Rep. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) expressed outrage at the incarceration of people convicted of crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol during a Thursday night debate with his Democratic rival, Dan Pastor.
Asked by WICU Erie News Now debate moderators how he felt about the House Select Committee’s deliberations investigating the causes of the unrest and calls for the committee to subpoena former President Donald Trump, Kelly described it as a partisan witch hunt and emphasized his anger. law enforcement response to riots.
“Should this have happened? Absolutely not,” Kelly said of the attack on the Capitol. “This president’s relentless pursuit, regardless of any information gathered, should be shocking to anyone living in this country.”
“I understand and I completely agree: January 6th should never happen,” Kelly added. “But when you look at some of the people who are still incarcerated with no way out, you ask yourself: Is this really America? Is this really America?
Kelly correctly noted in the debate that there are only two Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee — Reps. Lisa Cheney (Va.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — and that both are longtime Trump critics. He did not mention that the committee exists in its current form because House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) rejected the idea of a fully independent and bipartisan commission.
“Most of the witnesses in those hearings were either Capitol Police or actually Republicans,” replied Pastore, a businessman and attorney. “What is he offering? Do we just sweep it under the rug?
“It’s important that we get to the bottom of the matter, and that’s what we’re trying to do during the Jan. 6 hearing,” Pastore added.
At another point in the debate, Kelly elaborated on his loss of faith in the federal government.
“Where we are now as a nation is the most dangerous point we’ve ever been, where we’re being taken over by the same government whose justice system has failed,” he said. “Most people now see the FBI as a danger.”
Kelly is one of the 147 House Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election later in the day after the Capitol riots. He previously sued to invalidate Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million ballots on the grounds that the GOP-controlled state legislature voting without excuse violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, which has a Democratic majority, the claim was rejected in November 2020.
Pastore later pressed Kelly on whether he still believes the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from Trump.
Kelly declined to give a direct answer, instead emphasizing his continued skepticism about how honestly it was administered.
“My opponent can say all he wants: ‘He won’t accept,’ ‘He won’t accept,’ ‘He won’t accept,'” he said. “I will not accept the destruction of America and the confidence we need in our government and our elections.”
The pastor offered additional condemnation of Kelly in a statement to HuffPost on Friday, calling Kelly “an embarrassment to Western Pennsylvania.”
“His comments show that he is unfit for public office,” Pastore said. “I’m running for Congress to support the law of the land and to support law enforcement. Mike Kelly stands with violent criminals and attacks the law enforcement officers and women who protect us.
“Mike Kelly believes it is unfair that violent criminals who attacked the police and tried to overthrow our government are serving prison terms and it is cruel,” he added. “Kelly’s attack on federal law enforcement shows he has no respect for the law and those who protect us.”
Kelly, a six-term incumbent, is a heavy favorite for re-election in Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District, which covers the northwest corner of the Keystone state. In 2020, Trump defeated President Joe Biden among district voters by more than 20 percentage points.
Pastore’s fundraising efforts have prevented him from advertising on television so far in the race.