Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday declared that a police officer defending lawmakers and the Capitol on Jan. 6 had “no reason” to shoot an individual involved in the attack and echoed calls from the far right for the officer to be publicly named.
Trump made the remarks during an event in Bedminster, N.J., where he announced he is filing lawsuits against U.S. social media companies following their suspensions of his accounts. He is seeking to have them certified as class actions.
The companies cited the former president’s incitement of violence in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob as a reason for his suspension.
In April, a U.S. Capitol Police officer was cleared of criminal wrongdoing for fatally shooting Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to breach a set of doors deep in the Capitol during the January siege.
Authorities said that there was insufficient evidence to prove Babbitt’s civil rights were violated, and that it was reasonable for the officer to believe he was firing in self-defense or in defense of members of Congress and aides who were fleeing the House chamber.
Even so, Trump on Wednesday declared that Babbitt did not pose a danger to lawmakers or others and argued that the unnamed officer’s actions were unwarranted. He also incorrectly claimed that the officer shot Babbitt in the head. She was shot in the neck.
“The person that shot Ashli Babbitt – boom, right through the head,” Trump said. “Just, boom. There was no reason for that. And why isn’t that person being opened up, and why isn’t that being studied? They’ve already written it off. They said that case is closed. If that were the opposite, that case would be going on for years and years, and it would not be pretty.”
Babbitt was shot as she was attempting to breach an entrance to the Speaker’s Lobby, a hallway that would have given her and other rioters access to the House chamber.
Prosecutors have not identified the officer. The killing of the 35-year-old California native has become one of the defining moments of the riot, after graphic videos of her shooting spread across social media and were replayed by news outlets.
Some conservatives have sought to turn Babbitt into a martyr. During a hearing last month, Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican who has embraced far-right falsehoods about the Jan. 6 attack, claimed Babbitt was “executed” and called for the officer to be named.
Trump made a similar statement Wednesday and declared, without evidence, that he knows “exactly” who the officer is.
“Nobody knows who that man [was],” Trump said. “If that were the opposite way, that man would be all over. He would be the most well-known – and I believe I can say ‘man,’ because I believe I know exactly who it is – but he would be the most well-known person in this country, in the world.”
D.C. police are required by law to identify officers involved in serious uses of force within five business days of an incident. They are also required to release video from body cameras of the officers directly involved. The law only applies to D.C. police. Capitol Police are not equipped with body cameras.
The law firm representing the officer has previously said it was keeping his name confidential because he has faced death threats.
Asked last month about Gosar’s comments, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., declined to say whether he has spoken with the lawmaker or reprimanded him over his comments about Babbitt or Jan. 6 more broadly.
“What I talk to my members is what I talk to my members personally about. But if you want to talk to somebody about how they vote, talk to them,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday on Trump’s remarks.
The comments by Trump, Gosar and others also echo those of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who last month raised Babbitt’s death in an interview with NBC News.
“Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?” Putin said in the interview when asked whether he had ordered the assassination of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who remains jailed. “Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? And they didn’t go there to steal a laptop. They came with political demands.”
The Washington Post’s Marianna Sotomayor and Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.