Did Trump Really Commit Any Crimes on Jan. 6? The Washington Post Doubts It Former President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during the 'Save America' rally at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds on in Conroe, Texas, on Jan. 29, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
By Allan H. Ryskind | Tuesday, 01 February 2022 06:36 AM
Will Donald Trump's actions during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol land him in prison?
Anti-Trumpers in both parties tremble with excitement at the prospect. But what those who yearn for such punishment would have to prove is that he deliberately incited the protesters to engage in a criminal act.
Read the lengthy investigative piece in the Jan. 17 Washington Post to see the heavy odds against such an occurrence. Trump urged the protesters-pre-riot "to fight like hell" to persuade House Republicans to re-elect him because the Democrats had stolen the election. Such "inflammatory" rhetoric is said by Trump's most ferocious critics to be proof alone that he incited the crowd to break into the Capitol.
But such speech, the Post responded, would almost certainly be protected by the First Amendment. And Trump, after all, "is hardly the first politician to call on his supporters to fight."
Then the Post handed him another “get out of jail free” card when it wrote: "While Trump told the crowd to march to the Capitol and vowed to join them —even though he had no plans to do so —there is no evidence that he knew they planned to storm the building."
No evidence? Haven't the Democrats, the mainstream media and the bloggers been telling us otherwise for over a year now? The Select Committee of Pelosi-appointed lawmakers on the break-in must have thought of rioting themselves when they read that.
The publication's verdict has to be a staggering blow to the Trump haters who have been counting on the publication to help put him behind bars rather than convince folks of his innocence.
More disappointment for the ex-President's foes came just one paragraph later. The Post raised major doubts that Trump would go to jail for demanding Georgia's secretary of state produce enough votes to put him over the top when he was clearly trailing in the official count.
The Atlanta-area prosecutor, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, certainly has Trump in her sights for that "request." Ms. Willis concedes she is concentrating on the phone call between Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger in which Trump bluntly says: "All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state."
Remarkably, the Post, on an issue where Trump might seem vulnerable, virtually clears him of legal wrong doing, stressing that grounds for a conviction would be difficult. If the President "genuinely believed the election was stolen from him, experts say [meaning credible legal experts], it would be hard to construe his contesting the outcome as a crime."
This is especially true if the President can point to advisers who said his tactics were perfectly proper even when they didn't agree with them. And who doubts the ex-President believed it was stolen? He has publicly, privately and endlessly shouted to the world that he was robbed by any and all means.
He can produce dozens of witnesses from his administration who will testify under oath
that he was obsessed with finding legal ways to overturn the election–and there are many of them — just like the Democrats have attempted to do on three occasions in this century alone. He can also subpoena as witnesses reputable prosecutors, defense lawyers, former judges and constitutional scholars —the kinds of respected and impartial professionals the Post contacted who should be able to convince a grand jury that all of the allegations we've seen so far against the former President can be successfully defended.
Derek T.Muller, a professor at the University of Iowa who specializes in election law, might even volunteer to be a friendly witness (though he was not mentioned by the Post). He wrote in the Jan.6, 2021, The New York Times that the Democrats have been aggressively challenging Republican presidential winners since 2000.
Beginning with George W. Bush's victory in the 2000 presidential race,the professor notes, Democrats have contested three Republican wins in the 21st century — In 2001, 2005 and 2017. After Trump's surprise victory, several Democrats went so far as to blame Russia's supposedly illegal activities on his behalf for his victory, explaining that's why they refused to vote for pro-Trump electoral delegations.
"The key in pretty much all these crimes he's been accused of," former federal prosecutor Randall Eliasson told the Post, "would be proving corrupt intent because Trump is going to come in and say when he was pressuring [Vice President Mike] Pence, 'I was told by my advisers that he had his legal authority, and I was just repeating that.'"
And that, Eliason added, "could be difficult for prosecutors] to overcome."
There are other factors the Post didn't touch upon that would seem exculpatory. No matter what
the media says. there are plenty of quotes from Trump that would show he never urged the protesters to engage in violence. At the Ellipse, he told the crowd "to peacefully. . . make your voices heard."
When he was deluged by his family and his conservative supporters to close down the rally completely, he tweeted a video talking to his supporters inside the Capitol. "I feel your pain. I know your hurt," he began. "I know how you feel, but go home in peace."
It has been over a year since the Capitol riots took place, with Attorney General Merrick Garland stating that it has produced what has become "one of the largest, most complex and most resource-intensive investigations in our history."
According to Garland, the rioting was initiated when "individuals in the crowd began to force entry into the Capitol by smashing windows and assaulting U.S.Capitol police who were stationed to protect members of Congress, many of whom were meeting to certify the vote count of the Electoral College.”
Figures from January reveal that over 325 defendants have now been charged with felonies, several assaulting officers with "pipes, poles and other dangerous or deadly weapons." And many were charged for "corruptly obstructing or attempting to obstruct" an official proceeding.
In all, eighty Capitol police and 60 D.C Metropolitan police were harmed or threatened with harm. Five officers who responded to the attack died.
On Jan.13, the FBI arrested the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, charging him and 10 others with sedition, the first time anyone has been so charged. They were, according to the indictments, not only armed with weapons and combat gear, but were planning to prevent Biden from becoming president.
Jan.6, 2021, was the worst day in the President's first term. While his own actions, as the Post suggests, may not have been criminal, the mayhem and violence on his watch caused so much grief for the nation, including Trump, and his party. The rioters were his devoted followers who had been stoked by the President's still unproven claims that voting machines had been rigged to give Joe Biden the presidency. His presidency will always be marred by what happened.
For those who love irony, however, it is remarkable that one of his fiercest antagonists produced a report that might make voters not only think better of him, but brighten his political future for another possible run in 2024.
Allan H. Ryskind, a columnist and former editor and owner of Human Events, is the author of "Hollywood Traitors" (Regnery, 2015), a book on how the Communist Party attempted to seize the movie industry.