Democrat seeks censure of Georgia U.S. House members who downplayed Capitol riot

Clyde and Hice say their comments were misconstrued

WASHINGTON — A U.S. House Democrat is laying the groundwork to reprimand three Republican colleagues, two of them from Georgia, who made comments in recent days downplaying the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island distributed a letter to fellow Democrats outlining his plan to pass a resolution to censure Georgia U.S. Reps. Jody Hice and Andrew Clyde along with U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona.

“These three members dangerously mischaracterized what happened that day and showed more sympathy for the domestic terrorists than the Capitol Police officers who died during the attack,” Cicilline wrote in his letter, first reported by The Hill.

Clyde and Hice said Friday that their comments were misconstrued.

Democrats have made other recent attempts to censure GOP members that have gone nowhere. U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams’ censure resolution against fellow Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has 46 co-sponsors but has not received a hearing in the three months since it was filed.

Cicilline’s letter came the same day House leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on a commission that will seek to determine the facts surrounding the Jan. 6 attack and what lessons can be learned. The 10-member committee will be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and will have subpoena power. It is modeled after a similar commission formed in response to 9/11.

The House is expected to vote next week on a resolution to create the commission. Members will also be asked to vote on a separate bill to allocate $1.9 billion in emergency security funding as a response to the Jan. 6 assault.

The money would be used to fortify the Capitol complex and is based on recommendations from law enforcement. These dollars would also be used to reimburse the National Guard, to increase the overtime budget for Capitol Police and to cover expenses tied to prosecuting hundreds of people accused of participating in the breach.

The three lawmakers Cicilline has targeted for censure each made comments minimizing the impact of the attack during a Wednesday hearing on the Jan. 6 riot by the House Oversight Committee.

“There was no insurrection,” Clyde said at the meeting. “And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie. Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you’d actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

Clyde told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday that his comment about rioters looking like tourists was a description of a single video. He said other comments he made that “there was an undisciplined mob, there were some rioters and some who committed acts of vandalism” had not been as widely circulated.

Still, the Athens Republican stood by his assertion that the events on Jan. 6 do not meet the definition of an insurrection, which is a revolt against the government. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had entered the Capitol in hopes of interrupting a joint session of Congress where lawmakers were confirming Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Hice during that same meeting defended Trump, who has been accused of inciting the riot by encouraging supporters at an earlier rally to march to the Capitol. Hice, a Republican from Greensboro, said Trump’s words were taken out of context. He also noted that four of the people who died that day were Trump backers, including one woman shot by an officer.

A police officer who engaged with rioters also died, but his death was ultimately attributed to natural causes.

“In fact, it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” Hice said Wednesday. “If you go down the list here, Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer.”

The officer who shot Babbitt said he fired as she tried to crawl through a broken door to a room where House members where sheltering. No charges were brought against him.

In a statement released Friday, Hice said any suggestion that he “‘downplayed’ the events of January 6 is as offensive as it is politically-motivated.”

He called the attack a “horrific and tragic event " that requires further examination. “To truly heal and bring Americans together, we cannot simply accept a prevailing narrative set in stone in the immediate aftermath and remains unchanged even as new facts emerge.”