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GOP backs away from 'insurrection' label, despite using it before

"The question before us is not whether there was a violent insurrection of the Capitol," Trump's lawyer said. "On that point, everyone agrees." Not anymore


Last month, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) appeared on Fox News and said the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was a largely "peaceful protest." The Wisconsin Republican also took issue with a specific word: "Even calling it an 'insurrection,' it wasn't."

There's a lot of this going around.

A growing number of Republican lawmakers are refusing to say that the Jan. 6 insurrection was actually an insurrection. Nearly two dozen GOP House members voted against legislation this week that would award Congressional Gold Medals to police officers who defended the Capitol that day, in part because it describes the mob of then-President Trump's supporters who were trying to stop Congress from ratifying the 2020 election results as "insurrectionists."

The Hill quoted Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) over the weekend saying, in reference to members of the violent mob, "They were protesting. And I don't approve of the way they protested, but it wasn't an insurrection."

Part of what makes this so exasperating is the pointlessness of such parsing. The world saw a violent group of armed radicals storming the seat of the U.S. government in the hopes of blocking the results of an American election and preventing the rightful president from taking office. Many call this an "insurrection" because that's what the word means.

But just as importantly, even Republicans were inclined to use the same word in the not-too-distant past. As the Washington Post recently explained, Mitch McConnell -- at the time, the Senate majority leader -- described the attack on Jan. 6 as a "failed insurrection."

As recently as April, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also referred publicly to "insurrection at the Capitol."

During Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, even one of the former president's own lawyers told senators as part of the proceedings, "The question before us is not whether there was a violent insurrection of the Capitol. On that point, everyone agrees."

Well, apparently not everyone.