Jul 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Capitol Police officer slams Trump for false claims about Jan. 6 rioters

Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell condemned former President Trump's false claims that the Jan. 6 rioters were "hugging and kissing" officers when they invaded the Capitol, calling it a "pathetic excuse" for the fact that he "helped to create this monstrosity.

Why it matters: Gonell is one of four police officers who testified at the first hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee on Tuesday. He recounted the surgery he was forced to undergo due to injuries sustained from the attack, and described how that day made him "more afraid" than his entire U.S. Army deployment to Iraq.

Catch up quick: Trump falsely claimed to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham in March that the rioters posed "zero threat," saying: "Look, they went in — they shouldn’t have done it — some of them went in, and they’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know? They had great relationships."

  • He later told Washington Post reporters that the crowd he spoke to at the rally before the Capitol siege began was "loving."
  • Trump has continued his attempts to change the narrative around Jan. 6 in the months since the attack, issuing a statement Tuesday morning before the hearing that falsely suggested Antifa and Black Lives Matter played a role.

What they're saying: Asked by Rep. Liz Cheney how he felt about Trump calling the crowd "loving," Gonell responded, "I'm still recovering from those 'hugs and kisses' that day that he claimed that so many rioters, terrorists, were assaulting us with."

  • "If that was hugs and kisses, then we should all go to his house and do the same thing to him," he continued.
  • "It was not Antifa, it was not Black Lives Matter, it was not the FBI. It was his supporters that he sent them over to the Capitol that day."

Gonell later denounced officials who referred to the rioters as "tourists," saying that he had given tours to thousands of people but had never been attacked.

  • Lawmakers are "defending the indefensible. And you're demoralizing not just the rank and file, but the future, the future recruits that we are trying to get," he said.
  • "What do you think people considering becoming law enforcement officers think when they see elected leaders downplaying this? Why would I risk my life for them when they don't even care?"

Capitol police officer Harry Dunn said that this was not the first time that Trump supporters went to the Capitol to protest, but it was the first time they turned this violent: "There were some skirmishes, but never the attempt to overthrow democracy."

  • He said that rioters had "marching orders," suggesting that that's the reason why they became so violent.
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