WASHINGTON ― Ashli Babbitt is dead because of Donald Trump’s election lies.
Many hundreds of her fellow insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 will own criminal records for the rest of their lives, with a significant number facing prison time, also because they believed the former president’s falsehoods that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him.
Trump himself, meanwhile, has thus far escaped any legal consequence for his attempt to overthrow American democracy, despite a federal law that specifically makes inciting an insurrection against the government a felony.
“That is, unfortunately, not that unusual,” said Danya Perry, a former federal prosecutor in New York City, citing organized crime as an example where top mobsters send underlings to do the dirty work while keeping their own hands clean enough to avoid prosecution.
“You’re not the one caught in the trenches with a hammer kneecapping someone,” she said. “It’s harder to prove that someone incited a riot than someone participated in a riot. It’s one of these commonsense things that doesn’t necessarily translate into something in the United States Code.”
Missouri lawyer Al Watkins, who represents several Capitol rioters, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called “QAnon Shaman” who stood in a horned hat on the Senate dais, said Chansley and his other clients certainly believed they were there to help their hero, Trump.
“They bought, hook line and sinker, every word that he spoke,” Watkins said.
Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn testified at the first Jan. 6 select committee hearing Tuesday that the Capitol attackers clearly thought they were there at Trump’s behest: “I told them to just leave the Capitol, and in response they yelled, ‘No, man, this is our house. President Trump invited us here. We’re here to stop the steal.’”
And like a capo who continues on as before even after his minions are locked up, Trump has gone right back to staging rallies and speeches where he is spreading the same lies that incited the assault on the Capitol in the first place.