Republicans in Congress spread fake ‘Jan. 6 was antifa’ claims

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. - Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Simply lying about the cause of the damage and the source of the danger to the nation, and to their own colleagues, might be actually the least of the things that Republicans did wrong when sifting through the Meadows texts. However, the way that their members of Congress directly involved themselves in spreading a lie is certainly something that any voter might easily understand, even if they missed the complexities of the attempted coup.

The texts, compiled by Talking Points Memo, show that the first message mentioning antifa or Black Lives Matter in connection to Jan. 6 was actually from Fox News host Laura Ingraham. However, at first Ingraham appeared to only be warning that, in encouraging the violence against legislators and the Capitol, Trump was “destroying his legacy and playing into every stereotype,” causing his supporters to lose any credibility they might have had when complaining about supposed violence connected to protests on the left. Minutes later, she was all in on the idea of just blaming antifa, including spreading the lies about the source of the violence to her Fox News audience.

Shortly after, Trump adviser Jason Miller laid the whole scheme out flatly, proposing that Trump issue a tweet stating that the violence was due to “Bad apples, likely ANTIFA or other crazed leftists” who “infiltrated today’s peaceful protest over the fraudulent vote count.” Trump would follow up by saying that “MAGA supporters embrace our police and the rule of law,” even as those supporters were beating police with flag poles.

Even as Fox News pundits and Trump advisers were spontaneously blaming the left for the actions of their supporters, the same idea occurred to Republicans in Congress. Those Republicans had no reason to be confused about who was attacking the Capitol. They were there. They could see the screaming mob waving Confederate flags alongside the Trump banners and wearing Auschwitz T-shirts below their MAGA hats. That didn’t stop them. And of course, it started with the usual candidates.

Marjorie Taylor Greene: Mark we don’t think these attackers are our people. We think they are Antifa. Dressed like Trump supporters.

Greene would follow up the next day with a public claim that “Antifa was mixed in the crowed and instigated it, and sadly people followed.”

Louie Gohmert went immediately to the same place, claiming to Meadows that “Capiotol Police told me last night they’d been warned that today there’d be a lot of Antifa dressed in red Trump shirts & hats and would likely get violent.” Which only shows that when it comes to lying, Gohmert just does it to everyone.

Despite any evidence that the Capitol Police ever actually said such a thing (spoiler: they did not), Mo Brooks then took Gohmert’s text and used it to forward his own claims, before he later decided to throw all the blame for violence on “right wing militia groups” who hijacked what was “otherwise a peaceful discussion.” Closer … still not very close.

In an interview with TPM, Brooks went so far as to say, “Yes, antifa played a role, but it was very minor.” Which is just the same as the original lie with the word “minor” attached, since there is still no evidence that antifa, BLM, or any other group on the left played any role in the assault.

Still, just because everyone in the GOP seemed to be waving the antifa flag on Jan. 6 (and after), that doesn’t necessarily make it a conspiracy. As former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman explained:

“First of all, you had a combination of savvy communicators like Jason Miller who saw the antifa false flag as an opportunity, and he knows that Louie Gohmert and Marjorie Taylor Greene are dumb as a bag of rocks.”

Would more evidence of lying have convinced Marjorie Taylor Greene’s constituents to vote against her? Unlikely. After all, they voted for Marjorie Taylor Greene. However, the practice of hiding the direct evidence of all these characters’ involvement with a violent insurgency, the underlying attempted coup, and the cover-up of both should certainly have been made available before Election Day.

After all, it would be a real shame if something like three dozen Republican Congress members had to be pulled from their seats after being convicted of conspiracy against the United States. But I think America can handle the cleanup.

Well, that was an awesome way to finish out the 2022 election cycle! Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard revel in Raphael Warnock’s runoff victory on this week’s episode of The Downballot and take a deep dive into how it all came together. The Davids dig into the turnout shift between the first and second rounds of voting, what the demographic trends in the metro Atlanta area mean for Republicans, and why Democrats can trace their recent success in Georgia back to a race they lost: the famous Jon Ossoff special election in 2017.

We’re also joined by one of our very favorite people, Daily Kos Elections alum Matt Booker, who shares his thoughts on the midterms and tells us about his work these days as a pollster. Matt explains some of the key ways in which private polling differs from public data; how the client surveys he was privy to did not foretell a red wave; and the mechanics of how researchers put together focus groups. Matt also reminisces about his time at “DKE University” and how his experience with us prepared him for the broader world of politics.

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