‘Revisionist history’: Trump allies, Democrats spar over riot

House hearing on military’s role in the January 6 US Capitol riot sees Trump officials defend actions on controversial day.

Acting US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller adjusts his face mask during a meeting at the Pentagon on November 13, 2020 [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters

High-ranking officials from the administration of former President Donald Trump have defended their actions during the US Capitol insurrection at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

Capitol Police and US military officials have faced criticism for their lack of response to the violent mob that attempted to stop a joint session of Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory on January 6. Five died in the aftermath of the violent riot.

Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, began the hearing by saying the “federal government was unprepared for this insurrection, even though it was planned in plain sight on social media for the world to see”.

Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said that many of the criticisms levelled at the military were “unfounded”.

Miller said in prepared remarks reported by the Associated Press that a lack of response occurred as “concerns regarding the appropriate and limited use of the military in domestic matters were heightened by commentary in the media about the possibility of a military coup”. 

Tear gas is released into a crowd of protesters during clashes with Capitol police at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results at the Capitol Building in Washington on January 6, 2021 [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

During the hearing, Miller repeated these concerns to House lawmakers.

“I was also very cognisant of the fears and concerns about the prior use of the military in June 2020 response to the protests near the White House”, Miller said, referring to the clearing of a demonstration against police brutality in DC so Trump could take a photo at a nearby church.

The move was widely criticised, even among high-ranking military leaders.

Miller continued: “[J]ust before the electoral college certification, 10 former Secretaries of Defense signed an op-ed, published in The Washington Post warning of the dangers of politicising inappropriately, using the military”.

Miller said he did not speak with Trump on January 6.

House lawmakers also questioned former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen about the day, asking if Trump spoke with him about efforts to secure the Capitol.

Rosen also said he did not speak with Trump on January 6, as he had the authority needed to do what was required to achieve security.

Democratic lawmakers also pressed Rosen about whether he and Trump spoke about overturning the results of the 2020 election.

Then-President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, on January 20, 2021 [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

The issue has become the subject of an investigation by state authorities in Georgia.

Rosen declined to respond, saying “I, as a lawyer, don’t get to make the decision on whether I can reveal private conversations … other people make that decision”.

Georgia Republican Representative Jody Hice used his time to say criticisms against Trump were part of incorrect “narratives” put forward by his Democratic colleagues and the media.

“I want to bring up … the media claims that the tragic death of officer Brian Sicknick, was a result of pro-Trump mobs bashing his skull with a fire extinguisher, which we all know now did not happen”, Hice said.

Sicknick was a Capitol Police officer whose death was first assumed to have been the result of rioters, but was later determined to have been caused by a stroke by the DC coroner’s office.

However, video footage does appear to show rioters attacking Capitol police. A coroner’s report said Sicknick was sprayed with a chemical substance before he died.

Julian Khater and George Tanios are two men suspected of spraying Sicknick with pepper spray on January 6, according to WUSA-TV, which obtained footage of the riot.

Khater and Tanios were both ordered to stay in pre-trial detention before their trials on Monday.

Representative Stephen Lynch, responding to Hice, said: “I find it hard to believe the revisionist history that’s being offered by my colleagues on the other side.”

Source: Al Jazeera