Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) suggested on Wednesday that the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was not an insurrection but a largely “peaceful protest.”
“Even calling it an insurrection, it wasn’t,” Johnson said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Ingraham Angle.” “You know, I condemned the breach. I condemned the violence, but to say there were thousands of armed insurrectionists breaching the Capitol intent on overthrowing the government is just simply false narrative.”
Johnson said he has spoken to some of his constituents in Wisconsin that were present at a “Stop the Steal” rally on the National Mall and at the U.S. Capitol that day.
“By and large, it was peaceful protest, except for there were a number of people, basically agitators that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol. That’s really the truth of what’s happening here,” Johnson said.
Videos taken at the Capitol that day show hundreds of pro-Trump protesters storming the complex as a joint session of Congress met inside to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Several rioters were seen violently attacking members of Capitol Police and journalists covering the event. The family of Capitol Police Officer Howie Liebengood, who died by suicide after the attack, signaled their support this week for a commission to investigate the attack.
“Every officer who worked that day, as well as their families, should have a better understanding of what happened,” the family said. “Uncovering the facts will help our nation heal and may lessen the lingering emotional bitterness that has divided our country. We implore Congress to work as one and establish the proposed Commission.”
The House passed a bill on Wednesday to establish a Jan. 6 commission after a deal was brokered by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and ranking member John Katko (R-N.Y.). The bill would need 10 Republican votes in the Senate in order to overcome procedural hurdles.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said this week he does not support a “slanted” commission, while Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
Johnson on Tuesday said he does not support a Jan. 6 commission and called the effort to create one “a farce.”
“I hope no Republicans in the House vote for this,” Johnson said. “I hope nobody in the Senate embraces it either.”
Ultimately, the bill passed the House on Wednesday evening, garnering 35 Republican votes.
All House Democrats and 10 Republicans voted in favor of impeaching former President Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 violence. Trump was acquitted in a Senate trial, though seven Republicans in that chamber voted to convict.
In February, Johnson also defended the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6.
“The group of people that supported Trump, the hundreds of thousands of people who attended those Trump rallies, those are the people that love this country,” Johnson said. “They never would have done what happened on Jan. 6. That is a group of people that love freedom; that’s a group of people we need to unify and keep on our side.”
The senator from Wisconsin stirred similar controversy weeks after the attack when he said he did not feel threatened by the pro-Trump protesters but might have if they were Black Lives Matter activists.