Republican lawmakers aren’t rushing to condemn former President Donald Trump’s latest attempt to rewrite history surrounding the violent Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, but when asked about his comments praising individuals involved in the attack, a few did dispute them, albeit gingerly.
“I think that what people saw with their own eyes reflects a different reality,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday when asked if he had concerns such rhetoric could lead to future violence.
In an interview on Fox News over the weekend, Trump referred to supporters who attended his rally immediately before the Jan. 6 attack as “great people” and claimed there was a “lovefest between the Capitol Police and the people that walked down to the Capitol.”
“They are tremendous. In many cases, tremendous people,” Trump added.
Trump called Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a law enforcement official as she tried to breach a broken door to the Speaker’s Lobby, where House members were huddling in fear, an “innocent, wonderful, incredible woman.” He then falsely claimed that the officer who shot Babbitt was employed by a Democratic lawmaker.
Trump’s comments are part of a larger effort by figures on the right to turn Babbitt and other Jan 6. rioters into martyrs who were unfairly treated by Capitol Police, ignoring the fact that about 140 police officers were injured during the attack, some even assaulted with Blue Lives Matter flags. Other GOP lawmakers have called the events of Jan. 6 “a normal tourist visit” and a “peaceful protest.”
“That makes no sense at all. I dispute his facts tremendously,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told HuffPost on Monday when asked about Trump’s Jan. 6 narrative.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said: “The people who stormed the Capitol and who vandalized the Capitol ― I think they broke the law.... I don’t see any great people doing that, OK?”
But other Republican senators, including John Kennedy of Louisiana and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, declined to comment.
Body camera footage recently released by the Justice Department shows the terrifying violence police officers faced on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, including from Trump supporters who used large signs as battering rams. One rioter even beat a police officer with his own baton.