During the Senate hearing, one thing kept coming up again and again from the witnesses — the FBI and other intelligence agencies failed to warn them that the group gathering in Washington wasn’t just an assemblage of the “jovial” and “happy working class folks” that Johnson describes. It was laced through by a coalition of white supremacist militia forces who had been planning and preparing for the assault on the Capitol for months. Both former chief of the Capitol Police Steven Sund and former Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving made clear that the intelligence community had not shared with them any information on the real nature of what they were facing on Jan. 6.
Everyone seemed to know that the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and other militia groups were going to be a presence in D.C. on January 6, just as they had been during two previous MAGA-related events. But if the FBI or other agencies were aware that these groups were planning to coordinate in an attempt to get into the Capitol and take congressional hostages, none of that was passed along to police.
As the Poynter Institute makes clear, the clear involvement of these organized white supremacist militias is the aspect of the Jan. 6 insurgency that the Trump-right seems most anxious to erase. Fox’s Tucker Carlson has been directly disputing the involvement of thee groups. “There’s no evidence that white supremacists were responsible for what happened on Jan. 6. That’s a lie,” said Carlson on Monday evening. “And contrary to what you’ve been hearing, there’s also no evidence this was a, quote, ‘armed insurrection.’”
Carlson is saying this despite the fact that the nation witnessed people wearing the insignias of these groups storm the Capitol. Despite the fact that hundreds of militia members bragged of their involvement on social media. Despite the fact that dozens of these members have now been arrested. And despite the fact that police have made clear that these people were armed when they smashed their way into the Capitol.
This is far from Carlson’s first rodeo when it comes to sheltering white supremacists. As Politifact notes, Carlson has previously declared that white supremacy itself is a hoax. After all, argues Carlson, there are only tens of thousands of members of these militia groups. You could probably ft them all “inside a college football stadium.” So, why bother to worry about a group of armed extremists whose number is about a quarter that of the U.S. standing Army? “This is a hoax,” says Carlson.
The very first question that chair Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked the assembled law enforcement officials was whether the attack on the Capitol “involved white supremacist and extremist groups.” Every single official immediately responded “yes.” And as the day went on, those officials continually emphasized their feeling that the principal failing leading up to Jan. 6 was a failure to devote sufficient resources to understanding these domestic terrorists and keeping police aware of their actions.
Carlson isn’t alone. The push is on to declare that not only are white supremacist militias not worth worrying about, January 6 was no big deal. Propagandist Dinesh D’Souza went on Fox to call the whole thing “a bunch of rowdy people walking through a hallway.” The complete thrust, both from D’Souza and Fox hosts, is that there’s no comparing domestic terrorism to events such as 9/11. D’Souza argued that the terrorist on 9/11 “saw themselves as professional soldiers” while the men dressed in tactical gear strolling through the Capitol in search of hostages were just “rowdy.” D’ Souza also took time to mock members of Congress or their staff who were traumatized by an event in which “not one of them was hurt,” while completely ignoring that there were definitely people out to hurt them.
As The Washington Post reports, where the GQP is going with this is a dismissal that Jan. 6 means anything at all. Republicans are pushing back against the importance of the insurgency, dismissing the idea that it represented domestic terrorism, declaring that white supremacism had nothing to do with it, and sneering at the idea that the National Guard was even necessary. The theme emerging on the right is that Jan. 6 was totally justified. Republicans, including members of Congress, are continuing to defend Donald Trump’s actions in denying the outcome of the election. They’re denying that white supremacists make up a significant fraction of their alliance. And, as Johnson demonstrated, they’re blaming police, rather than Trump, for inciting a “pro-police” crowd.
The fact that some Republicans still asked fact-based questions during Tuesday’s hearing is a signal that there’s still a split in the party over how this should be handled. But these questions, and these senators, aren’t being featured on Fox News. For the heart of the party now pledged forever to Trump, Jan. 6 has become something that no one need be ashamed of. Which is just one stop away from making it a celebrated event.