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Trump pledges to release Capitol rioters

The Republican candidate described his jailed supporters as “hostages” and vowed to set them free immediately after taking office

Former US President Donald Trump has said that freeing the “wrongfully imprisoned” Capitol Hill rioters will be one of his “first acts” if he returns to the White House. Nearly 1,400 Trump supporters have been arrested and charged for taking part in the January 6 protest.

In a post on his Truth Social platform on Monday, Trump said: “My first acts as your next President will be to Close the Border, DRILL, BABY, DRILL, and Free the January 6 Hostages being wrongfully imprisoned!”

A crowd of Trump’s supporters descended on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from certifying what they believed was Joe Biden’s fraudulent victory in the presidential election the previous November. The demonstration quickly degenerated into a riot, although US Capitol Police restored order within hours.

Biden and his Democrat allies labeled the affray an “insurrection,” and the US Justice Department launched an unprecedented manhunt to track down and arrest those who took part. As of last week, 1,358 people have been charged in relation to the riot, most of them for misdemeanor trespassing offenses. However, 127 have been charged with using weapons or injuring police officers, and even those convicted of non-violent crimes have received lengthy prison terms. 

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Trump is facing federal charges for allegedly instigating the riot. According to government prosecutor Jack Smith, the former president sparked the unrest and committed conspiracy against the United States by telling his supporters to “fight like hell” against Congress’ certification of Biden’s win. According to Trump’s lawyers, the then-president was well within his rights to give such a speech, during which he also encouraged his followers to protest “peacefully and patriotically.”

A Washington DC appeals court has yet to decide whether presidential immunity should shield Trump from being prosecuted over the speech.

Trump has referred to the rioters as “political prisoners,” and suggested that he would pardon some of them if re-elected. “I am inclined to pardon many of them,” he said at a CNN town hall event last year. “I can’t say for every single one, because a couple of them, probably they got out of control,” he added. 

READ MORE: Trump challenges Biden to debate ‘anytime, anywhere’

With his last remaining rival, Nikki Haley, suspending her presidential campaign last week, Trump is all but certain to be the Republican Party’s nominee to take on Biden in this November’s presidential election. Most recent opinion polls show Trump leading the incumbent Democrat by between two and nine points.


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