Republicans are keeping their distance from Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally on Capitol Hill without explicitly condemning its support for people accused of crimes related to storming the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Despite several far-right House members expressing sympathy for the rioters in recent months and depicting them as “political prisoners,” none have said they plan to attend the rally.
Former President Trump said Thursday that people accused of crimes related to Jan. 6 were being “persecuted,” but notably didn’t make any reference to Saturday’s event.
The distance from the rally is in line with Republicans trying to avoid further discussion of the attack, which was carried out by Trump supporters, and the actions that led to the chaos, including those by Trump and GOP lawmakers who had encouraged the effort to overturn his election defeat.
Yet Republicans’ general silence on the merits of the rally shows how they are loath to risk alienating a base that remains loyal to Trump and increasingly believes the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was justified or overblown.
A poll released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute hints at the impetus behind the balancing act, finding that while 59 percent of all respondents blame white supremacist groups for the rampage — and 56 percent blame Trump — those numbers fall precipitously among Republicans, to 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively. In the eyes of 61 percent of GOP voters, in fact, liberal activists were behind the Jan. 6 attack — a narrative with no basis in fact.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Friday that he was “not aware of any elected officials that are planning to attend.”
“There were a few that were invited. To my knowledge, all of them have declined,” Manger said at a news conference meant to project confidence in law enforcement preparations.
The reluctance of sitting lawmakers to participate may reflect a new tone of caution among Republicans, who have their eyes on flipping the House in 2022 and would rather focus on President Biden’s agenda than the Jan. 6 riot, which left several people dead and roughly 140 police officers injured.
Trump himself may be the more significant factor.
The former president has been persistent, since ceding office, in trumpeting the lie that the election was stolen. And on Thursday, he offered blunt support for those arrested for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, saying their incarcerations are evidence of “a two-tiered system of justice.” But he did not mention Saturday’s protest.
“Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump said in a statement.
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