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Growing Number in GOP Downplay Jan. 6  05/14 06:06

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- What insurrection?

   Flouting all evidence and their own first-hand experience, a small but 
growing number of Republican lawmakers are propagating a false portrayal of the 
Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, brazenly arguing that the rioters who used 
flagpoles as weapons, brutally beat police officers and chanted that they 
wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence were somehow acting peacefully in 
their violent bid to overturn Joe Biden's election.

   One Republican at a hearing Wednesday called the rioters a "mob of misfits." 
Another compared them to tourists. And a third suggested the sweeping federal 
investigation into the riot -- which has yielded more than 400 arrests and 
counting -- amounts to a national campaign of harassment.

   It's a turn of events that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another target of the 
rioters, called "appalling" and "sick," and it raises the possibility that the 
public's understanding of the worst domestic attack on Congress in 200 years -- 
an attack that was captured extensively on video -- could become distorted by 
the same kinds of disinformation that fueled former President Donald Trump's 
false claims of a stolen election. It was the lie about the election that 
motivated the rioters in the first place.

   "I don't know of a normal day around here when people are threatening to 
hang the vice president of the United States or shoot the speaker, or injure so 
many police officers," said Pelosi, who has pushed for a bipartisan commission 
to investigate the riots.

   The hearing Wednesday was supposed to be the latest dive by congressional 
investigators into the chaos of Jan. 6 -- the missed warning signs, confusion 
and delays that allowed the rioters to terrorize the Capitol for an entire 
afternoon. But several Republicans used their rounds of questioning not to 
pepper the witnesses with questions but to downplay the brutal assault on 
America's seat of democracy.

   "Let's be honest with the American people -- it was not an insurrection, and 
we cannot call it that and be truthful," said Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Republican 
from Georgia serving his first term.

   Clyde said one video feed of the rioters looked like they were on a "normal 
tourist visit." Those in the video, taken in Statuary Hall, were able to enter 
the building after rioters broke through glass, pummeled officers and busted 
through the doors as lawmakers were frantically evacuated. They were headed to 
the House chamber where they tried to beat down the doors with lawmakers still 
inside.

   Clyde wasn't the only Republican making that argument. Arizona Rep. Paul 
Gosar portrayed a woman who was shot and killed by Capitol Police as she tried 
to break through a door next to the House chamber as a martyr. He said Ashli 
Babbitt was "executed" and noted she was an Air Force veteran who was wearing 
an American flag. The Department of Justice decided after an investigation not 
to charge the police officer who shot her.

   The Justice Department, Gosar said, is "harassing peaceful patriots across 
the country" as federal prosecutors file charges against hundreds of people who 
stormed the Capitol and participated in the riot. The massive investigation, 
one of the largest in American history, remains ongoing with federal agents 
continuing to serve search warrants and attempting to locate dozens of other 
people still being sought for questioning.

   Georgia Rep. Jody Hice also painted the rioters as the victims, noting that 
they were four of the people who died, including Babbitt. The other three 
suffered medical emergencies while part of the crowd laying siege to the 
Capitol. "It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump 
supporters who were taking the lives of others," Hice said.

   A fifth person, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed immediately 
after the insurrection and died the next day. Video shows two men spraying him 
and another officer with a chemical, but the Washington medical examiner said 
Sicknick suffered a stroke and died from natural causes. The men have been 
charged with assaulting the officers.

   Two other officers took their own lives in the days afterward, and dozens 
more were hurt -- including one officer who had a heart attack and others who 
suffered traumatic brain injuries and permanent disabilities. The union that 
represents the Capitol Police said some of the officers may never return to 
work.

   The attempt to defend the insurrectionists came on the same day that House 
Republicans voted to oust Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from their leadership team 
for repeatedly rebuking Trump for his false claims that the election was 
stolen. Cheney voted with Democrats to impeach Trump for telling his supporters 
hours before the Jan. 6 attack to "fight like hell" to overturn Biden's win. 
Trump's lies about widespread election fraud were rebuked by numerous courts, 
election officials across the country and his own attorney general.

   Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who led the Democrats' impeachment prosecution 
and sits on the Oversight Committee, said after the hearing that he believes 
that Republicans were "emboldened and emancipated" by Cheney's ouster earlier 
in the day.

   "They have declared themselves to be on the side of Donald Trump and the 
'big lie,' and the 'big lie' now has spread outwards to include denial of what 
happened on Jan. 6," Raskin said.

   Timothy Naftali, a professor of history and public service at New York 
University, says it is "deeply cynical" to set aside the insurrection as if it 
didn't happen. He compares it to political elites in Southern states after the 
Civil War who failed to examine its causes, which he says prevented racial 
reconciliation and healing and still affects the country to this day.

   "Political amnesia never helps," Naftali said. "It's a source of poison."

   Given the extensive record of the attack, captured in video and photos seen 
the world over, defending the insurrectionists required some creative 
omissions. One point Clyde emphasized was that the rioters never made it to the 
House floor -- even though they tried, only to be held back by police officers 
with guns drawn. Some lawmakers were taking cover in the gallery of the chamber 
as they tried to beat down the doors.

   "I can tell you the House floor was never breached and it was not an 
insurrection," Clyde said. "This is the truth."

   The mob did break into the Senate minutes after senators had evacuated, some 
carrying zip ties and tactical equipment. They rifled through desks and hunted 
for lawmakers, yelling "where are they?" They walked into Pelosi's office, 
stealing a laptop and calling out her name while some of her staff huddled 
quietly under furniture.

   Other Republicans -- some quietly, some publicly -- have made clear they 
don't agree with their colleagues.

   "I was there," said Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who was caught in security video 
being diverted away from the rioters by a police officer. "What happened was a 
violent effort to interfere with and prevent the constitutional order of 
installing a new president. And as such, it was an insurrection against the 
Constitution. It resulted in severe property damage, severe injuries and death."

   Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, another Democratic member of the Oversight 
panel, says the Republican denials are wishful thinking that reverberates with 
their most partisan voters.

   "These folks passionately want what they want to be true," Quigley said 
after the hearing. "So it's no longer I'll believe it when I see it. It's I'll 
see it when I believe it."

 
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