As Donald Trump’s impeachment team prepares to argue this week that the former president did not play a role in inciting the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6, a growing group of his own supporters is claiming the exact opposite.
Lawyers for at least 10 people charged over their roles in the Capitol attack so far have blamed Trump directly for their clients’ involvement in the siege that left five dead.
A month after the attack, nearly 250 people have been charged in connection with the pro-Trump riots.
This week, Trump faces his second impeachment trial as House impeachment managers try to make the case that he incited the insurrection by telling a crowd to “fight like hell” right before a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building last month.
Though it looks like Trump will have the votes he needs for an eventual acquittal, the result of the trial could have legal impacts beyond the former president’s political future. Criminal law experts told Insider’s Jacob Shamsian that the outcome of the trial could help Capitol rioters shift the blame to Trump in their own criminal cases.
Trump has already faced accusations of blame for his role in the riots. Family members of Rosanne Boyland, a 34-year-old woman from Kennesaw, Georgia, who was one of four civilians who died during the Capitol attack, have blamed Trump for her death.
“I’ve never tried to be a political person, but it’s my own personal belief that the president’s words incited a riot that killed four of his biggest fans last night…,” Justin Cave, Boyland’s brother-in-law, told local Atlanta media.
Now, some of those charged in the riots have started to use Trump’s incitement as a defense for their own actions on January 6.
Here are the alleged rioters so far who are blaming Trump:
Jenna Ryan, a Texas realtor who made headlines for flying to DC on a private jet, told Spectrum Local News her only mission in attending the protest was to support Trump.
“Because our president, President Donald Trump, asked us to go to the march on the 6th. And he said, ‘Be there.’ So I went and I answered the call of my president,” she told the news station.
Lori Ulrich, an attorney for Riley Williams, the 22-year-old who was accused of stealing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during the siege, said her client “took the president’s bait.”
“It is regrettable that Ms. Williams took the president’s bait and went inside the Capitol,” Ulrich said in a Pennsylvania court hearing last month.
An attorney for Matthew Miller, said the 22-year-old accused of discharging a fire extinguisher at Capitol Police, was “merely following the directions of then-President Donald Trump.”
“On January 6, 2021, Mr. Miller attended a rally in Washington, DC, where many speakers, including the then-President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, exhorted attendees to march to the Capitol to protest the certification of the vote count of the Electoral College for the 2020 Presidential Election,” Miller’s attorney wrote in a pre-trial release motion.
“QAnon Shaman” Jacob Angeli Chansley
Once one of the former president’s most loyal supporters, Jacob Chansey has apparently changed his tune.
His lawyer, Al Watkins, has said the “QAnon Shaman,” as Chansley became known, feels betrayed by the former president.
Watkins said his client acted on “months of lies and misrepresentations and horrific innuendo and a hyperbolic speech by our president designed to inflame, enrage, motivate.”
“Our president, as a matter of public record, invited these individuals, as president, to walk down to the Capitol with him,” Watkins told a local NBC News affiliate, adding that Chansley “regrets very very much having not just been duped by the president, but … allowed that duping to put him in a position to make decisions he should not have made.
Chansley was one of many rioters who asked Trump for a presidential pardon in his final days but did not receive one.
Robert Sanford, a retired firefighter charged with assaulting Capitol Police officers, told a friend that he had “followed the President’s instructions and gone to the Capitol,” according to the Justice Department’s statement of facts accompanying its criminal complaint.
Sanford’s lawyer, Enrique Latoison, told The New York Times that his client would not have been at the Capitol at all if not for Trump’s words.
“You’re being told, ‘You gotta fight like hell,'” Latoison told the newspaper. “Does ‘fight like hell’ means you can throw stuff at people? Maybe.”
Court filings say Emmanuel Jackson is a “recently homeless” man who voluntarily turned himself into the FBI and identified himself in pictures and videos from the riots. Jackson allegedly struck a police shield with a metal baseball bat during the siege.
In a pre-trial release request, Jackson’s lawyer, Brandi Harden, argued that Trump “encouraged the crowd to walk down Pennsylvania Ave,” and “roused the crowd by telling them ‘we will stop the seal’ and ‘you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong…… if you don’t fight like hell you are not going to have a country anymore.'”
Harden wrote, “the nature and circumstances of this offense must be viewed through the lens of an event inspired by the President of the United States.”
An alleged member of the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola is accused of using a Capitol Police shield to shatter a window in the Capitol, allowing rioters to enter the building, according to the Department of Justice.
Pezzola’s defense lawyer, Michael Scibetta, told Reuters that Trump encouraged the mob.
“The boss of the country said, ‘People of the country, come on down, let people know what you think,'” Scibetta, told the outlet. “The logical thinking was, ‘He invited us down.'”
Edward Lang was arrested last month after he posted numerous incriminating videos and photos on social media documenting his time in the Capitol building, according to charging documents.
CNN reported that Lang’s lawyers released a statement in January citing comments Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel made following the attack that Trump had” provoked” the violence.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said in January. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
The FBI received three separate tips regarding the same image of Kenneth Grayson, a 51-year-old Pennsylvania man, inside the Capitol on January 6, court documents say.
Charging records reveal Grayson sent multiple private messages before the siege discussing his travel plans and saying he would follow the president’s orders.
“I’m there for the greatest celebration of all time after Pence leads the Senate flip!! OR IM THERE IF TRUMP TELLS US TO STORM THE F***** CAPITAL IMA DO THAT THEN! We don’t want any trouble but they are not going to steal this election that I guarantee bro!!” Grayson wrote.