On the same day that the Speaker of the House announced the creation of an independent commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that killed five people, including a Capitol Police officer, one member of Congress attempted to play down the severity of the insurrection.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, in an interview with a conservative radio show on Monday, claimed that it is wrong to classify the mob as "armed" and accused Democrats of "selectively" editing videos to make the mob seem more dangerous, arguing that former President Donald Trump's attorneys "eviscerated" their case.
"This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me," Johnson said on local radio station WISN. "When you hear the word 'armed,' don’t you think of firearms? 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."
"If that was a planned armed insurrection, man, you had really a bunch of idiots," Johnson said.
"The group of people that supported Trump, the hundreds of thousands of people who attended those Trump rallies, those are the people that love this country," Johnson said, defending the group. "They never would have done what happened on Jan. 6. That is a group of people that love freedom; that’s a group of people we need to unify and keep on our side."
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.
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 in the interview. 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."
Johnson, a staunch Trump ally who has not yet announced if he will run for reelection in 2022, said that Democrats "highly selectively edited" clips of the Capitol riot and praised the defense attorneys, saying they "blew their case out of the water."
In a separate interview on WTAQ, Johnson repeated his attempts to downplay the events of Jan. 6: "To call that an armed insurrection, it was the most pitiful armed insurrection anybody could ever possibly imagine."
"The one guy in the Senate chambers there, he had plastic wrist ties," he went on to say. "What was he expecting to do? Literally go up to Mike Pence and capture him? It’s absurd."
He also attacked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for saying that Trump is "practically and morally responsible" for inciting the riot.
"I would like to see Leader McConnell zip his lips," Johnson said. "This is not helpful."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.