House Republicans praise rioters and push election lies at hearing on Capitol attack

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'Was Jan. 6 an insurrection or could it more accurately be described as a mob of misfits?'

House Republicans on Wednesday spent a hearing intended to address the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol lionizing the insurrectionists, deflecting blame from Donald Trump for fueling the attacks, and advancing conspiracy theories on the subject.

The House Oversight Committee held a hearing titled "The Capitol Insurrection: Unexplained Delays and Unanswered Questions" to discuss the attack on the Capitol and the events leading up to it.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who was recently criticized for headlining a conference of white nationalists back in February, described the people who breached the Capitol — a group mostly made up of Trump supporters — as "peaceful patriots" who were now being harassed by the Justice Department, which is conducting ongoing investigations into those who participated in the insurrection.

To date, more than 440 people have been charged for taking part in the unprecedented breach, which forced lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence to flee for their lives and barricade themselves in safe rooms and offices, to avoid the rioters, who were there to top Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory.

"Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law-abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters," Gosar complained on Wednesday.

Gosar also brought up Ashli Babbitt, the pro-Trump rioter who broke into the building during the attack and was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to climb through a broken door frame, referring to her as "a veteran wrapped in an American flag" and describing her death as an execution.

In April, federal prosecutors cleared the officer who shot Babbitt of criminal wrongdoing and determined that it was reasonable for him to believe he fired at her in self-defense or in defense of the lawmakers and their aides.

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX), meanwhile, argued at Wednesday's hearing that the attack on Jan. 6 was not an act of insurrection, but instead the work of a "mob of misfits."

"Was Jan. 6 an insurrection or could it more accurately be described as a mob of misfits committing disorderly conduct, violent entry, civil disorder, vandalism, unlawful entry, etcetera?" he asked.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) complained that the media had "put forth a narrative" about Donald Trump's speech ahead of the attack and insisted Trump had called for "peaceful" protest.

The claim is one that has been made frequently by Republicans, who insist Trump did not incite his supporters to violence, despite his calls for them to march on the Capitol to "stop the steal," a reference to his baseless accusation that the election was stolen from him. Trump also memorably told his supporters that day, at a rally prior to the attack, "We will not let them silence your voices," suggesting he would march with them to the Capitol.

"You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong," he said.

Hice also quoted an anonymous individual during the hearing, someone who was purportedly in attendance at the Capitol and described it as a "beautiful day of peaceful, faith-filled support for free elections."

Hice said the source claimed that "agitators rolled in" and disrupted the events.

"We’ve heard reports of buses of these individuals rolling up. Who were they?" asked Hice.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) made a similar argument, complaining that the official timeline of the attack referred to "a mob of Trump supporters" breaching the Capitol.

"I don't know who did the poll to say that they were Trump supporters," said Norman. "We're just going through the motions to blame a president who has no — had no reason — he had thousands of people there... those that breached the Capitol were intend[ing] to do damage."

Republicans have repeatedly sought to redirect blame from Trump's supporters, advancing on multiple occasions the conspiracy that the violence on Jan. 6 was stoked by anarchists or "antifa" activists. Testifying to the Senate in March, however, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the agency had seen no evidence that "anarchist violent extremist or people who subscribe to antifa" were involved in the riot.

While questioning a witness during Wednesday's hearing, Wisconsin Rep. Glenn Grothman (R) claimed he had spoken to a member of the Capitol Police and said "they told me a lot of people were just milling around" in the building during the breach.

Grothman later exhorted listeners in unrelated comments to "research the three founders of Black Lives Matter," saying, "It is something that concerns me so greatly that somebody who, apparently, were trained as Marxists have gained such influence in our country."

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), for his part, sought to cast blame on Democrats for purportedly inspiring other acts of violence.

"I would argue that many Americans have come to believe that Congress has become a disturbing faction in America," said Higgins. "My colleagues are referring to the actions of Jan. 6, but they completely ignore the language and influence that their own members caused across the country."

Quoting Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — who have all called for peaceful protest against police brutality and spoken out against violence — Higgins claimed, "The hypocrisy of this body is indeed disturbing."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.