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GOP senator raises uncorroborated claims about 'provocateurs,' 'fake Trump supporters' at Capitol riot hearing

A GOP senator used his questioning period during a joint Senate hearing Tuesday focused on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to read from an unverified eyewitness account published by The Federalist raising unproven claims about "provocateurs" and people pretending to be supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE participating in the riot.

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many On The Money: Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill | Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders | February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy Senate relief package earmarks B for global coronavirus response MORE (R-Wis.) asked only one question during the joint hearing hosted by the Senate Rules Committee and Senate Homeland Security Committee regarding the events of the Jan. 6 riot during his allotted time period Tuesday as he read from a piece authored by J. Michael Waller, an analyst at the Center for Security Policy, describing his supposed personal observations of the violence.

In excerpts from the piece Johnson read during the hearing, the author describes seeing "an organized cell of agents-provocateurs to corral people as an unwitting follow-on force behind the plainclothes militants tussling with police," as well as "fake Trump protesters," whom he said remained nonviolent during the riot.

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Other excerpts read by Johnson appeared to place the blame on Capitol Police officers for inciting the crowd to violence, claiming that, "[t]he tear gas changed the crowd’s demeanor. There was an air of disbelief as people realized that the police whom they supported were firing on them."

Assembled witnesses, including former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, were not given a chance to respond to those assertions during the hearing, and were instead directed by Johnson to respond to a list of questions the senator said he had provided them in a letter.

Law enforcement officials have not said that left-leaning activists or so-called "provocateurs" were responsible for the violence that unfolded on Jan. 6, however, the claim has been spread widely in conservative circles and uttered by allies of Trump to explain the events of the riot.