The U.S. Justice Department said this week that former president Donald Trump’s delusional claims that he’ll be reinstated to the White House could fuel more political violence from his supporters.
Trump and some of his allies on the right-wing fringe have pushed the ridiculous theory that he could be reinstated as president next month. There is no legal or constitutional mechanism for that to happen, and Trump’s claims of a “stolen” 2020 election have been fully debunked.
Federal prosecutors brought up Trump’s rhetoric this week in one of the U.S. Capitol riot cases.
The rioter, Marine Corps veteran Alex Harkrider, asked a judge to discontinue his GPS tracking and remove his ankle monitor. The Justice Department opposes this request, saying Trump’s rhetoric could inspire Harkrider to become violent in the future. Harkrider has pleaded not guilty.
“Former President Trump continues to make false claims about the election, insinuate that he may be reinstalled in the near future as President without another election, and minimize the violent attack on the Capitol,” prosecutors wrote in the filing. “Television networks continue to carry and report on those claims, with some actually giving credence to the false reporting.”
Prosecutors continued, linking Trump’s rhetoric to the Capitol rioter’s case: “The defendant in this case is not a good candidate to be out in the community without electronic monitoring to ensure the safety of the community and the safety of democracy in the current environment.”
This isn’t the first time Trump’s post-presidency lying about the 2020 election became an issue for some of his ardent supporters who were charged in connection with the Capitol insurrection.
Earlier this spring, federal judges and prosecutors cited Trump’s rhetoric during detention hearings for some of the Capitol rioters. Judges and prosecutors alike were concerned that Trump’s words could once again incite political violence.
And last month, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that Trump’s “reinstatement” fantasies could lead to more violence this summer from right-wing extremists.
Trump’s language made it more difficult for some of his supporters to argue that they could safely be released from jail before trial.
In the Harkrider case, prosecutors say he tried to “obstruct the historically peaceful transition of power and overthrow the government” on January 6. He brought a tomahawk ax to the Capitol that day — his lawyers claimed it was only for self-protection from Black Lives Matter and Antifa.
He asked the judge to remove his GPS tracking. His lawyer says he’s paying a monthly fee of US$110 for the monitoring, which is difficult because he “lives on a small pension from the Government, which he receives for his total disability” from his military service. He was a lance corporal in the Marines and served in Iraq and Afghanistan before exiting the military in 2012.
“This is a financial, emotional and physical hardship for Mr. Harkrider,” his lawyer wrote.
As of Friday morning, federal Judge Thomas Hogan hasn’t issued a decision about the GPS monitoring. He released Harkrider from jail in April after he spent three months behind bars.