MADISON, Wis. - Members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation decried supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the halls of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday during the hearing to certify the Electoral College votes, with one Republican referring to them as "a bunch of social misfits" and another calling it "banana republic crap."
Democrats blamed Trump for inciting the violence, while the president's staunchest supporters were more measured in their criticism and instead called for a peaceful end to the occupation of the building.
"Please, if you are in or around the Capitol, respect law enforcement and peacefully disperse," tweeted Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, one of Trump's staunchest supporters who was among those objecting to certifying Democrat Joe Biden's victory.
"I noticed Secret Service move in to escort Vice President Pence out of the presiding chair," said Sen. Johnson. "I never felt in danger."
Hours after protesters forced their way into the Capitol building, Trump also released a video in which he asked them to leave peacefully.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, the only Republican in Wisconsin's congressional delegation to oppose the challenges to Biden's win, was more forceful in denouncing the chaos.
"This is banana republic crap that we’re watching right now," Gallagher said in a video that he posted from his Capitol office while under lockdown. He said the effort to overturn the election result spurred the storming of the Capitol.
"This is the cost of this effort," Gallagher said. "This is the cost of countenancing an effort, by Congress, to overturn the election and telling thousands of people there is a legitimate shot of overturning the election today even though you know it is not true."
Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman called the storming of the Capitol "horrific."
"It’s not a coup attempt. It’s just a bunch of social misfits who have an opportunity to commit violence, right?" Grothman said.
The protesters were egged on by Trump and his false attacks on the integrity of the November presidential election. While rallying his supporters outside the White House Wednesday morning, he urged them to march to the Capitol. But later — hours after they fought police and breached the building — he told them that although they were "very special people" and he backed their cause, they should "go home in peace."
Grothman, with no evidence, insinuated that the rioters may not all have been backers of the president.
"I’m sure there are some Trump supporters," Grothman said. "I am anxious to see what the background of these people are. Are they general psychopaths? Are they violent people looking for a scuffle? I don’t know."
Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany, who was joining with Johnson in objecting to the results, said during a phone interview that he was in the House chamber as debate was ongoing.
"And then all hell broke loose," Tiffany said. He was escorted to a safe location.
Tiffany, one of Trump's staunchest backers, said Democrats and Republicans need to urge calm among their supporters. He pointed to the sometimes violent protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last May and the shooting of another Black man, Jacob Blake, in August by police in Kenosha.
"What needs to happen is people on both sides of the aisle, they need to start calling this out and make people stop it," Tiffany said.
Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, who was in his Capitol office, blamed Trump for the violence.
"Donald Trump needs to be presidential for once in his presidency," Pocan tweeted. "Admit you lost, and call off the domestic terrorism you’ve incited."
Pocan's message was echoed by his colleague, Rep. Ron Kind who said U.S. democracy is nothing to play with.
"For too long in our country, we have treated our democracy like it's some type of football that we can just kick around without any consequences. Well, our democracy is not a football, it's more like an egg," Kind said.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore, a Democrat, said Congress should impeach the president -- deeming him unfit for office, and having vice President Mike Pence take his place.
Reps. Bryan Steil and Scott Fitzgerald have not said whether they would object to Biden's victory and neither of them returned messages. Grothman refused to say whether he would object to counting the votes, but he said he hopes the House moves ahead quickly with a "perfunctory ceremony" that would not require all members of Congress to be present to certify the results.
The longshot objection effort to overturn the election is all but certain to fail, defeated by bipartisan majorities in Congress prepared to accept the results. Biden, who won the Electoral College 306-232, is set to be inaugurated Jan. 20.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said as soon as the vote is certified, Congress should start the process to remove Trump from office.
"Every day he remains in office is a threat to the republic," Kaul said.
Biden won Wisconsin by 20,695 votes, an outcome that was confirmed after Trump sought a recount in the two most populated counties. Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump and his allies filed eight lawsuits challenging Biden’s win on a variety of fronts and lost in both state and federal court.