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Indiana AG Rokita declines to sign letter condemning US Capitol attack

50 state and territorial attorneys general signed letter
Indiana Governor
Posted at 2:19 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 22:05:38-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita was one of four state attorneys general to not sign a letter condemning last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Rokita explained his reasoning Wednesday in two letters, one addressed to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen and a second to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). In each, Rokita referenced political unrest that took place throughout 2020 as a reason for not signing on.

Rokita, who took office Monday, was joined by attorneys general from Louisiana, Montana and Texas in declining to sign the letter sent Tuesday to Rosen by the NAAG. Fifty state and territorial attorneys general signed their names to the letter.

On Jan. 6, scores of rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol while Congress counted electoral votes to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election. The violence resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer.

In the NAAG letter, the attorneys general wrote it was "a very dark day in America."

“The events of January 6 represent a direct, physical challenge to the rule of law and our democratic republic itself. Together, we will continue to do our part to repair the damage done to institutions and build a more perfect union,” the NAAG letter read. “As Americans, and those charged with enforcing the law, we must come together to condemn lawless violence, making clear that such actions will not be allowed to go unchecked.”

Along with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, Rokita sent a letter to Rosen that began by calling the U.S. Capitol breach, "an abhorrent act is an affront to our nation."

The attorneys general then discuss a "culture war" that is "heating rapidly" following last summer's unrest and other events in recent years, such as a 2017 assassination attempt at a Congressional baseball game that wounded Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise.

"Until we Attorneys General stand together against all political violence, we amplify aimless partisan wandering instead of taking strides toward unity," the attorneys general wrote.

"When Antifa or like-minded rioters stoked violence on college campuses, we did not have the strength to unify. Now they stoke violence in our streets as we wonder where all this chaos started."

In a letter posted to his Twitter account addressed to the NAAG, Rokita wrote that he also condemned "the outrageous violence at the U.S. Capitol."

"Instead of signing your letter, though, I have chosen to communicate with each of you via this letter," Rokita wrote. "That is because I cannot help but wonder where your level of outrage was, as a group, when cities across our country burned last summer. Indianapolis, my own state capital, suffered days of destruction as windows were shattered and businesses were shuttered, many of which will never open again."

Rokita continued by writing that he believes all violence should be condemned.

"It does not matter what political protest is at the root of the violence. As patriots, we must speak out against it," he wrote. "We can uphold the critical Constitutional right to freedom of speech as we oppose any attempt to hijack a protest to condemn violence."

Letter from the National Association of Attorneys General:

Dear Acting Attorney General Rosen:

We, the undersigned state attorneys general, are committed to the protection of public safety, the rule of law, and the U.S. Constitution. We are appalled that on January 6, 2021, rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol, defaced the building, and engaged in a range of criminal conduct—including unlawful entry, theft, destruction of U.S. government property, and assault. Worst of all, the riot resulted in the deaths of individuals, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, and others were physically injured. Beyond these harms, the rioters’ actions temporarily paused government business of the most sacred sort in our system—certifying the result of a presidential election.

We all just witnessed a very dark day in America. The events of January 6 represent a direct, physical challenge to the rule of law and our democratic republic itself. Together, we will continue to do our part to repair the damage done to institutions and build a more perfect union. As Americans, and those charged with enforcing the law, we must come together to condemn lawless violence, making clear that such actions will not be allowed to go unchecked. Thank you for your consideration of and work on this crucial priority.

Letter from Indiana, Louisiana and Montana attorneys general to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen:

Dear Acting Attorney General Rosen,

We write to echo and emphasize our colleagues’ condemnation of the violent breach of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Such an abhorrent act is an affront to our nation, and we commend the United States Department of Justice for taking expedient steps toward prosecution. Attorneys General are called to lead by and to the rule of law in pursuit of justice and equality.

We should all – collectively – decry political violence in every instance. The culture war is no longer a cold one, and it’s heating rapidly. The last several years have seen an assassination attempt that left Representative Steve Scalise fighting for his life, bombs mailed to public figures and detonated in city centers, buildings or entire blocks taken or held by force, and mass demonstrations that led to destruction, injury, and death. Our people and police officers are targeted and killed, our courthouses and churches burned, and the seat of our nation’s government was breached by an angry mob.

Like all Americans, we seek clarity and direction toward a bright future. Like all of you, we believe the rule of law clearly leads to harmony. But until we Attorneys General stand together against all political violence, we amplify aimless partisan wandering instead of taking strides toward unity. When Antifa or like-minded rioters stoked violence on college campuses, we did not have the strength to unify. Now they stoke violence in our streets as we wonder where all this chaos started. And truly, regardless of where or when it started, it’s time for it to end.
Whether committed against person or property, every act of violence injures real people, including our neighbors, friends, and family. In all forms and in all instances, violent acts carried out in the name of political ideology have no place in any of our United States.

We thank you for leading the Department in this unprecedented time and for your work to bring justice against all of those who commit political violence. Every such act leaves a lasting, painful scar on our people. Together, we can lead to unity and peace.

Letter from Indiana AG Todd Rokita to the NAAG:

Dear Fellow Attorneys General:

This week I was sworn in as Indiana's 44th Attorney General. I am proud to join your ranks and look forward to sharing our experiences and ideas for protecting and defending our states and thus our nation as a whole.

I appreciated being invited to sign the letter coordinated by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) bearing many of your signatures. I certainly join you in the condemnation of the outrageous violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. I lament the violation of personal safety and destruction of property. And most of all, I mourn with you the unnecessary loss of precious life the events of that day wrought.

Instead of signing your letter, though, I have chosen to communicate with each of you via this letter. That is because I cannot help but wonder where your level of outrage was, as a group, when cities across our country burned last summer. Indianapolis, my own state capital, suffered days of destruction as windows were shattered and businesses were shuttered, many of which will never open again. Cities such as Portland were 'occupied' by lawlessness and anarchy which eventually erupted into violence. Yet no NAAG-coordinated letter (sign-on letter) condemning the violence last summer appears to have ever been issued.

We must condemn violence in all forms with our loudest voices. It does not matter what political protest is at the root of the violence. As patriots, we must speak out against it. We can uphold the critical Constitutional right to freedom of speech as we oppose any attempt to highjack a protest to condemn violence.

I look forward to collaborating with you in the future in a bipartisan fashion to defend liberty, champion life, and support law enforcement.