Editorial: Ron Johnson's whitewash of the U.S. Capitol riot shows why Wisconsin's senior senator has to go
“To hear Ron Johnson tell it, nothing much happened on Jan. 6 inside the U.S. Capitol.
Just a few bad apples got a little rowdy.
“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me," the Oshkosh Republican told talk radio show host Jay Weber.
"I mean 'armed,' when you hear 'armed,' don’t you think of firearms? … How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?”
Johnson’s grasp on reality has been tenuous for years, but even more so since he aligned himself lockstep with former President Donald Trump.
Since Trump left office, two kinds of Republicans have emerged:
Those who want to purge Trump and his cult of white supremacists and conspiracy theorists from the party and those, like Johnson, who long for the return of their would-be king.
From the week the votes were cast last November, Johnson helped spread Trump’s lie that the election was stolen, helped perpetuate the myth that voter fraud cost the former president the election. Johnson used the levers of government to spread the lie, calling a bogus Senate hearing to “investigate” election “irregularities.”
In fact, this election, held during a deadly pandemic, was the "most secure in American history," according the nation's lead cybersecurity agency.
Johnson joined Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., in threatening to vote against congressional recognition of Joe Biden’s state-certified victory on Jan. 6. They made this threat at Trump's bidding even though Biden beat Trump by 7 million votes and won the same number of Electoral College votes as Trump had four years earlier. Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 2.9 million.
Johnson and the others offered no evidence supporting their allegation, a deception all the more ridiculous because dozens of Trump lawsuits claiming fraud had been laughed out of court, even by judges Trump named to the bench.
In short, Johnson was willing to throw out the legally cast votes of millions of Americans. He was willing to throw away democracy — government of the people, by the people, for the people — to serve Donald Trump.
Only after armed insurrectionists stormed the Capitol as Congress began its process to approve the Electoral College results — forcing senators, representatives and Vice President Mike Pence to flee and hide — did Johnson change his mind about formally objecting to the voters' choice.
Two Republican congressmen from Wisconsin, Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald, never changed their minds. They voted to overrule the election results, joining dozens of other Republicans in pumping more air into Trump’s whirlwind of lies.
Tiffany and Fitzgerald were voted into Congress in the same election they refused to recognize! They must be held to account, along with Johnson, for lying to the people they were elected to serve about the very foundation stone of our democratic republic — the legitimacy of elections.
A brutal scene at the Capitol
Since Jan. 6, Johnson has repeatedly defended Trump and downplayed the threat that politicians, staff and police faced as Congress convened.
As insurrectionists roamed the Capitol, hunting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and threatening to hang Pence, Johnson was oblivious. “I never felt threatened," he told Weber.
The police officers who defended him, including one who gave up his life that day, certainly did.
ProPublica reported what one officer, a combat veteran, saw:
"The rioters were so vicious, so relentless, that they seemed fueled by methamphetamine. To his left, he watched a chunk of steel strike a fellow officer above the eye, setting off a geyser of blood. A pepper ball tore through the air over his shoulder and exploded against the jaw of a man in front of him. The round, filled with chemical irritant, ripped the rioter’s face open. His teeth were now visible through a hole in his cheek. Blood poured out, puddling on the pavement surrounding the building. But the man kept coming.
"The combat veteran was hit with bear spray eight times. His experience overseas 'was nothing like this,' he said. 'Nothing at all.' ”
The rioters were just steps away from the senators as that chamber was evacuated.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who was unknowingly heading toward danger, was spotted by an alert Capitol Police officer who turned him around just in time for him to run behind the officer to safety. That same officer, Eugene Goodman, alertly led a group of insurrectionists away from the Senate chambers and toward police. For his valor, Goodman was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.
Does anyone doubt what would have happened if these frenzied Trump supporters, some of them chanting "kill the infidels," had gotten their hands on Pelosi, Pence — or any member of Congress, even Johnson?
Here is what Romney — the Republican Party's nominee for president just eight years earlier — had to say about Johnson and the others who fueled the insurrection against democracy in servitude to Trump:
“We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning. What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States. Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy. They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy."
As PolitiFact notes, assault weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found on people before and after the riot; more than 230 have been charged to date in the attack and 14 face federal charges related to bringing or using dangerous weapons inside the building.
Insurrectionists used stun guns, pepper spray, baseball bats, knives, brass knuckles, pipes, M-80 firecrackers, fire extinguishers, flag poles and anything they could get their hands on to attack police after Trump encouraged them to march to the Capitol. Some even brought cans of food, frozen to cause maximum damage when they hurled them at police. Homemade bombs were found near the Capitol and at both the Republican Party and Democratic Party headquarters.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial — there have only been four in all of U.S. history — claiming Congress can't impeach a president who is not in office.
His legal reasoning is wrong but he’s right in his assessment of Trump:
“January 6th was a disgrace," he said from the Senate floor. “American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President.
“They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he’d lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty."
Johnson's reaction to McConnell's straight talk?
“I would like to see Leader McConnell zip his lips,” Johnson told his pliant friends on talk radio.
Enough is enough, Wisconsin
Johnson must go.
It's obvious now that he won’t do the honorable thing and resign after violating his oath to support and defend the Constitution. By what he has shown of his character, there is no reason to believe he will keep his campaign promise to not run for a third term when this one expires.
If he runs again, Johnson must be opposed in both the primary and general elections by people who care enough about democracy to support and defend it.
The other two members of Wisconsin’s Insurrection Coalition must also be opposed, in both primary and general elections, by people who will support our democracy.
Tiffany and Fitzgerald were cowards in the face of the Trump mob, unwilling to stand up for what's right because they feared opposition from people willing to turn our democracy into an autocracy where the rule of law and the votes of citizens are swept aside.
The only way to end this madness and to get back to a government that serves its citizens instead of special interests is to vote out politicians like Johnson, Tiffany and Fitzgerald and replace them with people of high character who will defend government of the people, by the people, for the people, regardless of party.
We urge men and women of courage and character to rise up and run against them in 2022.
Let's throw these featherweights out of office, Wisconsin, so no one is ever tempted to follow their despicable path again. “