Ted Cruz downplays Capitol riot he helped provoke: 'Peaceful support for a political party different from that in power'
Ted Cruz (Screen Grab)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) downplayed the intentions of the Donald Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol -- and suggested the riot took place under a Democratic administration.

The Texas Republican, who was one of six senators to vote against certification of President Joe Biden's election win, told the HuffPost the rioters were largely peaceful protesters who are now being mistreated by the new administration, which took office two weeks after the insurrection.

"If an individual assaulted a police officer, they should spend a long, long time in jail," Cruz told the website.

"If, on the other hand, the Biden administration is targeting and persecuting people for exercising political speech that is nonviolent and simply expressing their peaceful support for a political party different from that in power, that is not the purpose of our criminal justice system," he added.

Chad Sweet, the chairman of Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign, said on January 10 that the senator had "aided and abetted" Trump "in his relentless assault on Democracy."

The Department of Justice had arrested more than 570 individuals in connection with the attack, and many have been charged with low-level misdemeanors such as unlawful picketing.