More than 150 police officers were injured during the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol – eyes were gouged, spinal disks shattered, and ribs cracked. Rioters brandished stun guns, pepper spray, and baseball bats. Flagpoles were used as clubs and fire extinguishers were deployed as battering rams. A gallows was constructed as the crowd called for the execution of lawmakers and journalists. At least four people died in the melee.
Those are the facts. Then there’s Donald Trump’s alternative reality.
“There was a lot of love. I’ve heard that from everybody. Many, many people have told me that was a loving crowd,” Trump said to reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, who recorded their interview with the former president for their book, “I Alone Can Fix It.”
Trump’s comments referred to the crowd that gathered to hear him speak immediately before riot. Trump told them, “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Hundreds of followers took his words literally. Their ensuing violence created bloodshed and destruction. So far, 500-plus defendants face charges ranging from assaulting federal law enforcement officers to obstruction of an official proceeding. The most common charge is entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds.
But Trump ignored all that in his interview with Leonnig and Rucker. Instead, he focused on one of his favorite hobbyhorses: crowd size. “I think it was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken before. It went from that point — which is almost at the White House — to beyond the Washington monument. It was — and wide. And it was a loving crowd, too, by the way,” he insisted.
CNN contextualizes Trump’s comments:
Trump’s comments underscore the vast GOP effort to downplay the Capitol riot. In the months since January 6, the former President and Republican lawmakers in both chambers have offered false accounts of the attack that conflict with reams of video evidence, criminal charges filed against participants and law enforcement officials’ testimony.