Goldman files censure against Stefanik for calling January 6 defendants ‘hostages’

January 19, 2024

On Wednesday, January 17, Representative Dan Goldman (D-New York), announced he would file a formal censure of Representative Elise Stefanik (R-New York)—accusing her of peddling voter fraud conspiracy theories that fueled the January 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol and of supporting rioters who violently threatened members of Congress, referring to them as “hostages,” reports The New York Times.

Goldman’s resolution marked the latest instance of a lawmaker moving to use what was once a rare form of congressional punishment—a public reprimand just short of expulsion that historically has been used against members only after a criminal conviction or finding of wrongdoing—to condemn the speech of a colleague.

But he said he did not plan to force quick action on the measure, as House rules allow any lawmaker to do.

“Our preference would be for Republicans to recognize that kind of rhetoric has to stop and find a spine and stand up to Donald Trump,” Goldman said in an interview. He said he would consider seeking to force a vote in the future, if G.O.P. leaders fail to take up the matter themselves, something that appears exceedingly unlikely.

Appearing on Meet The Press this month to mark the third anniversary of the Capitol assault, Stefanik said she harbored “concerns about the treatment of the Janiuary 6 hostages,” echoing former President Donald J. Trump’s use of the term to describe his supporters who have been imprisoned for trespassing and assaulting police officers that day.

Stefanik, who previously called on the Justice Department to prosecute those responsible, also said during the interview that “we’re seeing the weaponization of the federal government against not just [former] President Trump, but we’re seeing it against conservatives.”

Democrats have widely condemned her use of the word “hostages” to refer to hundreds of individuals who were found guilty of crimes related to the assault on the Capitol.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), the minority leader, said that Stefanik “should be ashamed of herself.”

Representative Jamie Raskin, (D-Maryland), who served as a member of the House panel that investigated the January 6 attack, speculated on social media that she did so because she was auditioning to be Trump’s running mate.

But Goldman is the first to turn his disgust for Stefanik’s language and behavior into a proposed formal censure, an increasingly common way to register partisan criticism in Congress. Last year, Republicans censured three Democrats—Representatives Adam B. Schiff (D-California),for his role in investigating Trump; Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), for setting off a false fire alarm in a House office building; and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), for her statements regarding the Israel-Hamas war.

Goldman defended his decision to introduce the censure and said he had the backing of Democratic leaders. “What it comes down to is whether the speech by a member of Congress—does it go over the line where it promotes violence, some form of discrimination or bring serious disrepute on the institution?” Goldman said. Stefanik, he said, had crossed that line.

“It directly relates to the safety and security of this body,” he said of her statements. “If you provide comfort to those people who have been charged and convicted of violent attempts to overthrow our government, you are supporting people who attacked the Capitol and attacked this body.”

Before he was elected to Congress, Goldman served as the lead counsel for House Democrats during the first Trump impeachment inquiry, when Stefanik surprisingly emerged as Trump’s most aggressive defender on the Intelligence Committee.

“I watched her sell her soul for her own political ambition, firsthand,” he said. “I am aware of how she saw an opportunity and completely changed her entire approach to politics to pursue that; I saw that happen firsthand.”

Goldman’s measure also asserts that Stefanik has filed vindictive ethics complaints against a federal judge overseeing criminal cases involving the January 6 insurrections and has falsely referred to the indictment of Trump by Special Counsel Jack Smith as “attempts to criminalize the First Amendment.”

Research contact: @nytimes