RFK Jr. downplays Jan. 6 attack, says he wants special counsel to review related cases

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate, said Friday that if elected, he would appoint a special counsel to investigate how prosecutors handled cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Kennedy also said Friday that there was “little evidence of an actual insurrection” and falsely claimed that protesters at the Capitol “did not carry any weapons.”

More than 1,000 people have been charged in the attack, including 10 on gun-related charges. Hundreds of people have been convicted and sentenced.

Kennedy then issued a second statement Friday evening saying, “My understanding that none of the January 6 rioters who invaded the Capitol were carrying firearms was incorrect. Several were convicted of carrying firearms into the Capitol building.

“Others attacked Capitol Police with pepper spray, batons and other makeshift weapons,” he added.

“As president, I will appoint a special counsel – a person respected by all parties – to investigate whether prosecutorial discretion was abused for political purposes in this case, and I will right any wrongs we discover,” Kennedy said. “Without an impartial rule of law, there is no true democracy or moral governance. »

The statement comes a day after a fundraising email for the Kennedy campaign called the Jan. 6 defendants “activists” who were “deprived of their constitutional freedoms.” The campaign later retracted the email and said the communication, which claimed the defendants had been deprived of their rights, “does not reflect the views of Mr. Kennedy.”

Kennedy called the events of January 6 a “protest” that turned into a “riot.” But on Friday, he disputed calling what happened that January day an insurrection.

“Because this happened with the encouragement of President Trump, and against the backdrop of his delusion that the election was stolen from him, many people see this not as a riot but as an insurrection,” it says. read in Kennedy’s statement.

Throughout the statement, Kennedy — who was temporarily banned from Instagram in 2021 for spreading misinformation about coronavirus vaccines — espoused several false claims about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“I have not reviewed the evidence in detail,” the statement read, “but reasonable people, including Trump opponents, tell me there is little evidence of an actual insurrection. They observe that the (rioters)… had neither the intention nor the ability to take the reins of government.

Republicans in seven states won by Joe Biden sent falsified documents to the Senate and the National Archives, falsely claiming that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Trump’s allies then used these documents to try to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory on January 6.

Text messages and speeches made public in dozens of lawsuits show that many rioters came to Washington aiming to pressure Vice President Mike Pence and other Republicans to join the effort. Several leaders of the far-right groups Oath Keepers and Proud Boys were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their actions on January 6.

Later in the statement, Kennedy claimed that protesters at the Capitol that day “did not carry any weapons.”

Eight men were convicted of gun possession at or near the Capitol on Jan. 6, and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent is awaiting trial for displaying his badge and a gun on the grounds. A tenth person was arrested last month for firing a gun into the air on the Capitol’s West Plaza.

Other makeshift weapons and weapons were deployed by the rioters, including pepper and bear spray, flag poles, fire extinguishers and broken furniture from inside the building. More than 140 police officers were injured. One of them died the next day, while another committed suicide after suffering head trauma.

Kennedy also pointed out that Trump had urged people to “protest “peacefully.” As the former president used the word in his morning speech on January 6, he also told his supporters, “If you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country anymore.” Trump watched television coverage of the unfolding violence and resisted demands to intervene from his advisers, allies and eldest daughter, as well as the lawmakers under attack.

A House select committee investigating the attack held several public hearings on the matter and released a more than 800-page report gathering evidence from thousands of documents and more than 1,000 witness interviews during the 18 months of the investigation. It claimed that Trump had embarked on an orchestrated plan to stay in power despite his election defeat, pressuring state officials, the Justice Department and his own vice president to help him. Ultimately, the committee argues, he inspired his supporters to commit violence in his name.

Kennedy said he was concerned about the “harsh treatment” of those incarcerated for the Jan. 6 crimes, a popular far-right talking point. A Washington Post review of the Jan. 6 convictions found that rioters who assaulted police officers received lighter penalties than in similar cases nationwide. In two-thirds of cases, judges handed down sentences lower than those recommended by federal guidelines.

Kennedy called January 6 “one of the most polarizing topics on the political landscape” and said he was “listening to people with diverse perspectives on this topic in order to make sense of the event and what followed. I want to hear all sides.

Kennedy, who launched his presidential campaign as a Democrat but ran as an independent in October, has increasingly stepped up his attacks on President Biden. Throughout his long-running third-party bid — and his uphill battle to gain access to ballots across the country — he has touted his appeal to Republicans, Democrats and disaffected voters who are tired of a Biden-Trump rematch. But Kennedy’s statement Friday echoed complaints by Trump and his Republican allies in Congress about how the Jan. 6 matters were handled.

“I am concerned about the possibility that political objectives motivated the vigorous prosecution of the J6 defendants, their long sentences and their harsh treatment,” he said. He also expressed concerns about the “weaponization of government agencies” against political opponents.

“Both establishment parties are using the J6 to add fuel to America’s divisions,” Kennedy added.

Kennedy has a habit of downplaying the seriousness of the political violence that occurred on January 6. In an interview with Politico in October, he said that “on January 6. 6 was an attack on a building. And we have many levels of government behind this building.

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Right?” Kennedy asked that same month on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast. “I mean, we have an entire army, the Pentagon, just a few blocks away.”

Kennedy previously told the Washington Post that he would consider pardoning those convicted of their roles in the riot if presented with evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.

He drew sharp criticism this week when he made the argument that Biden posed a greater threat to democracy than Trump, saying that “the greatest threat to democracy is not someone who challenges question the election results,” but rather Biden, highlighting his administration’s interactions with social media. media companies.

Kennedy is the scion of the famous Democratic family whose father and uncle were killed in two of the most high-profile acts of political violence in American history. Kennedy’s uncle, former President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Five years later, Kennedy’s father, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated after winning the California Democratic presidential primary .

Kennedy argued that his views on the January 6 attack are shared by “many reasonable Americans,” but a Washington Post and University of Maryland poll conducted in December found that they are shared by a minority of the country supporting Trump. An overwhelming majority of Americans, 73 percent, believe the punishments meted out to the rioters were fair or not harsh enough. A majority of Americans also believe those entering the Capitol pose a threat to democracy.

However, Republicans increasingly view the rioters in a positive light, with only 18 percent saying they were “mostly violent,” compared to 77 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents.

The judges in these cases have repeatedly highlighted this threat and lamented that Trump and his supporters are downplaying it.

“This is not normal. This cannot become normal. We, as a community, as a society, as a country, cannot tolerate the normalization of the January 6 riots at the Capitol,” said the Judge Royce Lamberth, appointed by Ronald Reagan, earlier this week after sentencing a man who led a crackdown on police that left officers fearing for their lives.

Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.


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