‘The call to action was from the Don himself': Capitol rioters blame Trump for mob

A mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, US 6 January 2021 (REUTERS)

Two Pennsylvania men indicted for allegedly joining in the 6 January mob at the US Capitol said they came to Washington ready for violence because they believed they were following Donald Trump’s orders, likening him to a mafia boss.

“The call to action was put out to be in DC on January 6th from the Don himself,” one of the men said in December, according to court documents.

Mashal Neefe and Charles Bradforth Smith, both 25, were indicted on a host of federal charges on Tuesday, including conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; attacking officers using a dangerous weapon; and carrying out violence on the US capitol grounds.

Their charging documents reveal just how thoroughly Donald Trump seemed to influence the violent mob that stormed the Capitol.

The pair seemed to fixate on the ex-president’s public statements after the election. On 18 December, for example, Mr Trump began promoting the 6 January protests in Washington and hinting at violence, telling supporters on Twitter, “Be there, will be wild!”

“Trump is literally calling people to DC in a show of force,” Mr Smith allegedly said on Facebook two weeks later. “Militias will be there and if there’s enough people they may fucking storm the buildings and take out the trash right there.”

The two allegedly discussed plans to travel to the Capitol, and set about arming themselves. Mr Smith allegedly said he wanted to buy an axe handle and attach an American flag to the end, “so we can wave the flag but also have a giant beating stick just in case”.

(Court records indicate that the men do not yet have legal representation to contact, and they haven’t entered an official plea in the case.)

Once they arrived in the Capitol, the men allegedly continued to boast about violence and attacking the Capitol.

“We stormed the gates of the Capitol,” Mr Smith allegedly said in a Facebook video.

Mr Neefe, meanwhile, allegedly used a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s assassin that was later repurposed by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, as he stormed the Capitol.

“They’re rushing the Capitol right now. . . . There’s people literally rushing it right now. Sic semper tyrannis.”

The quote means “Thus always to tyrants,” in Latin.

Once the chaos was over, Mr Neefe allegedly vowed to be even more violent next time.

“Im bringing a gun next time […] It’s only going to get more violent,” he said. “Today was p**** s*** dude… If I had it my way every cop who hurled a baton or maced on us would be lined up and put down . . . We made sure they know we f******* OWN them.”

A number of Capitol riot suspects, including the so-called “Qanon Shaman”, have used Mr Trump’s words as part of their defence, arguing things wouldn’t have escalated without the president’s fiery words that day and in the months leading up to the rally. In his speech just before the riot broke out, Mr Trump told the MAGA faithful to “fight like hell” and that “we will not take it anymore”.

For example, an attorney for Emanuel Jackson, a 20-year-old Washington-area man accused of using a metal bat to hit officers’ riot shields, told the court earlier this year that “the nature and circumstances of this offense must be viewed through the lens of an event inspired by the President of the United States”.

So far, the argument hasn’t been enough to get anyone out of charges, but rather has been used to argue for lighter detention conditions or charges. A spokesperson for Mr Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Trump’s words will come under more direct scrutiny in Congress, which requested records last month from at least 30 members of his inner circle as part of its investigation into the Capitol riot.

If those officials don’t comply with the request, they could face legally binding subpoenas.

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