The independent news organization of Duke University

An electoral challenge and a speech at the pro-Trump rally: A Duke alum's role in the events of Jan. 6

On Jan. 6, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-AL, Trinity ’75, objected to election results after a pro-Trump mob—to which he had earlier given a rallying speech—stormed the Capitol. 

Brooks, the first congressman to announce an objection to the certification of election results, signed an objection to the verification of electoral college submissions from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Objecting representatives were only joined by a senator for the submissions from Arizona and Pennsylvania, so Congress only had to deliberate on the objections to those two states’ results.

The same day, Brooks gave a speech at a pro-Trump rally before many of the attendees stormed the Capitol building. He later said he did not intend to promote violence, but his involvement with the rally has led Alabama officials to call for his resignation, and two congressmen introduced a resolution to formally censure him.

Brooks’s communications director, Clay Mills, did not respond to a request for comment.

Addressing the pro-Trump mob

At the “March to Save America” rally on Jan. 6, Trump supporters gathered at the Ellipse in President’s Park to listen to a series of speakers, including Brooks.

“I’ve got a message that I need you to take to your heart and take back home and along the way, stop at the Capitol,” Brooks said to the crowd. “Today, Republican senators and congressmen will either vote to turn America into a godless, amoral, dictatorial, oppressed and socialist nation on the decline, or they will join us and they will fight and vote against voter fraud and election theft and vote for keeping America great.”

Claims that voting fraud occurs systematically have been debunked many times. Lawsuits alleging double voting, illegal ballots, irregularities, use of fraudulent voting machines and more during the 2020 election have been either dismissed or denied. 

“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” Brooks said to the crowd. “Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you. Are you willing to do the same?”

Brooks led the crowd in a back and forth, encouraging them to yell louder.

“We, American patriots are going to come right at them. We, American patriots, are going to take America back and restore the foundational principles that have combined to make us the greatest nation in world history,” he said.

Brooks ended his speech by leading the crowd in chanting “USA” and adding “God bless America and the fight begins today,” before stepping off of the podium.

Hours after Brooks delivered his speech at the Ellipse, rally members stormed the Capitol. 

Authorities have arrested or identified people who brought zip ties, flex cuffs, spears, firearms and Molotov cocktails to the rally. 

In a Jan. 6 statement, Brooks condemned the violence at the Capitol. 

“The scenes of United States Capitol Police being violently attacked and mobs occupying the American seat of government are highly disturbing,” he wrote. “Consistent with my history, I ALWAYS condemn lawlessness and violence of any kind and in the strongest terms.”

Brooks votes to object

Later in the day, when the House convened to certify the election results, Brooks repeated unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud as reason for his objection to the certification. 

“Madam Speaker, in my judgement if only lawful votes cast by eligible American citizens are counted, Joe Biden lost and President Trump won the electoral college,” Brooks said. “As such, it is my constitutional duty to promote honest and accurate elections by rejecting electoral college vote submission from states whose electoral systems are so badly flawed as to render their vote submissions unreliable, untrustworthy, and unworthy of acceptance.”

His claim, that non-citizens voted overwhelmingly for Biden, is based on flawed research. In fact, non-citizens voting is incredibly rare, carries severe penalties and is easily identified

The aftermath of the riot

Following the riot, Brooks tweeted that “fascist ANTIFA infiltrated” the rally and stormed the Capitol, noting that he didn’t “know the true facts yet, and neither does 99.99% of public” and adding a link to a Washington Times article that incorrectly stated that facial recognition software identified members of Antifa among rioters. The article has since been corrected and states that the software has “identified neo-Nazis and other extremists as participants.”

In the days following the storming of the Capitol, Brooks repeated the claim that “fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capital attack with clever mob control tactics,” a statement Politifact rated as "Pants on Fire"—a rating used to identify statements that are not accurate and make a ridiculous claim. 

In their rating, Politifact added that the claim that Antifa was a part of the assault or that it was organized by Antifa “is being made by supporters of Trump in an effort to distance themselves from the lawlessness at the capitol.”

Brooks also released a series of tweets with alleged evidence for his claim, including that, “A Congressman warned me on MONDAY of a growing ANTIFA threat,” and that, “Congressman told me he was warned on TUESDAY by Capitol Police officer that intelligence suggested fascist ANTIFA was going to try to infiltrate the Trump rally by dressing like Trump supporters.”

In a Jan. 8 interview with WAFF—a local news station in Huntsville, Ala.—Brooks defended his speech at the rally. 

“It never occurred to me anyone would engage in violence as a result of my speech or any others. I wanted people to go to protests. I saw what happened was horrible for the American public,” Brooks said.

When asked specifically about his “kicking ass” comment, Brooks stressed the symbolic connotations of “ass.”

“So that we emphasize what we’re talking about, kicking ass, the Democrats these past three months they just kicked ours. And the ass, you know, that’s biblical. Donkey. Donkey is the symbol of the Democratic party, and so we need to get that thing kicked a little bit in 2022 and 2024.”

In a Jan. 12 press release titled, “Congressman Mo Brooks Rebuts Vicious & Scurrilous Fake News Media and Socialist Democrat Attacks,” Brooks portrayed himself as the victim of a “smear campaign” intent on “intimidating, censoring and suppressing the ability of American citizens to fight at the ballot box the efforts of Socialist Democrats to seize control of the United States of America.”

Brooks went on to assert that his speech was an attempt to encourage people “to begin a 2022 and 2024 election fight” and “take WORDS (not violence) to the Capitol.” 

“I exhorted the Trump rally attendees to bring words, NOT VIOLENCE, to the U.S. Capitol,” he wrote in the release, adding, “Socialist Democrats and their Fake News Media Allies won’t get an apology from me because my remarks were not wrong.”

In a Jan. 12 tweet, Rep. Chris England D-Ala., pushed back, highlighting another section of Brooks’ speech.

“In this entire statement, @RepMoBrooks fails to mention that he also asked if those ‘Patriots’ at the rally were willing to sacrifice their blood, sweat, tears and even their lives to fight for America. He left all of that out,” England wrote. "He doesn’t mention this part of his speech because he knows that they were at the very least irresponsible but at the most they were also reckless and dangerous.”

Calls for resignation, a censure resolution

Officials and local leaders across the state of Alabama have called on Brooks to resign. 

“I plan to use whatever small influence I have to see that Mo is defeated,’’ said former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb to WBHM. “We don’t need an ideologue representing Alabama.” 

“You want healing and reconciliation? Start with the truth. Then? Accept responsibility. Afterwards? Resign,” England wrote in a Jan 12. tweet

As reported by WAFF, local leaders and NAACP presidents have said that Books violated his oath of office and used inflammatory rhetoric, and that he does not stand for the people he was elected to represent.

First Baptist Church of Huntsville Pastor Travis Collins, in a statement released by WAFF, spoke out about Brooks “encouraging unprecedented violence and anarchy.”

“I don’t care if you have an R, D, or I in front of your name, when my representative stands in front of an already angry crowd, some of them armed, and says, 'Today we start kicking a**,’ I’m gonna say, ‘That’s irresponsible,’” he wrote.

“You were elected, and you were sent to Congress to represent the people of the United States of America,” said Wilbert Woodruff, president of the Limestone County NAACP branch. “Not the people of the confederacy, not Neo-Nazism, or not White Supremacy. You are a sworn officer of the United States of America.”

Brooks responded to the statement, texting WAFF that, “The Socialist NAACP has for years tried to beat me at the ballot box. I welcome their trying to do so again. Alabama’s motto is ‘We Dare Defend Our Rights’.”

On Jan. 11, Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., introduced a resolution to formally censure Brooks. 

The resolution states that “Representative Mo Brooks addressed a rally…attended by numerous members of known extremist and anti-government groups, including the Proud Boys, QAnon, Boogaloo Boys, and Oathkeepers” and “Representative Brooks’ speech on January 6 encouraged and incited violence against his fellow Members of Congress, as part of an assault on the United States Capitol intended to present the House of Representatives and the Senate from discharging their Constitutional duties to count electoral college votes.”

In a Jan. 11 tweet, Schultz wrote, “@RepMoBrooks helped Trump incite an angry mob, exhorting Capitol rally-goers to start ‘kicking ass.’ Now five people are dead. @Malinowski and I are asking Congress to censure him. Brooks' dangerous rhetoric will not go without consequences.”

Preetha Ramachandran | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator

Preetha Ramachandran is a Trinity senior and diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator for The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously senior editor for Volume 117.


Share and discuss “An electoral challenge and a speech at the pro-Trump rally: A Duke alum's role in the events of Jan. 6” on social media.