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New gun charge puts Jan. 6 attack in an important new context

Donald Trump said the Jan. 6 rioters posed "zero threat." Ron Johnson said they weren't really "armed." Reality tells a different story.


When much of the Republican Party decided to rewrite the history of the Jan. 6 attack, partisans tried to recast the rioters as harmless "tourists." It's a foundational claim: If the insurrectionists weren't dangerous, then the assault on the Capitol was little more than a messy spectacle. And if the assault was unimportant, then there's no need for investigations, indictments, and so on.

It's why Donald Trump insisted in late March that the rioters posed "zero threat" to anyone on Jan. 6. A month earlier, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin dismissed the idea that the attackers were part of an "armed insurrection," because as far as he was concerned, the rioters weren't actually "armed."

Reality tells a different story.

Even when folks like Trump and Johnson made these claims, they were clearly mistaken. Not only was the mob armed with bats, clubs, and flag poles, The Associated Press pointed to court filings in February that said rioters were caught with guns, bombs, stun guns, and other weapons.

But as the year progressed, similar reports came to the fore. We learned in May, for example, about a Justice Department indictment alleging that Christopher Alberts carried a semi-automatic handgun onto the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6. As Politico reported yesterday, new allegations are among the most serious to date.

An Indiana man charged with carrying a loaded firearm to the Capitol on Jan. 6 told investigators that if he had found Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "you'd be here for another reason," according to court documents posted over the weekend.... In this case, [Mark Mazza] allegedly carried a Taurus revolver known as "The Judge," which is capable of firing shotgun shells — two of which were in the chamber, along with three hollow-point bullets. A Capitol Police sergeant obtained the weapon after allegedly fending off an assault from Mazza.

And what did this 56-year-old Indiana man intend to do with the handgun capable of firing shotgun shells? According to the newly filed court documents, Mazza was apparently prepared to shoot the Speaker of the House.

In fact, the accused seems to have been quite forthcoming about his intentions. When Capitol Police investigators visited Mazza at his home in March, he not only acknowledged his attendance on Jan. 6, he also said he intended to have a confrontation with Nancy Pelosi.

"I thought Nan and I would hit it off," Mazza said. "I was glad I didn't because you'd be here for another reason and I told my kids that if they show up, I'm surrendering, nope they can have me, because I may go down a hero."

As Rachel emphasized on last night's show, the accused didn't say this in some encrypted forum that law enforcement just gained access to — this guy apparently said it out loud to investigators who showed up at his house.

This is the same man who also allegedly assaulted a police officer during the assault on the Capitol. Politico's report noted that it was during the violence that a Capitol Police sergeant "obtained the weapon after allegedly fending off an assault from Mazza." Law enforcement then traced the gun back to its owner.

The article added:

Though reports of rioters charged with carrying firearms have been limited, the number has been steadily climbing. A former DEA agent brandished his service weapon outside the Capitol. A Texas man was charged with bringing a handgun as well. Leaders of the Oath Keepers charged with conspiring to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election aren't facing firearms charges, but prosecutors have pieced together evidence suggesting they kept a stockpile of weapons at a hotel in nearby Arlington, Va.

It's against this backdrop that Trump told the public that the rioters posed "zero threat" and Ron Johnson questioned whether the attackers were "armed."