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Interview: Rick Santorum on the Capitol Riot, Election Results, and Free Speech

The former U.S. Senator of Pennsylvania talks openly about the recent violence in Washington, the integrity of American voting, and offers advice for all Catholics as we move forward under a Biden administration.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER — In the context of President Joe Biden’s inauguration and following the violent riot in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6th, many are apprehensive about the weeks ahead and how to cool tensions and division, as well as what the Biden presidency might bring in terms of policies related to key moral issues like abortion, religious liberty, and matters related to sexual identity.

Former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum spoke to the Register Monday about the riot, the concerns over the 2020 election results, and free speech issues that have arisen. The Catholic father of seven also discussed how Catholics should remain hopeful and prayerful amid concerns over life issues with the incoming Biden administration. 

What do you think are some of the forces that led to the incident on Jan. 6 and what do you think of how it was handled both by President Trump and by lawmakers?

People have a right to protest. People have the right to go to rallies in Washington, and they had the right to assemble outside the Capitol and express their displeasure with what was going on. Having said that, I didn’t agree with the premise of the rally which was that the election was stolen from the president — not that I don’t think there was substantial fraud, I do believe there was a lot of fraud in the election. There’s always some element of fraud and with mail-in voting, I think there was certainly more of it, but there was no evidence presented. The way our country deals with this is you go to the courts and you present evidence that a court can look at to determine whether there were these instances of fraud that required some action on the part of the court. And from everything I’ve read, including cases, Trump’s lawyers did not present in many cases, any evidence, much less sufficient evidence.

In Georgia, for example, the state chairman of Georgia is a very good friend of mine, and there was evidence there of not necessarily straight out fraud, but voting irregularities for sure. People who were felons who voted and things like that. You might want to call it fraud, you might call it irregularity. The fact is there were certainly ballots that should not have been counted. Having said that, I think they would admit in Georgia that they probably didn’t get to the number that was needed to overturn the election.

I understand the frustration of a lot of people, but the reality is for the president to say, number one, that the election was stolen from him and number two, that the vice president had the opportunity to overturn the election, as I wrote in The Wall Street Journal, is patently false and wrong and dangerous. The real thing I blame Trump for is perpetrating among his followers, that this was constitutional and legitimate. It was neither constitutional nor legitimate. I don’t buy into that he incited them, and then wanted them to storm the Capitol and do all the violence. 

He’s to blame for the false premise that got people angry, but he’s not to blame for the activities of a few hundred people who got out of control. I would say that if there was anybody to blame for the mob getting out of control directly, it was the people who were supposed to be protecting the Capitol. Having served there 16 years, the Capitol police force is a very big and professional police force if they have good leadership. That goes up to the top with Nancy Pelosi and the Senate leadership or Mitch McConnell. If they had had good leadership and preparation and the mayor of Washington had been on top of this, there’s no way this should have happened. They would have had sufficient people there, knowing this rally was happening and knowing what was being said online, they should have been better prepared and they weren’t. A lot of bad things can happen when people are in places where they shouldn’t be and they shouldn’t have been up next to the Capitol.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. As far as the role of the legislators, the folks who objected about the election on the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate about the ballots, would I’ve done that? No, but do they have the right to do it? Yes. I was there back in 2005 when Barbara Boxer objected to [the re-election of George W. Bush]. In fact, if I recall, I demanded the vote on it. It was 74 to one. I did say she was repeating unsubstantiated charges and that’s not something that she should be doing, but she has a right to object and to have her case be heard.

It’s not that I am 100% convinced that Donald Trump lost the election. I’m fairly convinced, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is Joe Biden was certified the winner and it’s time to move on. We can fight this battle and I’m not saying he shouldn’t continue to investigate whether his claims of fraud were right, but that shouldn’t change the outcome of the election.

READ MORE AT NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER

PHOTO CREDIT: Gage Skidmore

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