By MICHELLE STODDART, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is defending his supporters who violently assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6, claiming they posed “zero threat,” despite the riot resulting in multiple deaths and injuries as well as property destruction.
He also alleged his supporters were being persecuted during a phone interview Thursday night with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, asserting the rioters were “hugging and kissing” Capitol Police officers.
The riot led to more than 50 injuries and left five dead, authorities have said, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.
Rioters also threatened members of Congress and called for then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol at the time, to be hanged.
“It was zero threat, right from the start, it was zero threat,” Trump told Fox. “Look, they went in, they shouldn’t have done it. Some of them went in, and they are hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know, they had great relationships, and a lot of the people were waived in, and then they walked in and they walked out.”
He also compared the riot to protests for racial justice over the summer of 2020 , saying his supporters were being prosecuted when Black Lives Matter protesters weren’t.
“They don’t go after those people, but they go after people, I guess you would call them lean toward the right, and they wave American flags, in many cases, they are waving the American flag, and they love our country,” Trump said.
Trump did concede, when asked, that the rioters who committed crimes should be prosecuted, but asserted that “everybody has to be treated equally,” referring to Black Lives Matter protesters.
“And I’ll tell you what, they’re doing things to those–they’re persecuting a lot of those people,” he said of the Capitol rioters. “And some of them should be, some things should happen to them, but when I look at antifa in Washington even, what they did to Washington, what they did to other locations, and the destruction and frankly the killing and the beating up of people, and nothing happens to them whatsoever,” Trump said.
Those comments echoed sentiments he expressed in a video he released on the afternoon of the Jan 6. riot, telling supporters at the Capitol, “we love you, you’re very special,” adding “I know how you feel, but go home.”
The Justice Department and FBI have continued their investigation of the Capitol riot, which has led to more than 300 arrests. A Justice Department filing from early March described the investigation of the violent uprising as likely “one of the largest” probes in U.S. history.
“The investigation and prosecution of the Capitol Attack will likely be one of the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence,” the filing stated. “Over 300 individuals have been charged in connection with the Capitol Attack. The investigation continues and the government expects that at least one hundred additional individuals will be charged.”
Prosecutors say they have executed at least 900 search warrants in almost every state, and have accumulated more than 15,000 hours of video evidence. In that filling, they also estimated that the discoverable material and number of defendants charged will “only grow.”
During the interview, Trump also criticized President Joe Biden who held his first formal news conference Thursday, saying he was asked “softball” questions.
“Well, they were strange questions, and they were asked in a very interesting way. It was like softballs, like you are throwing softballs up, and it is just a different world,” Trump said. “Nobody has seen anything like it.”
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