U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson claimed Tuesday that leftists posing as Trump supporters played a role in storming the Capitol.
The Wisconsin Republican, who has said the attack “didn’t seem like an insurrection,” read from an uncorroborated account of the riot that included claims that “fake Trump supporters” and provocateurs help stir the violence.
“An organized cell of agents-provocateurs corral(ed) people as an unwitting follow-on force behind the plainclothes militants tussling with police,” Johnson said during a Senate hearing on security failings that led to the Jan. 6 disaster.
The account, which painted a sympathetic portrait of the majority of the rioting crowd, was written by J. Michael Waller, an analyst at the Center for Security Policy, a right-wing think tank that has been accused of promoting Islamophobia.
The account appeared to place blame for the violence on Capitol police who fired tear gas in a futile effort to stop the rioters from breaching the building.
“The tear gas changed the crowd’s demeanor,” Johnson said, quoting Waller. “There was an air of disbelief as people realized that the police whom they supported were firing on them.”
Johnson did not give security officials a chance to respond to the claims that the rioters weren’t really Trump supporters.
In the days after the riot, some right-wing lawmakers and media figures have floated the theory that the Capitol attackers were imposters or provocateurs, even though they proudly wore Trump regalia and MAGA paraphernalia.
Johnson, who faces a reelection fight in the battleground state of Wisconsin, has become one of Trump’s staunchest supporters.
Last week, he sought to downplay the seriousness of the Capitol riots, saying that “this didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.”