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Rep. Steve Cohen suggests that Trump voters in the National Guard should be viewed as "suspect"

Rep. Cohen went so far in his smear of Trump voters that even the Washington Post and CNN pushed back.

Updated: January 19, 2021 - 10:26am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., suggested on Monday that people in the National Guard who have been activated to secure the inauguration on Wednesday of President-elect Joe Biden might be Trump supporters and therefore "might want to do something" to Biden or disrupt the event. 

25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed to Washington to secure the event following the Jan. 6 disruption at the U.S. Capitol that resulted in five deaths and the destruction of property while Congress was in session to certify the electors in the presidential election.

The FBI has been involved in vetting deployed members of the Guard to be sure that none of them will pose a threat to the inauguration or to Joe Biden.

"The U.S. Army issued a statement late Sunday obtained by Fox News that said it is working with the Secret Service to determine if any service members on hand need additional background screening. The statement said that all service members are familiar with the Threat Awareness and Reporting Program, which 'requires department personnel to report any information regarding known or suspected extremist behavior that could be a threat to the department or the U.S.'"

But Rep. Cohen took it a step further: "The [National] Guard is 90 some-odd percent male, and only about 20 percent of white males voted for Biden," he said. "You've got to figure that in the Guard, which is predominantly more conservative … they're probably not more than 25 percent of the people there protecting us that voted for Biden. The other 75 percent are in the large class of folks that might want to do something."

The implication from Cohen that being a Trump voter makes one a possible seditionist or a threat to the safety of the President-elect was pushed back on from both CNN and the Washington Post, two news outlets that have themselves been harsh critics of President Trump. 

CNN's Jim Sciutto said that being a Trump voter was "far different from being a threat of violence." He asked Cohen if he had any evidence to back up his assertion that these people represented a threat. "Absolutely not," said Cohen. He said "you draw a circle first" around the Trump voters and said that they are people who you should be "suspect of."

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, also criticized Cohen. 

"Hmmm, does a Democratic congressman really want to suggest that if you voted for Trump you might be a seditionist?" Kessler tweeted. "What happened to the idea that military people are professionals and do their jobs regardless of political preferences?"

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