Were Capitol rioters 'fake Trump protesters'? Here's the truth behind Ron Johnson's conspiracy theory
He says that leftists posing as Donald Trump supporters played a role in storming the Capitol
At a high-profile hearing on the insurrection at the US Capitol, GOP Senator Ron Johnson on Tuesday, February 23, claimed the pro-Trump protesters who eventually stormed the Capitol on January 6 had been “festive” before police fired tear gas at them. He further added that leftists posing as Donald Trump supporters played a role in storming the Capitol, even though the scores of people who have been arrested have documented histories of being Trump loyalists.
Johnson cited the first-hand account of right-wing writer J Michael Waller of the far-right publication The Federalist, where he blamed a cadre for being “fake Trump supporters” and for provoking police at the Capitol. “He said that the mood of the crowd was ‘positive’ and ‘festive.’”
Johnson said, reading Waller’s account of the riot into the official congressional record. “Of the thousands of people I passed or who passed me along Constitution Avenue, some were indignant and contemptuous of Congress, but no one appeared angry or incited to riot. Many of the marchers were families with small children. Many were elderly, overweight, or just plain tired or frail, traits not typically attributed to the riot-prone,” Johnson said, quoting Waller’s story. Johnson’s theories about the nature of the riot, which resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer, have not been borne out by subsequent arrests and investigations.
Analysis of Johnson's theory
US Attorney for the District of Columbia stated that they have identified 400 suspects and arrested 135 to date in connection with the Capitol siege. Authorities have connected at least 32 alleged rioters to right extremist groups who were supporting Trump, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Texas Freedom Force and the conspiracy group QAnon.
The feds have indicted more than 250 people for their roles in the riot, many of whom have said they believed they were following Donald Trump’s orders when they stormed the legislature a fact that contradicts Johnson’s narrative that the “jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor of the great majority” was sabotaged by left-wing anarchists disguised as right-wingers. Federal prosecutors charged six members of the Oath Keepers militia, who the government added as co-defendants to an existing indictment for three alleged Oath Keepers. Seven of the group were part of a tactical "stack" of people dressed in combat gear who pushed through crowds to enter the Capitol, the government said. Another 16 have links to the so-called Proud Boys, a fringe right-wing militia group that strongly backs Trump.
The youngest-known alleged rioter is 18-year-old Bruno Joseph Cua, who prosecutors accused of assaulting an officer after he posted online, "President Trump is calling us to FIGHT!" The oldest rioters were two 70-year-old men: Bennie Parker, an alleged Oath Keeper, and Lonnie Coffman, an Alabama man, who authorities say brought a car full of weapons and explosives to Washington DC.
Johnson's previous theories
The Wisconsin Republican has been one of the chief promoters in Congress of discredited conspiracy theories, Johnson has previously suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi impeached Trump over his role in the riot as a way to cover up her own wrongdoing on that day, although he's never really explained what Pelosi did wrong. And Johnson said last week that he didn't believe that what happened at the Capitol was an "armed insurrection," despite ample evidence that it was. His theories have been widely debunked and disproven by federal records on those who have been arrested for their roles in the riots.