Former President Donald Trump’s legal team has submitted a brief to the U.S. Senate arguing against the continuation of his second impeachment trial. The brief contains links to The Gateway Pundit — a far-right outlet that often falls for hoaxes and conspiracy theories — in an effort to absolve Trump and his supporters of responsibility for the January 6 insurrection.
The brief links twice to The Gateway Pundit, with one post claiming the involvement of “Boogaloo Bois” — a violent anti-government movement that exploited last summer’s racial justice protests to commit anti-police violence — in the insurrection and alleging that they are “actually a far-left group.” The brief uses this link in order to argue that the insurrectionists were “some anti-Trump, some anti-government,” and thus had “their own reasons” for storming the Capitol and for which Trump is not to be held responsible.
The second linked post, meanwhile, paints an elaborate conspiracy claiming that “the Capitol siege was the biggest political power grab in modern-day history” and the product of anti-fascist provocateurs who tricked Trump supporters into becoming involved.
In fact, the Gateway Pundit’s own content over the past month reveals the change in far-right narratives about the events of January 6: The site openly cheered it on at the time, but it now seeks to redirect blame to some imaginary left-wing bogeyman.
The insurrection suspects have nearly all been Trump supporters — and their lawyers are blaming him
In reality, the people who have been arrested for allegedly participating in the Capitol siege have almost entirely been Trump supporters, including well-to-do people who took private planes and even a since-resigned Republican state lawmaker. A report in the Los Angeles Times has found that the suspects who have been arrested since the riot have represented “a broad cross section of President Trump’s supporters — people with office jobs, kids and mortgages, and otherwise respectable public reputations,” along with some “fringe radicals.”
In addition, multiple suspects who have been arrested are now seeking lenient treatment in court — including a leading member of the Proud Boys — because, as their own lawyers have argued, they were “egged on by Donald Trump.”
The second post to which the Trump brief links claims of the January 6 insurrection: “This was ANTIFA’s proudest, and most accomplished moment yet. Known ANTIFA provocateurs have been exposed for causing the initial violence and unrest at the Capitol, but it doesn’t matter.” (This was based in part on the arrest of insurrection suspect John Sullivan, which right-wing media have latched onto due to his past attendance at Black Lives Matter events. But participants in left-wing movements have long shunned Sullivan, regarding him as an unbalanced person or perhaps even an agent provocateur with family ties to the Proud Boys.)
Though oddly enough, the Trump legal brief directly cites this blog post only to make claims about the timeline of the Capitol attack as compared to Trump’s speech to his supporters — information that could potentially have been found in any number of more reputable sources.
The Gateway Pundit initially celebrated the “patriots” and “Trump supporters” involved
On the day of the insurrection, The Gateway Pundit was one of many far-right outlets hailing the participants as “patriots,” with multiple posts on the site using that term even as the rioters fought the Capitol Police, overran the Capitol, caused members of Congress to shelter in place, and invaded Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office, as the mob of Trump supporters forced Vice President Mike Pence into hiding while Trump continued to rail against him.
The site also covered all its bets, however, with a post on January 6 alleging that “at least one bus load of Antifa goons infiltrated the Trump rally as part of a false flag operation.” However, the word choice of “patriots” for the insurrectionists continued two days later, while the country was still making sense of what had just happened.
The site also linked to a report that the Department of Defense had denied a request to send the National Guard to protect the Capitol, “as patriots overwhelm police and storm the building.” Indeed, the delays in the deployment of National Guard troops — and Trump’s reported refusal to send them while he reportedly watched the siege on TV — are just one aspect of the public case that has been made against Trump since that day.
And likewise, when Trump finally posted online messages telling his supporters to “go home with love & in peace,” he claimed the attack on the Capitol was the result of a “sacred landslide election victory” being supposedly stolen away.
But now, with the arrests ongoing and the second impeachment trial set to commence this week, both Trump’s legal team and far-right media are looking for somebody else to blame.