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Politics: House Republican defends 'normal tourist visit' comment about Jan. 6 insurrection

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A House Republican is defending a statement he made about how some video footage of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol looked like a “normal tourist visit.”

“I stand by that exact statement as I said it,” Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., said during a tense hearing of the House Rules Committee Tuesday evening.

Clyde, a first-term House member who is a Navy combat veteran and gun store owner, was pressed on his comments repeatedly by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional lawyer who is a member of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Raskin is on the Rules Committee, and Clyde was appearing as a witness before it to talk about an amendment he is proposing to legislation unrelated to Jan. 6. Raskin, however, had spent the morning in the select committee’s first hearing, listening to four police officers describe the horrific hand-to-hand combat they experienced with Trump supporters who were attempting to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election.

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a group of people sitting at a table: U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, and U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn at a hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool/Reuters) © Provided by Yahoo! News U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, and U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn at a hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool/Reuters)

So when Clyde appeared before the Rules Committee later on Tuesday, Raskin quizzed the Republican about his “tourist” comment and about his vote against legislation awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Capitol Police for their defense of the U.S. Capitol.

The 10-minute back-and-forth between the two lawmakers exposed the raw anger that many in Congress feel toward a group of Republicans who are trying to minimize, downplay or distract from the gravity of the attack on the Capitol, which was egged on and incited by then-President Donald Trump.

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Raskin began by asking Clyde if he had watched the testimony of the police officers. Clyde said that question was “irrelevant” to the amendment he was there to discuss. Both members began raising their voices, leading House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., to ask them to lower the volume.

Raskin noted that Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., had opened the door to discussing “quotations” by alleging that other members of the committee had made “anti-police” comments. Raskin then asked Clyde about his “tourist” comment and noted it had come up during the select committee hearing.

“Those officers said they weren’t tourists, they were terrorists. Do you stand by your statement that they were tourists?” Raskin said.

a man in a suit standing in front of a table: Rep. Jamie Raskin questions Rep. Andrew Clyde during a Rules Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (House.gov video) © Provided by Yahoo! News Rep. Jamie Raskin questions Rep. Andrew Clyde during a Rules Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (House.gov video)

“I would like you to quote my exact statement, not your interpretation of my statement,” Clyde replied.

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Raskin then read a lengthy portion of Clyde’s comments from a May committee hearing in which he and other Republicans argued that the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was not an insurrection, which is a violent revolt against an established government. Many of the Republicans objecting to calling Jan. 6 an insurrection continue to perpetuate Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was unfairly decided.

Here is what Clyde said that day: “It was not an insurrection and we cannot call it that and be truthful. The House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. This is the truth: There was an undisciplined mob, there were some rioters and some who committed acts of vandalism. But let me be clear. There was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection is in my opinion 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 January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

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Two days after that hearing, Clyde wrote an op-ed in a local Georgia newspaper saying that “the events of Jan. 6 were horrendous.”

“Since my fourth day in office, when these events occurred, I have stated that violence is never an acceptable form of protest,” Clyde wrote in the Gainesville Times. But he also complained that “the Swamp” and the media were taking his comments out of context.

Andrew Clyde in a suit and tie sitting at a table: Rep. Andrew Clyde reacts to a question from Rep. Jamie Raskin during a Rules Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (House.gov video) © Provided by Yahoo! News Rep. Andrew Clyde reacts to a question from Rep. Jamie Raskin during a Rules Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (House.gov video)

But in his exchange with Raskin, Clyde refused to even clarify his comments to the extent he had in the op-ed. When Raskin read the “tourist” remark, Clyde doubled down on it. When Raskin asked if Clyde agreed or disagreed with the police officers who said they were fighting against terrorists, Clyde said his comments did not apply to those who committed acts of violence.

“That statement did not say that those people were tourists,” Clyde said.

Raskin and Clyde went back and forth several more times and the hearing became increasingly contentious, with multiple people shouting and speaking over one another, until McGovern once again restored order.

Raskin then pressed Clyde on why he was one of only 12 Republicans who voted in March against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the Capitol Police “and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.”

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Clyde said that bill was “not appropriate” because it did not recognize service by the Capitol Police beyond Jan. 6, “back in the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, not just one incident.”

“There were Capitol Police officers that died from gunshot wounds back earlier, did you know that?” Clyde said, in an apparent reference to the 1998 shooting deaths of two Capitol Police officers. Both of those officers were memorialized by lying in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Raskin ended the exchange by encouraging Clyde to watch Tuesday’s testimony by the officers. “I find the rhetoric dangerous describing anything that took place that day as analogous to tourism,” he said.

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