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‘Peaceful patriots’: Months after Jan. 6 insurrection, GOP members of Congress attempt to recast events of deadly attack

Representative Paul Gosar listened as former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified remotely before a House Oversight and Reform Committee regarding the Jan. 6 attack the US Capitol.Bill Clark/Associated Press

“Peaceful patriots.” “A normal tourist visit.” “Fake Trump protesters.”

Months after the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., some Republican members of Congress are attempting to revise the events of Jan. 6, offering false characterizations of the people who made up the violent mob that stormed the building on Jan. 6.

During a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, a number of them sought to paint a rosier picture of the events and downplay the violence that took place that day, when multiple people, including a Capitol police officer, died, and dozens were injured as Congress convened a joint session to confirm President Biden’s Electoral College victory.


During the hearing, in which former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified publicly for the first time since the attack, Republican Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona characterized the Department of Justice’s investigation of the Capitol attack as harassment. The department has charged dozens of people who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“The truth is being censored and covered up, and as a result, the DOJ is harassing peaceful patriots across the country,” Gosar said.

Andrew Clyde, a Republican representative from Georgia, said during the hearing that the images of insurrectionists congregating inside the Capitol looked like “a normal tourist visit.”

“Let me be clear: There was no insurrection, and to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie,” Clyde said. “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion standing between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

Video footage from inside the Capitol taken by those who participated in the attack showed mobs of angry Trump supporters overwhelming US Capitol Police and breaking windows to breach the building. Once inside, they scattered throughout the complex, with some ransacking offices and seeking specific lawmakers like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A crowd of insurrectionists chanted calls to hang Vice President Mike Pence. A woman was fatally shot by police while she tried to climb through a window into the House chamber.


During the hearing Wednesday, Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina questioned whether those who stormed the Capitol were Trump supporters, saying nobody took a “poll” of the insurrectionists.

“I don’t know who did a poll that it’s Trump supporters,” Norman said. “You had the media saying the same thing.”

The false descriptions of the events of Jan. 6 at the hearing prompted pushback from Massachusetts Representative Stephen Lynch.

“I find it hard to believe the revisionist history that’s being offered by my colleagues on the other side,” Lynch said.

Republicans for months have tried to downplay the violence at the Capitol in January as they’ve maintained their support for former president Donald Trump. At a previous hearing on the Capitol attack in February, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin 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.”

On his Twitter account on Feb. 23, Johnson retweeted the text he read into the record, titled “I Saw Provocateurs At The Capitol Riot On Jan. 6″ that was published in January 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.

During that hearing, 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.”

And in March, Johnson in an interview described the people who stormed the building as “people who love this country.”

The so-called “Big Lie” pushed by Donald Trump that the election was marked by fraud fueled the Capitol insurrection. Trump appeared at a rally before his supporters on Jan. 6 before the Capitol was breached and pushed baseless claims that Biden’s election was illegitimate, encouraging those in attendance to “fight like hell.”

Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her @amandakauf1.