NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Several Texans and others arrested for rioting and storming the gates at U.S. Capitol were among those holding out hope that President Donald Trump would have used some of his last hours in office to grant them a full pardon.
Longtime advisers to Trump reportedly urged him against such a move but the rioters contend their argument is compelling: They went to the Capitol to support Trump, and now that they are facing charges carrying up to 20 years in prison, it’s time for Trump to support them.
“I feel like I was basically following my president. I was following what we were called to do. He asked us to fly there. He asked us to be there. So I was doing what he asked us to do,” said Jenna Ryan, a Dallas-area real-estate agent who took a private jet to the January 6 rally and ensuing riot to disrupt the certification of the election of President-elect Joe Biden.
Ryan — who prosecutors say posted a now-deleted video of herself marching to the Capitol with the words, “We are going to f—ing go in here. Life or death” — told CBS 11 News: “I think we all deserve a pardon. I’m facing a prison sentence. I think I do not deserve that.”
Perhaps the most high-profile rioter, the so-called “QAnon Shaman” who broke into the Senate chamber and posed at the dais with a spear, wearing a horned fur hat and animal skins, is also pleading for a pardon.
Jacob Chansley’s lawyer said he reached out to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about a possible pardon on behalf of the Arizona man, acknowledging it might be a reach but that there was nothing to lose in seeking one.
If Chansley is not granted a pardon, attorney Albert Watkins said, it could offer the added benefit of further awakening his client to the fact that his devotion to Trump has not been reciprocated, comparing it to being a jilted lover or even a member of a cult.
“The only thing that was missing at the Capitol was the president, our president, stirring up the Kool-Aid with a big spoon,” Watkins said.
Dominic Pezzola, a New York, man and far-right Proud Boys supporter who was seen in a video using a clear police shield to shatter a Capitol window, also explored seeking a pardon but his attorney said there was not enough time to make it happen.
“To believe the president is going to carte blanche issue these pardons is kind of a fantasy,” defense attorney Mike Scibetta told the Associated Press. “I think it would cast a shadow on his own impeachment defense.”
Trump waited until the early morning hours of Inauguration Day to issue a flurry of pardons that didn’t include any of the mob.
Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz said the more than 150 rioters arrested so far and the thousands more suspected should not have been on the list.
Dershowitz, who represented Trump in his first impeachment last year, told the AP he wasn’t approached by any of the rioters about seeking a pardon but even if he had, “it would be wrong to pardon rioters who committed crimes.”
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who speaks often with Trump, was among the confidantes who urged the president not to go there.
“I don’t care if you went there and spread flowers on the floor, you breached the security of the Capitol, you interrupted a joint session of Congress, you tried to intimidate us all,” Graham said on Fox News. “You should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and to seek a pardon of these people would be wrong.”
He had warned that such a move “would destroy President Trump.”
Pardons normally go through an extensive vetting process within the Department of Justice. The Office of the Pardon Attorney, which handles these reviews, did not respond to a request for comment, but former federal prosecutors said Trump giving clemency to those at the Capitol would be highly unusual.
Such pardons would be “a slap in the face to the law enforcement officers who protected the Capitol and our leaders who were inside,” said Joe Brown, who until last year was a U.S. attorney in Texas.
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, said Trump’s use of his clemency powers has set up a “spoils system” for his allies and pardoning the insurrectionists would have been a more extreme version.
“That this president might be willing, even to pardon those who rose up against the United States,” he said, “would be the ultimate statement of his perversion of the purpose behind pardons.”
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)