DeSantis says Jan. 6 was 'unfortunate' but not an insurrection
The Florida governor has been pressed on the attack while on the campaign trail.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week refused to call the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol an "insurrection" and blamed the press for having "spun up" the attack to "get as much mileage out of it and use it for partisan and political aims."
In Friday's interview on the "Stay Free with Russell Brand" podcast, DeSantis declared the attack "was not an insurrection."
"These were people that were there to attend a rally, and then they were there to protest," he added.
"Now, it devolved into a riot, but the idea that this was a plan to somehow overthrow the government of the United States is not true and it's something that the media had spun up to try to basically get as much mileage out of it and use it for partisan and political aims."
The governor said he would be willing to label the attack an insurrection if offered proof.
"But all you're showing me is that there were a lot of protestors there and it ended up devolving -- in ways that were unfortunate, of course -- but to say that they were seditionists is just wrong," he continued.
During the Jan. 6 riot, at least 2,000 pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 election results, leading to over 1,000 arrests.
DeSantis also ripped the tens of millions of dollars Congress earmarked for the Capitol Police in the months after the attack, calling it "ridiculous how much money that they pumped in" for the force.
It was the third time this summer the governor has declined to forcefully condemn the attack the way he did when he called it “unacceptable” in a statement hours after it happened. Since that day, he has seldom discussed the events of the day, but since launching his presidential bid in May, he has been pressed by reporters and voters on the campaign trail to give his thoughts on the attack and the actions of former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican primary who is under investigation by a grand jury for his actions that day.
At a town hall in Hollis, New Hampshire, in June, the governor sought to distance himself from questions about Jan. 6, saying, "I wasn't anywhere near Washington that day. I have nothing to do with what happened that day. Obviously, I didn't enjoy seeing what happened, but we've got to go forward on this stuff."
And earlier this week in South Carolina, he acknowledged to reporters that Trump "should have come out more forcefully, of course," but suggested the former president's actions do not amount to criminality.
"I hope he doesn't get charged," he told CNN's Jake Tapper in an interview later that day.
In the hours after the storming of the Capitol, DeSantis took a tough line against protesters, declaring in a statement that "the perpetrators must face the full weight of the law."
"It doesn't matter what banner you're flying under -- the violence is wrong, the rioting and disorder is wrong," he later told reporters.
In his statement the day of the attack, DeSantis complimented the Capitol Police, saying they "do an admirable job and I thank them for their hard work."
But a year later, on the one-year mark of Jan. 6, DeSantis mocked the media's coverage of the attack, claiming it was "Christmas" for the "D.C. - New York media."
Trump received a letter from special counsel Jack Smith earlier this week saying that he is a target in his investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. Trump also confirmed the development in a post on his Truth Social platform.
"It bothers me," the former president told Fox News' Sean Hannity on Tuesday night at a town hall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "I got the letter on Sunday night. Think of it, I don't think they've ever sent a letter on Sunday night. And they're in a rush because they want to interfere, it's election interference, never been done like this in the history of our country and it's a disgrace what's happening to our country."
If he is charged, those charges would mark the third indictment Trump has faced since leaving office. Trump was indicted last month on 37 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials, after Smith's prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to the nation's defense capabilities. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The former president has also pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment from the Manhattan district attorney charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election.
ABC News' Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Alexander Mallin, and Luke Barr contributed to this report.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated.