In a contentious House hearing on Wednesday, Republicans attempted to downplay and shift the narrative surrounding the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, decrying attempts to call the violent attack an “insurrection.”
One notable GOP Representative went so far as to say that calling the deadly attack — which left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and 140 police officers injured — an insurrection “is bold-faced lie” in his opinion.
“There was an undisciplined mob,” Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde said on Wednesday. “There were some rioters, and some who committed acts of vandalism. But let me be clear, there was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie.”
“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos, pictures,” Clyde continued. “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
Rep. Clyde’s account contradicts the violent events of Jan. 6, which millions of Americans saw broadcast live, as well as via video from inside the Capitol captured by journalists, surveillance video and, later, released by authorities, including prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Shortly after a speech at the Ellipse near the White House, in which then-President Trump encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he lost, supporters marched to the Capitol, where Vice President Mike Pence and a joint session of Congress were meeting to certify now-President Joe Biden’s victory.
Rioters went on to storm the Capitol, smashing through windows and caused major damage. Some chanted “Hang Mike Pence” with a gallows erected on the Capitol grounds, and “Where’s Nancy?” as they searched for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, banging on her office doors. Some of the assailants attempted to breach the House chamber, which ultimately led to the death of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by police officers after attempting to climb through a glass door.
The hearing took place shortly after Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was removed from her House GOP leadership position for rebuking former President Donald Trump’s false claims about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Cheney was one of 10 Republican lawmakers in the House who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot.
The hearing before the House Oversight Committee saw former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testifying publicly for the first time about Jan. 6, defending their respective agencies' responses to the chaos. Democrats clashed with Miller in addition to clashing with their Republican counterparts over what they said was revisionist history.
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona said that Babbitt was “executed,” despite the fact that the Department of Justice said that the officer involved in the shooting will not face criminal charges.
Georgia Rep. Jody Hice also brought up Babbitt at the hearing, saying ”it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” overlooking that loyalists to the president instigated the riot, smashing through windows and spraying officers with pepper and bear spray.
A number of Republicans even went on to decry the fact that the FBI is seeking to identify and arrest those involved in the breach of the Capitol.
“Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law-abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters,” Gosar said. “The FBI is fishing through homes of veterans and citizens with no criminal records and restricting the liberties of individuals that have never been accused of a crime.”
“The government even enlisted Americans to turn in their own neighbors,” he added.
Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina even went on to question whether or not the rioters were even Trump supporters, despite the fact that many people in the mob wore Trump paraphernalia or carried Trump signs, and some of those arrested have confirmed their support for the former president in court proceedings.
“I don't know who did a poll to say that they were Trump supporters,” Norman said.
More than 440 people have been arrested and charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot, and the FBI is still seeking information on key suspects.
The attack led to former President Trump’s second impeachment, and though 57 Senators voted to convict him, including 7 Republicans, he was acquitted.
Democrats pushed back on their GOP colleagues’ claims, accusing Republicans of rewriting history.
“I find it hard to believe the revisionist history that's being offered by my colleagues on the other side," Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts said.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, himself the Lead Impeachment Manager in Trump’s second impeachment, urged Republicans to stop with “evasions” and “distractions” and instead focus on the creation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Capitol attack.
Republicans have said they’ll support it if the investigation includes last summer’s racial justice protests.
“We need a complete, bipartisan, multi-partisan, nonpartisan, 9/11- style commission to study the causes, and the events of January six and the response to it," Raskin said. "But our colleagues, alas, have done everything in their power to block the formation of a commission, including slandering Black Lives Matter, a nonviolent movement for justice, that they continue to lie about with their propaganda.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.