Ron Johnson Insists Capitol Attack 'By and Large' a Peaceful Protest After House OKs Jan. 6 Commission

GOP Senator Ron Johnson insisted that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was "by and large" a peaceful protest, after bipartisan legislation that would set up a commission to investigate the insurrection passed Wednesday in the House.

Although Republican leaders have come out against the commission legislation, 35 House Republicans broke ranks and joined Democrats in supporting the bill. Whether the legislation can pass in the Senate remains uncertain, as GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans have voiced their opposition.

"The fact of the matter is even calling it insurrection, it wasn't. I condemned the breach, I condemn the violence, but to say there were thousands of armed insurrectionists breaching the Capitol intent on overthrowing the government is just simply a false narrative," Johnson insisted in a Wednesday evening interview with Fox News.

Senator Ron Johnson
Senator Ron Johnson speaks at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on April 27. SUSAN WALSH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Wisconsin Republican insisted that "by and large it was peaceful protests, except for there were a number of people, basically agitators that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol, and that's really the truth of what's happening here." Johnson argued that the goal was to present all of former President Donald Trump's supporters as "potentially domestic terrorists and potential armed insurrectionists as well."

Johnson expressed his hope that Senate Republicans have enough votes to block the legislation from moving forward.

Other Republican allies of Trump have attempted to downplay the events of January 6 as well. Representative Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican, controversially said the riot looked like a "normal tourist visit" last Wednesday during a hearing. But other GOP lawmakers have called out this effort to "whitewash" the attack and "rewrite" history.

"Many who rightly criticized and condemned the attack that day have walked back their words or softened their speech. But even more troubling, there has been an active effort to whitewash and rewrite the shameful events of that day to avoid accountability and turn away from difficult truths," Representative Peter Meijer, a Michigan Republican, said during a Wednesday House floor speech.

"It's absolutely bogus. You know, I was there. I watched a number of the folks walk down to the White House and then back. I have a balcony on my office. So I saw them go down," Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, told CNN on Sunday in response to fellow GOP lawmakers downplaying the events of January 6. "I heard the noise—the flash bangs, I smelled some of the gas as it moved my way."

Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, tweeted last week, "By the way @Rep_Clyde I mean wtf kind of Capitol tour groups have you been on?"

Hundreds of pro-Trump rioters have been arrested and criminally charged in connection with the riot. The attack, which resulted in five deaths, came after Trump and his allies repeatedly spread untruths and misinformation about the 2020 election—claiming it was "rigged" or "stolen" by President Joe Biden and the Democrats. Ahead of the assault, Trump urged supporters to "fight like hell" and to "march" to the U.S. Capitol, which many then proceeded to do.

Many of the protesters chanted their desire to "hang" then-Vice President Mike Pence and cause harm to or kill other lawmakers. Some brought weapons, and a large gallows was set up outside the Capitol. Hundreds of Capitol Police officers were beaten and injured in the attack.

Newsweek reached out to McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for comment on Johnson's remarks but did not immediately receive a response.