Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) on Monday disputed a report that he had a role in organizing the rally on Jan. 6 that immediately preceded the riot at the U.S. Capitol. But his denial came with a note: Brooks said he would be “proud” if any members of his staff had a role in planning the rally held moments before a riot that caused five deaths and injuries to hundreds of people.

Brooks responded to a Rolling Stone report that found the GOP congressman or his staff to have been in contact with two unnamed organizers of the Jan. 6 rally and similar gatherings after the 2020 presidential election.

He told AL.com that the “beginning” of his involvement in the rally was when the White House asked him to speak the day before, saying he “had no intentions of going to that rally until Jan. 5.” Although the congressman said he did not know whether any of his staffers had worked on planning the Jan. 6 rally, he said he would be happy if they had.

“Quite frankly, I’d be proud of them if they did help organize a First Amendment rally to protest voter fraud and election theft,” Brooks said of his staff.

Brooks, who has pushed falsehoods about “massive voter fraud” during the 2020 election without evidence, repeated his answer to CNN’s Melanie Zanona on Monday, specifying that he would be proud if any members of his staff had a role in planning the Jan. 6 rally “at the Ellipse.”

A spokesman for Brooks did not immediately respond to a Washington Post request for comment early Tuesday. Brooks has previously said he did not do anything wrong by speaking at the event.

The Alabama congressman, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat next year, has been accused in a lawsuit of helping to incite the riot.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) filed a lawsuit this year against Brooks, former president Donald Trump and several others over speeches at the Jan. 6 rally in which they falsely claimed the 2020 election results were fraudulent and encouraged rallygoers to march to the Capitol, where Congress was conducting a certification of the electoral college votes that would make Joe Biden president. Brooks, who told the crowd at the rally to “start taking down names and kicking a--,” asked a federal judge in August to grant him immunity from the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection issued another round of subpoenas for people connected to the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the violent insurrection at the Capitol. In the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, right-wing provocateur Ali Alexander, the leader of Stop the Steal, said in a since-deleted video that he had planned to put “maximum pressure on Congress” during the counting of electoral college votes. In that video, he claimed that he had help from three GOP lawmakers: Brooks and Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.). Brooks and Biggs previously denied helping Alexander with planning the rally.

On Sunday, Rolling Stone reported that Brooks was among a GOP group of House lawmakers, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.), who either were involved in planning the rally or their senior staffers had roles in the planning. The report did not specify a supposed level of involvement by Brooks or his staff in organizing the rally.

Brooks told the Montgomery Advertiser that he agreed to speak at the rally if he was given an early time slot and enough time to speak, saying he was focused on speeches intended for Congress as the chambers certified the election results. He maintained that he had no role in fundraising for the rally or overseeing logistics.

“I was really busy,” Brooks said to the newspaper. “I was working on speeches for the House floor debates.”

Yet Brooks, who acknowledged he was wearing body armor at the rally, urged the Trump supporters gathered on the Ellipse near the White House to fight back against voter fraud. The congressman later claimed he was referring to elections in 2022 and 2024.

Brooks, without evidence, blamed “militants,” such as the Proud Boys and supporters of the extremist QAnon ideology, for the riot instead of Trump supporters.

“They executed that attack by using the rally as cover, and also using the rally to induce other people to attack the Capitol,” he told the Advertiser.

Democrats and critics were quick to note Tuesday that Brooks appeared to suggest that members of his own staff might have played a role in the Jan. 6 rally. Joyce White Vance, a professor at the University of Alabama Law School who was appointed a U.S. district judge under President Barack Obama, tweeted that Brooks’s response to questions about his role in the Jan. 6 rally raised more questions about why he was there in the first place.

“It takes a little time & a good bit of money to get the right body armor & it’s not particularly comfortable to wear,” she said. “It seems fair to ask Mo Brooks, under oath, what made him think it was worth going to the trouble.”

Michael Fanone, the D.C. police officer who was dragged into a pro-Trump mob and beaten while fighting insurrectionists at the Capitol, reiterated Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” his disappointment in those who continue to play down the events of Jan. 6.

“If you describe that day as anything other than brutal and violent and a disgrace to this country, you’re lying to yourself, and you’re lying to those around you,” he said.

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