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Oregon’s Bentz says he never asked Republican colleague to pursue pardon for him

U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz during an interview in Ontario in 2021. (The Enterprise/FILE)

U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz said Friday that he was unaware that a colleague had recommended a presidential pardon for his Jan. 6, 2021, vote to challenge the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania.

Bentz, Oregon’s lone Republican in Congress, was one of 138 representatives who objected to counting the Pennsylvania election results in the 2020 presidential race.

Witnesses told a Congressional investigating committee on Thursday, June 23, that a handful of U.S. representatives sought pardons from then-President Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, five days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol wrote to the White House because “President Trump asked me to.”

Brooks recommended Trump grant general pardons to “every Congressman and senator who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania.”

Brooks said he expected Democrats “with perhaps some liberal Republican help” are “going to abuse America’s judicial system by targeting numerous Republicans with sham charges.”

In response to written questions, Bentz said through a spokesman that he had never considered requesting a pardon and hadn’t researched the matter. He said he didn’t authorize Brooks to represent him in a pardon request.

“I have never even spoken to Rep. Brooks,” Bentz said.

They both participate in the Sportsmen’s Caucus in the House, their official websites show.

Bentz said he knew nothing of the letter until it became public on Thursday.

“I was made aware of it in the same manner as everyone else – when the media began talking about it,” he said.

Bentz, a former state legislator and an Ontario attorney specializing in water law, had been in office just a few days when Congress took the formal step of counting electoral votes in the presidential election. The counting was disrupted by rioters and more than 700 people have been charged with federal crimes since then.

Republicans joined in Trump’s effort to overturn the election results showing Joe Biden won.

Pennsylvania was a key to the strategy to deliver the election to Trump by disputing results in several states.

In a statement after his vote opposing the Pennsylvania numbers, Bentz explained he didn’t think the election process in that state passed Constitutional muster. He said he concluded that after he and his staff researched the matter. He was troubled that state officials, including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, were allowing mail-in ballots to be counted.

He said that process “contributed to a widespread loss of faith by many Americans in the integrity of the 2020 election – including many in my district. Such a violation of our Constitution must be discouraged in the strongest terms possible.”

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 10,000 ballots postmarked by Election Day but received afterward were set aside and not included in Pennsylvania’s vote count. 

In a later interview with the Malheur Enterprise, Bentz said he didn’t realize that those 10,000 votes had not in fact been included in the Pennsylvania results. Litigation contesting the Pennsylvania results ended when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal.

On Friday, Bentz said he stands by his statement given after his Pennsylvania vote.

He had said then that he shared frustrations of his constituents over the 2020 election and “I will do my best to address their concerns.”

He didn’t share what steps he had taken in the past 18 months.

Instead, he said, “We are awaiting proposals from the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.”

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