Ohio girds for unrest as governor says he didn’t anticipate right-wing uprising

By: - January 13, 2021 1:00 am

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Rioters enter the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over Donald Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As he called up the National Guard Tuesday to prepare for a possible attack on the Statehouse, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday said he didn’t anticipate President Donald Trump’s unprecedented attack on a peaceful transition of power.

DeWine said he was activating 500 members of the Ohio Guard to protect the Statehouse and the U.S. Capitol amid threats that Sunday and the Jan. 20 inauguration could see a reprise of last Wednesday’s calamity. 

That’s when Trump incited a mob to attack the Capitol as Vice President Mike Pence and Congress were inside, certifying an election that Trump lost. Five people died, including a police officer.

DeWine said he would activate more members of the Guard if its commander recommends it or if Ohio mayors request a Guard presence in their cities. It “would certainly be our worst fear,” if Capitol Square in Columbus comes to resemble the scene in D.C. last week, the governor said.

In the wake of the carnage, the governor called out Trump more forcefully than he has in the past, last week saying Trump “started a fire that has threatened to burn down our democracy.”

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley made a similar assessment on Tuesday, saying last week’s insurrection “wasn’t spontaneous. It was orchestrated by Donald Trump.”

Trump told the press on Tuesday that he bore no responsibility for last week’s mob, which he summoned to the Capitol. Many were white supremacists and some appeared to be bent on kidnapping and killing Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In his way, Trump also seemed to be threatening further violence.

“This impeachment is causing tremendous anger, and you’re doing it and it’s really a terrible thing that they’re doing,” he said on the White House lawn, CNN reported. “For Nancy Pelosi and (Senate Democratic leader) Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence.”

For DeWine, Trump’s conduct over the past six days seemed to come as a surprise.

The governor was confronted with the fact that in September he was asked whether he condemned Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election. At the time, DeWine said, “I don’t condemn anything. I don’t know what’s in his heart or in his mind.”

On Tuesday, DeWine tried to explain why he didn’t foresee the past week’s events.

“The system works and our method of electing a president and a peaceful transfer of power… I’ve had no experience in my life with that peaceful transition of power where it didn’t work,” he said. “So forgive me if I assumed that what we have done for over 200 years we’re going to be able to do in this election.”

More generally, DeWine — Trump’s Ohio co-chair — seemed sensitive to implications that he and other Republicans enabled a Trump presidency that now is imploding so spectacularly. 

DeWine interrupted a question about that and said, “I’m the governor of the state of Ohio. I’ve got a lot to do here. We’re focused on the pandemic. We’re focused on making this the year of recovery in Ohio and I don’t think that it’s my obligation to stand up every single time the president says something. I have made it very clear that I trust in our institutions.”

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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.

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