On Jan. 6, many of former President Donald Trump’s supporters marched and broke into the Capitol. This event led to the arrest of many who joined the mob. Now, many of these Capitol rioters are saying that they did it for Trump.
More than 200 rioters were arrested and charged in connection to the Capitol siege that took place last month. As nearly 200 of those charges start to go up to federal court, many of those charged pointed their finger at Trump. Many of the defendants say that they followed his call, which resulted in the violence that took place in January.
Court documents, interviews, and legal statements show that many of Trump’s avid supporters carried out the riot because they thought they were doing what the former president asked. Some of these supporters even cited having a cult-like loyalty to Trump.
A Cult-Like Loyalty
One of these loyal Trump supporters is Robert Sanford, a former firefighter. According to his lawyer, Sanford went to Washington from Pennsylvania on a day-trip bus with around 50 other conservatives. He did not go to Washington to riot.
However, Sanford, along with thousands of Trump’s supporters, heard the former president’s speech. He was one of those who were riled up by Trump and his allies’ words. It pushed him to follow, and Sanford joined the mobbing of the Capitol.
Sanford was arrested after he was caught in a viral video, which showed that he hurled a fire extinguisher towards police officers.
According to Sanford’s lawyer, Enrique Latoison, Trump and his allies managed to rally people who “did not plan on doing anything” when they went to Washington. He also claimed that Trump served as the “glue that got all of these people together.”
However, Latoison stated that, although he recognizes Trump’s influence over Sanford, he thinks this alone can’t serve as a plausible defense. He said this may especially be true in Washington where most people are liberal.
Can Capitol Rioters Influence Trump’s Trial?
Many experts said the Senate would likely not choose to call the alleged rioters as witnesses during Trump’s impeachment. However, a few of the charged rioters already volunteered to testify against the former president. Legal scholars also said that Congress may decide to include these volunteers’ statements into the record during the trial.
Meanwhile, Trump’s legal team, which Bruce Castor and David Schoen lead, denied that the former president incited the people at the rally. They released a 14-page brief, saying that Trump’s statement about fighting is not connected to the action of the mob that stormed the Capitol.
The former president’s legal team also filed a trial memorandum earlier this week. In it, they blamed the people who rioted. It also said that the mob deserves “punishment to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to legal experts, the idea that these arrested Trump supporters were only following the former president’s call is likely not enough to prove their innocence. However, this may lead to reduced punishments as part of plea deals, especially for those without prior criminal records.
As for their possible role in the impeachment, the Senate has yet to decide on whether they will call any one of them as a witness.