Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., signaled in an interview on Monday that identifying last month’s deadly riot at the Capitol as an “armed insurrection” may be an overstatement.
Johnson, who voted to acquit former President Trump at his second impeachment trial, condemned the violence at the Capitol in the interview with 1130 WISN. He spoke about the terminology that was used to describe the events and said it seemed that the riot did not reach the level of an “armed insurrection.”
“I mean armed, when you hear armed, don’t you think of firearms?” he 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’s a planned armed insurrection, man, you had really a bunch of idiots.” (Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed in the halls of the Capitol during the breach.)
Johnson’s statement was criticized by Trump’s detractors who blame Republicans for refusing to convict a man who put their lives in danger and downplaying the severity of the attack. Both Republicans and Democrats have called for tough penalties for those who managed to break into the Capitol.
Politifact, citing the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, reported that 14 people tied to the riot are facing federal charges “related to bringing or using dangerous weapons” at the Capitol, and “two are facing firearms-related charges.”
Johnson’s office did not immediately respond to an after-hours Fox News inquiry.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Johnson told the station that Trump’s team “eviscerated” the House managers and questioned if the trial itself was some kind of diversionary tactic to avoid focus on security lapses.
Johnson said “groups of agitators” should be blamed for the riot at the Capitol, not all Trump supporters. He said the “hundreds of thousands of people who attended those Trump rallies, those are the people that love this country.”