Falsehoods about the election helped bring insurrectionists to the Capitol on Jan. 6, and now some who are facing criminal charges for their actions during the riot hope their gullibility might save them or at least engender some sympathy.
Lawyers for at least three defendants charged in connection with the violent siege tell The Associated Press that they will blame election misinformation and conspiracy theories, much of it pushed by then-President Donald Trump, for misleading their clients. The attorneys say those who spread that misinformation bear as much responsibility for the violence as those who participated in the actual breach of the Capitol.
“I kind of sound like an idiot now saying it, but my faith was in him,” defendant Anthony Antonio said, speaking of Trump. Antonio said he wasn’t interested in politics before pandemic boredom led him to conservative cable news and right-wing social media. “I think they did a great job of convincing people.”
After Joe Biden’s victory in last year’s presidential election, Trump and his allies repeatedly asserted that the race was stolen, even though the claims have been repeatedly debunked by officials from both parties, outside experts, and courts in several states and Trump’s own attorney general. In many cases, the baseless claims about vote dumps, ballot fraud, and corrupt election officials were amplified on social media, building Trump’s campaign to undermine faith in the election that began long before November.