Klobuchar tears into Ron Johnson for conspiracy theory blaming Jan 6 on ‘provocateurs’

Johnson read yet again from same report into record as in February when he used it to downplay role of Trump supporters

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 03 March 2021 22:23 GMT
Klobuchar tears into Ron Johnson for conspiracy theory blaming capitol riot on 'provocateurs'
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Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has resisted Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson's repeated attempt to divert the blame from the Capitol riot onto a few so-called "provocateurs".

Mr Johnson has previously said "this didn't seem like an armed insurrection to me" about the Capitol riot, a remark for which he was roundly criticised.

During a joint Senate hearing Wednesday, Mr Johnson said he was only trying to seek out "the truth".

He said he had been accused of spreading conspiracy theories after he read the account of a single eyewitness during the first public Senate hearing on the Capitol riot which suggested there were professional provocateurs in the crowd egging people on.

Mr Johnson read an excerpt from a piece in The Federalist during the February hearing in which the author Michael Waller claimed that "a small number of cadre appeared to use the cover of a huge rally to stage its attack" and inferred that these individuals were not Trump supporters and that they were primarily responsible for the riot.

CNN's Chris Cillizza called Mr Waller's accounting of the events "massively long and often contradictory".

Read more:Follow live updates on the Biden Administration and the Trump post-presidency

Mr Waller also placed blame on police, saying they overreacted which turned things violent.

"While Johnson is more than willing to take one man's word for it that those gathered for the 'Stop the Steal' rally were peaceful until made violent by these alleged 'agents provocateurs,' he was far less willing to come to the same conclusion during the protests in Portland last summer," Mr Cillizza noted.

Mr Johnson repeated the process Wednesday, reading yet again from the same news report into the record that downplayed the role of Trump supporters.

Before reading the excerpt, Mr Johnson said the provocateurs were primarily White Supremacist groups.

Mr Johnson read selectively from the piece aloud: "Then, a loud, bellowing shout from behind: ‘Forward! Do not retreat! Forward!’

"Then two other men, standing across from one another on the high granite curbs on either side of the footpath, bellowed variations of 'Forward! Don’t you dare retreat!' Some made direct eye contact at people and pointed directly at them, as if trying to psyche them into submitting.

"A third man standing on a chair, also shouting “Forward,” reached down to grab me by the shoulder and barked, ‘Don’t retreat! Get back up there!’ It wasn’t an expression of enthusiasm or solidarity; it sounded like a military order. And it wasn’t from a wild kid; this guy was probably in his 50s. He looked furious with me," Mr Johnson read from The Federalist.

Before moving on to the next Senator’s questions, Ms Klocbuchar, who was chairing the hearing, asked FBI Counterterrorism Division Director Jill Sanborn: "These people that were assaulting the Capitol in military gear and were pinning an officer between a door and were using bear spray on officers in the Capitol, would you title them, provocateurs?"

"It would all depend on the evidence behind the case," Ms Sanborn responded.

"Do you think there were some very serious violent people involved insurrection?" Ms Klobuchar went on.

"100 per cent. And there were some officers that were injured and a lot of damage was done," Ms Sanborn said.

"And would you describe the atmosphere as festive?" Ms Klubuchar asked.

"Absolutely not," Ms Sanborn concluded.

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