It’s not hard to spot Jacob Chansley in any image of the insurgent takeover of the Capitol building on Jan. 6. He’s the shirtless jackass wearing a horned helmet. The jackass who calls himself “Q Shaman.” The jackass who carried a spear into the Capitol. The jackass who wrote a note saying, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming,” before leaving it on Mike Pence’s desk in the Senate.
Chansley has become iconic for just how ridiculous the crowd pouring into the Capitol was on that day of insurrection. Not only has he succeeded in getting prison officials to feed him only organic food following his arrest, he has also secured St. Louis “super attorney” Albert Watkins to conduct his defense—that would be the same attorney who defended the gun-toting McCloskeys after they waved weapons at peaceful protesters walking through their tony neighborhood. Watkins is already making it clear what he wants for his client: a presidential pardon. After all, he argues, Chansley was only doing what Donald Trump asked of him. But Chansley—horned helmet, spear, threatening note and all—may actually be about to receive something that could be visited on a whole host of those who were with him that day: a felony charge of sedition.
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, Watkins is singing the same kind of aggrieved song for Chansley that he did for the McCloskeys. His client, he says, was “invited” to come to Washington, D.C., and was only doing what Trump asked of him. “He invited his faithful,” said Watkins, “those who had been longstanding supporters of him and his cause, those who felt for the first time in their lives that their political voices were being heard.”
If that sounds like Watkins is throwing the blame on Trump, the conservative attorney also made it clear that Trump is absolutely free to call for an insurrection any time he wants. “He’s the president. He can go wherever he wants with those that he invites.”
Watkins went on to claim that Chansley didn’t do anything violent, or even harm any property.
“He just walked in with the whole crowd that was walking in on the peaceful side of things.” That would be the peaceful side of things where the crowd had just gained access to the Capitol building by dragging police down the steps, beating them with iron pipes, then smashing their way into the building with a chunk of bike railing. That peaceful side.
As police tell their horror stories of being battered, kicked, hit with bear spray, and beaten with everything from flag poles to fire extinguishers, Watkins insists that many of the Capitol Police were “supportive of the protesters.” And that Chansley put up no fuss when reinforcements arrived to drive him from the Capitol.
“Given the peaceful and compliant fashion in which Mr. Chansley comported himself, it would be appropriate and honorable for the president to pardon Mr. Chansley and other like-minded, peaceful individuals who accepted the president’s invitation with honorable intentions,” said Watkins. Somehow, peaceful, compliant, and honorable were not the words that came to mind when watching events on Jan. 6.
Frighteningly, Trump could issue a pardon, not just for Chansley, but for everyone who carried his banner into the Capitol, tore down American flags, and smeared the walls with both blood and excrement as they went hunting members of Congress. On the other hand, federal prosecutors appear to have something else in mind.
As Politico reports, those prosecutors moved on Thursday to deny bail to Chansley, and in doing so they put down in court documents something that had not been officially said before that point. Prosecutors described the activity on Jan. 6 in terms that may seem familiar for readers of Daily Kos.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday for the first time described last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol as a “violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government” — and one they consider to still be underway.
Far from being a harmless goof, prosecutors describe Chansley as “an active participant in” and “the most prominent symbol of” this violent insurrection. They also make clear that Chansley intended to return to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to disrupt Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“At this juncture in our Nation’s history,” wrote prosecutors, “it is hard to imagine a greater risk to our democracy and community than the armed revolution of which Chansley has made himself the symbol.”
The language used by prosecutors, and especially the use of the terms “violent insurrection” and “armed revolution,” makes it increasingly likely that the “Q Shaman” and others will face not just charges of unlawful entry or curfew violations, but a felony charge of sedition—punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years.
Which doesn’t mean that Trump could not still pardon Chansley and others on his way out the door. After all, Trump has long made it clear that he regards personal loyalty to himself as far more important than loyalty to the nation. What better way to underscore that than by handing out passes to traitors?
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