Open letter to U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming):

There are two visuals of the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 that I will never forget. In both, police officers who helped save your lives are casualties of the violence.

In the first video, rioters crush Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police officer Daniel Hodges in a doorway; he is bleeding from his mouth and screaming in agony. The second shows rioters pulling an officer from a window, beating him with the pole of an American flag and stomping on him while shouting “USA, USA!”

As jurors, did you look away as Democrats presented these and countless other atrocities at former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial? 

Of course, you have your own memories of the riot. Security officers instructed you to get your gas masks and ushered you from the Senate chamber to safety as terrorists overwhelmed law enforcement. You must have feared for your lives.

Last week, you had the opportunity to bring justice to the man who set this madness in motion. But on the impeachment charge of inciting  insurrection, you and 41 of your fellow Republican senators voted “not guilty.” Ten more “guilty” votes could have prevented Trump from repeating the atrocity — or doing far worse — by barring him from future public office.

Then U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) takes a phone call in this 2009 photo from the House Republican Conference. (Flickr Creative Commons/House Republican Conference)

Instead, the Senate delivered a clear message to the domestic-terrorist-in-chief: Lying, political violence and even murder will be tolerated as long as you are sufficiently popular to be politically dangerous. Your militia thugs can lower the American flag from the U.S. Capitol and replace it with a Trump flag and we will not protest. We are cowed, impotent and, like beaten dogs trembling in a puddle of our own making, no threat to you. Do as you will to the Constitution just, please, don’t hurt us. We won’t make trouble. 

Your votes were cowardly. I would say you showed blind allegiance to a man hell-bent on overturning his overwhelming election loss — and with it our once proud history of peaceful transfers of power — but you were far from blind. You had a front-row seat to the violence Trump unleashed on the Capitol’s hallowed halls. For months you enabled him at every turn, including this horrendous final act of his presidency, one that threatened our democracy.

Fortunately, democracy prevailed. The effects, however, will linger. 

Count me as one of the millions of disillusioned Americans who view the presidency as torn, tattered and forever stained by a man who will never be held accountable. Trump will hide behind the acquittal that you bestowed upon him.

The House impeachment managers presented clear and convincing evidence of the former president’s guilt. Perhaps you don’t believe me, but maybe you give more credence to Rep. Liz Cheney, your Wyoming Republican colleague, who courageously voted to impeach Trump.

“The president summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing,” she said in a statement. “None of this would have happened without the president.”

Trump “could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence,” Cheney continued. “He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Cheney is exactly right. And she’s received plenty of backlash. As one of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment, she was loudly censured by Wyoming Republican Party officials. Hundreds of people gathered for an anti-Cheney protest at the Wyoming Capitol led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), a rabble-rousing extremist who knows nothing about our state.

Several far-right candidates immediately announced plans to run against her in the 2022 GOP primary, including State Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne). I fully expect her to weather this storm, but Cheney — who survived a vote to remove her as leader of the House Republican Conference — has paid a political price in Wyoming for telling the truth.

“The notion that the election had been stolen or that the election was rigged was a lie, and people need to understand that,” Cheney boldly told Fox News.

Both of you will be rewarded by your GOP constituents, because it’s pretty much a given you can remain in the Senate for as long as you like. In November, 70% of Wyoming voters cast their ballots for Trump, and many fervently believe Democrats stole the election from him. 

In Trump’s Republican Party, his supporters believe his two impeachments were “witch hunts.” Anything else is blasphemy.

But even your Senate minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), knows better.

On Saturday, he said Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack, sounding more like a Democratic official than a Republican leader.

U.S. Sen John Barrasso. (Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore)

“[The mob] did this because they’d been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth because he was angry he lost an election,” McConnell said.

You know McConnell extremely well, Sen. Barrasso, having stood by him at news conferences for so many years that you began to look like an appendage to his right shoulder. Will you now put some distance between yourself and the political ally who lambasted Trump? 

McConnell is the body’s biggest hypocrite. His hollow words came mere minutes after he voted to acquit Trump. His excuse? The Senate cannot convict an impeached former president, only a sitting one.

The House impeached Trump before he left office, but McConnell delayed his chamber’s trial until after President-elect Joe Biden was sworn in.

After the mob Trump stirred into a frenzy breached the Capitol, he headed back to the White House to watch it all unfold on TV. According to his own aides, he rebuffed pleas from his family and advisers to stop the attack. He refused calls from officials to send in the National Guard.

Senators, did you feel nothing when you heard the crowd chanting, “Hang Mike Pence”? This was Trump’s own vice president and a member of your party. 

Pence, steadfastly loyal until the bitter end, earned his boss’ wrath for refusing to help stop certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory. Trump reportedly didn’t speak to him until five days after he knowingly put Pence in harm’s way.

Late in the Senate trial, a Republican representative said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) told her that as his office windows were being smashed, the president said on the phone, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

How can you witness such disdain for McCarthy’s life, and still vote to acquit? I guess it’s for the same reason McCarthy later flew to Florida and licked Trump’s boots, begging forgiveness for speaking out: You’re afraid you will wind up like Cheney.

If I was in your shoes, I’d probably be frightened too. But you chose that footwear, and now you’re forced to walk in lockstep with Trump or be thrown under his bus.

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For the record, as a life-long Democrat, I’m not thrilled with my own party’s decision to not call witnesses who might have provided more damning evidence that Trump left everyone in the Capitol vulnerable to violence in his shameful attempt to retain power.

“The jury is ready to vote,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) allegedly told House managers. “People want to get home for Valentine’s Day.”

Well, I hope everyone had a nice holiday, and that everyone who shares Coons’ sentiment also enjoyed Presidents’ Day. Neither were likely any comfort to the family of Brian Sicknick, who died defending the Capitol, nor the 140 officers who were injured.

I began this letter telling you about the televised images seared into my brain from the assault, and I’ll close with the words of our ex-president that are still ringing in my ears:

In a video released more than three hours after rioters laid waste to the Capitol, Trump finally told them to peacefully leave. “We love you,” he said with a smile. “You’re very special.”

History will judge your votes to let Trump off the hook. I hope you can live with that verdict, too.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. Thank you for this, Kerry Drake. Just when I think I can’t stand to live in Wyoming another day, (I was born here), a voice speaks truth and others respond, and I know I’m not totally alone in a cult run state.

  2. Wyoming senators and representatives are needed to be voted out We need to elect some real consertivrs that represent the republicans of wyoming .Rather than these establishment weak ones we have for example wyoming did not join texas in election fraud .cynthia lummis is the only one that stands up for her brand

  3. Bash Trump, But the media and liberals will never be critical of Biden as our freedoms disappear, inflation skyrockets .and are borders are gone.

  4. Thank you for your well written article. It is important to remember that our one Senator was complicit in the legislative side of the insurrection and the other negligent as usual. Our state GOP party is no more than a regional branch of the Proud Boys or any other anti democratic- pro authoritarian bigoted and ignorant group. Hmmm , harsh words but true. Until the state party recognizes truth , justice and the American way we will be represented by tRumpiam grifters. To listen to Sen Barasso call a Cabinet nomination radical or say he stands with science is as laughable as shocking. Wyoming as a state will slowly bleed out as its oligarch entitled legislators and Governor are better at blaming or ignoring than caring and fixing.

    1. Right on. It’s crazy-making watching our two extremist Senators go about their business in D.C. The worst part of being a Wyomingite for me is our political representation.

  5. Kerry, you should get a badge of courage for telling it truthfully. I am also encouraged from the support you have received in these comments. It is also good to see that you have one patriotic representative. For the senators in Wyoming, you showed the utter ugliness of politics.

  6. You nailed it Kerry. The current brand of the GOP is to blame for so many societal ills, stretching way back and it continues to haunt. The votes of the 43 Senators to absolve an obvious criminal and leader of a criminal class at least gave us 43 names of some who are responsible for bringing our country closer to failed state status. We just witnessed an attempt to violently overthrow our country. Your outrage is what all should be feeling. But it’s not just today. Outrageous things have been going on for a very long time and we need to change that.

    An modest example would be Wyoming’s finances — an embarrassment, due primarily to the GOP and the false belief that taxes are a bad thing.

    Turns out that Wyoming politicians have an enormous outsize influence compared to representation in every other state; so I think it’s time for voters everywhere to turn out the GOP scoundrels so we can pivot on this moment to rebuild everything that’s been neglected, including state economies. Wyoming isn’t the only state with a struggling economy. The pandemic is heightening the damage that ultra conservative policies exact. Conservatives love that Trump left the solution to the states, but that formula only works for those smart or lucky enough to get it right. Many in federal service knew that many states wouldn’t be lucky or smart, but the conservatives were in charge, do normal folks prayed so it would feel like they were being useful.

    Richest country in the world? Not yet, certainly not for 95% of us. Lots, like the rich who surf in Wyoming, just cherry pick everything and travel the world and really don’t seem to care about what just happened. In fact those folks make donations to politicians to continue this craziness.

    The absence of outrage is an outrage in itself. Good article.

  7. I am embarrassed to admit I’m a resident of Wyoming! My so called representatives in the Senate are only worried about the Republican party. They do not care about the common people of this state. If they did they might be trying to lead us in the right direction and not down the road destruction. The people of Wyoming need to get their heads out of their butts because big change is coming. We need to think about moving forward and not standing still, which is what we have been doing for quite some time. Leadership Needed!

  8. I am a Wyoming native and I vote as a conservative independent. I voted for Trump, even though I have never cared for his persona. Insults and name calling don’t further any cause.
    The problem I have with the impeachment was the complete lack of due process in the House. Little actual evidence presented and no counsel for the defense. Basically the House had a knee jerk vote. Even if you hate Trump, he is entitled to due process. . Try to remember that things are rarely as they are initially seen.
    Trump will not be a viable candidate again. His inability to control his own rhetoric could sabotage any
    candidate that he campaigns for.
    Wyoming needs conservative legislators that will own up to climate change. We need leaders who can
    steer an orderly transition, without gutting whole communities in the process. No matter how much our
    energy producers are demonized, even Bernie Sanders turns the lights on at night and the heat on in the cold.
    And Liz, vote your conscience, but don”t cite the constitution without following the spirit of it.

    1. To MJ Swanson…

      Trump received his due process in the Senate trial. The House only brings the charges. It matters less than zero what the media says about this. What matters is what the Constitution says. The information is easily available and easily understood.

  9. Bravo, Mr. Drake! Bravo! And thanks to almost all of the commenters here — it’s comforting to know our former home state still has some people who think for themselves and recognize what they’re seeing and hearing, starting with Liz Cheney.

  10. I am an independent conservative voter. I am an America first believer. Exactly what did the Democrats present as a platform for this country that puts America first? So far the gas prices are going up and thousands of people are crossing border into this country. People are out of work because of covid. . Democrats have put more out of work because of their ignorant attitude about oil and gas. Can’t go green over night. Who is going to pay for all this nonsense?

  11. Makes me wonder who the Republicans will try to blame if, and likely when, Trump returns to complete his goal of overturning our democracy for the autocracy he envisions. We can be sure that Barrasso and Lummis will be there licking Trump’s soiled oxfords because they too envision the power of party over country. As a Wyoming native, I fail to understand why the freedom loving citizens of our state consistently elect leaders that support putting our country in the hands of strict partisan control of our lives.
    Thanks for another spot on article Kerry.

  12. Dear Fellow Wyoming Citizens-
    The Republicans I know in Wyoming are honorable people for the most part, at least those who go to the trouble of accessing a variety of news outlets or engaging in respectful dialogue and investigation. Please describe what part of Donald Trump’s conduct you support IF you support him…..his high school cheerleader skills at whipping up a crowd, the proven lies he has shouted to the nation that were rejected by some 60 judicial venues, not keeping promises like showing us his tax returns or maybe you liked his comment about willfully fondling the genitals of any female he wished? Do you support him because of the optics of supporting a President, although one who has been disgraced? (by the way, I have served my state and county as an Independent, although starting out as a Republican, ending as a Democrat over several decades).

    I never thought I would be supporting Rep. Cheney due to our policy differences, but I am very grateful for her
    ability to discern right from wrong. Thank you, Liz, and thank you, Kerry, for your truth telling.

  13. Well said. I sat home watching the whole scene live (due to our whole family having Covid – another failing of Trump) and for 2 hours we asked why Trump wasn’t doing anything? Where were reinforcements? Why weren’t they treating this terrorists like they did BLM/Antifa rioters over the summer? It was a disgrace and now the party that every time a black person is arrested talks “personal responsibility” is now trying to blame everyone else besides Trump, his cronies and the rioters.
    The protests that happened over the summer was about things that actually happen everyday in this county – systemic racism and violence in our police/justice system. The rioters of January 6th acted on a lie Trump fueled since 2016 – that the only way he could ever loose is if the election was rigged. He always failed to mention he could loose if he didn’t get enough votes…which he didn’t.

  14. Great letter Kerry and we are proud to hear your voice in this state of too many people who have drunk the Kool-aid of Trump betrayal of this country.. he did nothing for this nation for his term and will live as the worst president in history

  15. Bravo! So many things here that I want to communicate say to our senators. I know their answers to my letters on this topic will be like all their other letters– bland, dishonest, and condescending. Neither of them can answer a straight question on an important question.
    Like you, those images from the riot will stay locked in my head. Lummis and Barrassho standing next to a flag will forever evoke their betrayal of that symbol and the fear what they may do in the future at the bidding of some powerful bully whose coattails they want to ride.

  16. Go jump back in the swamp you came from.
    While your there you might try media sources other than MSNBC!

    1. The swamp was filled with no nothings tied nothing but self interest and fiefdom to Trump Amazing that you can defend Trump as a police supporter and see his clowns beat the stuffing out of those who protect our house of Liberty and voice of the people. The evil Orange guy never called off his dogs out of vengeance at a perceived wrong election result that he had been saying for months would be false because the vote would be false.. YOu know this is a lie along with his 30000 other lies he told you daily for 4 years.. grow up man.. please.. We were close to an insurrection that would have killed our elected officials unleashed by this evil man

      1. I applaud mr Drake for telling like it is. I’m ashamed of Lummis and Barrasso and have no respect at all for them. I respect and honor the leaders who confronted mr trump.

    2. Amen!! Smartest comment thus far!! Apparently the rest here all get their info from msnbc/the like, & are incredibly blind to any real truth! Trump did more for this nation than most Presidents have and the only reason people didn’t like him to begin with was because he couldn’t be paid off like most others in politics! Therefore they knew he would bring out the truth! He took nothing as personal payment and gave us more jobs as well as our keystone pipeline, which Biden has now sh!t on. Electricity has gone up 1,000 times in the market in 24 hours time and it’ll only get worse from here. Hell that pipeline stunt was merely the ‘new presidents’ first day! How many Wyoming families did THAT put out on their ass, mine included!? And for what? A green new deal that’s never going to happen, because people can’t afford it to! Especially without jobs before Biden helped w the worsening of that! Honestly, I read a comment blaming Trump for Covid? That literally shows the intelligence level of those who say nothing good came of Trumps time in office & it shouldn’t even be a matter of whether you like him personally or not, he got sh!t done & that’s what’s important!!!)

      1. Trump may not have taken his $400k salary but he funneled millions of taxpayer dollars to his resorts. Ivanka and Jared also made up to $640 million while serving as senior advisors, roles that gave them considerable influence on foreign policy decisions. To say Trump and his family didn’t use the presidency for personal gain is another of the lies he has told. Lies that led to deaths at the Capitol.

        As for the Keystone pipeline, the pipeline was never going to come across Wyoming. It also would not have solved the electricity issues in Texas right now. This was an oil pipeline and we almost no oil power plants anymore. Also the Keystone pipeline was going to carry expensive Canadian oil. The cancellation saves us reclamation and reduces competition to American oil. The situation in Texas is more complex than just fossil fuels vs renewables. Here is a link to learn a bit more about it if interested: https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/one-texas-storm-exposed-energy-grid-unprepared-climate-change-rcna289

        Trump did not cause covid but he did ignore it after a month or so. Had we taken this seriously we could probably be back to a pretty normal life. Take a look at countries like New Zealand and South Korea, they took it seriously and can have a mostly normal life now. We consider ourselves the greatest country on Earth, so there is no reason we should just give up to a virus when we know we can beat it.

        1. Fact based reasoning will fall on deaf ears. I applaud your attempt to reason with the Trumper, but I’m not optimistic it will help a thing.

          Cheers

  17. Another great column by Kerry Drake. He observes that that members of Trump’s party can be counted on to curse the conscience-motivated and re-elect Wyoming’s senators. I wonder at those electors, who were blithley disowned by the impeachment trial defense counsel: Who are those people? Trump has nothing to do with them. He doesn’t know who they are or where they came from. He is not responsible. They’re just a bunch of violent terrorists who assembled all on their own and who should all go to jail.
    How’s the view from under that bus, folks? I suspect the response is, “What bus?”

  18. Donald Trump is now at the same level as Hillary Clinton he did nothing as Americans were being attacked and killed and John Barrasso with Cynthia Loomis are cowards for democracy I have a respect for Lis Cheney but not for those two cult followers!

        1. Another difference, a key one, is that five people DIED, including three police officers, at the US Capitol attempted insurrection riot on 1/6/2021..

          If three police officers had DIED at any BLM protest, the authorities would have brought in helicopter gunships.

          1. Don’t forget many other officers being beat with poles that were carrying the U.S. flag and thin blue line flags.

            I would chalk it up to irony if it wasn’t so pathetically embarrassing.

          2. Nah, no one else has ever died at any leftist protest. Nope. And what happened in Seattle? Gee. NO ONE was going to get killed in their successionary city. Yet, by golly.

            And the people supposedly killed in this, as far as I know, only one is conclusively a result of the protest: the young lady shot by capitol police. Sicknick, not so much.

            So, I return to my original statement quite comfortably.

    1. What you do when you have nothing: try to change the subject.
      Let’s hear a full-throated fact-based defense of Trump. You know, why he’s the best president ever, and he’s a selfless and innocent victim, and he doesn’ know anything about that mob, etc., etc.

  19. Well stated. Cowardly, boot-licking sycophants. Only Cheney called at as it was. If only Matt Mead had chosen to run, Wyoming would not be stuck with mediocre, hypocritical Lummis– her husband is rolling over in his grave. She is an embarrassment to UW College of Law– LAW, Cynthia!