NASHVILLE (AP) — A Paris lawyer was one of two Tennessee lawmakers who had a prayer rally Wednesday timed to coincide with a protest in the nation’s Capitol in support of President Donald Trump.
Although speakers repeated the debunked claims that Joe Biden did not win the election, they focused on praying for the country and asked supporters to put their trust in God.
“We need to be praying for the truth to be revealed,” state Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, told a crowd of about 150 people outside of the state Capitol in Nashville after they listened to a broadcast of Trump’s speech in Washington.
State Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, said he loves Biden voters but believes they are being deceived and led down a wrong path. He also suggested that many politicians on both sides of the aisle are driven by greed and said the Republican party was due for a reckoning that would end up making it stronger. Griffey said he hoped Vice President Mike Pence would somehow prevent the certification of Biden as the next president.
“But if he doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. God is in control,” Griffey said before leading the crowd in chanting, “We love Trump! We love Trump!”
Attendees carried American flags and “Trump 2020” flags. At least two people carried flags with the logo “Jesus is my savior. Trump is my president.”
Jamie Auerweck said she thought the election was stolen “without a doubt.” She said she stopped by the rally before she had to go to work because “the more people who are praying, the better off we will be.”
A small group of men dressed in camouflage, some wearing bulletproof vests, stood on the periphery of the rally. One of the men, Taylor Coop, said they were there to “make sure things stay calm.” Other than a few horn honks and one passerby shouting “losers!” at the crowd, there were no confrontations in the mostly deserted downtown area.
Meanwhile, pro-Trump protesters gathered Wednesday at an intersection in Memphis to show support for the president. No violence or arrests were reported.
The mild Tennessee rallies stood in contrast to the wild scene at the U.S. Capitol where Trump supporters stormed the building, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers who had convened to confirm the Electoral College results.
Despite Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud, Republican and Democratic election officials in all 50 states have certified their results as fair and accurate.
LAWMAKERS REVERSE COURSE
Pence defied Trump early Thursday morning as he affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s November victory, putting an end to Trump’s futile efforts to subvert American democracy and overturn the results of the election.
In a move that infuriated Trump and left his own political future far less certain, Pence on Wednesday acknowledged that he did not have the power to unilaterally throw out Electoral College votes as Trump and some of his attorneys had wrongly insisted.
Pence, as the session came to an end, said the count “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration” of Biden’s victory, but offered no words of congratulations to the incoming administration. It capped an extraordinary day of chaos, violence and division after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, sending lawmakers into hiding and delaying the proceeding.
One woman died after being fatally shot as the mob broke into the building.
In the wake of the violence, both of Tennessee’s senators and a U.S. Congressman representing Henry County altered their plans to object to the certification in several swing states that Biden carried.
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and newly-sworn in Sen. Bill Hagerty both voted no Wednesday on objections to certify the election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, according to The Tennessean.
The two Republicans were among about a dozen senators who had planned to object to the certification, but changed their minds after the Capitol went into lockdown.
While both had amplified unproven claims by the president that Biden’s victory was fraudulent, each subsequently condemned the violence on social media.
U.S. Congressman David Kustoff, R-Germantown, who represents Henry County as part of the 8th Congressional District, also partially changed course after the incident.
Wednesday morning, Kustoff released a statement declaring his intention to object to certification.
Later that afternoon, Kustoff took to social media to declare that he was safe, and decried the actions going on as unacceptable violence.
After Congress reconvened later that night, he voted to oppose the objection to Arizona’s vote, joining Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen.
According to The Tennessean article, the state’s remaining six House members voted to uphold the objections, including Mark Green, who represents Benton County.
On Pennsylvania’s vote, Kustoff joined his Republican colleagues and voted to uphold the objection.