FRANKLIN — Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday took issue with characterizations of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as an "insurrection" while also calling the U.S. House's ongoing Jan. 6 hearings into Donald Trump's efforts to pressure officials to overturn the 2020 election results a "big distraction."
"In my view, it's simply breaking the law and should be treated as such," the governor told reporters after speaking at a Franklin event highlighting illegal trade and counterfeiting. "People should recognize it as such."
His comments came as the House Jan. 6 committee held another of its continuing hearings Tuesday on Trump and his allies' efforts to block certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the November 2020 election.
Among those testifying was Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, who resisted Trump's efforts to get him to go along with his claims of massive voter fraud in the state.
Raffensberger, who won his May 2022 GOP primary, where his opponents included U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Trump ally, said he told Trump that Georgia's election was not rigged or subject to fraud. The secretary of state also described how Trump supporters harassed his wife and broke into his widowed daughter-in-law's home where she has two children.
Lee was asked earlier Tuesday in Franklin how the events should be explained to school students.
"I spoke to that when it occurred," Lee said. "It's lawlessness what occurred there. And people have been investigated and arrested, and through the court system."
He also answered questions about the Jan. 6 panel's work.
"I think that their commission itself is in large part a big distraction from what's going on in this country right now," Lee said. "I think we should be a little more focused, as I am, with what's happening today in America. And frankly, from my perspective, there's a lot of national politics surrounding what happens in D.C. I'm focused on what's happening in Tennessee."
Lee initially refused
Efforts to reach Tennessee Democratic Party officials, who were preparing to host a Democratic gubernatorial candidates' debate, were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon.
Last week, Trump was in Nashville, where he headlined the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Trump skewered former Vice President Mike Pence for not having the courage to go along with a plan to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
"Mike Pence had a chance to be great," Trump told the crowd of more than 1,000. "He had a chance, frankly, to be a star," Trump said. "But like (former U.S. Attorney General) Bill Barr and the rest of these weak people, Mike — and I say this sadly because I like him — Mike did not have the courage to act."
Trump also said he wanted Pence to simply send the electoral votes to states to investigate Trump's complaints of election fraud. He said Barr, who left office in late December 2020, refused to act because he feared getting impeached.