Not only are House Oversight Republicans refusing to blame former President Donald Trump for his actions that led to the January 6 attack, but they are actually trying to paint Trump and his mob as the real victims.
“It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” said Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) during a hearing Wednesday on the insurrection with two late-Trump administration officials, former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Hice went on to mention Ashli Babbitt, the Trump supporter who was fatally shot as she tried to climb through a broken window into the hallway that leads to the House chamber.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who has been accused of helping organize the Stop the Steal rally on January 6 that turned into the mob, described Babbitt as a “veteran wrapped in an American flag,” and called her killing an “execution.”
The comments are part of a GOP attempt to rewrite the history of what happened when a violent mob descended on the Capitol, trying to overthrow an election Trump and other members of their party told them was rigged.
Gosar tried to paint the insurrection as not actually violent, bringing unwilling witnesses along a line of questioning-turned-monologue about the fact that no firearms were confiscated that day from members of the mob. In the past, Trump and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) have done the same thing.
The reality is more complicated. Far-right media outlets have run with a partial quote from an FBI official as proof that no firearms were seized, but an array of weapons were found on Capitol protesters, reportedly including a firearm. Law enforcement officials were also dismally outnumbered, preventing them from making arrests where they may have recovered more weapons.
Both Gosar and Hice mentioned officer Brian Sicknick, who died of a stroke a day after the attack. While eager to argue that he died of natural causes unrelated to the attack, neither mention that two men have been charged with assaulting Sicknick with chemical spray during the riot.
Hice tried to absolve Trump personally too, accusing committee chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) of “cherry-picking words that you want to use to portray an image of something that did not happen” from the former President’s pre-mob speech. He also used a rough timeline to “prove” that those who stormed the Capitol would not have had time to reach the building if they’d been listening to Trump’s speech.
Trump told the crowd to go to the Capitol and to “take back the country” with “strength.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) expressed the bafflement many watching must have felt at the complete alternate reality these members of Congress concocted to absolve the former President and themselves from catalyzing a mob that left people dead, property destroyed and American democracy shaken.
“I found it hard to believe the revisionist history that’s being offered by my colleagues on the other side,” he said wryly.