A Republican member of Congress compared the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as a “normal tourist visit” on Wednesday, in a counter-factual defence of the deadly riot that former U.S. president Donald Trump helped incite.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, a rookie lawmaker from Georgia, claimed there was “no insurrection” during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the insurrection Wednesday. Clyde was one of several Republicans who sought to downplay the incident, amid testimony from Trump’s former acting attorney general and acting defence secretary.
“To call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie,” Clyde said.
Hundreds breached the Capitol and five people were killed in a riot that sought to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s legitimate election victory on Jan. 6 after Trump inflamed the crowd with his baseless claims of voter fraud. Those claims had already been drummed out of the courts in more than 60 defeats by that point.
Clyde claimed during Wednesday’s hearing that the rioters entered the Capitol “in an orderly fashion, staying between the stanchions and ropes and taking videos and pictures.”
Footage shows the mob fought with security officials on the steps before breaching the Capitol. Some of them were later seen strolling through Statuary Hall while remaining between the ropes. Later, the mob spread out around the room and waved American, Trump and Confederate flags.
Many wore tactical gear.
A total of 140 police officers were injured and one died as a result of the riot, while two others later died by suicide.
The FBI has since gathered the rioters’ videos and photos as evidence in hundreds of criminal cases stemming from the incident.
“If you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said.
Former Republican senator Jeff Flake, who also occasionally challenged Trump before leaving politics, blasted Clyde’s characterization of the riot on Twitter.
“I served on Capitol Hill for 18 years,” he wrote, in a post that included a photo of a rioter with the Confederate flag. “This was not a normal tourist visit.”
Wednesday’s hearing took place shortly after one of Trump’s few remaining critics within the party, Rep. Liz Cheney, was stripped of her post as the No. 3 Republican in the House. Cheney voted to impeach Trump for inciting the riot, and has described his frequent claims about the election as “The Big Lie.”
“If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person,” she told her colleagues before she was booted out, according to The Associated Press. “You have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy.”
Plenty of Republicans were eager to defend Trump’s role in the riot later on Wednesday after Cheney had been ousted.
Rep. Pat Fallon, a Republican from Texas, acknowledged that the crowd was an “unruly and dangerous mob” who committed “various” crimes. He also suggested that it was “hyperbolic” to describe the incident as an insurrection or a rebellion.
GOP representatives Paul Gosar and Jody Hice also mourned the death of Ashli Babbitt, the pro-Trump rioter who was fatally shot while trying to breach an area where members of Congress were taking shelter from the mob.
“She was wrapped in a U.S. flag,” Gosar said.
“It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” Hice said.
Babbitt had been radicalized by the pro-Trump QAnon hoax, her social media posts showed.
The Justice Department decided last month that it would not pursue charges against the officer who shot Babbitt.
Biden beat Trump by seven million in the popular vote and 74 seats in the electoral college system. The top election security official said it was the “most secure” election in American history. Trump fired him a few days later.
— With files from The Associated Press
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