Today, the Senate is holding its first public hearing on the January 6th Capitol insurrection and as expected the Republicans are conducting themselves disgracefully. The leader of their party, Donald Trump, incited a deadly uprising that shattered our nation’s proud tradition of a peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations and shook the world’s confidence in American democracy to its core. GOP senators refused to hold him accountable by acquitting him during the subsequent impeachment trial and now seem determined to whitewash the history of the entire saga.
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During his allotted time for questions today, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) had the gall to gaslight the entire country by promoting a conspiracy theory that anti-Trump forces may have actually been behind the Capitol riot. He started by reading an uncorroborated account of the “Stop the Steal” march that claimed that not a single of the participants “appeared angry” and that they all seemed to be “working class.”
“Many of the marchers were families with small children. Many were elderly, overweight, or just plain tired or frail. Traits not typically attributed to the riot-prone,” said Johnson, who apparently wants us to believe that these completely irrelevant physical descriptions have any bearing whatsoever on what happened on January 6th.
The people who stormed the Capitol may not have fit the arbitrary mental image that the senator has of rioters but they were captured on countless videos committing violence. It may make him uncomfortable to admit that average Americans could be whipped into a deadly mob—but that’s the power the President of the United States has when he lies and tells his supporters democracy is being stolen out from under them.
Johnson wasn’t content to simply defend the rioters on the basis of their appearance though. He went on to imply that there were subversive elements present at the march who didn’t share the “jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor” displayed by most of the attendees. According to the account Johnson so breathlessly shared, there were four types of people that didn’t seem to belong: “plainclothes militants, agents provocateur, fake Trump protestors, and then disciplined, uniformed column of attackers.” Johnson speculated that these may have been the people who planned the insurrection.
There are two major problems with Johnson’s narrative. The first is that there is no proof of agents provocateurs or fake Trump protestors. This is unadulterated conspiracy theory peddling of the kind normally spouted by fringe far-right misinformation merchants like Alex Jones.
The second major problem is that the dour, tactically dressed militants Johnson described do sound like Trump supporters. They sound like the same Republicans who regularly show up to public places with their open carry assault rifles, right-wing militia who vote GOP and have long been spoiling for a civil war. The Republican Party can not be allowed to escape responsibility for January 6th. These were conservatives who stormed the halls of Congress and no amount of lying can change that.
Ron Johnson is using his questioning time during the Capitol security hearing to promote a conspiracy theory that the January 6 insurrectionists weren't actually Trump supporters, but were "provocateurs" and "fake Trump protesters" pic.twitter.com/t72QkHDbaG
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 23, 2021
Johnson’s remarks were so inexcusable that Senate Rule Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) felt the need to address them. She said that she knew in advance that he was going to be a problem.
“I’m not one bit surprised that Ron Johnson has again engaged in a conspiracy theory — that’s what he does,” said Klobuchar, offering a succinct and accurate summary of the Republican senator’s low character.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Trump years and his eventual defeat did nothing to excise the strain of conspiratorial thinking within the GOP and in fact seems to have further ingrained and metastasized it. The Republican Party has nothing left to offer except toxic lies and grievance politics.
Rules Cmte Chair Klobuchar on GOP WI Sen Johnson's line of questioning at hrng into riot: "I knew Ron Johnson was going to be a problem..I'm not one bit surprised that Ron Johnson has again engaged in a conspiracy theory – that's what he does"
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) February 23, 2021
Senate Rules chair Amy Klobuchar whacks Ron Johnson over questioning at hearing into Capitol attack, saying he’s always a problem: “Ron Johnson has again engaged in a conspiracy theory — that’s what he does.”
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) February 23, 2021
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