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Arizona lawmakers who pushed 'Stop the Steal' face scrutiny for presence at U.S. Capitol riot

Amid the pictures of rioters jammed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol is one that appears to show former Arizona lawmaker Anthony Kern.

He is captured in a throng of people dressed in MAGA hats and holding flags in support of President Donald Trump. Behind him, at the top of the steps, a woman in a bright red Trump sweatshirt holds her fist high.

The picture, shared widely on social media, shows the former Republican state representative dressed in a suit, gray scarf and red tie. He is looking across the crowd directly toward the camera.

He was not the only Arizona lawmaker at the Capitol on Jan. 6 when a rally to overturn the presidential election became a bloody siege that left five people dead, including a Trump supporter and a Capitol Police officer.

While the country watched stunned as rioters smashed their way into the inner sanctums of the House and Senate, Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem posted a photo on social media looking up at a crowd amassed on the east steps of the building. One person stands on top of a vehicle.

“What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud,” he wrote.

Neither Kern nor Finchem could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Democrats send letter to attorney general, FBI

They are among four Republican elected officials in Arizona now facing tough questions about their involvement in the "Stop the Steal" rally that brought thousands to the Capitol on Jan. 6 with the intent of overturning the results of the  2020 presidential election.

Arizona Democrats sent a letter on Tuesday to Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and FBI Director Christopher Wray calling for an investigation into potential acts of sedition and treason.

"Their own social media posts strongly suggest that Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem and former Representative Anthony Kern were present at the riot in Washington D.C. on January 6 and actively encouraged the mob, both before and during the attack on the Capitol," said the letter signed by 42 Democrats,

"After the attack, Finchem and Kern sought to conceal the consequences of their conduct by falsely blaming 'Antifa,'" the Democrats said. 

The letter also points a finger at U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, saying there is evidence all four "encouraged, facilitated, participated and possibly helped plan this anti-democratic insurrection on January 6."

The letter offers no evidence that the four lawmakers were involved in the breach of the Capitol or led efforts outside. 

The demand for an investigation follows reports in The Arizona Republic documenting Gosar's and Biggs' ties to "Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander and their involvement in the movement.

Alexander, who led rallies nationwide advocating the overturn of Joe Biden's presidential victory, said in a video last week that Gosar and Biggs helped him plan and "schemed up" the U.S. Capitol rally.

Gosar, Biggs, Kern and Finchem all spoke at a Dec. 19 "Stop the Steal" rally at the Arizona Capitol, where supporters pushed the baseless conspiracy that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.

'So, this is a revolution, right?'

Kern took to the stage amid cheers, grabbing the microphone and asking: "We're here for such a time as this, right? So, this is a revolution, right? 1776 is past, right?"

Kern is no stranger to controversy. In 2014 the El Mirage Police Department fired Kern from his job as a civilian code enforcement officer for lying to a supervisor after a string of disciplinary problems. 

His name was added to the Brady list, a database of officers accused of dishonesty. 

Kern was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2015 and rose to leadership positions.

In 2019, he tried to pass a law to overhaul the Brady List without telling the bill's sponsor he would directly benefit by getting his name removed from the list.

Kern campaigned on his support for law enforcement, buying ads that showed him dressed as a reserve deputy marshal in Tombstone. He lost his bid for reelection in November but was still in office when he rallied for "Stop the Steal" and when he went to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

State Rep. Anthony Kern speaks during a campaign event at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix on Nov. 2, 2020.

At the Phoenix rally, he called for supporters to fight for a new version of the Republican party and the ouster of "RINO Republicans and the spineless Republicans that are not willing to stand up and fight for our country and for our state."

In a mixture of political and ecclesiastical remarks, Kern said he was willing to put aside elected office to carry out a spiritual crusade.

"As an elected official, I am done with politics. I don't care if I ever win another election," he said. "God says what are you going to do, patriot? Are you going to stand and fight? Are you going to stand behind our President Trump?"

Calling Jan. 6 "the big day," Kern thanked Alexander for his hard work in fighting an "unseen war" of principles.

Unaware of Capitol breach until later, Finchem says

Finchem showed up at the Dec. 19 "Stop the Steal" rally in Phoenix wearing a cowboy hat and boots. He told the crowd there was evidence the election was rigged and only their participation could change the "war of the narrative."

Finchem, who uses the nickname "Honey Badger," was elected to the House in 2014 and has worked as a power supply consultant, a Realtor and an officer with the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department.

"What does the honey badger do? Honey badger digs and don't stop digging until honey badger has a full belly," he told the the Phoenix crowd, maintaining the election was rigged and promising to unearth more evidence.

"Everybody seems to say, 'We need to see the smoking gun, we need to see the bullets, we need to see the blood splatter ... we need to see the full crime scene,'" he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, that is exactly what we are doing."

State Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley.

Finchem touted debunked conspiracy theories of algorithms in voting machines that inaccurately counted votes in favor of Biden. 

"Pray for our president," he said. "Pray for our speaker of the House. Pray for the president of our Senate. And every member of the Legislature, so that they would come to understand the full definition of plenary power."   

On Tuesday, Finchem distanced himself from the "Stop the Steal" rally at the U.S. Capitol. He denied being part of any protest effort.

“Media reports that I was ‘leading the march’ or somehow ‘leading an assault on the Capitol’ are wildly fictitious and a slanderous fabrication," he said. "The closest I ever came to the Capitol building was about 500 yards away."

He maintained he arrived in Washington on Jan. 5 for a series of meetings, including one to deliver an evidence book and letter documenting election fraud to Vice President Mike Pence. 

Finchem said Jan. 6 he was scheduled to speak at a permitted event on the steps of the Capitol timed to coincide with a congressional review of electoral results but was waylaid by President Trump's speech at the Ellipse.

He said he arrived at the Capitol with a crowd of people walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.  

"I was told by the event organizer that the speaking engagement was canceled. I stayed there for about 20 minutes, took a few photos and left the area," Finchem said in the statement.

Finchem said he did not learn of the incursion until about 5 p.m., about three hours after the breach. He observed a crowd of people "more interested in a photo op" than in mayhem.  

"They did not appear hostile, nor did they appear disrespectful, quite the opposite," he said. "Police officers were actually directing people past the barricades. The doors of the Capitol that were breached were on the other side of the building."

Claims, without evidence, that antifa was involved

Finchem, Gosar and Biggs all have attempted to blame antifa or Black Lives Matter for the violent siege of the Captol. None has offered evidence to support their claims.

"I was told that individuals believed to be Antifa had breached an area of the Capitol building that was out of my view, around the corner from where I was located," Finchem said in his statement. "I have since been told by investigators, that through the use of facial recognition software, the Antifa link was confirmed."

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice say there is no evidence to suggest BLM or the loosely tied groups of "anti-fascist" activists known as antifa were involved in the Capitol invasion.

Biggs said in radio interviews this week that antifa agitators were probably among the angry Trump supporters who sacked the Capitol. 

He has downplayed his association with "Stop the Steal" and has denied any relationship with Alexander. 

Biggs' spokesman Daniel Stefanski said Biggs was not involved in the planning of the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally. 

Alexander, 35, is a convicted felon turned conservative operative. The Daily Beast reported Monday that he was in hiding after Twitter and Facebook deactivated his personal and "Stop the Steal" accounts. He could not be reached for comment.

At the Dec. 19 rally in Phoenix, Alexander called Biggs a hero of the movement and led a chant in his name. He played a recorded message from Biggs, who told the crowd he was sorry he could not be with them.

"When it comes to January 6, I am going to be right down there in the well of the House with my friend from Alabama, (U.S. Rep.) Mo Brooks, and dozens of others," Biggs said in the recorded message.

In addition to the Phoenix rally, Biggs and Alexander appeared within minutes of each other at a December rally in Washington and were interviewed by a conservative talk show host on the same day and location at about the same time. 

Stefanski said he could not explain why Biggs and Alexander were at so many places at the same time.

Gosar, meanwhile, has made no attempt to hide his ties to Alexander. 

In a Dec. 7 "Open Letter to Arizona," Gosar said he "helped organize the very first 'Stop the Steal' rally in Arizona."

He has posted dozens of tweets about Alexander and "Stop the Steal."

Reporter Ronald J. Hansen contributed to this story.

Robert Anglen investigates consumer issues for The Republic. If you're the victim of fraud, waste or abuse, reach him at robert.anglen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8694. Follow him on Twitter @robertanglen

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