Trump’s Evolution on Jan. 6 Attack Raises Concerns
Former President Downplays Violence and Supports Rioters as Patriots
The day after Jan. 6, 2021, then-President Donald Trump denounced the rioters who violently stormed the Capitol building, breaking through barricades, battling law enforcement, and sending members of Congress running for their lives. However, 2 1/2 years later, any sign of regret or reprimand from Trump has vanished as he prepares to face federal criminal charges for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Now the early but commanding front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Trump regularly downplays the violence, lionizes the rioters as patriots, and spreads false claims about who was involved. He has not only vowed to pardon a “large portion” of Jan. 6 defendants if he wins a second term, but he has also fundraised for them, befriended their families, and collaborated on a song that became a surprise iTunes hit.
Trump’s evolution began at a time when he was garnering relatively little mainstream media coverage. Polling shows that Republicans grew increasingly likely to say the anger that led to the Capitol attack was justified. Trump’s supporters had already painted Ashli Babbitt, one of five people who died during or immediately after the riot, as a martyr unjustly killed by police. Trump began to publicly demand the release of the shooter’s identity and called Babbitt “an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman.”
In January 2022, Trump first publicly dangled the prospect of pardons for the Jan. 6 defendants. At that point, more than 670 people had been convicted of crimes related to the attack. Trump’s support for the defendants has only intensified since he formally launched his third campaign. He collaborated on a song that features a choir of Jan. 6 defendants singing the national anthem and recorded a video played at a fundraiser to support the defendants.
Despite evidence that the mob was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, Trump falsely claims that others were responsible for the attack, including antifa and Black Lives Matter.
Trump’s evolution on the Jan. 6 attack raises concerns about his continued support for the rioters and his refusal to accept responsibility for his role in inciting the violence. As he gains momentum in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, his rhetoric and actions surrounding Jan. 6 continue to undermine the democratic process and perpetuate false narratives about the events of that day.