WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans sought to rewrite the history of the Jan. 6 insurrection during a rancorous congressional hearing Wednesday, painting the Trump supporters who attacked the building as mostly peaceful patriots and downplaying repeatedly the violence of the day.
Democrats, meanwhile, clashed with Donald Trump's former Pentagon chief about the unprepared government response to a riot that began when hundreds of Trump loyalists bent on overturning the election broke through police barriers, smashed windows and laid siege to the building.
The colliding lines of questioning, and a failure to settle on a universally agreed-upon set of facts, underscored the challenges Congress faces as it sets out to investigate the violence and government missteps. The House Oversight Committee hearing unfolded just after Republicans in the chamber voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post for rebuking Trump for his false claims of election fraud and his role in inciting the attack.
Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, testifying publicly for the first time about Jan. 6, defended their agencies' responses to the chaos. But the hearing almost immediately devolved into partisan bickering about how that day unfolded, with at least one Republican brazenly stating there wasn’t an insurrection at all.
“I find it hard to believe the revisionist history that's being offered by my colleagues on the other side," Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, proclaimed in exasperation.
The violence of that day is well-established, particularly after an impeachment trial that focused on the clashes between rioters and police that left officers beaten and bloodied, including one who was crushed between a door and another shocked with a stun gun before he had a heart attack. Some of the insurrectionists threatened to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence and menacingly called out for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an apparent effort to find her in the building.
But Republican lawmakers on the committee sought to refocus the hearing's attention away from those facts, repeatedly equating the insurrection with violence in American cities last summer that arose from racial justice protests that they said Democrats had failed to forcefully condemn.
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona played video footage of violence outside the federal courthouse in Portland last summer. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia said that while “there were some rioters” on Jan. 6, it was a “bold-faced lie” to call it an insurrection and likened it in some ways to a “normal tourist visit.”
In ways that fundamentally rewrote the facts of the day and the investigations that resulted, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona said the Justice Department was “harassing peaceful patriots." He described Ashli Babbit, a California woman who was fatally shot by an officer during the insurrection after climbing through the broken part of a door, as having been "executed,” even though prosecutors have said the officer won't be prosecuted because the shooting did not break the law.