Nov 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump allies resurrect Jan. 6 conspiracies after release of Capitol footage

Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

House Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-La.) decision to release 44,000 hours of security footage from Jan. 6 has triggered a new wave of conspiracy theories from pro-Trump actors seeking to rewrite the history of the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Ahead of the 2022 midterms, many Republicans accused the now-defunct House Jan. 6 committee of exploiting the insurrection for political purpose — arguing that the country should move forward, not look back.

  • Now, it's former President Trump and his allies — including members of Congress — who are intent on re-litigating the deadly assault on the Capitol, including by "investigating the investigators."
  • For Democrats whose 2024 messaging relies on painting their Republican opponents as "MAGA extremists," the revisionist history around Jan. 6 may as well be an in-kind campaign contribution.

Driving the news: Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) are among the GOP lawmakers who have called for an investigation into the Jan. 6 committee, citing footage of Trump supporters walking peacefully past Capitol police officers.

  • Lee and Greene promoted a baseless conspiracy theory on X suggesting that one Jan. 6 participant was an undercover federal agent caught on camera flashing a badge.
  • In reality, the "badge" was a vape — and the "agent" was Jan. 6 defendant Kevin Lyons, who stole a photo from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) office and has been sentenced to four years in prison.
  • "Criminal referrals must be written and prosecutions MUST happen under a Trump DOJ. I've said it all along, MAGA did not do this," Greene wrote in a post later edited to remove an image and reference to Lyons.
Tweet from former President Trump praising Jan. 6 video releases by Speaker Mike Johnson
Screenshot via Truth Social

Reality check: In response to an online frenzy over the peaceful excerpts, former Jan. 6 committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) tweeted out a compilation of pro-Trump rioters violently assaulting Capitol police officers.

  • More than 1,200 defendants in all 50 states and D.C. have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, according to the Justice Department.
  • Approximately 140 police officers were assaulted that day. Five officers died in the days and weeks after the riot.

The big picture: Trump has needed no help from his congressional allies in making Jan. 6 and election denialism the centerpiece of his presidential campaign.

  • At a rally this month, the Republican front-runner referred to Jan. 6 defendants as "hostages" and stood saluting during a song recorded by the J6 Prison Choir.
  • A state judge ruled Friday that Trump could stay on the ballot in Colorado, but formally determined the former president "engaged in insurrection" on Jan. 6.
  • As his lawyers argued against a gag order in his federal election interference case Monday, Trump reposted a former aide's claim that "everything you've been told about January 6th is bullsh!t" — and that the people who "framed Trump ... will pay."
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