GOP’s Gosar defends Jan. 6 rioter, says she was ‘executed’
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who has repeatedly been criticized by other lawmakers and outside groups for spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and other issues, on Wednesday cast a rioter shot while trying to break into the House chamber as “a veteran wrapped in an American flag” who was “executed.”
Gosar also cut off a witness after asking about the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who Gosar said had died of “natural causes.”
The discussion took place during a high-profile hearing by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Witnesses included former Trump administration officials and the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police chief.
Gosar posed a series of questions to former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
First, Gosar asked Rosen if the Justice Department had confiscated any firearms from suspects charged with breaching the Capitol, even though law enforcement found firearms and a variety of other weapons on the rioters such as baseball bats, a wooden club, a spear, bear spray, knives and a stun gun.
“Officer Sicknick was there acting in the line of duty and went into harm’s way. And I think as others have said, he acted as one of many heroes on that day, so –” Rosen said, before Gosar cut him off.
“He died of natural causes,” Gosar said.
Gosar later turned to the death of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to jump through a broken window outside the House chamber while lawmakers, staff and others were still trying to evacuate.
“Do you recall the name of the young lady, a veteran wrapped in an American flag, who was killed in the U.S. Capitol?” Gosar asked Rosen.
“I do. Her name was Ashli Babbitt,” Rosen replied.
Gosar asked Rosen to confirm if Babbitt was armed.
“Again, Congressman, I need to be respectful of your observations, but I just don’t want to talk about individual situations,” Rosen said.
“No, she wasn’t. She was wrapped in a U.S. flag,” Gosar said. “Was the death of Ashli Babbitt a homicide?”
“Congressman, I’m not trying to be unhelpful here. But I just cannot comment,” Rosen began before Gosar interrupted him again.
“As the death certificate says, it was a homicide. Who executed Ashli Babbitt?” Gosar asked, only for Rosen to decline to comment again.
Federal prosecutors said last month that they would not file charges against the unnamed Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Babbitt. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., said that prosecutors found “no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt ” that the shooting was unlawful.
“My constituents demand answers. But the truth is being censored and covered up. As a result, the [Justice Department] is harassing peaceful patriots across the country,” said Gosar.
“Without accurate answers, conspiracies continue to form,” Gosar said at the hearing.
Hundreds of people have been charged for taking part in the insurrection, with the charges ranging from disorderly conduct and conspiracy to obstruction of an official proceeding.
Five people died in connection with the insurrection, including Babbitt, Sicknick, and three others who died of medical emergencies. A Capitol Police officer, Howard Liebengood, and a Metropolitan Police officer, Jeffrey Smith, who were both on duty at the Capitol on Jan. 6, also died by suicide in the days afterward.
Other Republicans at Wednesday’s committee hearing similarly questioned the events of Jan. 6 and tried to downplay former President Trump’s role in inciting the mob.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) pointed to Trump saying in his speech outside the White House that day that “everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” and accused Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) of “cherry-picking” the former president’s words.
Trump also told the crowd that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
“In fact, it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” Hice said.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) then accused Hice of engaging in “revisionist history.”
Wednesday’s hearing came on the same day that House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from her third-ranking leadership position for repeatedly challenging Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
In remarks to reporters immediately following the vote, Cheney doubled down on her vow to continue countering Trump’s message, saying, “We must go forward based on truth.”
“We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution,” she said, adding “the nation needs a strong Republican Party” and a “party based on fundamental principles of conservatism.”