Could Trump, Trump Jr and Giuliani face prosecution for encouraging Capitol riot violence?

Lawyer says ‘those who incited violence’ will be considered for criminal charges, prompting presidential concession

Gino Spocchia
Friday 08 January 2021 20:23 GMT
DC attorney suggests Trump could be investigated over riot

Many of Donald Trump’s supporters scaled walls, smashed windows, and ran riot through the Capitol on Wednesday, but could the US president face charges for the chaos?

Following the violence, Mr Trump’s critics condemned the way he called on supporters to march on Congress as the country’s lawmakers worked to confirm Joe Biden’s presidential win against him.

It was always an allegation without basis, but nonetheless had been advanced by Mr Trump and numerous allies since November, and accumulated in Wednesday’s protest titled ‘Stop the Steal’.

On stage, the president told supporters to be strong, and said: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

“I know everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building,” he had added, “to peacefully, patriotically make your voices heard.”

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The problem? That same protest soon became a riot, with Capitol police besieged, and Congress ransacked.  

Republicans and Democrats alike have since called on Mr Trump to hand in his resignation, with more than 200 congressional lawmakers calling on him to be removed.

Washington DC’s leading attorney also waded in, and refused to rule out an investigation into the president.

“We are looking at all actors,” said Michael R. Sherwin, the US attorney in Washington DC, who added that included “not only the people who went into the building”.

Asked whether or not that would include the president, the prosecutor responded: “We’re looking at all actors, if the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”

The district attorney, Karl Racine, also suggested probes into the president’s actions, as well as Donald Trump Jr and Rudy Giuliani, who had psyched-up his supporters at Wednesday’s rally.

“Donald Trump Jr, Giuliani, even the president of the United States were calling on their supporters and hate groups to go to the Capitol and in the words of Rudy Giuliani 'exercise combat justice',” Mr Racine told Good Morning America.

'We're going to investigate not only the mobsters but also those who invited the violence,' he added.

Apparently aware that Washington DC’s top prosecutor had not ruled out criminal charges, presidential aides reportedly pressed Mr Trump to concede the election and condemn the violence in a video.  

That was released on Thursday evening, in which he eventually denounced those who stormed Congress.

It was a message he had been reluctant to deliver, The New York Times reported, having told his supporters the day before that they were “special people” and were “loved”, all the while repeating the allegation that the election was “stolen”.

David Sklansky, a Stanford Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, said on Wednesday that the president’s crimes were “a serious abuse of power” and sufficient for impeachment, proceedings for which Democrats have said could start next week, in addition to any criminal charges.

“By any reasonable standard, inciting your followers to ignore and resist lawful results of an election is a high crime or misdemeanour, a serious abuse of power,” said Mr Sklansky to the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to reports, Mr Trump was reportedly planning on a self-pardon in his final days as president, even prior to the storming of the Capitol.

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