A Democratic state representative asked for a formal inquiry and possible discipline for a Republican colleague who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington D.C. that culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol and the death of five people.
House leaders in both political parties say there’s no evidence that Rep. Ron Hanks did anything illegal and will not move ahead with an inquiry.
The request from Democratic Rep. Donald Valdez of La Jara took state lawmakers by surprise on their first day back from a month-long hiatus. He made it shortly after legislative leaders delivered their opening day speeches.
During what’s known as a moment of personal privilege, Valdez went to the microphone at the center of the House chamber to describe the deadly toll of the pandemic, and the recent loss of his own father to COVID-19. Midway through his remarks Valdez shifted to focus on the events of Jan. 6 and said they must be investigated.
That’s when Valdez said freshman Rep. Hanks of Fremont County, should potentially lose his committee assignments and be expelled from the legislature.
“I am asking that a panel be formed to take testimony in public under oath about Mr. Hanks’ behavior and intent on that day of insurrection and beyond,” stated Valdez. “By his own words, Mr. Hanks raises a very real suspicion that he actively participated in a violent insurrection against the lawful government of the United States of America.”
Valdez’ remarks were quickly drowned out by the gavel, as Democratic Speaker Alec Garnett ruled him out of order.
“Let’s not condemn any motives of what happened outside of the building,” Garnett said.
A statement from Republican House Minority Leader Hugh McKean said Hanks is focused on serving his constituents in Colorado. "During the events on January 6th, Rep. Hanks was not yet sworn in and we have no knowledge of his activities."
For his part, Hanks has said he attended former President Donald Trump’s rally, but did not take part in the breaching of the U.S. Capitol building. In an email to constituents the following day he shared his observations.
“My motivation was to get a read of the nation’s Trump supporters, to get in conversations with fellow Americans, to get a sense of what may happen next to combat this stolen election. Let me say, the two events of yesterday – the Trump Rally, and the assault on the Capitol, seem like they originated in two different hemispheres.”
Hanks then attributed the U.S. Capitol breach to members of antifa, something no evidence has emerged to support.
Hanks’ colleague, Republican Rep. Richard Holtorf, noted that the Constitution gives everyone the right to peacefully assemble, and said criminal conduct is being investigated by the FBI and law enforcement to begin the process of holding those who stormed the Capitol building accountable. He noted that Hanks wasn’t charged with any crime and suggested people let the legal process play out as it should.
Valdez’ request was a rare burst of deep disagreement over the results of the 2020 election on a day that otherwise saw little substantive debate.
While the legislature officially convened in January, as required by the state constitution, much of the traditional ceremony of opening day was delayed until this week. Leaders in both chambers outlined policy goals and stressed the desire to work across party lines when possible and treat each other with respect.