While Donald Trump himself was recently acquitted by the Senate for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, after being the first president to be impeached by the House twice, his supporters aren’t finding themselves so lucky. In fact, attorneys for at least seven of the rioters have referenced Trump in efforts to explain their clients actions.
Matthew Ryan Miller was photographed discharging a fire extinguisher on the steps of the Capitol during the riot. At his hearing this past Tuesday, his attorney claimed that “his client was there at the behest of then-President Trump. Mr. Miller concedes he was on the Capitol grounds to protest along with thousands of other protesters and was merely following the directions of then-President Trump, the country’s chief law enforcement officer, and other speakers to march to the Capitol.”
Defense attorney for accused Proud Boys member Ethan Nordean wrote in a filing that Trump “egged on” his client. Dominic Pezzola, another accused Proud Boy, claimed that he was “duped and just responding to the entreaties of the then commander in chief.”
Randy Zelin is a criminal defence attorney who claims that these attorney’s strategies are similar to an “advice of counsel” defense. “The tactic argues that a defendant couldn’t have had criminal intent if they were acting on advice from their attorney. Although Mr. Trump isn’t an attorney, there is a notion that if someone who makes the laws tells you what to do, someone could argue they had no intention to break the law.”
Zelin continued to explain that “The president of the United States telling you that it’s OK to do something or telling you to do something — that destroys your intention, your intent to commit a crime, because the president is telling you it’s OK. Basically, the argument is ‘I had no knowledge that I was breaking the law because I was told by the president of the United States to go ahead and do it.'”
Harry Litman is a former US attorney who, on the other hand, claimed blaming Trump in court would be extremely difficult for these accused rioters. “The ‘Trump made me do it’ defense is a real long-shot, legally, but the move could still be smart because it may create sympathy with jurors, and may even require Mr. Trump to be subpoenaed — a major logistical obstacle that could slow down a case and force prosecutors to drop to lesser charges,” Litman explained.
At least one defendant has so far attempted to distance himself from the former president during his trial to argue that he can safely be released from jail. Christopher Ray Grider’s attorney released a memo that claimed his client “no longer cared about politics or who the President is.”
Documents charging Kenneth Grayson show a social media post in which Grayson wrote “”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***N CAPITAL IMA DO THAT THEN!”
Derrick Evans, a former lawmaker in West Virginia, has an official complaint filed against him that cites a tweet from Trump with the caption “This is why we are going to DC #StopTheSteal.”
While Trump himself has avoided conviction for a second time by the US Senate after being impeached twice by the House, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed he was voted to be acquitted based on a constitutional limit of impeachment, not because Trump wasn’t to blame for the riot.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.