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On Jan. 6 anniversary, DeSantis disputes that Capitol attack was an ‘insurrection’

The governor said the day has been used as an opportunity for news outlets to “smear” Donald Trump supporters.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters and members of the media after a bill signing on Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters and members of the media after a bill signing on Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File) [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Jan. 6|Updated Jan. 6

Calling Jan. 6 equivalent to “Christmas” for “D.C.-New York media,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said on the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that the day has been used by national media outlets to “smear anyone who ever supported Donald Trump.”

He also suggested that the riot — which interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory, caused millions in damage and left multiple people dead — was overblown, and disputed its characterization as an insurrection.

“When they try to act like this is something akin to the Sept. 11th attacks, that is an insult to the people who were going into those buildings,” DeSantis said Thursday at a news conference in West Palm Beach. “And it’s an insult to people when you say it’s an ‘insurrection’ and then a year later, nobody has been charged with that.”

The crime of insurrection is defined in federal statutes as “whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof,” and can carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison, plus a ban on holding public office. The law was created in reaction to the Civil War and has been “largely unused” in prosecutions throughout American history, according to a report authored by an attorney for the Justice Department’s counterterrorism section.

Florida leads the nation with the highest number of people arrested in connection with the attack, at 76 people, or about 10 percent of the more than 700 people arrested so far. At least a dozen have pleaded guilty, and their crimes included entering restricted areas, assaulting police officers and conspiracy.

DeSantis said he’s “all about” holding people accountable for rioting or obstructing a government proceeding. But he said Floridians don’t care as much about the anniversary as they do about other issues not being addressed by Congress.

“I think it’s going to just end up being a politicized Charlie Foxtrot today,” DeSantis said, using military slang for a chaotic situation. “People here in Florida, they care about inflation, and they care about gas prices and education and crime.”

The comments underscored how just a year after the nation watched a mob of Trump supporters forcibly enter the U.S. Capitol, the two political parties have already greatly diverged in how they remember the events of the day.

In Washington, President Biden delivered a speech about the attack, calling it an attempt to “subvert the Constitution,” pointing to Trump’s “web of lies about the 2020 election.”

In contrast, during lengthy comments Thursday, DeSantis sowed doubt about who was responsible for the riot, saying that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not answered questions about why at least one rioter was removed from the most wanted list. PolitiFact has found no evidence that the FBI incited the attack.

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Related: There's still no evidence the FBI incited the Jan. 6 riot despite claims otherwise

Almost all Republicans on Capitol Hill were expected to skip a series of remembrance events held Thursday.

At least one blue state, New York, planned to fly flags at half-staff Thursday afternoon “in honor of the brave Americans who defended the United States Capitol Building,” by order of Gov. Kathy Hochul. By Thursday at noon, DeSantis had not made a similar order.

Information reported by the Associated Press was used in this report.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times U.S. Capitol coverage

POLITIFACT'S LIE OF THE YEAR: Lies about the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and its significance.

FLORIDA AND JAN. 6: Where do we go from here?

POLL FINDINGS: Fewer than half of Republicans say Capitol riot was very violent.

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