To be clear, framing the question to include the word “terrorists” is accurate, given that FBI Director Christopher Wray described the Capitol riot as “domestic terrorism” in Senate testimony. The federal statute defining domestic terrorism also backs this up, since the events of January 6 involved “acts dangerous to human life” that were intended “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” Yet there are GOP elected officials who have downplayed and attempted to whitewash the insurrection — for example, Rep. Andrew Clyde astoundingly likened the assault we saw on January 6 to “a normal tourist visit” in the Capitol.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, stated on “Meet The Press” on Sunday that the panel is working to determine whether any members of Congress “assisted” in any way in the attack. If any of the GOP representatives attempting to rewrite history are ultimately compelled to testify, the first question that should be asked of them is this: “Are you with us or with the terrorists?”
In fact, when you look at the details surrounding the riot and the role former President Donald Trump played in how it unfolded, I’d submit that anyone still supporting Trump needs to be asked point blank whose side they’re on. This is especially true after GOP Rep. Liz Cheney confirmed Sunday that the House committee investigating the attack has “firsthand testimony” that Trump “was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television” and did nothing to end it. As Cheney explained, even “his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence,” yet he chose not to act.
As a reminder, Trump had very publicly called his loyal fans to be in Washington, DC, on January 6, promising them it would be “wild.” And on that fateful day when thousands gathered and chanted “Fight for Trump,” he told them, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol,” falsely promising that he would be there with them. Trump worked the crowd into a fever pitch with lines like, “You will have an illegitimate president. That’s what you’ll have. And we can’t let that happen,” a sentiment he echoed in the speech more than once.
We all saw the attack on our Capitol that followed. People dressed in Trump campaign paraphernalia — some wielding pepper spray, armed with bats and other weapons — laid siege to our Capitol, with some attacking police officers and causing severe injuries.
The DOJ has since charged more than 725 people in connection with the insurrection. And despite lies by GOP elected officials such as Sen. Ron Johnson, who claimed that “by and large it was peaceful protest,” more than 75 individuals have been charged with “using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.” Add to that, some of the January 6 attackers were carrying firearms with them when they were arrested — while prosecutors have alleged that others had guns stashed nearby.
But perhaps even more alarming than the distortions of some GOP leaders is a new CBS poll finding many Republicans view the January 6 attack in a positive light. While more than half of all Americans view the actions of the January 6 attackers as an effort “to overturn the election,” the poll found, 56% of Republicans responded that the riot was an act “defending freedom.” And while only 26% of Americans overall said they view the attackers’ actions as “patriotism,” when broken down by party nearly 50% of Republicans said they do.
Think about that for a moment. The majority of Republicans polled saw the January 6 attack that left more than 100 police offers injured, members of Congress hiding in fear and our Capitol desecrated — all predicated on Trump’s bald-faced lie about 2020 election fraud — as an act of “patriotism” and “defending freedom.”
Some Democratic officials are now debating whether it’s savvy politics to talk about the January 6 attack and the threat this version of the GOP poses to our democracy. Forget polling and political posturing. This is about saving our Republic. To that end, it’s time Democrats press the GOP to tell our fellow Americans whether they are with us or with the terrorists. We all deserve to know the answer to that question.