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Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a local radio interview Monday that the Jan. 6 Capitol riots "didn't seem like an armed insurrection to me," despite the Justice Department charging at least 14 people with bringing deadly weapons onto Capitol grounds.

Why it matters: Johnson, who voted to acquit former President Trump on the impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection, appeared to downplay the severity of the Jan. 6 attack, calling it "the most pitiful armed insurrection anybody could ever possibly imagine" in one interview.

  • It is unknown how many firearms were brought into the Capitol, but police recovered a dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to an NBC News report. Five people were killed.

What he's saying: "This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me," the Republican said in an interview on WISN-AM with conservative talk radio show host Jay Weber, after condemning the riots.

  • "I mean 'armed,' when you hear 'armed,' don’t you think of firearms? Here’s the questions I would have liked to ask," he continued.
  • "How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired? I’m only aware of one, and I’ll defend that law enforcement officer for taking that shot. It was a tragedy, OK? But I think there was only one."

The big picture: Johnson, who is up for re-election in 2022, frequently defended Trump throughout his presidency and led a Senate investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The Wisconsin senator has not yet announced whether he will run again.

  • Johnson promoted false claims of widespread election fraud and planned to object to the certification of Biden's victory in Arizona on Jan. 6, but decided to reverse course in the wake of the riot.
  • In response to a request for comment, Johnson's office sent Axios the following quote from the radio interview: “We all condemn the breach and we mourn the loss of life. The videos we saw … were still reprehensible. The racial slurs, the attack on police officers, the injuries, the loss of life. Nobody condones it. We all condemn it.”

The bottom line: Days after the Senate voted to acquit Trump for his alleged role for inciting a deadly event, lawmakers are picking sides in what's sure to evolve into a dueling GOP between pro-Trump allies and those seeking to distance themselves from the former president.

Go deeper

Updated Feb 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The daily highlights from Trump's 2nd Senate impeachment trial

Trucks with LED screens displaying anti-Trump messages in front of the Capitol. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

President Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Feb. 13 in his second impeachment trial, in which he was faced a single charge from the House of Representatives for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

The big picture: At five days, it was the fastest impeachment trial of a U.S. president and ended with the most bipartisan conviction vote in history. Still, the seven Republicans who joined all Democrats were not enough to reach the two-thirds majority necessary for conviction.

Updated Feb 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Richard Burr censured from North Carolina GOP after voting to convict Trump

Sen. Richard Burr in the Senate subway on Feb. 13. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The North Carolina Republican Party announced Monday night that its members had voted unanimously to censure Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) for finding former President Trump guilty of inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.

The big picture: Most of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January have been censured.

NAACP sues Trump for inciting Capitol riot

President Trump greets supporters at the "Stop The Steal Rally" on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., before the Capitol riots. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The NAACP filed a lawsuit Tuesday against former President Trump and far-right extremist groups in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots that killed five people and injured dozens of officers.

Why it matters: The federal lawsuit filed on behalf of House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) shows that Trump continues to face legal problems stemming from the riot, even after he was acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial Saturday.