U.S. President Donald Trump hopes to win a second term. (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Supporters’ words may haunt Trump at impeachment trial

WASHINGTON — The words of Donald Trump supporters who are accused of participating in the deadly U.S. Capitol riot may end up being used against him in his Senate impeachment trial as he faces the charge of inciting a violent insurrection.

At least five supporters facing federal charges have suggested they were taking orders from the then-president when they marched on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 to challenge the certification of Joe Biden’s election win. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. It’s the first time a former president will face such charges after leaving office.

“I feel like I was basically following my president. I was following what we were called to do. He asked us to fly there. He asked us to be there,” Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate agent who posted a photo on Twitter of herself flashing a peace sign next to a broken Capitol window, told a Dallas-Fort Worth TV station.

Jacob Chansley, the Arizona man photographed on the dais in the Senate who was shirtless and wore face paint and a furry hat with horns, has similarly pointed a finger at Trump.

Chansley called the FBI the day after the insurrection and told agents he travelled “at the request of the president that all ‘patriots’ come to D.C. on January 6, 2021,” authorities wrote in court papers.

Chanley’s lawyer unsuccessfully lobbied for a pardon for his client before Trump’s term ended, saying Chansley “felt like he was answering the call of our president.” Authorities say that while up on the dais in the Senate chamber, Chansley wrote a threatening note to then-Vice-President Mike Pence that said: “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

Trump is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. The charge this time is “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” His impeachment lawyer, Butch Bowers, did not respond to call for comment.

Opening arguments in the trial will begin the week of Feb. 8. House Democrats who voted to impeach Trump last week for inciting the storming of the Capitol say a full reckoning is necessary before the country — and the Congress — can move on.

For weeks, Trump rallied his supporters against the election outcome and urged them to come to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to rage against Biden’s win. Trump spoke to the crowd near the White House shortly before they marched along Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill.

“We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen,” Trump said. “You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

Later he said: “If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He told supporters to walk to the Capitol to “peacefully and patriotically” make your voices heard.

Trump has taken no responsibility for his part in fomenting the violence, saying days after the attack: “People thought that what I said was totally appropriate.”

Unlike a criminal trial, where there are strict rules about what is and isn’t evidence, the Senate can consider anything it wishes. And if they can show that Trump’s words made a real impact, all the better, and scholars expect it in the trial.

“Bringing in those people’s statements is part of proving that it would be at a minimum reasonable for a rational person to expect that if you said and did the things that Trump said and did, then they would be understood in precisely the way these people understood them,” said Frank Bowman, a constitutional law expert and law professor at University of Missouri.

A retired firefighter from Pennsylvania told a friend that that he travelled to Washington with a group of people and the group listened to Trump’s speech and then “followed the President’s instructions” and went to the Capitol, an agent wrote in court papers. That man, Robert Sanford, is accused of throwing a fire extinguisher that hit three Capitol Police officers.

Another man, Robert Bauer of Kentucky, told FBI agents that “he marched to the U.S. Capitol because President Trump said to do so,” authorities wrote. His cousin, Edward Hemenway, from Virginia, told the FBI that he and Bauer headed toward the Capitol after Trump said “something about taking Pennsylvania Avenue.”

More than 130 people as of Friday were facing federal charges; prosecutors have promised that more cases — and more serious charges — are coming.

Most of those arrested so far are accused of crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct, but prosecutors this week filed conspiracy charges against three self-described members of a paramilitary group who authorities say plotted the attack. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges, which carry up to 20 years in prison, against any of the rioters.

Two-thirds of the Senate is needed to convict. And while many Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky— have condemned Trump’s words, it remains unclear how many would vote to convict him.

“While the statements of those people kind of bolsters the House manager’s case, I think that President Trump has benefited from a Republican Party that has not been willing to look at evidence,” said Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law who testified before the House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment hearings in 2019.

“They stood by him for the entire first impeachment proceeding, thinking that the phone call with the president of the Ukraine was perfect and I’m sure they will think that was a perfect speech too. There is nothing yet to suggest that they would think otherwise,” Gerhardt said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Traffic will be delayed on 40th Avenue and 19th Street until the end of February. (Advocate file photo).
Traffic delays expected downtown this weekend

Red Deer drivers will be delayed in the downtown area of the… Continue reading

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, top, is shown on the bench after NHL action against the Clagary Flames  in Calgary, Alta., Thursday April 9, 2015. Sutter says he has "unfinished business" as he returns to coach the Calgary Flames. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Darryl Sutter has ‘unfinished business’ in return to Calgary Flames

Darryl Sutter has ‘unfinished business’ in return to Calgary Flames

Walter Gretzky talks to people while at the funeral of Celtic music legend John Allan Cameron at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Pickering, Ont., Monday, Nov. 27, 2006. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘A legend in his own right’: Hockey world pays tribute to the late Walter Gretzky

‘A legend in his own right’: Hockey world pays tribute to the late Walter Gretzky

Jordan Spieth follows his approach shot to the ninth green during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Friday, March 5, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Conners builds 1-shot lead at Bay Hill as McIlroy lurks

Conners builds 1-shot lead at Bay Hill as McIlroy lurks

Team Canada skip Brad Gushue makes a shot as he plays Team Ontario at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., Friday, March 5, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Brier in the Bubble: Defending champion Gushue beats Epping in opening draw

Brier in the Bubble: Defending champion Gushue beats Epping in opening draw

Switzerland's celebrates after the final match at the Women's Curling World Championship in Silkeborg Denmark Sunday March 24. 2019. The 2021 world women's curling championship is back on the curling calendar. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ritzau Scanpix - Henning Bagger
Women’s world curling championship back on calendar, added to Calgary bubble

Women’s world curling championship back on calendar, added to Calgary bubble

Most Read