Attendees at the event included Larry Fine, who serves as cochair of Saratoga, Warren, Washington Progressive Action, which hosted the event, as well as two Democrats challenging Stefanik this year in her race for reelection, Matt Castelli and Matt Putorti.
Castelli, a frontrunning Democrat candidate in Stefanik's district, said in remarks at the vigil that Stefanik “violated her oath that particular day [January 6, 2021] in her actions and has continued to do so every day since,” according to one video.
He accused Stefanik of “promoting the big lie falsehoods that she was fed by the former president's inner circle” after Stefanik joined the majority of her House Republican colleagues in objecting to certifying the 2020 presidential election.
Castelli, a former CIA officer, has made the January 6 Capitol riot central to his campaign, announcing his bid for office by highlighting the incident — in which five people involved died, including three from natural causes and one from a drug overdose — and comparing it to September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by al-Qaeda terrorists.
As a CIA and White House counterterrorism official, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.@EliseStefanik took that same oath. But she violated it on Jan. 6th.
Now I'm running for Congress to defeat her and uphold mine. pic.twitter.com/uOxDeW7OBs
— Matt Castelli (@CastelliMatt) September 8, 2021
Stefanik executive director Alex deGrasse called the comparison “disqualifying” in a statement provided to Breitbart News, saying Castelli “disgracefully compared January 6th to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 during the week of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks and has based his entire campaign on that disgraceful and disqualifying comparison.”
In his remarks at the event on Thursday, Castelli also compared Stefanik to the American Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold. “Her actions remind me of another individual with ties to the North Country. … I am talking about the traitor Benedict Arnold, and his treasonous spirit is alive and well in Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.”
In addition to his attendance at the vigil, Castelli penned an op-ed, published on the Capitol riot anniversary, in which he cited the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids individuals who have “engaged in insurrection” from serving in office.
Also at the vigil, the far-left host group's cochair, Fine, drew an even deeper comparison than Castelli between January 6 and treason.
“We were attacked. There was a terrorist attack on our country, attempting to overthrow our government, our government. It was a coup,” Fine said, according to another clip of the event. “They came with weapons and lots of people and arms. Because this attack is by our own citizens, it's called treason, treason.”
Fine added, “A consequence of treason is death. According to the Constitution, a consequence of treason is death.” One attendee can be heard shouting, “Amen,” in response to the statement.
Treason is narrowly defined in the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
Democrat candidate Putorti, who recently became caught up in intraparty conflict within his district, also criticized Stefanik at the Thursday vigil, saying the congresswoman is now “trying to downplay and rewrite what actually happened a year ago.”
Stefanik, the House GOP Conference chair, has been a leading Republican in condemning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) investigation into January 6, which Stefanik and several other GOP leaders have characterized as “partisan” and a “sham” considering Pelosi's nine-member committee tasked with the investigation comprises seven Democrats and two Never Trump Republican outliers.
The committee has focused largely on former President Donald Trump and his allies, accusing them of spurring protesters to storm the Capitol, but Stefanik, as well as several other GOP leaders, have directed attention toward the security in place at the Capitol the day of the riot and pitted a portion of the blame for inadequate security on Pelosi.
The New York Republican said in a statement this week, “The fact is that Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility as Speaker of the House for leaving the Capitol so vulnerable despite multiple warnings and requests, and now she is responsible for the cover-up of that fact.”