RFK Jr walks back campaign email calling Jan 6 rioters ‘activists’

The ‘J6 activists’ are being ‘stripped of their Constitutional liberties,’ the fundraising email said

Kelly Rissman
Friday 05 April 2024 21:58 BST
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The campaign for independent presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr backpedalled after his message to donors labelled January 6 defendants as “activists” who have been “stripped of their Constitutional liberties.”

A Thursday “Team Kennedy” campaign email, obtained by NBC News, read: “This is the reality that every American Citizen faces — from Ed Snowden, to Julian Assange to the J6 activists sitting in a Washington DC jail cell stripped of their Constitutional liberties.”

“Please help our campaign call out the illiberal actions of our very own government,” the email continued.

On Friday, his team sent out a statement to “clarify” his stance on the events of January 6, noting that he has “not examined the evidence in detail” and was “concerned about the possibility” that January defendants’ sentences were motivated by “political objectives.”

“It is quite clear that many of the January 6 protestors broke the law in what may have started as a protest but turned into a riot,” the statement read. “I have not examined the evidence in detail, but reasonable people, including Trump opponents, tell me there is little evidence of a true insurrection.”

Mr Kennedy added that like many Americans, he was “concerned about the possibility that political objectives motivated the vigor of the prosecution of the J6 defendants, their long sentences, and their harsh treatment.” This, he continued, would “fit a disturbing pattern of the weaponization of government agencies,” like the Department of Justice, “against political opponents.”

The independent candidate emphasised that while he opposes Mr Trump and all he stands for,” he is still “disturbed by the weaponization of government against him.”

He vowed, if elected president, to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether prosecutorial discretion was abused for political ends in this case, and I will right any wrongs.” He added that both “establishment parties” are utilising the events of January 6 “to pour fuel on the fire of America’s divisions.”

This isn’t the first time Mr Kennedy has expressed sympathy for the rioters. He told the Washington Post in August that he would mull pardoning those convicted in connection to the Capitol attack. He clarified to the outlet, “If prosecutorial malfeasance is demonstrated, then yes. Otherwise, no.”

More recently, when talking on Fox News in March, the independent candidate was asked whether he thought it would be a “good idea” to pardon the January 6 defendants. He replied, “You know, that’s not something that I would comment on until I was president of the United States.”

He then clarified, “I intend to use the pardon power, and I intend to use it very quickly in office. I’m going to pardon Julian Assange. I’m going to pardon Edward Snowden.”

The fundraising email’s language sounds very similar to how Mr Trump describes those who attacked the Capitol in 2021. At a January campaign, Mr Trump told an Iowa crowd: “The J6 hostages, I call them. Nobody’s been treated ever in history so badly as those people.”

The rioters had chanted to “hang” then-vice president Mike Pence after he refused Mr Trump’s call to block certification of the 2020 election results.

Nearly 1,300 individuals have been charged in connection to the Capitol riot, according to the Justice Department. While over 700 of them have pleaded guilty to federal charges, 171 others have been found guilty at trial.

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