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Image: Josh Hawley
Senator Josh Hawley speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, on Oct. 13, 2020.Patrick Semansky / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Why Hawley is now pointing to a 2020 'attack on the White House'

Hawley would have us believe there was a left-wing attack on the White House, comparable to the right-wing attack on the Capitol. That's ridiculous.


For many Republicans, the idea that the left was secretly responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol had great appeal. After all, reality -- it was pro-Trump forces that engaged in insurrectionist violence -- made some right-wing elements right look like dangerous criminals, so it stood to reason that much of the GOP would embrace conspiracy theories about "leftists" being responsible for the riot.

That line of argument will likely maintain some appeal indefinitely in unhinged circles, but FBI Director Chris Wray helped discredit the idea quite thoroughly in sworn testimony this week.

And that, in turn, forced some Republicans to consider an alternative: maybe GOP officials can't blame the left for attacking the Capitol, but they could try to blame the left for attacking the White House.

Indeed, in apparent reference to social-justice protests held outside the White House last summer, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), reading prewritten remarks, insisted at a committee hearing this week that there was "a three-day siege on the White House," starting in late May.

There was no such "siege," but as MSNBC's Hayes Brown noted, one of Grassley's colleagues echoed the sentiment.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., upped the stakes Wednesday during a hearing with the head of the D.C. National Guard and officials from the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security. Bouncing off one witness's answer, Hawley referred to "the events of the spring, which we're all familiar with."

The Missouri Republican went on to refer to last summer's "attack on the White House," as if it were an event we'd all remember.

The subtext from Grassley and Hawley was hardly subtle. "Fine, there was a right-wing attack on the Capitol," they effectively argued, "but there was also a left-wing attack on the White House, so the scales should be seen as even."

The problem, of course, is that there was no attack on the White House, at least not since the British set it on fire 207 years ago.

As a Washington Post analysis explained, "Hawley’s framing is ludicrous. The protesters weren’t seeking to attack the White House, nor did they. In fact, the protesters in Lafayette Square just north of the White House were eventually the target of a violent effort to disperse them by law enforcement at the scene."

Hayes Brown's piece added that the senator's claim was "a real bit of historical revisionism."

It's always odd when assorted politicians try to rewrite history from many years ago, confident that many Americans won't remember the details of events from decades gone by. But to try to rewrite history from last summer is bizarre.

That said, there's no real mystery about Hawley's motivations, given his own role in helping feed the fire that led to the Jan. 6 attack. But as the Post's analysis concluded, "If there had been an attack on the executive mansion as there was an attack on the legislature, Hawley might better wave away questions about his decision to oppose the counting of electoral votes. But that is not what happened."

Postscript: Both Grassley and Hawley emphasized that Trump was taken to a secure bunker during last summer's protests, which is true. But at no point was the then-president in actual danger -- it's not as if protestors roamed the halls of the White House chanting about "hanging" anyone -- making this largely irrelevant.

Let's also note for context that Trump brazenly lied about what happened, as then-Attorney General Bill Barr helped prove.