WASHINGTON — Republicans led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) want Congress to declare former President Donald Trump innocent of engaging in insurrection.
Gaetz and 62 House Republicans introduced a symbolic resolution simply stating that Trump “did not engage in insurrection or rebellion against the United States.”
It’s the latest effort by Republicans to whitewash Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which included sending a mob of his supporters to the U.S. Capitol while Congress certified the vote result. More than 1,200 people have been charged with crimes for attacking police and ransacking the building.
The House impeached Trump shortly after the attack for incitement of insurrection. He was acquitted by the Senate.
The House resolution comes as the Supreme Court weighs whether state officials can keep Trump off the ballot for having engaged in insurrection. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted after the Civil War, forbids anyone from serving in the federal government if they took an oath of office and then engaged in insurrection.
The insurrection case is separate from Trump’s various criminal cases, which include charges related to the riot, such as obstructing an official proceeding.
Republicans on Tuesday said that since Trump has not actually been charged with insurrection, he can’t be disallowed from appearing on state ballots. Experts think the court will likely side with the Trump campaign.
Republicans also downplayed the riot, saying Trump had urged his supporters to be peaceful while ignoring Trump’s statements that people should “fight like hell.”
“President Trump and his supporters were vilified for doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights,” Rep Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) said.
“We would call what happened that day ’a Wednesday’ in the Missouri Capitol,” Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) said.
Gaetz and many other lawmakers have insinuated that FBI informants or agents manipulated the crowd. Gaetz on Tuesday again pointed to the possibility that the FBI influenced events, but didn’t quite say so outright.
“There were people who were violent at that riot,” he said, “and they should not have been, but that is a very different thing than declaring that President Trump engaged in insurrection.”