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6 GOP lawmakers lament treatment of Jan. 6 suspects

by Frank E. Lockwood | July 28, 2021 at 4:32 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol from a mob testified Tuesday before the Jan. 6 select committee, describing the physical and emotional toll the attack has taken.

A mile away, outside the U.S. Department of Justice, a half-dozen Republican congressmen staged an event of their own, questioning the detention of those who stormed into Congress nearly seven months ago.

The six -- U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, both of Arizona; Louie Gohmert of Texas; Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; Matt Gaetz of Florida; and Bob Good of Virginia -- accused the Justice Department of withholding information about the treatment of the Jan. 6 defendants.

At the committee hearing, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., portrayed the law enforcement officers as heroes.

"You held the line, you defended all of us, you defended the Capitol, and you defended the Constitution and our Republic, and every American owes you our undying gratitude," she said.

"If those responsible are not held accountable and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system," she said. "We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come and another January 6th every four years."

While committee witnesses portrayed the attackers as "terrorists" and "insurrectionists," Gosar portrayed the defendants as victims and lamented what he called their "unjust suffering."

"There are disturbing reports of some of these prisoners are being abused and held in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day. These are not unruly or dangerous violent criminals. These are political prisoners who are now being persecuted," he said.

Gohmert echoed those concerns.

"Are we housing political prisoners? We need to know the answers," he said.

More than 140 law enforcement officers reportedly were wounded as they fought to repel rioters on the day the Electoral College vote was scheduled to be tallied.

In June, the House voted 406-21 to award Congressional Gold Medals to "the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021."

Gosar, Biggs, Gohmert, Greene, Gaetz and Good were among the 21 members who voted against the medals.

In a July 24 letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Gosar, Gohmert, Gaetz and Greene said they have repeatedly raised questions about the Jan. 6 arrests, but "our inquiries have been ignored."

Among other things, they highlighted claims by a lawyer for one of the defendants, Richard Barnett of Gravette, that the accused have been mistreated.

"We are disturbed by reports such as attorney Joseph McBride having called Amnesty International because he claims the [Department of Justice] and prison officials have allowed guards to beat his client. Mr. McBride has also stated, on the record, that dozens of those currently held for January 6th matters have been held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day," they wrote.

In an appearance on Russian television, McBride accused the U.S. government of mistreating his client.

On CNN last week, McBride compared the U.S. justice system to communist Russia and the Third Reich.

"Like the Nazis, like the Soviets in the Gulag, innocent men and women are being held in what we are calling D.C. Guantanamo Bay, pretrial, absent any finding of fact," he said.

Asked by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Tuesday whether Barnett had been beaten, McBride wrote in an email: "For sure. Dragged, chained, and slammed shoulder / head first into the concrete floor."

Tuesday, Gosar suggested the D.C. justice system may be even worse than international terrorist suspects.

"How is it that those who are not even citizens get better treatment and have due process at Gitmo [Guantanamo Bay] when they don't have it here," he said. "I also want to ask, where is the groups like Amnesty International, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch?"

Throughout most of the news conference, a protester blew a whistle, not loudly enough to drown out the words, but loud enough to annoy lawmakers and their aides.

The event ended abruptly after protesters hoisted signs behind the podium reading: "Traitors and Rapists Sit Down."

"The Left is interrupting the press conference. We need to end it," one congressional aide said, urging lawmakers to wrap it up.

In an email afterward, McBride thanked the lawmakers "for having the courage to shine the light into the darkness of this situation."

At the committee hearing earlier in the day, District of Columbia police officer Michael Fanone described what it was like to be attacked by the mob, supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Knocked unconscious, he suffered a concussion and a mild heart attack, he said.

Now, some lawmakers are minimizing what occurred, he said.

"I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn't exist, or that hell wasn't actually that bad," he said, adding, "The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful."

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