WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump could pay $156,000 in legal expenses for every person arrested thus far in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol using the $105 million he has collected by spreading the same lies he used to incite the attack, but so far has not helped a single one of the nearly 700 rioters.
“Many people who went there that day are disappointed by his lack of support,” said one defense lawyer on the condition of anonymity so as not to hurt his Jan. 6 client’s case. “If President Trump was ever going to step up and step in, the time to do it is right now.”
Albert Watkins, the lawyer for the self-described “QAnon Shaman” who last week was sentenced to three and half years in federal prison for his role in the attack, was far more blunt speaking to reporters afterward about what Trump should do.
“I’d tell him, ’You know what? You’ve got a few fucking things to do. Including clearing this fucking mess up and taking care of a lot of the jackasses that you fucked up because of January 6,’” he said.
In all, 670 of Trump’s Jan. 6 mob face permanent criminal records and five- and six-figure legal bills for believing Trump’s lies that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him, and acting on his requests that they do something about it.
Cynthia Hughes, who is collecting money to help Jan. 6 defendants — her “Patriot Freedom Project” web site offers visitors the opportunity to make a “1/6 Thanksgiving Pledge” — appeared on Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast and urged Trump to act.
“They’re disappointed they haven’t heard from him. They’re disappointed he hasn’t spoken out,” she said on Nov. 13. “President Trump, I need to hear from you. I need to hear from you immediately, because we need your help, and we need to know that you’re behind us. That you support these people that support you.”
Trump, though, appears to have done nothing to support his followers, outside of the occasional public statement claiming they are being “persecuted” by his successor’s administration.
In a March 25 Fox News appearance, he claimed: “They’re persecuting a lot of those people.” And in a Sept. 16 statement, he wrote: “Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election.”
Federal Election Commission records, meanwhile, show that through the first half of this year, Trump had not paid for anyone’s legal costs related to Jan. 6, other than possibly his own. Through June 30, Trump’s “Save America” political committee had paid $206,480 to Elections, LLC, the firm co-founded by Justin Clark, one of the lawyers representing Trump in its dealings with the House Jan. 6 committee.
How much of that money precisely went toward his attempts to keep secret his involvement in that day’s attack cannot be determined through public records, and neither Trump’s office nor Clark responded to HuffPost queries.
In all, 140 police officers were injured by Trump’s mob, with five officers dying over a period of weeks in addition to four Trump supporters who died that day.
But Trump, both during his impeachment for inciting the attack as well as in comments afterwards, has refused to take any responsibility for what happened — even though he himself invited his followers to descend on the Capitol on that particular date and at his rally urged them to march on the Capitol to “fight like hell” to persuade then-Vice President Mike Pence to install Trump into a second term.
A number of those arrested in the weeks and months afterward have cited Trump’s exhortations as the main reason they came to Washington and wound up illegally entering the Capitol.
The “Shaman,” Jacob Chansley, actually requested that Trump pardon him before he left office on Jan. 20. Trump ignored that request, but did pardon Bannon, who helped Trump incite the Jan. 6 assault, on unrelated theft and fraud charges in the final hours of his presidency.
“Trump has not offered to pay, much less paid, legal fees,” Watkins said. “To be fair, he wasn’t asked to pay legal fees.”
FEC records show Trump has spent millions of Save America’s dollars to raise more money, well over a million on legal fees and hundreds of thousands on staff to maintain his public visibility with press releases and political rallies. He has also managed to funnel $180,000 back into his own businesses, including over $150,000 in rent for a lightly used office at his Trump Tower building in Manhattan.
The $105 million Save America had available at the end of June has likely grown to at least $125 million, meaning Trump has probably raised enough money from his donors to pay all of the legal expenses of all 2,000 or so of his supporters who could wind up being charged, if the average legal bill is $62,500 or less. Precise figures for Save America’s fundraising and spending for the second half of 2021 will not be available until January.
Trump became the first president in 232 years of U.S. elections to refuse to turn over power peacefully to his successor.
He spent weeks attacking the legitimacy of the Nov. 3, 2020, contest that he lost, starting his lies in the predawn hours of Nov. 4 that he had really won in a “landslide” and that his victory was being “stolen” from him. Those falsehoods continued through a long string of failed lawsuits challenging the results in a handful of states.
Trump and some of his advisers even discussed using the military by invoking the Insurrection Act or declaring martial law to retain power despite having lost the election, including by seizing voting machines and ordering “re-votes” in states narrowly won by Democrat Joe Biden.
But military leaders had earlier made it clear they would not involve themselves in the political process, so after the Electoral College finally voted on Dec. 14, making Biden’s win official, Trump instead turned to a last-ditch scheme to pressure his own vice president into canceling the ballots of millions of voters in several states Biden won and declaring Trump the winner during the pro forma congressional certification of the election results on Jan. 6.
Trump asked his followers to come to Washington that day and then told the tens of thousands who showed up to march on the Capitol to intimidate Pence into doing what Trump wanted. “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you’re allowed to go by very different rules,” Trump said.
The mob of supporters he incited attempted to do his bidding by storming the building. They even chanted “Hang Mike Pence” after the vice president refused to comply with Trump’s demands.
A police officer died after being assaulted during the insurrection, and four others took their own lives in the days and weeks that followed. One of the rioters was fatally shot as she climbed through a broken window into an anteroom containing still-evacuating House members, and three others in the crowd died during the melee.
Though the House impeached Trump for inciting the attack, all but seven Senate Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, chose not to convict him ― thereby letting Trump continue his political career even as faces several investigations into his postelection actions.