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Republicans find new, unsettling ways to celebrate Jan. 6 rioters

It wasn't just GOP lawmakers' visit to a D.C. jail that rankled. It was also Donald Trump playing a weird "song" a day later at a rally in Waco, Texas.


There was a degree of irony to the Republicans’ timing. Early Friday morning, Donald Trump used his social media platform to warn of possible “death [and] destruction“ if he’s indicted in New York. On Friday afternoon, some of the former president’s congressional allies organized a stunt in order to characterize those who were responsible for death and destruction on Jan. 6 as victims. NBC News reported:

Members of the House Oversight Committee on Friday toured a Washington, D.C., jail where some Jan. 6 defendants are being held and offered contrasting descriptions of conditions inside the facility. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spearheaded the visit, painted a picture of constitutional violations and overall mistreatment, while her Democratic counterparts said the defendants were being treated fairly with nothing out of the ordinary.

The GOP crew featured familiar faces: Greene was joined by, among others, Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Mike Collins of Georgia, Byron Donalds of Florida, and Anna Paulina Luna of Florida. Their message was familiar, too: The far-right Republican members insisted that the Jan. 6 rioters’ rights were being violated.

Democrats debated whether to participate in the stunt — making the delegation bipartisan risked adding a veneer of legitimacy to the tour — but some Democratic members nevertheless joined the tour of the jail in order to help set the record straight afterwards.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Texas, for example, stepped up to the microphones after Republicans had their say about the tour.

“Somebody’s got to be here to tell the truth,” Crockett, a former public defender, told reporters. “If we weren’t here, there would be no check for whatever it was that they said.” The Texas Democrat, who has experience working directly with defendants in Texas and Arkansas jails, said Jan. 6 defendants had more open space than inmates elsewhere, as well as tablets for education and entertainment. The facilities, Crockett added, “absolutely passed with flying colors,” despite GOP claims.

Rep. Robert Garcia of California, another Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee, told The New York Times, in reference to the rioters, “These people tried to overthrow our government. While Marjorie Taylor Greene wants to treat these folks as pseudo-celebrities, these folks are insurrectionists and we can’t forget that.”

All of which helped set the stage for Donald Trump to go even further in celebrating the rioters a day later.

Holding a rally in Waco, Texas — an unfortunate choice of locations, given the city’s symbolic significance — the former president peddled predictable rhetoric to his supporters, some of whom got bored and left early. As a Times report added, there was, however, one new element:

The rally featured one new twist: the playing of “Justice for All,” a song featuring the J6 Prison Choir, which is made up of men who were imprisoned for their part in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. The song, which topped some iTunes download charts, is part of a broader attempt by Mr. Trump and his allies to reframe the riot and the effort to overturn the election as patriotic. The track features the men singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” while Mr. Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance.

Before the former president even said a word, an announcer told attendees, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and place your hand over your heart.” At that point, many assumed the event would feature a standard version of the Star Spangled Banner, the Pledge of Allegiance, or both.

Instead, the crowd heard the weird “song” featuring Trump and the Jan. 6 defendants whom members of Congress had checked in on a day earlier. On screen at the venue was an accompanying video that appeared to show the Capitol Police as the aggressors during the insurrectionist violence.

We’ve come a long way since Trump, fearful of what might happen if he endorsed the violence, described Jan. 6 as a “heinous attack” on the Capitol and condemned the rioters for having “defiled the seat of American democracy.”

That, of course, was long before the Republican started promising them pardons and collaborating on hit singles with those who launched the "heinous attack."