The Iowa Republican once thanked police officers for defending the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Times have changed.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Wednesday endorsed a constituent's statement of a debunked conspiracy theory that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was involved in the U.S. Capitol insurrection that took place on Jan. 6, 2021.
"Knowing that the FBI and Capitol Police were complicit in Jan. 6, what have you done to get the political prisoners being held in gulag conditions out on bail?" a man asked Grassley during a town hall event in Clarion, Iowa, on Wednesday.
The news site Iowa Starting Line captured the interaction on video as Grassley responded:
Speaking out on it is the only thing that we can do. And because it's all in the executive branch of government — with prosecutorial discretion — but also the judicial branch of government has been involved with some of these people. Out of 750, I don't know how many would be described with what you said about the people. And what you said is accurate.
A Grassley spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
On Jan. 6, 2021, thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump illegally stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. At least nine people died in the wake of the attacks — including five police officers.
Brian David Sicknick, a 42-year-old U.S. Capitol Police officer, was hit with bear spray during the riot outside the Capitol building. He died the next day, after suffering a series of strokes.
"He spent his life trying to help other people," Sicknick's brother told ProPublica at the time. "This political climate got my brother killed."
In addition to Sicknick's death, four police officers who responded to the Jan. 6 insurrection committed suicide in the months following the attack. About 150 officers were injured.
Some Republican lawmakers have pushed similar conspiracy theories, suggesting without evidence that federal law enforcement was somehow complicit in the attacks. Other Republicans have gone so far as to claim that the insurrection was an inside job to undermine supporters of former President Donald Trump.
A June 2021 USA Today fact check determined these claims to be "false," and recently the bipartisan House special investigative committee debunked some of the most pervasive allegations.
Grassley is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with overseeing federal law enforcement, including the FBI.
His comments on Wednesday appeared to contradict his first statements after the attack.
"Today's violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself," Grassley tweeted on Jan. 6, 2021. "I condemn today's violence in the strongest terms & perpetrators deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"I also thank Capitol Police for protecting our Capitol & staff," he added.
Grassley has frequently presented himself as a staunch defender of the "rule of law" and one who will always "back the Blue," referring to law enforcement officers.
Though members of the Capitol Police urged an independent commission to look into the events, Grassley helped block the legislation. He said such an effort would be too narrow and would be "taking more time and costing more tax dollars."
Earlier this month, Grassley accused Democrats of selective outrage for condemning the political violence a year ago in the Capitol but not being vocal enough at condemning Black Lives Matter protesters in their clashes with law enforcement in 2020.
This appears to be the first time he's endorsed the debunked claims that the FBI and Capitol Police were involved in the attacks.
Grassley, 88, assumed office in 1981, making him the 10th longest-serving senator in U.S. history. Last September, he announced he will seek an eighth six-year term in the 2022 midterm elections.
Democratic former Rep. Abby Finkenauer is seeking to challenge Grassley in the race. She accused her opponent of having "turned his back on the police officers" who defended the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection and called Grassley's remarks "shameful."
"The questioner in this video is literally defending the insurrectionists from January 6. Grassley can't even call it out and just goes along with it, even describing the man's conspiracy theories about the Capitol Police as 'accurate,'" Finkenauer said in a statement Wednesday.
She added: "What a damn disgrace he has become."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.