The “Trumpification” of the GOP’s Jan. 6 pardon campaign

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A Republican running for one of the most competitive congressional seats in the country has emphasized his belief that Donald Trump needs to win the White House and pardon some of the mob members who participated in the storming of the US Capitol. January 6th.

File: Joe Kent, Republican candidate for United States Congress from Washington, 3rd Congressional District

Kent campaign website

In 2022, Washington Republican candidate Joe Kent chose Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of the only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the attack on the Capitol.

Although he managed to unseat her, Kent lost a close general election race a few months later. He is running for the same seat this year in a race that could not only help determine which party controls the House, but also test how far to the right a swing district may be willing to go.

During a recent campaign stop, footage obtained by CBS News shows Kent being asked about the Jan. 6 defendants “still rotting in jail and not getting a quick trial.”

“We need to win in 2024 so we can get President Trump to pardon them,” Kent responded, adding that “if anyone did something violent on January 6th, and there certainly was, they should be held accountable for it.” “There have been mass arrests, there has been a real deprivation of due process, as if that has to stop.”

File: Supporters of President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC

fake images

As more time passes since the assault on the Capitol, Kent is among a group of Republicans who have embraced the prospect of pardons for at least a portion of those linked to the riot. Kent’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“There’s a lot of crazy stuff out there,” said Ty Cobb, a former federal prosecutor who was White House counsel during the Trump administration. “And all of this is possible, which is tragic for the United States.”

Five people died just before, during or shortly after the attack, and four police officers at the Capitol on January 6 committed suicide in the following months. Dozens of police officers were injured by the mob of Trump supporters angered by the Republican’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen from him.

Nearly three years after the attack, Trump is the undisputed favorite in the 2024 Republican Party presidential primary, despite facing criminal charges linked to his attempts to remain in power after his election loss.

Criticism from top Republicans of Trump’s handling of January 6 has all but disappeared. Instead, a wing of the Republican Party has attempted to portray at least some of those who were part of the riot as deserving of pardons.

“No one would probably be talking about pardoning these people without Trump actually being behind it,” said Adam Kinzinger, a former Republican congressman who voted to impeach Trump after the attack on the Capitol and was part of the bipartisan House panel that investigated the January 6th. …But now he is rooted. This is normal. “I think this is the price of entry into Republican politics.”

Trump does not shy away from January 6 in his last attempt to reach the White House. He downplayed what happened and defended himself and his followers who played a role in the riots.

“I’m inclined to forgive a lot of them,” Trump said at a CNN town hall last May when asked about the rioters convicted on January 6. “I can’t say for each and every one of them because a couple of them probably got out of control.”

He hinted that if he wins, pardons could occur early in his second term.

“A lot of them are just great people,” Trump said.

Other Republicans have taken a similar tone.

Trent Leisy, a Trump supporter and Republican councilman from Weld County, Colorado, who is running to represent Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.

Trent Leisy campaign, via Instagram

Trent Leisy, Trump supporter and Weld County, Colorado councilor who is in a crowded House Republican primary race to recall Rep. Ken Buck’s seat in the Republican-leaning district, posted a pledge on social media that in Congress he would spearhead a bill “to financially compensate all January 6 patriots and their families.”

Leisy, a far-right candidate who is behind a business that sells T-shirts calling Trump the “sexiest man alive,” recalled in an interview that he had wanted to attend Trump’s Jan. 6 speech that preceded the riots, but he couldn’t. to do it.

“I just want you to forgive all the peaceful patriotic Japanese who have been wrongfully targeted by our justice system,” Leisy said.

Last JuneFormer Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, Jr. posted on social media a link to a Washington Times headline about the “treatment of Jan. 6 defendants.”

“All Republican candidates for the Republican nomination should be asked if they will forgive ALL of them if elected. If they hesitate like most will, they should not be nominated,” Clarke said. “Tired of RINOS.”

Clarke, a Trump supporter, has not ruled out running for a US Senate seat in Wisconsin this year. He clarified in an interview with CBS News that he does not “believe that a president should come in and simply say that anyone who is locked up until January 6 will automatically be pardoned.”

“There’s a process, let’s let it play out,” Clarke said. He added that “when I say all, I want everyone who was denied due process pardoned. If it’s some, okay, if it’s all, okay. I don’t know which ones.”

Those charged in the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation have the opportunity to plead guilty or go to trial. More than 1,200 people have been charged with crimes linked to his alleged actions related to the attack, according to a CBS News review of court records, with alleged crimes ranging from illegal picketing inside the Capitol to assaults on officials and destruction of government property.

Republican presidential candidate and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy regularly makes the false claim that the Capitol riot was a job inside” and promises to pardon all non-violent January 6 protesters. The riff often draws applause from Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire, though it continues to trail other candidates.

“I can tell you that I will forgive all the peaceful protesters since January 6 on my first day in office, because that is what it means to uphold a standard of the rule of law in this country,” Ramaswamy said recently during an event in Iowa. .

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, one of Trump’s main rivals in the presidential primaries, is pushing the idea that Trump did not do enough before leaving office to help those who stormed the Capitol and has shown his support for broad pardons of people at the Capitol on January 1. 6 who were accused of non-violent acts, suggesting that people can apply for pardons and clemency.

Once seen as a potential heir to the political base built by the former president, DeSantis has struggled to step out of Trump’s shadow in the 2024 race.

“In fact, on his last day in office, you know, did he help the people who got caught up in the things at the Capitol that he told to go there? Did he give them any support? No,” DeSantis. said in Iowa last month.

If Trump wins the White House again, he would regain extensive power pardon people for federal crimes. The bipartisan House select committee’s final report on Jan. 6 included testimony alleging that Trump, before leaving office, discussed a possible “blanket pardon” for people who participated in Jan. 6.

The way many Republicans are navigating Jan. 6 afterward shows the “Trumpification of the Republican Party,” said Bill Kristol, director of the conservative anti-Trump group Defending Democracy Together.

“Who is the key figure of January 6? Trump. Who has defended January 6 subsequently? Trump,” Kristol said. “So, of course, if Trump is his frontrunner for the presidential nomination, he will be inclined to excuse January 6 at the least and, at worst, celebrate it.”

Inside the nation’s capital, the January 6 cases are a major focus in a federal courthouse near where the attack took place, and the impact of the assault on democratic norms in the United States remains evident.

After he was sentenced 10 years in prison the last time In September, Dominic Pezzola, a member of the far-right group Proud Boys and a key figure in the riots, shouted in the courtroom that “Trump won!”

File: Ezekiel Kurt Stecher shown in a screenshot of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021

government document

And nearly three years after storming the Capitol, a farmer named Ezekiel Kurt Stecher was sentenced this week to 60 days in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of civil disorder.

Prosecutors noted in a court document that “Stecher directly contributed to one of the most violent confrontations between rioters and police on January 6: the battle over the Lower West Terrace tunnel.”

He was part of the mob’s “concerted push to overcome the police line in the tunnel,” prosecutors said. In a moment that loomed large in Stecher’s case, he was caught saying on January 6, “if we can’t push them, drag them.”

Before being sentenced, Stecher apologized to the court and to his wife. He described his disbelief at what he had seen happen outside the Capitol during the attack.

There were also many things left unsaid.

Stecher did not draw attention to Trump. And he didn’t show much introspection about what brought him to Washington on that troubling day when democracy was upended by widely debunked falsehoods about a free and fair presidential election.

“It’s certainly not about who I am,” Stecher said, later telling the court that “I don’t know what I was doing there.”

Robert Legare, Aaron Navarro, Olivia Rinaldi, Allison Novelo and Shawna Mizelle contributed to this report.

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