In the weeks after Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann stood near the steps of the US Capitol where rioters soon brawled with police, he returned to the Lone Star State to introduce a bill paving the way for Texas to secede.
“We have our own grid, we have our own gold depository, we have so many things that other states don’t have,” Biedermann said in a January Newsmax interview about his bill, which has garnered little enthusiasm in the legislature. “Texas can lead, and these states can join with us and make our grievances heard in a stronger way.”
In the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, West Virginia state lawmaker Derrick Evans faced swift backlash and promptly resigned after being charged for his alleged participation. But his case was, in many ways, an anomaly. In Washington, more lawmakers have sought to downplay the violence on January 6 and gloss over efforts to overturn the election. Only 35 House Republicans on Wednesday voted to create a commission to investigate what happened that day. Across the country, a handful of local politicians who were in or near the Capitol on January 6 remain in prominent positions back home. And in some cases, they’ve used those positions to further their cause.
In Texas, Biedermann threw his support behind new voter restrictions, on the verge of passing in the legislature, and he kept up the Big Lie. He emailed a staffer a snippet of a Fox News interview in which Newt Gingrich claims the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, despite there being no evidence of any fraud that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 contest.
“Are we willing to fight for our freedom and liberty. We must answer this question,” Biedermann added in the January 11 email, which watchdog group American Oversight shared with CNN. “Patriots we must rise.”
Biedermann, who hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing, told CNN he did not enter the Capitol. According to local news reports, he initially told a talk radio host that he had attended the Trump rally in Washington on January 6.
“We came because we wanted to be heard and we’re sick and tired of what’s been going on by the elite media and the elite politicians who continue to ignore us,” Biedermann reportedly said in the radio interview.
He also told a Texas newspaper that “it was unfortunate that some used this gathering to sow discord and promote violence.”
Since the videos emerged of Biedermann steps from the Capitol, he has declined to say much more about his activities in Washington.
“I’ve already said everything I have to say about the Capitol,” Biedermann told CNN. “I’m not ashamed whatsoever.”
Texas Democrats called on him to resign and called on the state House to expel him, but Biedermann has faced little blowback for his close proximity as the riot began.
“Nothing happened, nothing came from it and it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Abhi Rahman, the former communications director for the Texas Democratic Party and a Democratic political consultant. He said defeating Biedermann will be a top priority for state Democrats in 2022.
“Anyone who perpetrates the Big Lie should play no part in our politics,” Rahman added. “They know that Joe Biden won the election, they know it wasn’t particularly close and they will still stop at nothing to rile up the far-right base.”
A scolding via Zoom
In Natick, Massachusetts, Town Meeting member and alleged Capitol rioter Suzanne Ianni watched as her colleagues overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution denouncing those who stormed the Capitol.
“Therefore, be it resolved that we, the duly elected Members of Natick Town Meeting, condemn the actions of any and all persons who took part in this heinous act, and declare that they in no way represent the sentiments of this body, or of the Town of Natick,” the resolution read. It passed 113 to 20, with seven abstaining, during the virtual Zoom meeting in April.
Ianni was arrested in January and charged with unlawfully entering the Capitol and disorderly conduct after she was identified in a photo inside the Capitol. According to the charging documents, she helped organize buses headed for Washington through an anti-gay group called Super Happy Fun America, which touts the motto: “It’s Great to be Straight.”
“It was a peaceful protest, that’s all it was,” Ianni told CNN this week, although she declined to comment on the specifics of her activities in Washington or the charges against her. She has not yet entered a plea, according to court records. “It was peacefully protesting a fraudulent election. There was no domestic terrorism. That was never the intention,” Ianni said.
A petition to remove Ianni has racked up more than 1,750 signatures. But the resolution condemning her — albeit not by name — was one of the limited steps members of the Town Meeting, the governing body for Natick, could take.
“In short, the charter restricts the town officials from removing a Town Meeting member,” said town moderator Frank Foss. “It’s an old puritan, colloquial, New England type of thing.”
Ianni would have to resign, move, be incarcerated or be ousted by the voters in an election. Her term is up in 2022.
Ianni told CNN she has no plans to step down and slammed the resolution. “I’m innocent until proven guilty, but they’re judge, jury and prosecutor here,” Ianni said.
Still, her alleged participation in the insurrection has rankled her Town Meeting colleagues.
“It first caused headaches and, let’s say, anguish,” Foss said. “I think by passing a resolution at Town Meeting, it resolved some of that passion.”
The Town Meeting now plans to set up a study committee to examine whether there should be recall mechanisms for Meeting members, Foss said.
“Town Meeting is full of leftist people and they go after outspoken conservatives in my town very brutally,” said Ianni, who remains adamant in her belief that the election was stolen. “Shame on them. That’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to silence an outspoken conservative.”
From ‘D-Day in DC’ to the Arizona audit
As a GOP-led audit of the 2020 election got underway in Maricopa County in April, local reporters spotted a familiar face poring over the ballots: former Arizona state Rep. Anthony Kern.
The fact that Kern’s name was on that 2020 ballot didn’t stop him from taking part in the audit.
In many ways he was a perfect participant for an audit that has been widely panned by election experts as well as many Republican election officials in the state. Kern was a vocal “Stop the Steal” proponent. And on January 6, the then-Arizona state representative loudly proclaimed his presence in Washington.
“D-Day in DC to support Arizona’s and America’s duly elected President Donald Trump!” he tweeted from the rally that day.
When photos later emerged showing Kern on the steps of the Capitol, he retweeted the images and mocked Democrats, “You okay @AZHouseDems? Want me to call the Police?”
His appearance at the Capitol came with little fallout. Kern, who declined to comment to CNN, hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing. He has, however, been booted from the audit after Arizona Senate President Karen Fann — the Republican who spearheaded the audit effort — told a local PBS station that Kern’s participation was a distraction.
“I’m not sure why he’s there or how he got there,” Fann said. “I don’t know that it’s a great thing, to be honest with you, but he is a citizen. He was a voter. He was never convicted of anything. But it is what it is.”
While Kern may have lost his reelection bid and been ousted from the audit, he has already set his sights on higher office. Kern announced earlier this month he’s running for state Senate.
“It’s concerning that you had individuals who may be leading lives in very high-profile roles who participated in the insurrection and who are now back in communities,” state House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding Jr. told CNN. “I believe the voters of Arizona understand that what happened January 6th is not who we are as a country and the people who participated in January 6th will be disqualified if they even appear on the ballot.”
Local Texas official allegedly rushed the barricades
In Facebook photos posted the day before the riot, Mark and Jalise Middleton were both grinning ear-to-ear, sporting their Trump hats with a series of Washington landmarks in the background. On any other day, the couple from Forestburg, Texas, may have looked like tourists descending on DC for a day of sightseeing.
But on January 6, the coiffed couple transformed into a disheveled mess after an alleged melee with police, according to court documents.
As police told rioters to get back, Mark allegedly screamed “F— you!” at the police, as he pushed against the barricades, according to charging documents. Jalise, meantime, was accused of reaching over the barricade — her manicured hand sporting a diamond-studded ring — to repeatedly strike an officer.
The charging documents describe a couple that appeared to be relishing in the fight at the Capitol.
“We are on the front lines. We helped push down the barriers. Jalise and I got pepper sprayed, clubbed, and tear gassed,” Mark said in a video posted to Facebook, according to his charging documents. “We had to retreat, but more patriots pushed forward, and they’re taking back our house.”
It would be months before the Middletons were eventually arrested in late April in Texas. They each face nine charges, including assaulting or resisting officers; violent entry and disorderly conduct; and engaging in physical violence in restricted grounds. They have not entered pleas, according to court documents, and a legal representative for the Middletons declined to comment on their case.
Despite the weighty charges against them, Mark is still listed as a precinct chair for the Cooke County Republican Party in Texas. Chris McNamara, the chairman of the Cooke County GOP, previously told CNN there’s no mechanism to remove him from the position.
Mark, meantime, doubled down on the baseless belief that the election had been stolen in the hours following the riot.
“The atmosphere makes you feel proud to be an American, ask anyone that was there, I guarantee you that’s what every single person will tell you,” Mark said in a January 7 Facebook comment, according to charging documents. “You CAN’T convince me there was no voter fraud found when I stood on the street for 20mins and still couldn’t see the end of the crowd!”