After Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Wednesday described the Jan. 6 riot as “a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol,” GOP strategist Karl Rove urged Republicans nationwide to reflect on the first anniversary and show their patriotism by offering “no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy.”

But on Fox News, Tucker Carlson not only mocked the idea that the storming of the Capitol was an insurrection but also accused Cruz and other Republicans of “repeating the talking points that Merrick Garland has written for them.” The attorney general earlier Wednesday vowed to hold accountable all those responsible for the Jan. 6 riot — whether they were at the U.S. Capitol or committed other crimes surrounding the day’s events.

“Every word Ted Cruz uses is used intentionally. He’s a lawyer,” Carlson said Wednesday night. “He described Jan. 6 as a violent terrorist attack. Of all the things Jan. 6 was, it was definitely not a violent terrorist attack. It wasn’t an insurrection. Was it a riot? Sure. It was not a violent terrorist attack. Sorry! So why are you telling us that it was, Ted Cruz?”

Carlson asked: “What the hell is going on here?”

Carlson’s words come as Republicans continue to grapple with the aftermath of the insurrection at the Capitol that resulted in five deaths and injured 140 law enforcement officers. Federal prosecutors in D.C. announced last week that they have charged more than 725 people with assault, resisting arrest and other crimes in the events of Jan. 6, 2021. About 165 people have pleaded guilty, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

President Biden on Thursday squarely blamed former president Donald Trump for the Capitol riot and accused him of continuing to propagate falsehoods and stoke unrest over the past year.

“He can’t accept that he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said,” Biden said of Trump. “He lost.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Jan. 5 said investigators would prosecute people involved in the Jan. 6 riot "at any level." (Reuters)

Trump — who has led the efforts to whitewash the violence carried out that day by a pro-Trump mob attempting to disrupt the certification of Biden’s electoral college win — has pushed a majority of his party into a full embrace of his false allegations of election fraud. At least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump’s false claims are running for statewide positions that would give them authority over the administration of elections, according to a tally by The Washington Post.

Cruz led a group of Republican senators and senators-elect last year in rejecting electors from certain states won by Biden, citing Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud. The senator and his colleagues contended that they were not trying to reverse the election results but give a voice to those who did not believe the 2020 presidential election was conducted fairly. No investigation or court found any evidence of wrongdoing.

Cruz recently predicted that Republicans would move to impeach Biden “whether it’s justified or not” if they retake the House in this year’s midterm elections.

But on the eve of the first anniversary, Cruz again acknowledged the events of Jan. 6 in a Senate Rules Committee hearing.

“We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week,” he said. “And it is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.”

Cruz has previously described the riot to lawmakers as “a terrorist attack on the Capitol.”

Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The comments immediately got the attention of the MAGA media world. Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump White House adviser indicted in November for refusing to testify before the Jan. 6 congressional committee, expressed disgust after playing a clip of Cruz’s comments on his podcast Wednesday.

“My problem is with the gutless Republican Party. … They will not take a stand,” Bannon said. “This is why we’ve won more elections than we’ve lost and we’ve lost the country in the process.”

Amid the pushback from Carlson and Bannon on Cruz’s comments, Rove wrote in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, headlined “Republicans’ Jan. 6 Responsibility,” that the GOP has a duty to condemn the riot.

“There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy,” he wrote Wednesday. “Love of country demands nothing less. That’s true patriotism.”

While Rove claimed that most who were at the Capitol were not violent, the former deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush pushed Republicans to think about a scenario in which the events of Jan. 6 unfolded with liberals storming the Capitol instead of a pro-Trump mob.

“If Democrats had done what some Trump supporters did on that violent Jan. 6, Republicans would have criticized them mercilessly and been right to do so,” he wrote. “Republicans would have torched any high official who encouraged violence or stood mute while it was waged and been right to do so. Republicans would have demanded an investigation to find who was responsible for the violence and been right to do so.”

Rove’s message, however, was not a part of Carlson’s show. After criticizing Garland for saying Jan. 6 was “an unprecedented attack on the seat of our democracy,” Carlson, who previously suggested that the riot was a “false flag,” turned his attention to Cruz for using similar language. The Fox News host lauded the senator as “legitimately smart” but wondered why Cruz and other Republicans would call the breach of the Capitol “a violent terrorist attack.”

“You’re making us think, maybe the Republican Party is as worthless as we suspected it was. That can’t be true,” Carlson concluded. “Reassure us, please, Ted Cruz.”

Josh Dawsey, Amy Gardner, Annie Linskey and Ashley Parker contributed to this report.

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