They broke through barricades, shattered windows and seized control of the U.S. Capitol building, some making death threats against members of Cong
They broke through barricades, shattered windows and seized control of the U.S. Capitol building, some making death threats against members of Congress hiding inside, others brutalizing the police officers who stood in their way.
As the cases against nearly 200 of the Capitol rioters begin to wind through federal court, many of the defendants are blaming the commander-in-chief they blindly followed for the violence that left five dead during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In court documents, media interviews and through official attorney statements, staunch supporters of former President Donald Trump who carried out the attempted coup argue they were merely doing what they thought the nation’s leader had asked, some citing a cult-like loyalty.
Though experts said it’s unlikely the Senate would call the alleged rioters as witnesses, a handful have volunteered to testify against Trump in his impeachment proceedings. Short of that, legal scholars say Congress could enter their statements about Trump’s influence into the record during the House trial.
The notion that accused insurrectionists were just following the call of the president also will not likely be enough to prove innocence in their own individual cases, legal experts say. But Trump’s influence over their thinking could lead to reduced punishments and mitigated sentences as part of plea deals, especially for those with no prior criminal histories.
“Trump didn’t get in the car and drive him to D.C., but it’s important to understand the context,” said attorney Clint Broden, who represents Garret Miller in Texas. The Department of Justice used Miller’s own social media posts to charge him with entering the Capitol and with threatening U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat whom he said should be assassinated.