“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,” Johnson said on WISN. “When you hear the word ‘armed,’ don’t you think of firearms? Here’s the questions I would have liked to ask: How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?”
Johnson added, “If that was a planned armed insurrection, man, you had really a bunch of idiots.”
In court filings, officials have said that guns, bombs, stun guns and other weapons were seized from rioters, the Associated Press reported. Fourteen people face charges related to bringing weapons to the riots, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including an Alabama man who allegedly had an arsenal in his truck and a Maryland man who police say stormed the Capitol with a gun, multiple magazines and a bulletproof vest. Federal prosecutors have also accused extremist groups of coordinating the deadly attack.
Johnson’s attempts to play down the Capitol riots come as the GOP fractures over its response to the insurrection after its Saturday vote not to convict former president Donald Trump in a Senate impeachment trial that featured hours of graphic video of the attacks.
As some state parties moved this weekend to censure the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump, Johnson went further by also attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who voted against convicting the former president but also described him as “practically and morally responsible” for the riots.
“I would like to see Leader McConnell zip his lips. This is not helpful,” Johnson said on WTAQ.
Johnson, who has long been one of Trump’s most steadfast backers in the Senate, said in interviews on multiple conservative talk radio shows on Monday that he was shocked by previously unseen videos aired in the Senate last week, which showed the mob getting perilously close to lawmakers and viciously attacking Capitol police officers.
“The racial slurs, the attack on police officers, the injuries and the loss of life — no one condones that. We all condemn that,” he said.
But Johnson accused Democrats of playing up the violence and argued that most of the Trump supporters who came to D.C. on Jan. 6 were peaceful.
“To call that an armed insurrection, it was the most pitiful armed insurrection anyone could possibly imagine,” he said on WTAQ.
Johnson also seemingly ridiculed the idea that rioters might seek to kidnap lawmakers, a concern echoed by investigations into two men seen in the Capitol carrying plastic zip ties, which can be used as hand restraints.
“That one guy in the Senate chamber had plastic wrist ties. What was he supposed to do, go up to Mike Pence and capture him? It’s absurd,” he said.
The senator from Wisconsin also said that he was “literally never afraid” during the riots, and questioned whether lawmakers should have feared the mob.
“An armed insurrection? No,” he said on WTAQ. “This was a breach.”