Several hundred suspected rioters have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrectionist attack on the Capitol, and many have appeared in courtrooms in recent weeks asking to be released pending trial. Those requests aren’t going especially well for an important reason.
To hear the defendants and their lawyers tell it, there’s no reason to keep them in jail ahead of their criminal trials because the accused insurrectionists don’t pose a public threat. The argument is relatively straightforward: Jan. 6 was an unusual, onetime event — a singular, unrepeatable moment in time — in which a violent mob was whipped into a frenzy by Donald Trump’s lies.
Twenty weeks later, with Trump out of office, the alleged rioters keep telling judges that there’s no reason to see them as dangerous. There’s just one problem, which Politico recently highlighted:
Trump’s refusal to accept the reality that he lost the 2020 election — reflected in a torrent of recent statements renewing discredited claims about a “rigged” vote — has become a feature of prosecutors’ latest attempts to jail Capitol riot defendants they deem too dangerous to release pending trial. Judges have started citing this argument — as part of broader analysis — in cases where they’ve decided to detain defendants for presenting a threat of future violence, and even in some cases where they’ve agreed to let defendants go free, pending trial. They’ve agreed that Trump’s rhetoric could spur his most radicalized supporters to attack again. And that could be bad news for dozens of additional riot suspects being hauled in on alleged conspiracy and police assault charges.
It’s a difficult truth to get around: if Trump’s election lies led these suspected rioters to launch a violent attack, and Trump is still telling the exact same election lies, then judges have a reason to believe these same suspected rioters may be dangerous.
Indeed, the former president seems wholly incapable of curtailing his uncontrollable dishonesty, issuing new statements nearly every day insisting that the 2020 election “was stolen and rigged,” reality be damned. Yesterday, the Republican described the lie as “breaking news,” despite the fact that it was neither breaking nor news.
All of which continues to cause problems for those criminally charged with attacking the Capitol at Trump’s behest. In a federal courtroom yesterday, a judge denied a pre-trial release for a Michigan man accused of participating in the riot, noting that the man posted messages on social media after Jan. 6 to say that continued resistance to the election might be necessary.
“Defendant’s promise to take action in the future cannot be dismissed as an unlikely occurrence given that his singular source of information, (‘Trump’s the only big shot I trust right now’), continues to propagate the lie that inspired the attack on a near daily basis,” the judge wrote, adding, “[T]he anger surrounding the false accusation continues to be stoked by multiple media outlets as well as the state and federal party leaders who are intent on censuring those who dare to challenge the former President’s version of events.”
In other words, Republicans keep lying, which in turn raises legitimate concerns about those who stand accused of already having become violent as a result of Republicans lying.
This came on the heels of a different federal judge in a different pre-trial detention hearing concluding, “[T]he Court is not convinced that dissatisfaction and concern about the legitimacy of the election results has dissipated for all Americans. Former President Donald J. Trump continues to make forceful public comments about the ‘stolen election,’ chastising individuals who did not reject the supposedly illegitimate results that put the current administration in place.”
Trump didn’t do his most dangerous followers any favors on Jan. 6. Twenty weeks later, he’s still making their lives worse.