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Nothing excuses the assault on our capitol. But the assault on our capitol does not excuse anything else, either.

The scenes from the capitol on Wednesday were heartbreaking. And the actions by those who desecrated this symbol of freedom and governance by, and of, the people, was inexcusable.

Voter fraud and the blatant disregard of election laws by officials in battleground states did not justify the capitol riots during a Donald Trump rally. But those riots do not excuse voter fraud and violations of the Elector’s Clause of the Constitution.

The pressure to “shut up” about election integrity will be strong, with those daring to speak up shamed and blamed. What happened in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, however, did not erase the problems with the 2020 election. And Trump’s rhetoric, hyperbole, and unsupported claims of election fraud do not diminish the legitimacy of concerns over myriad voting irregularities, including, yes, claims made by Trump’s lawyers in litigation.

Just as our nation’s capitol deserves defending—without excuses, without rationalizations, and without justifications—so too does our right to a free and fair election: an election free from fraud, the potential for fraud, and the unconstitutional usurpation of state election laws by bureaucrats and judges.

While the reporting to date has focused on fraud, which did exist, albeit how much or how little is impossible to know, the larger problem with the 2020 election flowed not from criminals but from our supposed public servants.

Trump’s lawsuit against Wisconsin and the petition for certiorari his legal team filed with the Supreme Court a week ago exposed the constitutional defects that took place in that battleground state when election officials (and courts) ignored the mandates established by the Wisconsin legislature.

That lawsuit focuses not on fraud, but on alleged violations of Article II, § 1, cl. 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the so-called “Electors Clause,” which provides in relevant part that “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” the electors. The petition then proceeds to reveal the many times Wisconsin officials ignored the mandates of the state legislature in the 2020 election, while also highlighting that the laws sidestepped were designed to prevent fraud.

Wisconsin was not alone in this regard. Pennsylvania likewise ignored the legislature’s mandates for the presidential election, with evidence exposing the violations in the Keystone State inured to the benefit of Biden. When Texas and other states complained about this violation of the compact formed between the states upon ratification of the Constitution, the Supreme Court refused to hear the dispute because of a lack of “standing.” (Maybe rightly, but without providing any explanation, the populace remains unsure.)


Trump’s Wisconsin lawsuit presented a serious constitutional question, and nothing the Trump-supporting extremists did on Wednesday changed that fact. Yet the overrunning of the capitol will be wielded as a weapon to silence critics of the 2020 election, as well as any efforts to ensure there is never a repeat of the fiasco.

Things won’t stop there, however: Expect the same zone of silence to be demanded about the John Durham special counsel investigation and the investigation into Hunter Biden’s access-selling endeavors.

But just as Spygate does not justify the overtaking of the capitol, the overtaking of the capitol does not excuse the attempt at a soft coup following President Trump’s election in 2016. And just as the media’s censoring of the Hunter Biden scandal to ensure the election of Joe Biden does not justify breaching the halls of Congress, that breach does not excuse a complicit media from its own misconduct.

That doesn’t mean cancel culture will fail. With the left controlling corporate media, social media, educational institutions, and soon all three branches of the federal government, Wednesday will be used as an excuse to silence all things conservative and all left-leaning scandals.

How conservatives respond will reveal the true patriots of our time: Do they cower for fear of being declared guilty-by-association with right-wing extremists? Or do they continue to speak the truth, defend the Constitution, support the rule of law, and seek to return our great country to its foundational principles through peaceful and lawful political action?

Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame.
The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.



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