Senate hopeful headed to Mar-a-Lago slams Dems over Jan. 6

February 22, 2022 GMT
FILE - Adam Laxalt speaks during a news conference in front of the Clark County Election Department on Nov. 5, 2020, in Las Vegas. The Republican front-runner in Nevada's 2022 U.S. Senate race is attacking Democrats and the media for exaggerating the magnitude of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, as he deepens his ties to former President Donald Trump. Laxalt is scheduled to make two appearances at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in February 2022 in Palm Beach, Fla., before speaking on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - Adam Laxalt speaks during a news conference in front of the Clark County Election Department on Nov. 5, 2020, in Las Vegas. The Republican front-runner in Nevada's 2022 U.S. Senate race is attacking Democrats and the media for exaggerating the magnitude of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, as he deepens his ties to former President Donald Trump. Laxalt is scheduled to make two appearances at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in February 2022 in Palm Beach, Fla., before speaking on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - Adam Laxalt speaks during a news conference in front of the Clark County Election Department on Nov. 5, 2020, in Las Vegas. The Republican front-runner in Nevada's 2022 U.S. Senate race is attacking Democrats and the media for exaggerating the magnitude of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, as he deepens his ties to former President Donald Trump. Laxalt is scheduled to make two appearances at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in February 2022 in Palm Beach, Fla., before speaking on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - Adam Laxalt speaks during a news conference in front of the Clark County Election Department on Nov. 5, 2020, in Las Vegas. The Republican front-runner in Nevada's 2022 U.S. Senate race is attacking Democrats and the media for exaggerating the magnitude of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, as he deepens his ties to former President Donald Trump. Laxalt is scheduled to make two appearances at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in February 2022 in Palm Beach, Fla., before speaking on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - Adam Laxalt speaks during a news conference in front of the Clark County Election Department on Nov. 5, 2020, in Las Vegas. The Republican front-runner in Nevada's 2022 U.S. Senate race is attacking Democrats and the media for exaggerating the magnitude of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, as he deepens his ties to former President Donald Trump. Laxalt is scheduled to make two appearances at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in February 2022 in Palm Beach, Fla., before speaking on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

A Republican front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race who plans to co-host a fundraiser with former President Donald Trump this week says Democrats and the press are exaggerating the magnitude of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Adam Laxalt is one of several swing-state candidates deepening their ties to Trump despite intra-party rifts that have arisen since the former president falsely claimed former Vice President Mike Pence could have overturned the 2020 election and attacked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his role in the certification process.

Laxalt, who has hired consultants associated with McConnell to advise him on campaign strategy, is scheduled to appear at two events this week at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida: a big-ticket fundraiser Tuesday in support of his bid against Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto; and another fundraiser Wednesday for a Trump-aligned political action committee. On Friday, Laxalt heads to the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual summit in Orlando, where he will appear on a panel alongside other GOP candidates hoping to flip the evenly split Senate.

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Laxalt is the grandson of former Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt and the son of former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici. He served as state attorney general from 2015 to 2019 and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018.

Since announcing his candidacy, Laxalt, who co-chaired Trump’s 2020 campaign in Nevada, has largely spoken through his Twitter feed and conservative media outlets. He has seldom commented about the deadly riot at the Capitol.

In a September podcast appearance, Laxalt referenced Jan. 6 not for the violence, but as an example of the overreaching power of technology companies such as Twitter and Facebook, which banned Trump from their platforms after the attack.

“That fateful day in January when they pulled him off of social media and pulled him off of Twitter. People felt that in their stomach: ’Oh my god, they can cancel a former president of the United States,” he told former Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn on “America First with Sebastian Gorka.”

In a statement this week to The Associated Press, Laxalt said he believes the “very few” who broke laws on Jan. 6 should be prosecuted. But he also thinks Democrats and the media are embracing exaggerated and inaccurate accounts of the attack to use them as political weapons.

“This day was not the darkest day in American history, not even close,” he said, referencing a phrase used by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats.

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“What the media and their left wing allies have done to weaponize this against Republicans and Trump voters is reprehensible,” he added. “This issue is not in the top 100 of issues that matter to ordinary Nevadans. Voters will not be fooled by this in November 2022.”

The way Laxalt navigates discussing the Jan. 6 riot parallels strategies of other Trump-backed 2022 candidates who continue to support baseless claims of election fraud while minimizing the fatalities and violence that occurred the day Congress moved to certify the results. Many have focused their remarks on condemning the actions of the House committee investigating the insurrection and the Democrats leading it, rather than the attack itself.

Though Trump remains overwhelmingly popular among Republican voters, questions about how to broach the 2020 election and subsequent violence are increasingly dividing Republican elected officials.

After South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said President Joe Biden, not Trump, had won the election, his colleagues rallied around him amid criticism from Trump. Republicans in the Senate, including McConnell, criticized the Republican National Committee after it censured two GOP lawmakers for participating on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Despite the rift, Trump continues to maintain a stranglehold on much the GOP’s fundraising apparatus. With Laxalt lagging far Cortez Masto in campaign contributions — raising less than half of her total haul in the last three months of 2021 — support from Trump-aligned independent expenditure committees could provide a needed boost to Laxalt’s campaign.

Laxalt has not shied away from addressing the 2020 election.

Almost two years after he led legal efforts to challenge the election results in Nevada as Trump campaign co-chair, he has made unsubstantiated claims about compromised election results a focal point of his campaign. In an appearance on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, Laxalt called election security the “hottest topic we have” and reiterated plans to fight to change Nevada’s policies, which include sending mail-in ballots to all active voters.

Cortez Masto, in a speech on the one-year anniversary of the attack, called it “unprecedented” and drew a direct line between the violence and unproven claims that Biden’s victory was a byproduct of fraud and foul play.

“We were under attack because insurrectionists had been whipped into a frenzy by the false claim that the election in Nevada and in other states was fraudulent,” she said.