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Fortenberry calls on Trump to respond to violence; Sasse offers optimistic view on Senate floor
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Fortenberry calls on Trump to respond to violence; Sasse offers optimistic view on Senate floor

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Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said late Wednesday afternoon that President Donald Trump needs to step up now and call upon his supporters to end the kind of post-election violence that swept into the nation's Capitol earlier in the day.

Asked if the president bears responsibility for the violence after summoning supporters to Washington for what he said would be a "wild" event, Fortenberry said Trump needs to speak to them now. 

"These are his most heartfelt supporters," the Republican congressman said during a telephone conversation from his office. "They will listen to him. Violence has to stop."

Fortenberry, who represents eastern Nebraska's 1st District including Lincoln, said "people are very upset" following Trump's defeat in November and "people will be very upset with me for voting to certify the election results" that have been submitted to Congress by the Electoral College.

There is nothing wrong with "marching peacefully," he said, but "these fools who invaded the Capitol" moved beyond peaceful and acceptable protest.

"I suspect that the vast majority of people who came here to exercise their rights and participate in a peaceful manner were also upset" by the violence, Fortenberry said.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, District 1 congressman

Fortenberry was quarantined in his House office during Wednesday's events after exposure to COVID-19. When he casts his vote to accept the Electoral College results, he said he'll be wearing a mask and face shield and be segregated in the gallery.

"I wanted to be on the floor," he said, but he will be escorted to the gallery for the vote and leave after his vote is cast.

Others in Nebraska's congressional delegation also decried the breach of the U.S. Capitol by a mob intent on disrupting the certification of the electoral votes confirming Joe Biden as the next U.S. president.

Rep. Adrian Smith, the lone congressional member from Nebraska objecting to the certification of the electoral votes, called for calm at the Capitol.

Adrian Smith

Rep. Adrian Smith

"While many protesters are exercising their constitutional right to be heard peacefully, I urge all protestors to do so and to follow the directions of law enforcement," the 3rd District congressman said in a statement.

"We are working to ensure concerns about the conduct of the presidential election in several states are heard through the existing legal process, and illegal disruptions of this process are unacceptable and not constructive."

It wasn't immediately clear where other members of the Nebraska delegation were when the Capitol was locked down and lawmakers were rushed from the building as some protesters backing Trump swarmed the building, reaching the Senate floor and the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

As they occupied the building, Sen. Deb Fischer said the rioters have no constitutional right to harm police. 

"We are a nation of laws, not some banana republic," Fischer said. "This must end now."

In a statement, Sen. Ben Sasse singled out Trump, calling it the "ugly outcome of the President's addiction to constantly stoking division."

"Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard — tweeting against his Vice President for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the Constitution."

Congress Electoral College

In this image from video, Sen. Ben Sasse speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol.

Later, speaking on the Senate floor after the certification process resumed, Sasse encouraged Americans to love their neighbor.

"When something’s ugly, talking about beauty isn’t just permissible, talking about beauty is obligatory," Sasse said in providing a ray of optimism on what can only be described as a dark day.

Rep. Don Bacon, who represents Omaha's 2nd District, was in his office watching House proceedings — there were virus-related limits on the number of people in the chamber — and monitoring the protests when television networks showed people breaking into the Capitol.

Bacon condemned the violence as "reprehensible" and "embarrassing," adding that he understands the roots of what occurred Wednesday.

Don Bacon

Nebraska 2nd District Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska

"Tensions have been boiling on both sides for years," he said. "And there's this escalatory behavior on both sides. Today, we saw, and we've seen with the President in the last couple months, the delegitimizing of Joe Biden, and you see this resistance to any acknowledgement of a peaceful transition of power. It's not right."

Bacon said the anger that played out among some of those rioting in Washington was a response to those who have delegitimized President Trump for four years.

"We have so many blessings here, but a lot of people don't even know it. All they have is anger," Bacon said. "We need leaders to point out just what a great country we have. That's part of leadership. And we don't have leaders right now framing it in a positive way."

To appease those who came to Washington to protest peacefully, Bacon suggested that Congress call for an investigation into allegations of Trump's voter fraud claims.

"I think if you do a deep dive on this, and you disprove it, that's good. And if you find some fraud, that's good to know, too, and we fix it."

On Twitter, Gov. Pete Ricketts called the events in D.C. unacceptable and called for the crowds that descended on the Capitol to disband.

Asked whether Trump encouraged the violence, Ricketts told the Omaha World-Herald that people need to take responsibility for themselves.

"Every one of those people showed up on their own accord and acted under their own volition," Ricketts said.

Doug Peterson, Nebraska's attorney general, condemned the violence in a statement, calling the U.S. a nation of laws designed to maintain order and protect individual freedoms.

"We as a people are better than this," Peterson said in a statement.

Ricketts and Peterson, like all members of Nebraska's congressional delegation, are Republicans.

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, a Democrat, made a bipartisan plea for an end to violence allowing for the certification of the Electoral College.

"The peaceful transition of power is fundamental to our democracy," she said. "These acts of aggression at our nation's Capitol are antithetical to our values."

The Nebraska Democratic Party blasted the "violent Republican thugs" who were "allowed to just storm the building."

“The GOP owes Americans an apology for the disgusting behavior that they have enabled," said Jane Kleeb, the party's chair, in a news release. "There is no sidestepping this. There is no looking the other way. The Republican Party must own the behavior that they enabled from their radical base.”

PROTESTS IN WASHINGTON AND LINCOLN

Reporter Riley Johnson contributed to this report.

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Local government reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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