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Republicans ignore rally for pro-Trump insurrectionists out of fear — not principle

Many GOP lawmakers are steering clear of an event that could place them in legal trouble.

Ahead of a rally planned for this weekend in Washington in support of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, several Republican lawmakers are trying to publicly distance themselves from the event.

Some of the GOP legislators bucking the "Justice for J6" rally have previously shown support for rioters who participated in the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. For many of these Republicans, avoiding Saturday’s gathering is likely more of a sign of their precarious legal position than their principles.

Even some congressional Trump loyalists like Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally just before rioters stormed the Capitol, have said they won't attend. Both Cawthorn and fellow Trump cheerleader Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Ga., have claimed some of the rioters were unfairly prosecuted, yet both will be skipping the event Saturday, according to their spokespeople.

Illustration of the Capitol riot in Washington and former President Donald Trump.
Chelsea Stahl / MSNBC; Getty Images

There are a host of reasons for Republican lawmakers to avoid the event — the most glaring of which is that many of them may become subjects in the ongoing House investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. People like Cawthorn and Greene, who either spoke at the pro-Trump gathering ahead of the Capitol attack or reportedly have ties to some of the insurrectionists, could put themselves in legal peril by attending Saturday's rally as the Jan. 6 committee deepens their probe.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who spoke with Trump as the insurrection was underway, also said he would not attend the event. House Republicans have largely followed his lead.

"Justice for J6" organizers have tried to downplay the pro-Trump fervor behind the gathering — a rally in clear support of insurrectionists who sought to keep Trump in power past his term.

“This event is 100% about #JusticeforJ6 and not the election or any candidate,” tweeted organizer Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign staffer.

In true Trump fashion, the former president undermined whatever pretense there was that the rally would be nonpolitical.

Braynard and other rally organizers have instructed attendees not to wear “any clothing or have signs supportive of either President Trump or Biden.”

But in true Trump fashion, the former president undermined whatever pretense there was that the event would be nonpolitical, predictably placing himself at the center of the controversy in a statement Thursday.

“Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump said.

But he claimed he wasn’t going to the rally because it was a “setup,” despite being coordinated by one of his own former staffers.

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