Ron Johnson: Jan. 6 narrative will continue to morph as more security footage emerges
Wisconsin GOP senator says his staff saw footage of a large door left open that allowed more than 300 protesters to enter Capitol.
The Democrat-constructed narrative of the Jan. 6 riot will continue to morph as more security footage from the Capitol emerges and people get to see that hundreds of protesters were let into the Capitol through a door left open and unguarded at times by police, says former Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).
In a wide-ranging interview Wednesday night on the "Just the News, No Noise" television show, Johnson cautioned that the Capitol riot narrative has so far been constructed of fragments from different partisans, starting with the second impeachment of Donald Trump and then the House Democrats' Jan. 6 committee.
"We're many years down the road here, and there's still so many questions that remain unanswered," Johnson said.
The latest fragment surfaced this week when Fox News host Tucker Carlson released video footage showing that the controversial Jan. 6 protester known as the "QAnon Shaman" was escorted by police through the Capitol without being arrested. The Capitol Police say they were in de-escalation mode and did not want to arrest him at the time of the riot.
"During the impeachment, I mean, that was a highly biased story, through those slickly edited videos by real professionals," Johnson recalled. "And so now you got Tucker, just showing the other side of the story, part of the story. But there is still so much of the story that is not being told about January 6."
Johnson and his staff were permitted long before Carlson to review hours of video footage from the Capitol riot, and he was the first member of the Senate to question why many protesters were able to enter the building without resistance through unlocked doors.
"We did uncover the fact that the West Terrace door was open from the inside," Johnson said. "That has not been explained yet exactly why that happened. But more than 300 people entered that door without any violence."
That inexplicably unimpeded entry is one of many key questions surrounding the failures of that day that must be resolved to avoid a repeat, said Johnson, citing, as another example, the failure to integrate advance intelligence of prospective violence gathered by federal law enforcement into Capitol Police security planning.
Johnson sent correspondence back in June 2021 to Capitol Police highlighting what concerned him during his team's review of security footage. Here are the key passages:
"Over the span of a 14-minute period, approximately 309 unauthorized individuals entered the Capitol on January 6 through the upper west terrace doors," Johnson wrote. "At approximately 2:26 p.m. on January 6, a security camera showed a male inside the Capitol attempting to open one of the upper west terrace doors to exit the building. This unauthorized individual, who was by himself at the time, walked through a narrow hallway to the double doors and attempted to exit through the left door by pushing the door's crash bar. The door did not open and the individual turned around and walked back through the hallway and away from the doors. Approximately seven minutes later, at 2:33 p.m., security footage showed five unauthorized individuals walking down the same hallway, past a police officer. The security footage, which did not include audio, appeared to show the police officer gesturing toward the doors as these individuals walked past him. Once at the double doors, one of the five individuals pushed the left door's crash bar and this time, it opened. All five individuals exited the building at approximately 2:33 p.m.
"As the fifth individual exited through this left door of the upper west terrace doorway, it remained ajar for a moment allowing people from the outside of the building to gain entry into the Capitol. At 2:34 p.m., as people began to enter through this door, the police officer who was in the vicinity of this door one minute earlier, walked into another hallway away from this door and out of the view of the security camera. At 2:35 p.m., five police officers who were not wearing riot gear or carrying any protective equipment, such as shields, arrived at this doorway. As soon as these officers approached the doorway, they appeared to form a thin line across the narrow hallway, blocking people from continuing to enter the building at this location. About a minute later, four unauthorized individuals, including two people wearing helmets, pushed past the officers' line and a surge of people entered the building walking past the officers. These police officers did not appear to take any further action to stop or block people entering the building until a few minutes later."
You can read the full letter here:
Johnson said Wednesday night that the video footage contradicted some of the early narratives of that tragic day.
"It was always suspicious how quickly everybody seized on — not everybody, you know, but the powers that be — seized on the description that there were thousands of armed insurrectionists," he said. "There weren't. During our Senate hearings, I asked the FBI witness how many firearms were confiscated during the armed insurrection. I didn't know the answer. Her answer was zero. So, both Republicans and Democrats seized on that term. They've been calling this an insurrection ever since."
Johnson said he hopes that over time Americans come to appreciate that while the Capitol riot was a tragic and avoidable event, its destruction was far smaller than the multicity damage inflicted by the Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020 after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
"According to the Department of Justice, the damage to the [Capitol] building, I'm not downplaying this, is about $2.8 million," Johnson said. "The other estimates were far higher than that. You compare that to the summer riots of 2020 — that the all the media downplays, calls those peaceful protests — 570 result in riots, 2000 law enforcement officials are injured, a couple dozen people are dead, and $1 billion to $2 billion of property damage.
"But I guess those are righteous riots," he added sarcastically. "Only Jan. 6 counts as the worst thing that occurred since the Civil War or 9/11."
Johnson blamed the legacy news media for uneven coverage that has distorted the public's knowledge and eroded its trust.
"We have people that lean strongly to the left," he said. "They carry the Democrats' water. They're basically the communications department for for leftist causes, the Democrat Party."