In Conversation: Michael Guest talks Trump, impeachment and Marjorie Taylor Greene
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - In the past three months, the country has seen an election, an attempted insurrection at the United States Capitol, an inauguration and an impeachment.
For many congressmen and women, the last three months have also been the most consequential of their political lives, first on their vote to certify the election results and then choosing whether to vote to impeach Donald Trump for a second time.
Republican Representative Michael Guest of Mississippi’s District 3 has faced both criticism and praise for his decisions in the past month. We sat down with the congressman through Zoom to ask him about those decisions, how he came to them and his thoughts on the the current controversy surrounding Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.
This conversation has been edited for both length and clarity
MG: “I think as we look over the last three months, we see that that was a period unlike any time in modern United States history. We saw a very contested presidential race, a race that was not decided on Election Night--a race that was not decided for days, almost weeks later. And there was a great deal of animosity on both sides during that race. Because of some issues with the presidential election, we saw election contests filed in court, state courts, federal courts. We saw challenges to the certification of the election in Washington, D.C. We saw on the day, of course, as everyone recalls, the riots that occurred here in Washington, D.C. We saw actually the business of the American people interrupted as protesters entered into the House chambers and then we saw a second impeachment of President Donald Trump. There have been many challenges that we have faced over the last three months, over the last year. We have also seen some events that we will never see again in our lifetime.”
MG: “I thought that there were voter irregularities, that there was probably voter fraud. Being a former prosecutor, I have prosecuted cases of voter fraud. But we were never presented evidence to show that the voter irregularity, the voter fraud was substantial enough that the elections should be overturned. I think everyone, Republicans and Democrats, if you were to ask them, probably would tell you that there was voter fraud, that there was voter irregularity. I think that we may disagree on the scale or the scope of that, but there was never evidence presented by the President, by the administration, by his campaign team that showed me that there was enough voter fraud that the election should be overturned. Now I did vote to challenge two of the states that were brought up and I did not vote to challenge those states based on election fraud or election irregularity. I believe that the will of the legislature was violated by the court system and, in Pennsylvania, by the Secretary of State. I felt like the will of the people in those states, that should have followed their legislative laws set forth by each state, were not followed and so those were the rationales that I took in voting against certifying both of those states. Not the fact that I thought there was widespread voter fraud or widespread voter misconduct in either Arizona or Pennsylvania.”
MG: “I had had conversations with Congressman Kelly the day before about a group of Mississippians from North Mississippi who were going to be here. Trent said he was going to go out, that they had asked for him to go out and take a photograph and I told him that I would be happy to join him. We joined them that morning before the rally. During that time, Congressman Kelly explained to them the process of how the events would transpire that day once the joint-session began. There were questions about ‘Does each member get to vote? Is it a state by state vote?’ That took about five minutes to ten minutes for Congressman Kelly to make that explanation to that group. We then posed with a photograph of those individuals. Trent and I returned back to our offices. I’m assuming that the individuals that we met then went to the rally that the President conducted.”
MG: “I can’t say whether or not they felt that. All I could say is that they were educated on the process; what would occur and what would transpire that day in that joint-session. They were Trump supporters, so they were [in Washington, D.C.] to express their support for the President. They felt that the President had been a successful president and they wanted to see him continue with an additional term. But as to whether or not they felt like the challenge that would be held that day would be successful, I can’t speak to that.”
MG: “You know, at some point somewhere before the joint-session, we were informed that there was a suspicious package outside the Cannon [House Office] Building. It actually was later found to be over at the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is closely adjacent to the Cannon Building which is the office building that I and my staff occupy. That building was evacuated for safety purposes. I knew at that point that any time that there’s an evacuation, particularly an evacuation that lasts an extended period of time, that there’s going to be a heightened sense of security issues that are going to be addressed. And then I was actually on the House floor at the time that protesters breeched the Capitol. We were in the middle of debate that day, a member of the Capitol police interrupted the debate, told members on the floor that there had been a breach.
“We were not aware of the extend of the breach but that there had been a breach and that, for safety reasons, they were locking down the House chamber. At that point you saw Capitol police officers go and manually lock all the doors leading to the House floor. They said that no one would be allowed to enter the Chamber and no one would be allowed to leave the Chamber. At that point we went back to debating the state of Arizona and the certification of their state and about ten minutes later the same officer returned back to the podium, announced that protesters had not only entered the building but were now in the rotunda which is there on the same level as the House floor and that there were protesters heading for the floor. They began securing the rear door which has been the subject of photographs. As you saw, officers placed a piece of furniture there helping to secure that door and to prevent protesters from entering the chamber and all members of Congress were then escorted off the House floor into the Rayburn Office Building where we stayed for several hours until everything was clear for us to return to our office.”
MG: “I agree with the statement that Kevin McCarthy made. I think there’s a lot of blame to go around. I think the President could have chosen his words better there at the rally, but it does seem, as information is coming forward, that what we saw— much of it was preplanned prior to the days leading up to the rally. I will say that I wish the President would have delivered a different message there at the rally, that he would have encouraged his supporters to make sure that they were acting in a lawful manner. But I can’t say that this rests completely and totally upon the shoulders of the President. I think that there is a lot of individuals and a lot of things that could have been done different.”
MG: “I disagree with many of these statements that have been attributed to Marjorie Taylor Greene before being elected to Congress. Many of the statements I find to be disturbing, but I do also disagree with the fact that now the Democrats are wanting to use statements made prior to entering Congress as a way to remove her from her committees. One of the statements that were very concerning was regarding school violence, not believing that some of the school violence was real and, based upon those statements, Kevin McCarthy informed Republicans last night that he had reached out to the Democrats, that he has offered to them to remove her from Education and Labor, which is one of her committees, but to allow her to remain on the Budget Committee. The Democrats said that that was not enough, that she needed to be removed from every one of her committees. That, based on her statements, she did not deserve to serve on any committees in Congress. They want to silence her voice. And she was a duly elected representative from the state of Georgia. So whether the Democrats disagree with her or the Republicans disagree with her, she still has the opportunity to serve in Congress until the voters of Georgia choose to send her home.
“I think it’s very dangerous when the majority party tries to dictate to the minority party who can serve on certain committees in Congress. We’ve seen statements made by the Democratic Party that many Republicans find to be unsavory. We’ve seen Representative Swalwell from California, he was fraternizing with someone who was later found out to be a Chinese spy but yet he’s still allowed to serve on the Intelligence Committee. So it seems to me that there is somewhat of a double-standard and that Republicans should be held in higher regard than Democrats.”
MG: “As a former prosecutor, we have seen, and I personally have had the opportunity to deal with spillover crime: a crime when Madison or Rankin County residents were victimized by people coming from Jackson into Madison and Rankin. But I’ll tell you that crime also flows the other way, that there have also been cases where people in Madison and Rankin County have gone into Jackson. I believe that it is going to take a unified effort. It’s going to take a metro-wide approach if we are going to deal with crime in Jackson. It’s going to take Hinds, Madison and Rankin County all working together. It’s going to take coordination of law enforcement. The sheriff’s department in each of those counties working together.
“When I was in the DA’s Office, we would periodically have a quarterly breakfast very early on where the sheriffs and the chief law enforcement officers, myself and, at that time, DA Robert Shuler Smith would get together and try to see what we could do to coordinate our law enforcement efforts and I think we’re gonna have to see that. You’re not gonna be able to see a single agency be able to solve this problem. This is going to have to be multiple agencies coming together to try to make sure that we are making our metro-area safe. And a vibrant Capitol City is good for the entire metro-area. And so if we can win this fight on crime, if we can revitalize Jackson, it is going to have a huge economic impact for the entire metro-area.”
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