“That result of that decision is bringing a hailstorm of criticism,” said a state senator, Kevin L. Matthews, founder and chairman of the 1921 commission. In an interview, he said he personally did not believe Mr. Lankford should resign from the commission, but that some members believed it was inconsistent with his drive to invalidate the election results. “There are a lot of people that feel like you can’t stand for both.”
Mr. Lankford and other Republicans had claimed that by challenging the election results, they were exercising their independence and acting in the interests of constituents who were demanding answers. In an interview the morning of Jan. 6, he sought to distinguish his argument from Mr. Trump’s false claims that the election could be overturned, saying he had been clear that there was no constitutional way to subvert the will of a majority of American voters.
“Everybody’s got their own motives in this, to be able to solve this,” he said. “For me, long term, we’ve got to be able to find a constitutional way to be able to resolve some of these issues.”
Less than four hours later, Mr. Lankford would be interrupted in his opening argument by the Senate’s sudden adjournment, as an aide whispered to him that the mob was inside the Capitol building.
In a secure location on Capitol Hill, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, recalled pleading with Mr. Lankford and Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, to reverse course and support the counting of votes. The pair later released a joint statement calling on “the entire Congress to come together and vote to certify the election results,” and saying the lawlessness and chaos had caused them to change their minds.
“We disagree on a lot of things, and we have a lot of spirited debate in this room,” Mr. Lankford said that evening. “But we talk it out, and we honor each other — even in our disagreement.”
Reporting was contributed by Astead W. Herndon and Jim Rutenberg from New York, Reid J. Epstein and Luke Broadwater from Washington, and Mike Ives from Hong Kong.