Attorney General Jeff Landry declined to sign a letter 50 other state attorneys general sent to the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday condemning the right-wing attack on the U.S. Capitol. Landry had previously declined to participate in a similar gesture by a group of 15 Republican attorneys general condemning that attack. Instead, Landry issued a statement Wednesday decrying “all political violence” and emphasizing deaths that occurred during Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
On Tuesday, the bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice condemning the violent mob that invaded the Capitol and left five people dead. The fifty who signed it include the commonwealth attorneys general of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Marianas, as well as the District of Columbia.
“We all just witnessed a very dark day in America,” the 50 AGs wrote. “The events of January 6 represent a direct, physical challenge to the rule of law and our democratic republic itself. Together, we will continue to do our part to repair the damage done to institutions and build a more perfect union. As Americans, and those charged with enforcing the law, we must come together to condemn lawless violence, making clear that such actions will not be allowed to go unchecked.”
The letter did not mention President Donald Trump, nor did it connect the mob that attacked the Capitol to Trump. Even so, Landry and the attorneys general from Montana, Texas and Indiana chose not to sign it.
“I am deeply concerned,” Landry wrote the national AGs association Tuesday, “we may be sending a message that some violence is acceptable.”
Protests broke out across the country last year when Derek Chauvin, a White police officer in Minneapolis, killed George Floyd, who was Black, by kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Alluding to those protests, Landry wrote his fellow attorneys general, “People lost their lives, courthouses and police stations were attacked, small business people and their employees lost their incomes, and some cities were even ‘occupied’ by armed thugs. However, there was silence from many colleagues.”
Instead of joining the 50 other attorneys general, Landry and his counterparts from Indiana and Montana sent their own letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday, mirroring some of the same points Landry made Tuesday.
“We write to echo and emphasize our colleagues’ condemnation of the violent breach of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” that letter begins. “Such an abhorrent act is an affront to our nation, and we commend the United States Department of Justice for taking expedient steps toward prosecution. Attorneys General are called to lead by and to the rule of law in pursuit of justice and equality.”
That letter mentions “the culture war” and an “assassination attempt that left Representative Steve Scalise fighting for his life, bombs mailed to public figures and detonated in city centers, buildings or entire blocks taken or held by force, and mass demonstrations that led to destruction, injury and death… Like all of you, we believe the rule of law clearly leads to harmony. But until we Attorneys General stand together against all political violence, we amplify aimless partisan wandering instead of taking strides toward unity.
“When Antifa or like-minded rioters stoked violence on college campuses, we did not have the strength to unify,” the letter said. “Now they stoke violence in our streets as we wonder where all this chaos started. And truly, regardless of where or when it started, it’s time for it to end.”
Before he declined to sign his name on a letter sent by the National Attorneys General Association, Landry had also decided not to join other Republican attorneys general in adding a statement condemning the Capitol riot to the Republican Attorneys General Association website. He told New Orleans television station WDSU Friday, “I was absolutely outraged that individuals would break into our nation’s Capitol in an attempt to interrupt the work of Congress then wreak havoc and destruction. I am deeply disturbed by the loss of life.” However, Wednesday marked the first time he’d issued a written statement that mentioned the Capitol riot.
As previously reported by the Illuminator, Landry served as the Republican Attorneys General Association’s 2020 chairman and is a co-director of its fundraising arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which recruited Trump supporters to attend Wednesday’s event with robocalls that said, in part, “At 1:00 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to ‘stop the steal.’” The association’s executive director resigned Monday in the wake of that revelation.
Though he didn’t respond to the Illuminator’s request for comment, Landry, a zealous Trump supporter who signed onto a lawsuit that sought to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, told WDSU he was unaware of the robocalls summoning so-called “patriots” to the Capitol to “stop the steal.”
So far, in none of his statements about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has Landry suggested that his organization or President Donald Trump bear any responsibility for inciting the mob.