At Hearing on Capitol Siege, Sen. Ron Johnson Reads Post from Islamophobe’s Website

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., at Feb. 23, 2021 hearing on security failures during January breach of U.S. Capitol building. (Photo: C-SPAN screenshot)

At a Tuesday Senate hearing on the security failures that permitted the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol building by a mob of angry insurrectionists, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., read at length from a column by J. Michael Waller, senior analyst for strategy at Frank Gaffney‘s Center for Security Policy. In his personal essay, Waller recounts his experience of being part of the crowd outside the building as the invasion of violent partisans took place, looking to stop the certification of electoral votes received from the states–votes that added up to a defeat for then-president Donald J. Trump.

Waller contends that aside from the handful of “disciplined men” in camouflage who initiated the breach, the Trump crowd was cheerful and festive until Capitol Police shot a tear-gas canister into the growing crowd on the ground at the building’s west side. “All of a sudden, pro-police people felt that the police were attacking them, and they didn’t know why. Instead of running away, the people stood their ground,” he wrote.

Following his stint in the Reagan administration, Gaffney has mostly made his living as a professional Islamophobe. In March, Right Wing Watch’s Peter Montgomery reported from the National Religious Broadcasters convention of how Gaffney shook up the event by declaring another panelist at the gathering to be “a Shariah apologist.” For a time, Gaffney was deemed too extreme for the Conservative Political Action Conference to admit to its stage, but in the Trump years was welcomed back into the fold.

In 2019, Gaffney teamed up with former White House strategist Steve Bannon to convene a group dubbed Committee on the Present Danger: China; more recently he spoke at a Dec. 12 event that was part of the so-called Stop the Steal campaign, whose participants and instigators falsely allege that Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election and that President Joe Biden is in the White House through cheating. Bannon was deeply involved in promoting the rallies that culminated in the chaos and destruction that followed Trump’s final rally speech as president.

At the hearing, Sen. Johnson used Waller’s essay to assert that “agents provocateurs” turned the ebullient MAGA crowd into a weapon of destruction. Waller also reported witnessing “fake Trump protesters” among the crowd, who he identified by the fact that they were not giddy with excitement and had brand-new MAGA hats that some wore backwards. Johnson read the bit about the alleged incitement of the crowd by Capitol Police, as well as what he called “plain-clothes militants” at the front of the mob. He kept focusing on that bit, reading some more from Waller’s piece:

More tear gas. A canister struck a girl in the face, drawing blood. The pro-police crowd went from disbelief and confusion to anger.

Concluding his literary performance, Johnson added, “The last five pages is titled, ‘Provocateurs turn unsuspecting marchers into an invading mob,'” apparently not realizing that the hard copy from which he was reading was a print-out of a web page. He asked that the entire essay be read into the record.

Johnson then shifted his attention to Steven Sund, the erstwhile Capitol Police chief who resigned after the insurrection, but came before the Senate panel to testify about the events of Jan. 6. Johnson suggested that perhaps the reason the police were so unprepared for the onslaught they experienced at the Capitol that day was that they knew “the vast majority of Trump supporters are pro-law enforcement, and the last thing they would do is violate the law.”

Sund wasn’t buying it. “I will say that story–you know, information I’ve received from some of my officers where they were trying to prevent people from coming into the building and people were showing up saying, ‘Hey, we’re police, let us through,’ and still want to violate the law to get inside the building,” he said. Johnson cut him off to say that he had a long list of questions that he would set down in a letter.

On Jan. 15, National Public Radio reported that “[n]early 30 sworn police officers from a dozen departments attended the pro-Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol last week, and several stormed the building with rioters.”