During an interview yesterday, Sen. Ron Johnson declared of the Capitol riot that ‘this didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.’ Tim Elfrink reports that
As a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last month, rioters battered police with a multitude of weapons: metal flagpoles, baseball bats, wrenches and clubs. Many soaked police in caustic bear spray. One officer died in the Jan. 6 melee along with four civilians.
But Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Monday argued that it’s wrong to describe the group as “armed” and accused Democrats of “selectively” editing videos to exaggerate the threat posed by a mob that came within feet of Vice President Mike Pence and other elected officials.
“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,” Johnson said on WISN. “When you hear the word ‘armed,’ don’t you think of firearms? Here’s the questions I would have liked to ask: How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?”
In court filings, officials have said that guns, bombs, stun guns and other weapons were seized from rioters, the Associated Press reported. Fourteen people face charges related to bringing weapons to the riots, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including an Alabama man who allegedly had an arsenal in his truck and a Maryland man who police say stormed the Capitol with a gun, multiple magazines and a bulletproof vest. Federal prosecutors have also accused extremist groups of coordinating the deadly attack.
In the same interview, Johnson said he was sorry for the loss of life, but Johnson (and his communications manager) know that the key message from his interview deprecates the severity of violence at the Capitol.
So, why? This question lingers: Ambitious, Compromised, or Crackpot?
Johnson hasn’t declared whether he’s running again, but if he does run (or if he wants a rightwing political job that keeps him in his Washington, D.C. townhouse), he may be fulfilling his ambitions through a version of a no-enemies-to-the-right position. Perhaps there’s no rightwing person or position he won’t embrace. A strategy like that would protect him from a primary challenge as there’d be no one more extreme to his right, and would make him a champion of the most rabid members of his party in a general election. (He might also advance his chances to become a frontman for a big-money PAC if he declines to run again.)
There’s also the chance that he’s vulnerable to personal pressure of some sort.
The third possibility is that his skull is full of mush.
Statements like yesterday’s might underlie, truly, all three possible motivations for Johnson’s extremism: he wants something, he’s vulnerable to someone, and he’ll say anything.
However motivated, Johnson’s an albatross around Wisconsin’s neck for the next two years.