Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election led to the violence of Jan. 6, 2021. Trump has never come close to telling the truth about the attack on the U.S. Capitol, either, though his specific false claims about it have varied over time. Now he’s making conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 a central part of his defense against criminal charges and his 2024 campaign.
Trump has shared Truth Social posts embracing conspiracy theories blaming the FBI and “antifa” for the attack and referring to Ray Epps, the man who many Jan. 6 conspiracy theorists have claimed was an undercover operative provoking the mob that day. (Epps pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds in September.) Trump has claimed President Joe Biden “pressed deranged [special counsel] Jack Smith to do this fake indictment on me.”
Of course, Trump spews lies and misinformation and fantasies about his own greatness virtually every time he opens his mouth (or his Truth Social app). But these conspiracy theories are also making their way into his defense team’s legal filings, even though many of them have repeatedly been rejected by the courts as Jan. 6 defendants were tried.
Here’s The Washington Post’s reporting on this:
Trump asked for “all documents regarding” Ray Epps, a supporter of the former president who has been falsely accused of being an undercover operative, and John Nichols, a liberal journalist in Wisconsin who right-wing media have suggested encouraged violence at the Capitol on behalf of the “deep state.” He also asked for any intelligence the government had on “Antifa,” on pipe bombs found near the Capitol on Jan. 6, and on “informants, cooperators [and] undercover agents … involved in the assistance, planning, or encouragement” of the events of that day.
It’s not just prosecutors and law enforcement saying that didn’t happen.
“Between the hundreds of people who have looked through it, none of us have come up with the antifa provocateurs or the federal agent provocateurs that we keep hearing about,” Greg Hunter, a lawyer who has represented numerous Jan. 6 defendants, told The Washington Post. “It’s because they’re not there. There are a lot of people looking, and nobody’s found it.”
Nobody’s found it, and Trump and his crack legal team are not going to be the ones. That’s not their point, of course. They want to muddy the waters, make Trump out to be a victim, and keep boosting him politically, giving him false claims to fundraise off of. The campaign and the legal defense are intertwined, and both are guided by Trump’s ego.
The appearance of false claims about Jan. 6 in legal briefs dovetails with Trump’s campaign rhetoric. His lawyers asked the government in a request made public Wednesday to “identify all Capitol Police Officers present at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.” The next day, Trump promoted a social media post saying “the cops should be charged and the protesters should be freed.” The attached video showed people fighting police to break into the Capitol building.
Trump is simultaneously trying to twist the legal and political systems to serve his own self-interest. It’s unlikely to work in the courts, though he’s banking on drawing things out until he can win or steal an election and get himself off the hook legally. The question is how democracy will hold up under his continuing assault.