In a characteristically bombastic speech, former President Donald Trump has spoken for the first time publicly about the Capitol riots hearing – dismissing it as “crazy” and a “theatrical production of partisan political fiction”.
At the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference on Friday in Nashville, Mr Trump described the riots on 6 January 2021 – in which five people were killed – as “a simple protest” that “got out of hand”.
And he diminished the congressional investigation into what happened as “wasting everyone’s time”.
On the morning of 6 January, thousands of Trump supporters – inspired by an incendiary speech he had just given near the White House in which he repeated claims he had been denied a second term due to voter fraud – marched to the Capitol building that houses the US seat of government.
The Capitol was in session at the time, overseeing the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election win.
A large group breached barriers at pedestrian entrances to the building’s grounds. Several also entered the Capitol building itself after a mob smashed windows and forced open doors.
More than 100 police officers were injured in the chaos.
A House panel is now investigating the events of that day.
However, Mr Trump told supporters in Tennessee: “Let’s be clear. This is not a congressional investigation, this horrible situation that’s wasting everyone’s time.
“This is a theatrical production of partisan political fiction that’s getting these terrible, terrible ratings and they’re going crazy. They’re going crazy.
“The committee is taking the testimony of witnesses who defended me for eight hours, chopping it up and truncating soundbites to make it sound like what they said was absolutely terrible.”
He went on: “Remember, it’s also (about) the people that weren’t allowed to even testify that wanted to. A lot of people wanted to go and testify about what they saw and how crooked it was.
“Meanwhile, the committee refuses to play any of the tape of people saying the good things, the things that we want to hear. It’s a one-way street. It’s a rigged deal. It’s a disgrace.”
Responding to claims made in the hearing that he had labelled his then vice president Mike Pence as a “wimp” for not following his wishes and halting the rubber-stamping of Mr Biden’s win, Mr Trump told the crowd: “I never called Mike Pence a wimp. I never called him a wimp.
“Mike Pence had a chance to be great and he had a chance to be, frankly, historic. But… Mike, and I say it sadly because I like him, Mike did not have the courage to act.”
The former president had some stinging criticism for fellow Republican Adam Kinzinger, who has said Trump “lit the flames” of the insurrection.
The congressman got emotional during his opening comments at the hearing.
Trump said: “Adam Kinzinger, the crier. He cries every time he speaks. This guy’s got a mental disorder. He cries every time this guy gets up to speak, he starts crying. I said, there’s something wrong with that guy.”
He is said to be actively weighing whether he might formally launch a third presidential run.