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Warner, Kaine Condemn Capitol Riots

Composite with Warner and Kaine
Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner both decried the actions of pro-Trump rioters who breached the Capitol Wednesday, with both suggesting it may be time for the president to be stripped of his powers. (Photos: Craig Carper/VPM News)

*Clara Haizlett and Brandon Shillingford reported this story

Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner decried Wednesday’s failed insurrection, when armed rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. At separate press conferences Thursday, both senators placed the blame for the mob squarely at the president’s feet.

Kaine, who was escorted out of the chambers and into the Hart Building for almost five hours, called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office. 

“He is so lacking in judgement we can’t trust him to be the president,” Kaine said.  “We can’t have a president who feels that it's ok to trash the country on the way out the door” 

Warner also said the 25th Amendment should be on the table, and called for removing Trump from the GOP. “At the end of the day, expunging him from the Republican Party is, frankly, in the best interest of the Republican Party, in the best interest of the United States of America,” Warner said.

Both called for thorough investigations into how the groups got into the Capitol. Warner said the investigation could lead to “significant changes in some of the law enforcement leadership.” 

Kaine said, “I’m on the Armed Services Committee and we spend hundreds of billions of dollars to defend this nation, and we couldn’t defend the capital of the United States from people with Confederate flags and camp Auschwitz t-shirts.”

Warner, who receives classified intelligence briefings, says he was in contact with senior officials at the FBI prior to the event. He says they assured him security forces were prepared to take on anticipated threats.

“They were flat wrong,” Warner said. “There was no robust plan. There was not the kind of preparation that I had been promised literally the night before by a senior official at the FBI. “

Warner compared the carnage yesterday with last year’s Lobby Day in Richmond, when armed Second Amendment supporters met with lawmakers at the state Capitol to advocate against new gun control measures.

“If the state of the Commonwealth of Virginia could prepare and make sure that that day of protests kept peaceful,” he said. “Why the hell couldn't the United States government with all our resources do the same?” 

Although Warner blamed Trump for “inciting” people he called “domestic terrorists,” he also said social media companies bear some responsibility for allowing misinformation and disinformation to foment on their platforms. They’ve done “too little, too late,” he said. 

He says reform of Section 230, a provision in the Communications Decency Act which protects social media companies from litigation,  is “long overdue,” and he will be coming out with future legislation to hold these companies accountable. 

Both senators said Wednesday tarnished the image of America. Kaine said Trump’s conduct would empower dictators.

“He just did incalculable damage to the country by giving every anti-American despot and dictator around the world the playbook,” Kaine said. He argued those figures can now say, “This is who America is, because this is who the most known American is.”

Kaine and Warner criticized Republican colleagues who continued to object to the presidential election results even after the Capitol was breached. Warner called on Trump’s cabinet “to act or at least resign,” while Kaine went after fellow lawmakers.

“It was so discouraging to see these senators preaching lies about the election being stolen,” Kaine said. “You can not preach lies for months and then use the fact that people believe in these lies as a reason we need an investigation.” 

Although he noted a handful of Republicans changed their minds about objecting to Biden’s election win after the riot, Kaine said lawmakers were trying to overturn the election without facing any consequences. 

“These folks were trying to overthrow the popular vote and they were spineless,” he said. About Virginia lawmakers, he asked, “is there anything easier and more chicken than objecting to the results of some other state,” whose voters can’t hold the legislators accountable. 

Looking forward to Inauguration Day, Warner says there needs to be a better plan from law enforcement, intelligence penetration and responsible leadership from both parties.  

“If we have to be prepared to go into lockdown, anytime there's a presidential inauguration or major debate on the floors of Congress, that's not the kind of country we are,” Warner said.