‘What planet are these people on?’: Federal judge condemns Republicans for downplaying Capitol riot

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Supporters of Donald Trump protest outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on 6 January (AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of Donald Trump protest outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on 6 January (AFP via Getty Images)

A US federal judge has condemned Republican lawmakers for downplaying the deadly 6 January riots on the Capitol, saying he doesn’t know “what planet these people are on”.

During the riots on 6 January, pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. Five people died amid the violence.

Although certain Republicans expressed outrage following the immediate aftermath of the attack and urged Donald Trump to call off his supporters, many have since rallied back around the former president.

“I’m especially troubled by the accounts of some members of Congress that January 6 was just a day of tourists walking through the Capitol,” US District Judge Royce Lamberth said on Wednesday.

He added: “I don’t know what planet these people are on.”

The judge, who was appointed by former Republican President Ronald Reagan, singled out one particular instance in which a lawmaker had suggested the rioters were comparable to tourists.

“The attempt by some congressmen to rewrite history and say this was all just tourists walking through the Capitol is just utter nonsense.

“It was not an accident that it turned violent,” Mr Royce said. “It was intended to draw to a halt the very functioning of our government.”

While the judge did not name individual lawmakers, Republican Representative Andrew Clyde last month said that it would be easy to confuse footage from inside the Capitol with a “normal tourist visit”.

Even prominent members of the GOP, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who initially hit out at the violence taking place have since appeared to underplay its significance.

Mr McCarthy initially branded the violence “un-American” but by the end of January had re-installed his support in Mr Trump and later rejected a bipartisan committee to investigate the riots.

The former president still has a substantial grip on the GOP and has ostracised those who voted against him during his second impeachment trial lobbying for them to be replaced with allied who will reinforce his leadership.

In the months following the attack, footage released by the FBI has revealed shocking details of the violent attacks on police officers and the Capitol building amid the riots.

Following an extensive operation carried out by the FBI, 480 suspects have been arrested on a variety of charges including trespassing, obstruction of official proceedings, and assault of police.

The comments from Mr Royce came during a sentencing hearing for Anna Morgan-Lloyd, 49, the first of the nearly 500 people charged for their alleged role in the siege.

Morgan-Lloyd, of Bloomfield, Indiana, pled guilty to a single charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building and was sentenced to three years of probation.

The FBI is still hoping to pin down a number of suspects in relation to the 6 January riots, some of whom are wanted for violent assaults on federal law enforcement officers.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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