Trump Lawyer Calls Jan. 6 a Shameful ‘Riot’ in Tense Supreme Court Exchange
An attorney for former President Donald Trump argued Thursday before the US Supreme Court that the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol was just ” a riot” during a tense back-and-forth exchange with one of the high court’s liberal justices over what constitutes an “insurrection.”
Mitchell responded, “For an insurrection, there needs to be an organized, concerted effort to overthrow the government of the United States through violence.”
Brown shot back, “And so, the point is that a chaotic effort to overthrow the government is not an insurrection?”
Mitchell went on to say, “We didn’t concede that it’s an effort to overthrow the government either,” and chalked up the deadly events of January 6 to a “shameful” and “criminal” day.
“None of these criteria were met. This was a riot. It was not an insurrection. The events were shameful, criminal, violent, all of those things, but did not qualify as an insurrection as that term is used in Section 3” of the 14th Amendment, Mitchell said.
Brown’s question to Mitchell came nearly an hour after oral arguments in the case began.
Earlier, Jackson noted that the Colorado Supreme Court — which ruled that Trump incited protesters before the January 6 attack and therefore violated the 14th Amendment — qualified the events of that day as an “insurrection” as defined by Section 3.
“I read your opening brief to accept that those events counted as an insurrection, but then your reply seemed to suggest that they were not, so what is your position to that,” Brown asked Mitchell.
Mitchell explained, “We never accepted or conceded in our opening brief that this was an insurrection. What we said in our opening brief was President Trump did not engage in any act that can plausibly be characterized as an insurrection.”
The debate on whether or not to classify January 6 as an insurrection is about far more than just semantics or even the Colorado case itself. Multiple rioters have admitted in federal court that they were armed on January 6. But federal prosecutors have yet to charge Trump or any accused rioter with violating the specific federal law related to insurrections.
None of the justices seemed particularly eager to discuss that definition at length. After the arguments, most legal experts projected a narrow ruling that holds Colorado should not by itself have the power to cast a presidential candidate off of the ballot on a disputed question like this — such a view could even garner the support of all nine justices.
Trump is fighting back against the Colorado top court’s ruling that deemed him disqualified from running for president and holding office over his actions on January 6 and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
In an at-times meandering statement on Thursday, Trump once again tried to blame former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for January 6. He insisted to reporters that if January 6 met the definition of an “insurrection” it was Pelosi’s fault.
Trump harshly condemned rioters in the aftermath of January 6, saying they “defiled the seat of American democracy.” Like many other Republicans, his views of the riot have shifted over time. He has now repeatedly promised to pardon “a large portion” of those convicted of January 6-related offenses.