At a hearing held Tuesday to examine the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson pushed false claims that the mob that stormed the building was made up of “plainclothes militants, agents provocateurs, fake Trump protesters, and disciplined, uniform, column of attackers.”
“I think these are the people that probably planned this,” Johnson said.
On his Twitter account, Johnson retweeted the text he read into the record, titled “I Saw Provocateurs At The Capitol Riot On Jan. 6″ that was published last month in The Federalist, a conservative publication.
The author of the article Johnson extensively quoted, J. Michael Waller, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an extremist group for its anti-Muslim views.
Johnson repeated the claim from the published text that the mood of the crowd was “positive and festive” and that many of those who attended were “families with small children.”
“Not one appeared angry or incited to riot,” Johnson said at the hearing, quoting from the article. Videos from the insurrection showed members of the mob physically fighting with police officers and chanting threats to kill former vice president Mike Pence. One Capitol Police officer died from injuries sustained in the attack.
Many of those who were arrested in the wake of the Capitol attacks professed support for former president Donald Trump and claimed to be there at his direction. During the Senate impeachment trial, Democrats highlighted video clips of members of the mob yelling at police officers that they had been “invited” to the Capitol. One person who was charged in the assault allegedly said she was “following my president.”
Johnson’s claim that the insurrectionists were “fake Trump protesters” echoed what Trump reportedly told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a phone call as the Capitol was under siege, according to a CNN report. When McCarthy called Trump to ask him to publicly call off the riot, Trump reportedly responded that the mob was “Antifa,” to which McCarthy replied that they were Trump supporters. Johnson voted to acquit Trump of inciting the insurrection during his impeachment trial earlier this month.
The claim drew swift pushback from Representative Ted Lieu, who served as an impeachment manager during Trump’s trial.
At the impeachment trial, we submitted a lengthy record in addition to what was visually presented. There is no question—none—that the mob attacked the Capitol based on the Big Lie, that the election was stolen. The attackers supported Trump and wanted to keep him in power. https://t.co/16cbwHmxz0— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 23, 2021
Former security officials charged with securing the Capitol testified publicly before members of the Senate for the first time on Tuesday about the violence at the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Among them were former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who testified that armed insurrectionists came “prepared for war.”
Material from the Globe’s wire services was used in this report.
Amanda Kaufman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1. Christina Prignano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.