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Two January 6th Participants Elected to Congress

One helped organize Donald Trump’s rally that marched to the Capitol. The other attended the rally and marched.
November 9, 2022
Two January 6th Participants Elected to Congress
DELAWARE, OH - APRIL 23: (L-R) Former U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Max Miller, Republican candidate for Ohio's 7th congressional district, speaks during a rally hosted by the former president at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on April 23, 2022 in Delaware, Ohio. Last week, Trump announced his endorsement of J.D. Vance in the Ohio Republican Senate primary. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The extent to which sitting members of Congress were involved in the Trump rally-turned-insurrection of January 6th remain murky—notwithstanding Sen. Josh Hawley’s fist seen round the world or the reports that several GOP representatives sought last-minute pardons from President Donald Trump. But as a result of Tuesday’s elections, there will soon be two new members of Congress who participated in the events of Jan. 6th as attendees.

Some fourteen Jan. 6th attendees were on the ballot on Tuesday for statewide and federal offices. While many of them ran in unwinnable, heavily Democratic districts, some looked like they might have been able to pull off a win. Ohio candidate J.R. Majewski was one of these—until his campaign imploded after reports that he misrepresented his military service.

In the end, two Jan. 6th participants won their congressional races on Tuesday—guaranteeing they will now be allowed into the U.S. Capitol that was attacked on that day.

Derrick Van Orden

First, in Wisconsin, there’s retired Navy SEAL Derrick Van Orden, who defeated Democratic State Sen. Brad Pfaff, with CNN calling the race early Wednesday morning.

Van Orden attended Trump’s Jan. 6th rally at the Ellipse by the White House. Social media posts show that he was subsequently outside the Capitol during the initial break-in and ransacking. Van Orden paid for the trip to Washington with $4,000 of his failed 2020 campaign funds as well, covering travel and lodging costs for himself, his wife, and one campaign employee.

While he touted lies about the legitimacy of the 2020 elections, Van Orden racked up Republican endorsements on his way to winning Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, a seat that Democrat Ron Kind has held for the last quarter century. Trump backed Van Orden early on in the race, as did House Minority Leader and Speaker-hopeful Kevin McCarthy, House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, and all the Republicans in the Wisconsin congressional delegation.

Max Miller

Meanwhile, Max Miller, who actually helped arrange Trump’s Jan. 6th rally on the Ellipse, handily defeated Matthew Diemer in Ohio’s deep-red 7th Congressional District.

The House Jan. 6th Committee found that Miller met privately two days prior to the rally to gameplan the event. In a letter, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote that “credible evidence” revealed Miller was “present for a meeting with then President Trump on January 4, 2021, with Robert ‘Bobby’ Peede, Jr. and Katrina Pierson, to discuss the rally.” During the meeting, which was held in the president’s private dining room off the Oval Office, the discussion centered on whom Trump wanted to speak at the rally.

Miller also communicated with the then-deputy secretary of the interior and then-acting director of the National Park Service (NPS) to ask them about permitting for the rally at which Trump told supporters that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Career officials initially declined the permitting request to build the stage on which Trump spoke in the middle of the Ellipse. This rejection was “in keeping with the longstanding practice of NPS not to allow event structures to be placed within the unobstructed vista sightline between the Truman Balcony of the White House and the Jefferson Memorial,” according to Rep. Thompson’s letter. But the committee found that Miller “and/or someone acting on [his] behalf” enlisted the help of the Trump appointees to intervene, and the career officials at NPS eventually reversed their decision, which Miller relayed to a rally organizer in a series of text messages.

Since then, Miller has appeared alongside Trump at rallies and publicly questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

Miller’s Jan. 6th involvement is not the only blot on his record. Politico previously reported on his history of drinking and disorderly conduct, in addition to allegations that he blew up on former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham after their romantic relationship went south, with three individuals saying he pushed her against a wall and slapped her. Miller’s attorney denied the allegation.

With their victories on Tuesday—Van Orden by about 4 points, Miller by more than 10—these two men involved in Jan. 6th will now have offices in the Capitol complex that was breached that day, and will have as colleagues members of Congress who spent that day ducking, running, and hiding behind doors barricaded against Donald Trump’s mob.

Joe Perticone

Joe Perticone is national political reporter at The Bulwark. Follow him on Twitter: @JoePerticone. He can be reached at: [email protected].