- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 7, 2021

Kenneth Grayson made clear what he was ready to do for President Trump in a Facebook posting in late December.

Pondering the upcoming Jan. 6 rally in Washington, the same day as Congress was slated to count the electoral votes to confirm Mr. Trump’s loss, Mr. Grayson said he would storm the Capitol “if Trump tells us to.”

Mr. Trump didn’t use the word “storm” during his rally near the White House at noon that fateful day, but Mr. Grayson did end up at the Capitol, where authorities say he took part in the riot that sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives, spawned armed standoffs at the doors of the House and Senate chambers, and ended with police and protesters dead.

As the former president prepared to face his second impeachment trial this week, the words of his supporters, captured in court documents, are looming large as senators try to place blame for the attack.

And there’s plenty of ammunition for both sides.

Ronald Sandlin, who the FBI says was caught on film smoking a marijuana joint in the Senate chamber during the attack, seemed determined to riot before Mr. Trump ever spoke to the crowd at the White House Ellipse.

“If we need to occupy the Capitol, we will occupy the Capitol,” he said in a video the FBI says was posted early that morning.

He said he’d already been part of “some scrimmages,” which from the context sounded like small fights, and he suggested it was only going to get worse. “Either way there is going to be violence,” he figured.

Brandon Straka, a prominent Trump backer and founder of the WalkAway Campaign of former Democrats, told investigators “the plan was always to go to the Capitol.”

He said he took the subway over from the Trump speech to the Capitol, and while on the way there, heard that Vice President Mike Pence wasn’t going to intervene in the certification — something Mr. Trump had demanded he do.

Mr. Straka said as he was walking from the subway stop to the Capitol, he then learned fellow demonstrators had already breached the Capitol.

He told investigators he thought to himself, “Wow, so they’re going to basically storm and try to get into the chamber so that they can demand that we get the investigation that we want.”

The article of impeachment the House approved against Mr. Trump accused him of inciting insurrection.

It cites his months-long campaign to discredit the vote-counting from the election, culminating in his Jan. 6 speech to supporters. The article quotes the president saying “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide,” and “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.” The resolution says that, “in context,” Mr. Trump’s words “encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action.”

The president, in his impeachment brief, says the “fight” quote was taken out of context and “it was clearly about the need to fight for election security in general.”

Democrats’ article of impeachment does not quote Mr. Trump’s other direction to the crowd: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

For senators, one task will be to unpack the comments and try to tie them to the events themselves. For example, how much blame can they ascribe to the former president if some level of violence was already baked in, as Mr. Straka and Mr. Sandlin suggested.

Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School who was part of the defense for a 2010 impeachment trial of a federal judge, said it’s not clear what senators can, or should, do with the riot suspects’ comments.

For one thing, he said, those words aren’t part of the record. The House rushed its process — Mr. Turley calls it a “snap impeachment” — and didn’t bother to build a case against the former president with hearings and investigation.

Beyond that flaw, Mr. Turley said, riot suspects’ words don’t answer a key question: what Mr. Trump himself was thinking.

“He does bear responsibility for what occurred. However, that is not proof of incitement to insurrection,” the professor said. “These rioters clearly felt emboldened by Trump’s speech but that does not proof intent on Trump’s part. The key question is whether there is evidence of intent before or after the speech.”

Senators haven’t decided on whether they feel the need to hear from witnesses.

But at least one person accused of being part of the riot has asked to be heard.

Albert Watkins, the lawyer for Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman who made waves with his shirtless, horned-hat appearance amid the Capitol mob, says Mr. Chansley now feels “betrayed” by Mr. Trump and wants to tell the Senate what happened.

Mr. Watkins told The Associated Press his client was “smitten” by Mr. Trump, but now feels let down after the former president didn’t issue pardons.

Mr. Chansley told investigators he came to Washington heeding Mr. Trump’s call — though that’s a more tenuous connection than those who said they marched on the Capitol at his behest.

Valerie Ehrke told the FBI she heard Mr. Trump tell the crowd to go to the Capitol, and she thought he would be going along with them.

She, though, headed back to her hotel room and turned on the television. That’s when she saw the other demonstrators had busted through barricades and invaded the Capitol, and she “decided she wanted to be part of the crowd,” the FBI said.

She says she made it about 15 feet into the Capitol as part of a crowd of people, then they got pushed back outside.

Samuel Fisher posted to social media the day before the Jan. 6 rally that he was looking to Mr. Trump for orders.

“At 1 when congress certifies the election… Trump just needs to fire the bat signal… deputize patriots… and then the pain comes,” Mr. Fisher posted to his website. “1 Million Pissed off men with guns… bad idea. We aren’t looking to fight or hurt anyone… but the odds that this is going to be solved any other way… is next to nothing. …“

Robert Bauer was even more explicit.

He told investigators he, his wife and Edward Hemenway marched to the Capitol “because President Trump said to do so,” the FBI said in court papers.

Mr. Bauer’s lawyer declined to comment on his case.

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