

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) expressed outrage at the jailing of people convicted of crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot in a Thursday night debate with his Democratic challenger, Dan Pastore.

Asked by the WICU Erie News Now debate moderators how he felt about the deliberations of the House select committee investigating the causes of the riot and calls for the committee to subpoena former President Donald Trump, Kelly called it a described a partisan witch hunt and emphasized his anger with law enforcement’s response to the riot.

“Should this have happened? Absolutely not,” Kelly said of the attack on the Capitol. “The relentless pursuit of this president, regardless of any information gathered, should be shocking to any person living in this country.”

“I fully understand and agree: January 6th should never have happened,” Kelly added. “But when you look at some of the people who are still in prison without getting out, you ask yourself: Is this really America? Is this really America?”

Kelly rightly noted in the debate that there are only two Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee — Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — and that both are longtime Trump critics. However, he did not mention that the committee exists in its current form because House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) has rejected the idea of ​​a fully independent and bipartisan commission.

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“The vast majority of witnesses in those hearings were either Capitol Police or actually Republicans,” replied Pastore, a businessman and attorney. “What does he suggest? That we simply brush it under the rug?”

“It’s important that we get to the bottom of it, and that’s what we’re trying to do in the January 6 hearings,” Pastore added.

At another point in the debate, Kelly elaborated on his loss of faith in the federal government.

“Where we are now, right now as a nation, is the most dangerous point we’ve ever been, where we’re being overtaken by the same government whose justice system has failed,” he said. “The FBI is now viewed by most people as a danger.”

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Dan Pastore, a businessman and lawyer, is suing Rep.  Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), who continues to cast doubt on the validity of the 2020 presidential election results.
Dan Pastore, a businessman and lawyer, is suing Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), who continues to cast doubt on the validity of the 2020 presidential election results.

Kelly is one of the 147 House Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results later that day after the Capitol riot. He previously sued to invalidate Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million ballots on the grounds that the GOP-controlled state legislature’s passage of no excuse absent voting violated Pennsylvania’s constitution. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has a Democratic majority, dismissed the lawsuit in November 2020.

Pastore later pressed Kelly to clarify whether he still believes the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from Trump.

Kelly declined to give a straight answer, instead emphasizing his continued skepticism about the fairness with which it was administered.

“My opponent can say anything he wants about: ‘He won’t accept,’ ‘He won’t accept,’ ‘He won’t accept,'” he said. “What I will not accept is the destruction of America and the trust we should have in our government and in our elections.”

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Pastore heaped additional condemnation on Kelly in a Friday statement provided to HuffPost, calling Kelly an “embarrassment to Western Pennsylvania.”

“His comments show that he is unfit to serve in public office,” Pastore said. “I’m running for Congress to uphold the law of the land and to support law enforcement. Mike Kelly stands with violent criminals and attacks the men and women of law enforcement who keep us safe.”

“Mike Kelly thinks it’s unfair that violent criminals who attacked the police and tried to overthrow our government are serving time in prison, and it’s outrageous,” he added. “Kelly’s attack on federal law enforcement shows that he has no respect for the law and those who protect us.”

Kelly, a six-term incumbent, is the heavy favorite to win re-election in Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District, which covers the northwest corner of the Keystone State. In 2020, Trump defeated President Joe Biden among the district’s voters more than 20 percentage points.

Pastore’s struggle to raise large sums of money has prevented him from advertising on television so far in the race.


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