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Congressman Donalds speaks about impeachment, Capitol riots

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jan 20, 2021

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples), who represents Fort Myers Beach, voted against the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples), whose district covers Fort Myers Beach and most of Collier and Lee counties, spoke Monday about his vote against the impeachment of President Donald Trump last week and his reaction to the bloody riots at the Capitol.

Donalds, speaking during a phone interview Monday, said he did not believe that Trump was responsible for inciting the crowd at a rally at the National Mall to commit violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 after a four-hour rally by Trump and his supporters.

“Those words didn’t lead to incitement,” Donalds said. “The president didn’t irate the crowd.” Donalds said the president wasn’t responsible for those who illegally breached the Capitol.

Donalds said the impeachment of Trump on the grounds of incitement of insurrection,

was “a political statement, not a legal one.” The impeachment passed the House in a vote of 232-197 with 10 Republicans joining Democrats to impeach Trump.

Donalds joined all of the Republican representatives from Florida in voting against the impeachment last week with the exception of Daniel Webster (R-Winter Haven), who was not present.

The vote occurred exactly one week after a violent storming of the Capitol led to five deaths and members of Congress being ushered out of their chambers during a joint meeting to certify the presidential election as a mob descended on the halls of Congress.

“It was awful,” Donalds said of the riots. “It was awful to see. It was really a stain on our country.”

Donalds said he was “afraid for a lot of my colleagues” especially the older ones, during the storming of the Capitol. The first sign of trouble for Donalds was hearing the noise in the halls of the Capitol during the certification, followed by the Senate floor being breached.

“Frankly, I was just more upset than anything that this was happening in our country,” he said of the riots. He said the Capitol Police “did a phenomenal job” and “laid their lives on the line.”

Donalds said Capitol Police “got us to safety,” directing members of the House to a secure location.

Donalds voted against certifying the results of the presidential election in Pennsylvania before the riots, and against certification in Arizona when Congress reconvened. Donalds said the riots didn’t affect his vote when Congress reconvened that night to finish the certification. The riots, he said, “didn’t change my vote.” If the riots influenced people’s votes, that would show they didn’t have good reasons for their votes, he said.

Donalds has previously cited what he believes are violations of state election law for his vote against certification, though dozens of lawsuits regarding election challenges have been tossed in state and federal courts. Donalds has previously said he believes those rejections were based on procedural grounds and that allowing violations of election law would lead to “a banana republic.”

Two days before the storming of the Capitol, Donalds posted a statement on Facebook accusing Democrats in the House of “mob rule” for the proposed rules package of procedures for the Congress.

Meanwhile, the Senate has not taken up the impeachment trial yet, with no plans to do so before Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Democrats are expected to soon take over Senate control once the votes from the two Senate races are certified by the Georgia Secretary of State.

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) issued a statement responded to the impeachment by the House last week saying “The President has committed to an orderly transition and that process is underway. It’s time to prepare for that, take the crazy rhetoric down on both sides and move our nation forward.”