Trump downplays US Capitol siege incident, calls jailed rioters 'hostages'

More than 1,230 people have been charged with federal crimes connected to the violence, including assaulting police officers and seditious conspiracy.
Former US President Donald Trump | AP
Former US President Donald Trump | AP

NEWTON: Former President Donald Trump, campaigning in Iowa Saturday, marked the third anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol by casting the migrant surge on the southern border as the "real" insurrection.

Just over a week before the Republican nomination process begins with Iowa's kickoff caucuses, Trump did not explicitly acknowledge the date. But he continued to claim that countries have been emptying jails and mental institutions to fuel a record number of migrant crossings, even though there is no evidence that is the case.

"When you talk about insurrection, what they're doing, that's the real deal. That's the real deal. Not patriotically and peacefully — peacefully and patriotically," Trump said, quoting from his speech on Jan. 6, before a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol as part of a desperate bid to keep him in power after his 2020 election loss.

Trump's remarks in Newton in central Iowa came a day after Biden delivered a speech near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where he cast Trump as a grave threat to democracy and called Jan. 6 a day when "we nearly lost America — lost it all."

With a likely rematch of the 2020 election looming, both Biden and Trump have frequently invoked Jan. 6 on the campaign trail. Trump, who is under federal indictment for his efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden, has consistently downplayed or spread conspiracy theories about a riot in which his supporters — spurred by his lies about election fraud — tried to disrupt the certification of Biden's win.

Trump also continued to bemoan the treatment of those who have been jailed for participating in the riot, again labeling them "hostages." More than 1,230 people have been charged with federal crimes connected to the violence, including assaulting police officers and seditious conspiracy.

"They ought to release the J6 hostages. They've suffered enough," he said in Clinton, in the state's far east. "Release the J6 hostages, Joe. Release 'em, Joe. You can do it real easy, Joe," he said.
Trump was holding the commit-to-caucus events just over a week before voting will begin on Jan. 15.

He arrived at his last event nearly three-and-a-half hours late due to what he said was a mechanical issue with a rented plane.

After Trump spoke in Newton, he signed hats and other items people in the crowd passed to him, including a copy of a Playboy magazine that featured him on the cover.

One man in the crowd, Dick Green, was standing about 15 feet away, weeping after the former president autographed his white "Trump Country" hat and shook his hand.

"It'll never get sold. It will be in my family," Green said of the hat. A caucus captain and a pastor in Brighton, Iowa, Green said he had prayed for four years to meet Trump.

"I'll never forget it," he said. "It's just the beginning of his next presidency." Trump spent much of the day assailing Biden, casting him as incompetent and the real threat to democracy. But he also attacked fellow Republicans, including the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose "no" vote derailed GOP efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.

"John McCain, for some reason, couldn't get his arm up that day," said Trump of McCain, who was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war. The injuries he suffered left him unable to lift his arms over his head for the rest of his life. His daughter, Meghan McCain, responded on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, calling Trump an expletive and her father an "American hero."

Earlier Saturday, Trump courted young conservative activists in Des Moines, speaking to members of Run GenZ, an organization that encourages young conservatives to run for office.

Trump's campaign is hoping to turn out thousands of supporters who have never caucused before as part of a show of force aimed at denying his rivals momentum and demonstrating his organizing prowess heading into the general election.

His chief rivals, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, were also campaigning in the state as they battle for second place in hopes of emerging as the most viable alternative to Trump, who is leading by wide margins in early state and national polls.

Trump has used the trip to step up his attacks against Haley, who has been gaining ground. He again cast her Saturday as insufficiently conservative and a "globalist' beholden to Wall Street donors, and accused her of being disloyal for running against him.

"Nikki will sell you out just like she sold me out," he charged.

On Friday, Trump had highlighted several recent Haley statements that drew criticism, including her comment that voters in New Hampshire correct Iowa's mistakes ("You don't have to be corrected," he said) and her failure to mention slavery when asked what had caused the Civil War.

"I don't know if it's going to have an impact, but you know like … slavery's sort of the obvious answer as opposed to her three paragraphs of bulls---," he told a crowd Friday.
In Newton, he said that he was fascinated by the "horrible" war, which he suggested he could have prevented.

"It's so fascinating," he said. "It's just different. I just find it… I'm so attracted to seeing it... So many mistakes were made. See that was something I think could have been negotiated, to be honest with you."
Haley's campaign has pointed to his escalating attention, including a new attack ad, as evidence Trump is worried about her momentum.

"God bless President Trump, he's been on a temper tantrum every day about me ... and everything he's saying is not true," Haley told a crowd Saturday in North Liberty, Iowa. ___

Beaumont reported from Clinton, Iowa, and Colvin from New York. AP National Politics Writer Steve Peoples in North Liberty, Iowa, and Andrew Harnik in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express