Michigan GOP Candidate Says Capitol Rioters Were 'Overcome By Passion'

A Republican gubernatorial candidate in Michigan has defended the violent mob of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, saying they had been "overcome by passion."

The House is moving to impeach President Donald Trump, accusing him of inciting the mob that ransacked the Capitol last Wednesday and forced lawmakers to evacuate while they were in the middle of affirming President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer, and dozens of people have been arrested.

But on Monday, Austin Chenge, the first GOP candidate to form his candidacy for Michigan's next gubernatorial election in 2022, said those who went to the nation's capital last week had wanted to voice their concerns about the direction of the country, The Detroit News reported.

"Some of them were overcome by passion, more passion than others and may have acted in a way that they didn't intend to when they went there," Chenge said of the Trump supporters.

"If someone is motivated by passion to do something, it's more subjective than it is objective," Chenge said, when asked if it was appropriate for people to enter the Capitol.

#CapitolBuilding : Yesterday, I saw Americans doing everything necessary to ensure their God-given freedoms, their rights and their #American way of life, some were overwhelmed by more passion than others, but all for the love of their country. Austin For #Governor of Michigan. pic.twitter.com/uhPo33mgSp

— Austin Chenge (@MrChenge) January 7, 2021

However, he added that does not mean those who committed crimes should "get away with it" and that he does not want to endorse violence.

In a statement to Newsweek, Chenge's campaign said he stood by the comments.

"As the only Republican Candidate who travelled to all 83 counties in Michigan, meeting Americans from village to town and cities, Austin Chenge stands by his statement that some Americans were overcome with passion while protesting at the Capitol and thus may have acted in a way they did not intend to when they went there," it said.

A day after the deadly riot, Chenge had tweeted a defense of the Trump supporters who breached the Capitol, without condemning the violence.

"Yesterday, I saw Americans doing everything necessary to ensure their God-given freedoms, their rights and their #American way of life, some were overwhelmed by more passion than others, but all for the love of their country," he wrote.

Chenge's campaign website describes him as a decorated military veteran and the "embodiment of the American Dream."

His comments are in stark contrast to Michigan officials and lawmakers, who have widely condemned the violence.

The state's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was "appalled" by the events at the Capitol.

In a video posted on Twitter, Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican, accused some members of his own party of peddling Trump's election lies for their own political gain.

"For the first time in over 200 years, we lost control of the Capitol yesterday," Meijer said in the clip while standing in front of the building.

"I've seen folks trying to minimize that, saying 'you know, a few windows were broken.' What's more, I have seen other people say knowingly provably false things, claiming 'no, this wasn't us, this was Antifa, this was BLM.'

Yesterday’s assault on the Capitol didn’t have to happen. Politicians who spread the lies that incited this violence bear responsibility. Politicians who continue to lie in order to shift blame and falsely claim this was Antifa or BLM, are contemptible. More thoughts: pic.twitter.com/ZbMPfPXEi5

— Rep. Peter Meijer (@RepMeijer) January 7, 2021

"We got to this point because a number of folks, a number of politicians and a number of my fellow Republicans, told things they knew were lies. They told people there was a stolen election, they told people that if they came out, that they could change it, that they could put President Trump in power for a second term.

"They told them this knowing that this wasn't true, they lied, they deceived. They did either to save their own political skins or to make a quick fundraising buck. It's contemptible," he said.

Laura Cox, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, tweeted that the "desecration of our nation's capital was unacceptable."

She wrote: "While Americans have the right to protest, those protests must always remain peaceful. The desecration of our nation's capital was unacceptable and undermines our quest for fair and transparent elections. We must do better."

State Sen. Adam Hollier, a Democrat, has said he plans to introduce a resolution this week to "condemn the violence, the coup, the insurrection" that he said was led by the president and based on an "insidious" campaign to undermine the 2020 election result.

This article has been updated with a statement from Chenge's campaign.

Trump supporters clash with police outside Capitol
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images