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Officers' accounts put Trump's praise for rioters in new context

The more officers described the rioters, the more I was reminded that Donald Trump has publicly praised and identified with the criminals.


At times, yesterday's hearing was difficult to watch. The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol not only featured new video footage of the insurrectionist riot, it also heard from four officers who described their harrowing ordeal in personal, emotional, and gut-wrenching terms. As the New York Times summarized:

One officer described how rioters attempted to gouge out his eye and called him a traitor as they sought to invade the Capitol. Another told of being smashed in a doorway and nearly crushed amid a "medieval" battle with a pro-Trump mob as he heard guttural screams of pain from fellow officers. A third said he was beaten unconscious and stunned repeatedly with a Taser as he pleaded with his assailants, "I have kids." A fourth relayed how he was called a racist slur over and over again by intruders wearing "Make America Great Again" garb.

The report added that the men's gripping, at times excruciating, testimony "cut through a fog of confusion, false equivalence and misdirection that Republicans have generated."

That's clearly true, and GOP officials couldn't have been pleased to see the officers expose partisan lies in such dramatic detail.

But there was another, equally important dimension to yesterday's bipartisan hearing: the testimony served as a brutal reminder that the violent insurrectionists -- by Officer Daniel Hodges' telling, "terrorists" -- have sympathetic allies in the Republican Party.

Alas, that's not altogether new. Some GOP lawmakers, for example, have disgraced themselves with rhetoric describing the riot as "peaceful" and the rioters as harmless "tourists." But it was brought into sharp relief yesterday as one group of House Republicans held an event at the Justice Department, heralding the Jan. 6 attackers as "political prisoners," while House GOP leaders held a separate event trying to shift blame for the assault onto Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Dana Milbank noted that the developments "made explicit what has become more obvious by the day: Republicans stand with those who attempted a violent coup on Jan. 6. And it's not just the wingnuts."

And it's not just Congress. The more the officers testified about the mob's monstrous violence, the more I was reminded that Donald Trump -- the former president who invited the rioters and incited the riot -- has publicly praised and identified with the criminals. As Michael Gerson put it in a recent column:

There is also no doubt that all Trump's thoughts and prayers are with the violent rioters of Jan. 6. In a newly released interview with The Post's Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Trump insisted that he spoke to a "loving crowd." "Personally, what I wanted is what they wanted," he said. "They showed up just to show support because I happen to believe the election was rigged at a level like nothing has ever been rigged before." Sometimes, politicians get so lost in the bramble and fog of their own lies, they don't even notice a damaging confession when they make one.

The fact that the former president boasted about the common cause he shared with the mob was extraordinary, but it wasn't unique. The Washington Post recently published a collection of instances in which Trump, over the course of several months, has defended, excused, praised, identified with, and professed his "love" for those who attacked his own country's Capitol as part of a violent assault on the United States' democracy.

After all, "what they wanted" is what he wanted.

In other words, the first public hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the attempted coup is, among other things, providing new context for the former president's delinquency. These four officers went through hell, and Donald Trump has sided with those doing the attacking, not those who were attacked.