Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson on Monday criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s remarks blaming former President Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Johnson also said the January 6 Capitol riot “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,” focusing especially on the lack of guns involved in the attack.
McConnell voted on Saturday to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial that accused him of inciting the insurrection. Afterward, McConnell still blamed Trump for starting it in a scathing floor speech, where he noted that he voted to acquit merely because he believed the Senate lacked the Constitutional jurisdiction to convict a president who is no longer in office.
“Providing a scathing speech on the floor of the Senate, that does not reflect who I think the majority of our conference,” Johnson said in a Monday interview with conservative radio host Jay Weber. “He has to realize as our leader…. what he says reflects on us, right? He’s representing the entire caucus.”
In a separate interview with WISN, Johnson said, “The fact of the matter is, this didn’t seem like an armed insurrection, to me. When you hear of armed, don’t you think of firearms? Here’s the question I would’ve liked to ask [at former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial], how many firearms were confiscated? I’m only aware of one. If that was a planned armed insurrection, you really have a bunch of idiots.”
Later in his conversation with Weber, Johnson said that Republican leaders need to try and keep Trump supporters voting for them even if leaders disagree with the former president’s aggressive “New York Street Fighter”-style willingness to “fight for this country.”
“The group of people that supported Trump, the hundreds of thousands of people that attend those Trump rallies, those are people that love this country, that never would have done what happened on January 6,” Johnson said. “That is a group of people that love freedom. That’s a group of people we need to unify and keep on our side.”
Many of the insurrectionists had attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before marching to the Capitol. Several have also said they were specifically acting on Trump’s orders to stop Democrats from “stealing” the election,
Trump’s Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and over 60 courts have all said that there’s no evidence that the election was stolen.
Five people were killed during the riots, including a police officer who was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher, and over 138 police officers were injured.
A Reuters photojournalist said they heard insurrectionists actively hunting for former Vice President Mike Pence with the goal of killing him for refusing to oppose Biden’s election victory. Insurrectionists also shattered windows while trying to access congressional chambers, smeared feces in the hallway and stole computer equipment, potentially constituting a national security breach.
Shortly after Trump’s acquittal on Saturday, McConnell said, “There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” McConnell said. “And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”
Newsweek contacted Johnson’s office for further comment.