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At hearing, Republicans recast Jan. 6 rioters as victims

Gosar, Hice cast aspersions on law enforcement

Arizona GOP Rep. Paul Gosar questions former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen as he testifies during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Less than an hour after Republicans ousted Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from her role in conference leadership for criticizing former President Donald Trump, House Republicans sought to recast the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, with the rioters now assuming the role of victims.

Wednesday’s House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing featured testimony from former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who were in office on Jan. 6, along with Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., argued that there was something untoward about federal law enforcement seeking the public’s help in tracking down individuals for whom there’s photo and video evidence of potential violations of federal law.

“Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law-abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters. The FBI is fishing through homes of veterans and citizens with no criminal record and restricting the liberties of individuals that have never been accused of a crime,” Gosar said. “Mr. Biden calls Jan. 6 the worst attack since the Civil War. A president was impeached for his alleged role in that riot.”

The rioters were sent with Trump’s exhortations to “fight like hell” to disrupt Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory on that day. The Capitol was never breached during the Civil War as it was on Jan. 6.

“The government has even enlisted Americans to turn in their own neighbors,” Gosar said at the hearing. The FBI is continuing to use multiple channels to share photos to track down persons of interest. Many of the photos were taken by the rioters and posted on social media channels.

Asked about Gosar’s comments, Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi said in an email, “We commend the efforts by members of the public that have voluntarily come forward with tips and evidence that has led to numerous arrests for violent attacks on January 6th against police officers, destruction of Capitol property and other serious crimes. It is a clear testament that the American people reject the violence they watched that day and want those that participated in it held accountable.”

Later in the hearing, Georgia Republican Andrew Clyde denied that there was any insurrection at all.

“As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol and on the House floor, who with other Republican colleagues helped barricade the door until almost 3 p.m. that day from the mob who tried to enter, I can tell you the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection,” Clyde said. “This is the truth.”

It is not the truth to say there was no insurrection. The mob did breach the Senate floor shortly after Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding, was evacuated from the chamber. Members of Congress, staffers, journalists and others in the building for the counting of the Electoral College votes were in fact in imminent danger.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va.,  offered a rebuttal to several of the GOP members during the hearing.

“I disavow comments made previously during this hearing about the nature of the insurrection. Rewriting history serves no purpose other than to cover up the violence and the brutality that we experienced that was exhibited on Jan. 6,” Connolly said. “It’s a shame for America, a shame for this Congress, and revisionist history serves no purpose but to cover that up and protect that brutality and that violence.”

Gosar was one of several Republicans at the hearing to seize on early media reports about rioters causing the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

Sicknick’s death in the aftermath of the insurrection continues to be classified as a line-of-duty death resulting from the events of Jan. 6.

“Another narrative I want to bring up is that the media claims that the tragic death of Officer Brian Sicknick was a result of a pro-Trump mob’s bashing his skull with a fire extinguisher, which we all know now did not happen,” said Rep. Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican who is challenging Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s incumbent Republican secretary of state. Raffensperger has been the target of relentless pressure and criticism from Trump for not overturning Biden’s win in Georgia.

Hice went further Wednesday, saying that only Trump supporters died on Jan. 6.

“Officer Sicknick, [an] autopsy revealed that he suffered no blunt trauma. In fact, his mother has since come out saying he died of a stroke. In fact, it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others. You go down the list here, Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer.”

The officer-involved shooting occurred as Babbitt was among a group of mob protesters already inside the Capitol attempting to gain access to the Speaker’s Lobby, a direct access point to the House floor. The officer who fired has been cleared of wrongdoing, with investigators determining that the shooting was reasonable as self-defense or in the defense of others.

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