A Democrat congressman has thrown a hissy fit after a former Pentagon chief dismissed claims ex-president Donald Trump provoked the January 6 Capitol occupation.
During a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, Massachusetts representative Stephen Lynch asked former acting defence secretary Christopher Miller if the events would have occurred without Trump's speech at the Stop the Steal rally outside the White House earlier that day.
“I think I’d like to modify my original assessment,” Miller said in response to Lynch's reference to comments he made to the media in March, blaming the former president for the riot in which one protester was shot dead by security agents outside the House chamber.
“Why am I not surprised,” Lynch replied, laughing.
“We are getting more information by the day by the minute about what happened,” Miller continued, adding that it “seems clear that there was some sort of conspiracy where there were organised assault elements that intended to assault the Capitol that day.”
When Lynch accused Miller of making a U-turn on the question of Trump's alleged responsibility, Miller responded: “that’s ridiculous.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Lynch accused, to which Miller replied: “Thank you for your thoughts.”
In his interview with website Vice in March, Miller asked : “Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech?" opining: "I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened".
But he qualified those remarks in a written statement to the hearing, stressing that Trump's personal responsibility was unclear.
“I stand by my prior observation that I personally believe his comments encouraged the protestors that day,” Miller said, but added: “I am not in a position to make an official assessment of his responsibility.”
“You understand how not believable your new testimony, your new version of testimony that was apparently created between the time you wrote your testimony this morning and when you came before the committee today,” the congressman asked.
“There's a difference between marching on the Capitol and assaulting the Capitol,” Miller replied. “That's the delineation I'm trying to make, despite the partisan attack that I just was subjected to”.
The Democrats attempted to leverage their effective majority in both houses of Congress to impeach Trump over the affair — weeks after he left had already left office on January 20 — with the aim of disqualifying him from challenging his successor Joe Biden in the 2024 election.
But they failed to persuade enough Republicans in the Senate to support the unprecedented move and fell well short of the necessary two-thirds majority.
Trump's continued influence over the Republican party he adopted for his 2016 presidential run was underlined on Monday when representatives kicked Congresswoman Liz Cheney — daughter of former vice-president to George W Bush Dick Cheney — off a top party leadership committee.