As violent insurrectionists invaded the U.S. Capitol in attempts to stop the certification of the electoral college results, one Arizona lawmaker was present for the fallout.
On the day “Stop the Steal” rioters breached the Capitol in a rally that resulted in five deaths, State Rep. Mark Finchem tweeted a photo of Trump-flag adorning rioters with the caption: “What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud. #stopthesteal.”
He has since deleted his Twitter account and moved his social media posts to Gab, a popular platform among alt-right groups.
The Oro Valley Republican who represents District 11 in the Arizona House claims the closest he came to the Capitol building was 500 yards after he flew to D.C. for a speaking engagement and to provide former Vice President Mike Pence an “evidence book and letter,” according to a Jan. 11 written statement from Finchem.
The representative has played a key role in spreading election fraud claims before the riot and claimed “Antifa” was to blame for the insurrection, a false allegation that’s been debunked by federal investigators.
On Jan. 13, State Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, filed a formal ethics complaint against Finchem claiming he violated his oath of office by participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The house ethics committee received 81 other complaints against Finchem.
On Feb. 12, House Ethics Committee Chairwoman Becky Nutt released a letter to committee members saying no action would be taken against Finchem for his involvement in the rally.
“None of the complaints offered any facts establishing that Representative Finchem actually ‘supported the violent overthrow of our government’ or directly participated in the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol,” Nutt wrote in the letter. “Absent such facts, the complaints amount to an objection to Representative Finchem’s advocacy of controversial political opinions. But the ethics committee is not—and cannot become—a forum for resolving political disagreements, no matter how important the issues at stake.”
Finchem has declined to comment on the matter, writing in an email, “On advice of legal counsel, I have no comment at this time.”
State Rep. Salman, D-Tempe, introduced a resolution to expel Finchem from the house on Feb. 8. Most House Democrats co-sponsored the resolution.
“We decided that we should make it very clear that his conduct is unbecoming of a member of this body, and we decided to introduce a resolution to expel him from public office,” Salman said. “So this would be the only other avenue, I believe, for the legislature to really pursue an investigation.”
The resolution has yet to be assigned to a committee.
The majority of Democrats in the state legislature also submitted a letter to the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice on Jan. 12 asking for an investigation into Finchem and other Republican lawmakers’ involvement in the Capitol riots. According to Salman, the only response the Democrats have seen is notification the letter was received.
On Feb. 16, Finchem submitted an ethics complaint against 28 of his Democratic colleagues in the state House and all 14 Democratic state senators for requesting the FBI investigation.
“Each of the above-named House and Senate Members has conspired, maliciously and in bad faith, to have me (and others) punished for exercising my First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and contest the legitimacy of the recent Presidential election,” Finchem wrote in the complaint. “They have gone so far as to demand that the acting Attorney General of the United States and the Director of the FBI open a criminal investigation into my actions, all while knowing full well that I am innocent of the charge.”
Salman feels the complaint, which was dismissed by Nutt last week, is retribution for Democrat’s attempts to oust Finchem from holding office.
“We’re elected to defend our constitution and laws against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and if they have a problem with that, I guess they can punish us,” Salman said. “But we’re going to keep making sure that we are upholding the oath of office that we all took as elected leaders and we believe Rep. Mark Finchem has absolutely violated the oath of office that he took.”
In the complaint, Finchem said the letter Democrats sent to the FBI was issued “under false pretenses,” as it used an Arizona State Legislature letterhead but was not an official act of the legislature.
The representative said the letter to the FBI, “contains no citation to any evidence that would show or even tend to show that I participated in or encouraged the assault on the Capitol.”
Finchem was involved in both the leadup and fallout of the Capitol riots
Finchem was first elected to serve as one of District 11’s state representatives in 2014. He’s now on his fourth term after regaining his seat in the 2020 election by a nearly 3% margin.
His history is riddled with ties to far-right political organizations, including the Oath Keepers, a radical anti-government militia group Finchem has identified himself a member of.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers as an organization “based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans.”
In the months leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Finchem was far from aloof of the conspiracy theories and debunked rumors that the Nov. 2020 election was fraudulently conducted—the very idea that fueled the “Stop the Steal” rally.
On Jan. 1, the representative tweeted, “I will be in Washington DC on January 6 to #StoptheSteal and fight for President @realDonaldTrump. This is one of the most important days our republic has ever seen. We need all hands on deck,” adding the location of the rally and a link to RSVP.
Finchem also has ties to famed conspirator Ali Alexander, a far-right activist and social media personality who’s accused of helping organize the storming of the Capitol.
Alexander admitted so in a since-deleted video he posted on the live-streaming app Periscope where he says he “came up with the Jan. 6 idea” in collaboration with Arizona Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs. Biggs has denied any involvement with Alexander.
Alexander said he “schemed” with the congressmen to put “maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting so that who we couldn’t lobby, we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body hearing our loud roar from outside.”
In a separate interview, Alexander discussed his views on the “Stop the Steal” movement across individual states and said, “Arizona started with one man: State Representative Mark Finchem.”
“What we do know is that prior to Mark Finchem’s involvement, there were only a handful of folks involved with Ali Alexander in Arizona, and then that number ballooned, it rapidly grew, likely because of Mark Finchem’s ties to the Oath Keepers, and to very, very extreme, right-wing, anti-government organizations,” State Rep. Salman said. “They started talking last fall, they started speaking together at rallies. Representative Finchem used the privilege of his office to hold a sham hearing on the election with Rudy Giuliani, and basically laid the groundwork for Jan. 6 to ultimately go down the way it did.”
Finchem was behind the said hearing with Donald Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani that took place outside the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Phoenix in late November. Giuliani and other GOP figures pushed conspiracy theories that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election fraudulently as Gov. Doug Ducey certified Arizona’s election results.
According to a press release from Finchem’s attorney Alexander Kolodin, Finchem received around $6,000 in reimbursement from “the Giuliani Team” for the event’s costs.
“I carried the debt for the hearing personally to provide a single point of responsibility for the various vendors,” Finchem said in the release. “While $10,000 of debt was retired quickly, and the Giuliani Team reimbursement of roughly $6,000 was a part of that, $15,000 was left outstanding. Fortunately, through the generosity of people all over the world and crowdfunding, $13,000 has been raised in the last two days to apply toward paying off the remaining debt.”
But beyond his involvement in spreading the voter fraud conspiracies that inflamed the riots, Finchem was present at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
While the lawmaker wrote in a public statement he traveled to D.C. to give an “evidence book” to Mike Pence, didn’t learn of the insurrection until 5 p.m EST and remained 500 yards away from the Capitol building, it appears Finchmen was far more entrenched in the violence than he says.
Kolodin provided text messages to Tucson Local Media revealing Finchem coordinated with Alexander and Republican activist Michael Coudrey both before and after the Capitol riots.
In a text thread with Alexander and Coudrey the morning of Jan. 6, Finchem asked, “So are we to go to the Capitol? I see everyone walking the other direction?”
Coudrey responded, “No so this morning we go to Ellipse event and POTUS will speak,” referring to a park near the White House where Trump spoke for more than an hour expressing grievances about the election results and told his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol.”
Coudrey later added, “Then when that’s done we will all walk over to the Capitol building at 1pm and start that event.”
Later on in the text thread, Finchem asked if he was still giving a speech at the Capitol, and Alexander said, “Yes.”
“We must’ve lost you, try to make your way to the capital, [SIC] it’s on North East Dr.,” Coudrey instructed Finchem.
“I got swept up in the crowd I’m at 15th and Constitution,” Finchem responded. “I presume you want me to get as close to the front as I can and I’ll spot you, you do know the cowboy hat already.”
Finchem later added, “I’m on one of the golf carts headed your way.”
Coudrey responded, “They are storming the capital, I don’t think it safe” [sic].
Finchem then asks, “I am on the side of the Capitol facing the Supreme Court, is that the right side?” The message was not delivered.
Finchem’s attorney wrote in an emailed statement: “As any tourist can tell you, the capitol grounds are huge. The text messages clearly show the Rep. Finchem [SIC] was participating in a planned, permitted, protest located some distance from the building itself. I encourage you to pull up a map of the site on Google maps.”
In a separate set of texts likely preceding the riots, Finchem thanks Alexander for covering his hotel room. On Dec. 23, he said, “Flight booked, arriving the afternoon of 1/5, departing the morning of 1/7.”
The texts provided by Finchem’s lawyer contradict statements he has made in the defense of his involvement in the insurrection.
“While Mark Finchem was at the Capitol, an individual on that group text with Ali Alexander gives Mark Finchem the heads up that the Capitol is descending into a violent mob breaching the chambers and illegally entering the building,” Salman said. “According to Mark Finchem, he didn’t learn about that until later that evening at 5 p.m. There are a lot of inconsistencies. I believe the extent of his involvement—there’s a lot that we still don’t know.”
While an unresolved request for an FBI investigation and resolution to expel the representative hang in the balance, Finchem retains his seat representing Oro Valley in the state House.
“Republican lawmakers are making the deliberate choice to increase the chances and likelihood that a violent insurrection can happen again,” Salman said. “It’s very disturbing to see Republican lawmakers not take a very swift and bold stand in defense of our constitution and instead protect members, like Representative Mark Finchem, who helped incite and lay the groundwork for the violence on the January 6 insurrection. Everyone should be alarmed at this point, and nobody should be okay with this.”