Trump Flips on Pardoning Capitol Rioters With 2024 in His Crosshairs

Former President Donald Trump is trying to win voters over with the possibility of pardons for January 6 Capitol rioters, but the former president ignored the fact that he already was in a position to fight back against their “unfair” treatment.

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At a rally in Texas on Saturday, Trump lambasted the way Capitol rioters are being treated and committed to pardoning them if that’s what it takes to “treat those people fairly.” Rally attendees praised Trump’s comment and he’s taken a firm stance in support of Capitol riot defendants in an appeal to his base ahead of the 2024 presidential election, but in 2021, he ignored requests for pardons for Capitol rioters.

Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate broker, told KTVT on January 15 that she “deserved” a pardon from Trump. She said she felt like she was doing her “patriotic duty” and thought she was following the president’s calls to action.

“I was doing what he asked me to do,” Ryan said. “I would like a pardon from the president of the United States. I think that we all deserve a pardon. I think every person…deserves a pardon and I would ask the President of the United States for a pardon.”

Ryan, 51, pleaded guilty to illegally demonstrating inside the Capitol and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Former President Donald Trump promised to pardon Capitol rioters “if that’s what it takes to ensure they’re treated fairly,” despite bucking please from defendants when he was in a position to pardon them. Here, Trump speaks during a rally in El Paso, Texas, on February 11, 2019.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

An attorney for Jacob Chansley, also known as the QAnon Shaman, also called for Trump to pardon his client. Watkins told KMOV that it would be “appropriate and honorable” for the president to pardon Chansley and other “like-minded” individuals who “accepted the president’s invitations.”

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He reiterated the sentiment to CNN‘s Chris Cuomo that the former president needs to “own these people,” in reference to the Capitol rioters, given that they “listened” to his own words ahead of the storming of the Capitol. He acknowledged a pardon was unlikely, although he noted that with Trump you “never know.”

Chansley, who was photographed on the Senate dais in a horned headdress, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 41 months in jail.

In January 2021, some worried that Trump would issue a blanket pardon for all of those involved in the Capitol riot. But, longtime advisers urged against it out of fear it could significantly hurt his impeachment defense. Seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump, which fell shy of the 67 needed to oust him from office. But, that number may have been higher if Trump pardoned Capitol rioters, as it could have been seen as a step too far.

As is customary for an outgoing president, Trump issued a flurry of pardons in his final days in office. None of those pardons included people who were arrested or accused of being involved in the Capitol riot.

However, now that his historic second impeachment trial is beyond him and Trump’s looking toward 2024, his tune seems to have changed. During Saturday’s rally, Trump, who’s likened Capitol rioters to political prisoners, said if he wins the presidency the defendants will be treated “fairly.”

“And if it requires pardons we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly,” Trump said.

It’s unclear if it’s a winning strategy for the former president, though. While it’s likely to benefit him with his supporters, it could be a turn-off for some of Trump’s less ardent supporters.

Senator Lindsey Graham told CBSFace the Nation on Sunday that it’s “inappropriate” to pardon Capitol rioters. He said it could send the message that it’s okay to “defile” the Capitol and make it more likely to occur again. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu also vehemently disagreed on CNN’s State of the Union with Trump’s decision to pardon Capitol rioters if he wins in 2024.

Ahead of his sentencing, Chansley told 60 Minutes‘ Laurie Segall that he believes Trump cares about the Constitution and the American people. So, it “wounded me so deeply” and disappointed him that Trump didn’t pardon himself and other Capitol rioters.

Newsweek reached out to Trump for comment.

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