On January 6, 2021, U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls (Richmond, TX – R) was not standing idly by as attackers swarmed the U.S. Capitol as a violent mob tried to stop the certification of votes that would end former President Donald Trump’s term. Newly-released footage shows him standing in the House chamber with a pistol drawn and aiming at the door insurrectionists were trying to get through.
Nehls can be heard shouting at the attackers through shattered window panes, condemning them for the assault.
During and immediately after the attack, Nehls made it clear that what was happening was a vicious crime. He tweeted a picture of himself standing with capitol police and ready to defend the chamber against invaders.
“Violence is never the answer,” the tweet said.
Yet, three years later, Nehls has consistently downplayed the tense scene where he heroically stood in defense of democracy. It’s not out of humility. Instead, Nehls has fallen deeply into popular Republican conspiracy theories about the attack.
When Trump was removed from the Colorado ballot over his role in instigating the January 6 attack, Nehls took to social media to defend the former president. Nehls claimed that the attack was nothing of the sort.
“I was at the doors on January 6, face to face with protestors, and I know firsthand there was NO INSURRECTION,” he tweeted in October. “This sham trial is clear election interference, and it has no basis in fact. I look forward to providing my eyewitness account of that.”
Nehls has also repeatedly gone to bat for the same people he previously had to hold a gun on to protect his peers from during the attempted insurrection. The attack was fueled by unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud and election interference on the part of Democrats, claims that have never been found credible in any court of law. Regardless, Trump encouraged supporters to march on the capitol, which led to an attack that left over a hundred police injured. Trump is currently indicted for election interference, and has been removed from two state ballots because of his anti-democracy actions.
Nehls subscribes to a fringe conspiracy theory that there were no actual insurrectionists in the January 6 attack, and the whole thing was sparked by federal agents to remove Trump from power. That theory has since been debunked a dozen times over as participant after participant turns out to be a loyal follower of Trump who admits that they were inspired by his words to action.
Trump currently leads the Republican primary for the 2024 presidential nomination despite being indicted for crimes against the state. His myriad legal troubles and disturbing promises for political vengeance if he regains the presidency have not harmed is standing in the GOP. It’s possible that Nehls continues to downplay the attack as a means of saving face.
However, the recently-released footage makes it clear that what was happening that day was an assault on the democratic process. When the attackers were at the door, Nehls was ready to shoot them as enemies. He may have rationalized it differently since then, but the video doesn’t lie.