Wisconsin GOP senator downplays attack on U.S. Capitol

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson downplayed the storming of the U.S. Capitol last month, saying on conservative talk radio Monday that it “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.”

Johnson’s comments on WISN-AM in Milwaukee came after he voted Saturday to acquit former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. Johnson said in the interview that Trump’s attorneys “eviscerated” legal arguments made by Democrats seeking to convict Trump for instigating the insurrection.

Johnson is one of Trump’s most ardent supporters. He is up for reelection in 2022 but hasn’t said yet whether he will seek a third term.

Johnson condemned the violence and five deaths during the Jan. 6 riot but said what happened was not an armed insurrection.

“When you hear the word ‘armed,’ don’t you think of firearms?” Johnson said. “Here’s the questions I would have liked to ask — how many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired? I’m only aware of one, and I’ll defend that law enforcement officer for taking that shot. It was a tragedy, but I think there was only one. If that was a planned armed insurrection, man, you had really a bunch of idiots.”

Law enforcement officials have said in court filings that guns, bombs and other weapons were found on people who stormed the Capitol, in their vehicles and elsewhere. The insurrectionists also used flag poles, stolen police shields, crutches, fire extinguishers, sticks and other objects to attack police officers and force entry into the Capitol.

The Senate acquitted Trump of a charge of “incitement of insurrection” after House prosecutors laid out a case that he was an “inciter in chief” who unleashed a mob by stoking a monthslong campaign of spreading debunked conspiracy theories and false violent rhetoric that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Graphic videos played for senators at the trial showed rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and now-former Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the January certification process.

“The racial slurs, the attack on police officers, the injuries, the loss of life, nobody condones that, we all condemn it,” Johnson said Monday. But he said Democrats were hypocrites for not speaking out following sometimes violent protests last summer in the wake of police violence against Black people, including in Kenosha after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by a white officer.

“We know who is talking to us and saying how important police officials are when their side is the one that’s been saying defund the police,” Johnson said. “So you’re sitting in that trial, you’re listening to all this and you understand it’s just dripping with hypocrisy.”

Wisconsin’s other senator, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, voted to convict Trump.

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