Michigan Senate leader claims Capitol riot 'wasn't Trump people'

Michigan Senate leader claims Capitol riot 'wasn't Trump people'
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Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) said last week that he doesn't believe the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were supporters of then-President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE, despite many of them having left directly from a Trump rally near the White House.

In a more than hour-long video of a meeting at a restaurant last Wednesday, Shirkey is seen erroneously telling supporters that it "wasn't Trump people" who stormed the Capitol, resulting in the deaths of several people including a Capitol Police officer, adding that the whole scene was "prearranged."

"What about the D.C. thing? I was there," a man off-camera is heard asking Shirkey.

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"That wasn't Trump people. That wasn't Trump people. That's [been] a hoax from day one. That was all prearranged," Shirkey responded.

"They went in on separate buses. That was all arranged by somebody who was funding it all," he continued, adding: "I wasn't there, so..."

Shirkey pressed forward with the conspiracy theory, asking those at the table: "Why wasn't there more security? It was ridiculous. It was all staged."

The state senator did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.

Federal officials have said there is "no indication" the hundreds of visibly pro-Trump Capitol rioters were in fact left-wing activists in disguise. 

News of Shirkey's comments comes just days after The New York Times reported that he had appeared onstage at a rally last year with a militia member who would later be charged in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen Whitmer44 military personnel going to Michigan to assist with COVID-19 spike Michigan hospital chiefs plead with public to do its part amid surging hospitalizations Biden must protect Great Lakes from oil spill threat MORE (D), a report that led the state Democratic Party to call for his resignation.

The party's chair reissued that call on Tuesday, citing his latest remarks.

"Mike Shirkey has proven he is totally unfit to lead and should resign immediately given his recent outrageous assertion that the insurrection and violence at the U.S. Capitol was a hoax. Shirkey has coddled and funded paramilitary groups and his latest comment has exposed him as a QAnon kook who pushes conspiracy theories that foment violence to one group while trying to play the statesman to others. Shirkey’s irresponsible actions have endangered public health, put lives at risk and made Michigan a national laughingstock," said Lavora Barnes in an emailed statement.

The Senate began its impeachment trial of the former president on Tuesday, with Democrats accusing him in a single article of impeachment of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 violence with his actions, including a direct call at a rally outside the White House for his supporter to "march down Pennsylvania Avenue" and pressure lawmakers to support objections to the certification of Electoral College vote that day.

Trump has faced bipartisan blame for the riot, including from House Republican Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe GOP's post-1/6 playbook is clear — and it's dangerous Trump allies leaning on his executive privilege claims Two Fox News contributors quit over Tucker Carlson's Jan. 6 documentary MORE (Wyo.), who said that Trump "formed the mob" and "incited the mob" that overran the Capitol. Cheney was one of 10 GOP House members who joined every Democrat in voting for Trump's impeachment.