A far right Republican candidate for Congress in western Wisconsin who was present during the Trump-inspired attack on the United States Capitol building has tried to board a plane with a loaded gun in his carry-on luggage.
According to reporting from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Derrick Van Orden was stopped by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents after they discovered a loaded 9mm Sig Sauer handgun in his possession as he passed through security at an airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The incident happened last August but received little-to-no attention at the time. Following a similar incident involving Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina) late last month, however, the event involving Van Orden has received renewed interest.
Van Orden received two fines for his indiscretion, which, according to a spokesperson for the candidate running in Wisconsin’s open Third Congressional District this year, was “purely accidental.” He ended up paying an unspecified fine to the TSA as well as being fined separately in a magistrate court in Iowa in the amount of $360. Van Orden was also ordered to take a firearms safety course, which he completed earlier this year.
— The Wisconsin Idea (@thanewisc) May 9, 2022
Besides bringing luggage into airport security that contained a loaded weapon, Van Orden and Cawthorn have also both been criticized for their actions on January 6, 2021 — the day a mob of loyalists to former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in order to thwart the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Cawthorn, who stirred up the mob in a speech at the White House prior to the attack on Congress, is one of dozens of Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Van Orden, meanwhile, was part of the mob that rushed the Capitol building itself, though he continues to deny that he personally engaged in violence that day.
Van Orden has not been charged with any crime relating to that day’s events, according to Department of Justice records.
Days after the attack occurred, Van Orden condemned the violence, saying he was unaware of what was happening at the time. Van Orden also suggested that his presence in Washington D.C. that day was innocuous, writing in an op-ed that he was there for “meetings and to stand for the integrity of our electoral system.”
Those claims, however, fell apart after social media postings made by Van Orden (which have since been deleted) revealed he was indeed at the Capitol building complex with the mob. Those posts showed that Van Orden was present at a part of the complex that had been closed off to the public and that could only be accessed by someone who had crossed a police barricade.
According to reporting from The Daily Beast, Van Orden used campaign fundraising dollars in order to pay for his trip to the nation’s capital that week.
There is no evidence that he tried to enter the building. But the way in which Van Orden originally described his day on January 6, 2021, was clearly full of omissions, his critics said.
“Derrick Van Orden was not only part of a deadly attack on our Democracy by being on Capitol grounds while the riot erupted — he’s also lied to Wisconsinites and covered up his participation in the insurrection,” a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson said at the time of those revelations.
In addition to his involvement at the Capitol, Van Orden also made headlines last year after he accosted a teen library worker over an LGBTQ book display at the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library. According to the worker he harangued, who was a minor at the time, the Republican candidate for Congress used “threatening” language, was “full-on shouting” at times during his tirade and demanded to know who set up the display so that he could “teach them a lesson.”
The library page told her parents that evening that she no longer felt safe working at the library after Van Orden confronted her.
“I was terrified that he would be outside, that there were be a collection of people outside waiting for me, waiting for anyone else,” she told The Associated Press.
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