The further we get from the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, the more some Republicans try to argue that the riot wasn't that bad. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has helped take the lead on this, praising the mob's patriotism, and arguing the armed rioters may not have actually been armed.
Donald Trump, who played a key role in inciting the violence, has pushed a similar line, insisting the Capitol attackers posed "zero threat," and were merely "hugging and kissing the police and the guards."
But while our understanding of the violence continues to come into focus, and some of the initial details are replaced with additional facts, there is no doubt that the rhetoric peddled by the likes of Johnson and Trump is literally unbelievable. Just ask Michael Fanone.
A DC Metropolitan Police officer who was brutally assaulted while defending the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection said Tuesday evening that it's been difficult to watch some elected officials and others "whitewash" the episode in its aftermath. Michael Fanone, who was stun-gunned several times and beaten with a flagpole during the attack, told CNN's Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight" that "some of the terminology that was used, like 'hugs and kisses,' and 'very fine people,' is like very different from what I experienced and what my co-workers experienced on the 6th."
CNN's report added that Fanone suffered a heart attack and a concussion during the riot and is now dealing with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I experienced the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life," he told Don Lemon. The officer added, "I want people to understand the significance of January 6. I want people to understand that thousands of rioters came to the Capitol hell-bent on violence and destruction and murder."
Whether folks like Ron Johnson are moved at all by Fanone's perspective is unclear.
In related news, some of the rioters charged in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack have argued in court that they can safely be released pending trial because they don't pose a public threat. As part of the argument, the defendants and their lawyers have insisted that Jan. 6 was an unusual, onetime event -- a singular, unrepeatable moment in time -- in which a mob was whipped into a frenzy by Trump, who effectively told his unhinged followers to take violent action.
Politico reported yesterday that Trump himself is standing in the way of this underwhelming pitch:
Trump's refusal to accept the reality that he lost the 2020 election — reflected in a torrent of recent statements renewing discredited claims about a "rigged" vote — has become a feature of prosecutors' latest attempts to jail Capitol riot defendants they deem too dangerous to release pending trial. Judges have started citing this argument — as part of broader analysis — in cases where they've decided to detain defendants for presenting a threat of future violence, and even in some cases where they've agreed to let defendants go free, pending trial. They've agreed that Trump's rhetoric could spur his most radicalized supporters to attack again. And that could be bad news for dozens of additional riot suspects being hauled in on alleged conspiracy and police assault charges.
I realize much of the right would prefer to move on and pretend that the Capitol riot just wasn't that important. But as Michael Fanone reminded the public, "the significance of January 6" is far from over.