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Sen. Johnson pushes conspiracy theory at Capitol insurrection hearing

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MADISON (WKOW) -- During a hearing Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol during which lawmakers could ask current and former law enforcement about the January 6 insurrection, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) used his time to elevate a right-wing writer's unfounded claims about leftist provocateurs infiltrating the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol.

Johnson began his time for questioning by noting he had a very long list of questions for former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund. However, instead of getting into those questions right away, Johnson began reading from the written eyewitness account of J. Michael Waller.

Waller's post initially ran on the Center for Security Policy's website. Waller is a senior analyst for the right-wing group, whose founder made headlines a decade ago by referring to Barack Obama as the nation's "first Muslim president" and later provided a poll that served as inspiration for the Trump administration's 2016 travel ban involving Muslim countries.

"He describes four different types of people: plain-clothed militants, agents-provocateurs, fake Trump protestors, and then disciplined, uniformed column of attackers," Johnson relayed. "These are the people that probably planned this."

While some on the far-right have claimed leftists disguised themselves as Trump supporters and initiated the violence on January 6, none of the law enforcement entities investigating the riot have said there's any evidence to back the assertion.

Reading more from Waller's account, Johnson highlighted a section where Waller suggested the police invited the violence by launching tear gas into the crowd and not at the insurrectionists at the front of the pack trying to push their way through.

"The tear gas changed the crowd's demeanor," Johnson read from Waller's account. "There was an air of disbelief as people realized the police whom they supported, were firing on them. 'What are you doing? We support you!' someone yelled. All of a sudden, pro-police people felt the police were attacking them and they didn't know why."

When Johnson did begin asking Sund questions, he questioned whether law enforcement may have been unprepared for the possibility of violence because Trump supporters are typically pro-police.

"Information I've received from some of my officers was they were trying to prevent people from coming into the building," Sund replied. "And people were showing up saying 'hey, we're police, let us through' and still wanting to violate the law to get inside the building."

Johnson then encouraged the rest of the lawmakers to read the entirety of Waller's account.

"The last five pages is titled 'provocateurs turn unsuspecting marchers into an invading mob,'" Johnson said. "So I'd recommend everyone on the committee read this account."

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Ben Wikler accused Johnson of "spreading absurd lies" that absolved the right-wing rioters of their responsibility in the deadly mayhem.

"Ron Johnson’s determination to undo democracy means that those who believe in democracy must remove him from power," Wikler said. "If Ron Johnson doesn’t do the right thing and resign, his political career will end on November 8, 2022.”

Wisconsin's junior senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), did not mention Johnson by name in a tweet Tuesday but called on senators to acknowledge there's no evidence to back claims the 2020 election was stolen "instead of pushing conspiracy theories."

27 News reached out to Johnson's office to request comment for this story. Johnson's press staff did not immediately respond.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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