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Portman: Trump Bears 'Some Responsibility' For Jan. 6 Capitol Siege

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Washington. [Alex Brandon / AP]
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 in Washington.

Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday that President Donald Trump bears “some responsibility” for the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week, calling on the president to discourage violence in the days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“Both in his words before the attack on the Capitol and in his actions afterward, President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened on January 6,” Portman said in a statement released by his office Tuesday.

Portman said he had heard “deeply concerning” reports about the potential for more violence in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals over the coming days. The senator said the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had briefed him on prosecutions stemming from the Jan. 6 riot.

“I call on President Trump to address the nation and explicitly urge his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from violence,” Portman said. “If our nation experiences additional violence and destruction at the hands of his supporters in Washington DC and state capitols around the country, and he does not directly and unambiguously speak out now when threats are known, he will bear responsibility.”

Portman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has pledged an investigation into how a mob of pro-Trump extremists overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police during last week’s joint session of Congress to formalize the 2020 electoral vote count.

He also announced his committee will hold a hearing Jan. 19 on Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

House Democrats have prepared articles of impeachment against the president, accusing him of inciting the storming of the Capitol. A vote is expected Wednesday.

The Republican junior senator, who is up for reelection in 2022, supported Trump’s reelection bid and defended the president’s legal right to recounts and court challenges.

While Trump and other allies baselessly claimed widespread fraud, Portman wrote in a Nov. 23 op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer that there was no evidence of such large-scale wrongdoing, saying that Biden should begin receiving intelligence briefings as part of the presidential transition.

Portman did not join Republican colleagues who challenged Biden’s electoral votes on Jan. 6. He has supported forming a bipartisan commission on elections ahead of next year’s midterms.

“We need to come together to face enormous challenges, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine distribution, the worsening drug addiction epidemic, and the economic crisis caused by COVID-19,” Portman wrote in his statement Tuesday. “I look forward to working with the Biden administration and my colleagues to address these and many other priorities on behalf of Ohio and our nation.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.