At a rally in Texas on Saturday, former President Donald Trump set the stage for what his possible second term might look like, telling supporters that they could count on him to do right by those prosecuted in connection with the deadly Capitol insurrection. “If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly,” Trump said, referring to the more than 700 people (and counting) who have been arrested for their role surrounding the Capitol riot. “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons,” Trump added, “because they are being treated so unfairly.”
Pardons post-2024 wouldn’t be all that useful to the majority of January 6 defendants. Politico reports that most are facing misdemeanor charges, which carry a maximum punishment of one year in jail, and that only three of the 87 defendants who had been sentenced as of January 21 got jail terms that will run beyond President Joe Biden’s first term. But hundreds of those who have yet to be sentenced face charges such as conspiracy and assault, which could mean years in prison. Trump floating pardons down the line for his supporters—something he did as president—“could become a calculus in their decisions to accept plea deals or enter into negotiations with prosecutors,” according to Politico.
While the former president has been sympathetic to the rioters charged in the Capitol attack in the past, the prospect of pardoning January 6 defendants marks a new degree of support for those involved in the failed coup—and opposition to efforts to hold them accountable. Trump on Saturday for the first time suggested he would use the power of the presidency to undo legal consequences for his followers involved in the riot, according to the Washington Post. He also again attacked congressional efforts to investigate the insurrection he incited. “What that ‘unselect’ committee is doing and what the people are doing that are running those prisons” is “a disgrace,” Trump told supporters.
His attack on the House select committee came a day after the panel subpoenaed 14 people who apparently tried to subvert the will of voters by submitting false Electoral College certificates for Trump in seven states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—that were actually won by Biden. The pro-Trump individuals sent fake slates of electors to Congress, according to The New York Times, which reported that all 14 of the subpoena targets had “claimed to be either a chair or secretary of the fake elector slates.”
“We believe the individuals we have subpoenaed today have information about how these so-called alternate electors met and who was behind that scheme,” Chairman Bennie Thompson said of the latest batch of subpoenas. The panel in its subpoena letters noted that it has the fake elector certificates from the National Archives in its possession, as well as documentation showing that the fake electors were sent to Congress “as a justification to delay or block the certification of the election.” The select committee is reportedly trying to figure out whether the Trump White House was involved in coordinating the plan and whether it constituted a crime. Friday’s subpoenas came only days after the Justice Department said it had opened an investigation into the phony electors.
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— Inside Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Unlikely Rise and Precipitous Fall at Liberty University
— Eric Adams Pulls Crypto-Paycheck Stunt Hours Before Bitcoin Crash
— Dave Chappelle and “the Black Ass Lie” That Keeps Us Down
— Trump’s January 6 Cover-Up Is Unraveling Fast
— Florida Man Has Growing God Complex
— In 2024, Mike Pence Is Gearing Up to Go Rogue
— New York Attorney General to Trump, Ivanka, and Don Jr.: Don’t F–k With Us
— Inside This Cable News Giant’s Streaming Dreams
— From the Archive: It Came From Wasilla
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.