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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggests Jan. 6 prosecutions politically motivated, says he wants to “hear every side”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an independent presidential candidate, suggested in a statement that the prosecution of rioters who violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, could be politically motivated, a view that echoes that of from former President Donald Trump and his allies.

The statement came a day after Kennedy was criticized for a fundraising email which painted a sympathetic portrait of the rioters as “activists” who had been “deprived of their constitutional liberties.”

Kennedy’s campaign later said the statement “was an error that does not reflect Mr. Kennedy’s views.”

The campaign continued, “It was inserted by a new marketing contractor and escaped the normal approval process,” and later said it had terminated the campaign’s contract with the vendor.

And yet, in Kennedy’s next statement on the subject, he struck a similar tone. Rather than disavowing the idea that the rioters were being unfairly prosecuted, Kennedy embraced it, saying he was “concerned about the possibility that political goals motivated the vigor of the prosecution of the J6 defendants.”

He argued: “Reasonable people, including Trump’s opponents, tell me there is little evidence of an actual insurrection. They observe that the protesters carried no weapons, had no plan or ability to take over the reins of government, and that Trump himself had urged them on. to protest “peacefully”.

CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane, who covered the Jan. 6 chases extensively, pointed out that there were in fact “many, many weapons carried by protesters, including guns, knives, axes, batons, , sticks, flagpoles.” , pepper spray, bear spray and a tomahawk,” and they used them to attack police who were trying to protect the Capitol.

Kennedy, in his statement, criticized Trump, saying the attack on the Capitol occurred with his “encouragement” and “against the backdrop of his delusion that the election was stolen from him.” Nonetheless, Kennedy said that as president, he would appoint a special counsel to determine whether Trump’s allies were unfairly targeted with prosecution, “and I will right any wrongs that we find.”

Trump often refers to those convicted in the Jan. 6 attack as “hostages” and has promised to pardon them if he wins back the White House.

Kennedy later retracted his assertion that most of the protesters were not carrying weapons, issuing another statement Friday evening saying: “My understanding is that none of the January 6 rioters who invaded the Capitol were carrying weapons The fire was incorrect. Several were convicted of carrying guns into the Capitol. “Others attacked Capitol Police with pepper spray, batons and other makeshift weapons.”

“This behavior is inexcusable,” he added. “I have never downplayed or dismissed the seriousness of the riot or any crime committed that day.”

The violence of January 6 was considerable. The mob of Trump supporters broke through police barriers, fought hand-to-hand with officers, smashed windows and poured into the Capitol building, forcing lawmakers into hiding.

A fortune gallows was photographed outside the Capitol the day of the attack and some chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” Rioters ran through the halls shouting, “Where are you, Nancy? referring to Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House.

The police officers were bruised and bloodied when they were dragged into the crowd and beaten. One police officer was crushed in a doorway and another suffered a heart attack after a rioter pressed his neck with a stun gun and shocked him several times.

More than 1,300 people have been charged in the Capitol attack, including about 500 people accused of assaulting, resisting or obstructing officers. About 1,000 people have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a judge or jury of crimes, including seditious conspiracy, assault and civil disorder. Only two defendants were cleared of all charges against them after a trial, both by judges who decided the case without a jury.

Of the more than 800 rioters who were convicted, at least 229 were sentenced to at least a year in prison, according to an Associated Press review of court records. The longest sentences so far have been handed down to the leaders of two far-right extremist groups – the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys – who were convicted of seditious conspiracy following trials that highlighted evidence of weeks of plotting to use force to prevent the transfer of presidential power from Trump to Biden.

Judges hearing the cases in federal court in Washington have regularly emphasized that the rioters were being punished for their actions, not their political beliefs. Judges appointed to the bench by presidents of both political parties have sought to use their platforms to combat distortions around the attack and rebuke rioters who portray themselves as victims of political persecution.

Under Justice Department rules, it is the attorney general — not the president — who appoints special counsels. And special counsels have always been appointed to investigate crimes, not to overturn prosecutorial decisions made by Justice Department leaders.

Kennedy portrayed Trump, who faces dozens of charges in four jurisdictions for various alleged crimes, as a victim of a politically motivated government, echoing both the former president’s own characterization of the charges as corrupt and claims by congressional Republicans that federal agencies are “militarized.” ” against the conservatives.

“One can, like me, oppose Donald Trump and everything he stands for, yet be disturbed by the government’s weaponization against him,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy is a lawyer and activist known for fighting for environmental causes and rejecting the scientific consensus that vaccines are safe and effective. He enjoys a fervent base of support among voters who distrust government and other institutions of American life, including the media, political parties and corporations.

Democrats and their left-wing allies have mobilized against Kennedy, the scion of prominent Democrats from the most recognizable dynasty in American politics, who they fear will split the anti-Trump coalition and help Trump win the victory in November.

“There are no two sides to the violent rioters who attacked police officers and attempted to overthrow our democracy,” said Matt Corridoni, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “Time and time again, RFK Jr. has proven himself to be a spoiler for Donald Trump, from supporting his candidacy by Trump’s biggest donor to covering for Trump by downplaying the severity of the 6 January.”

Allison Novello contributed to this report.

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