Does Albert Watkins represent Jake Angeli, the All-Organic QAnon Wonder Shaman? Or does he represent Senate Democrats? Take a listen to Watkins’ interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo last night and try to answer that question. Watkins wants Donald Trump to pardon Angeli (also known as Jacob Chansley) and everyone else who stormed the Capitol on January 6, because Watkins argues they were only “answering the call” sent out by Trump in the first place.
To quote Admiral Akbar — it’s a trap:
Capitol riot suspect Jacob Chansley, known as the "Qanon shaman," is asking for a pardon from President Trump, saying he believed Trump had invited him to enter the Capitol, says his attorney.
My client "felt he was answering the call of our President," says Albert Watkins. pic.twitter.com/iccAp5sRDO
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) January 15, 2021
Here’s the money bit:
CUOMO: He’s in a place he’s not supposed to be. I don’t care if somebody held the door open for him or not. The reason they were probably holding the door on, as best we believe right now, is because there was a mob of angry people herding them, and overwhelming them, and he was walking around with a six-foot spear.
All that to the side, the President, and his defenders, say “Whoa! I never told them to do anything like this. This was just me saying “Pay attention! We’re angry about this! Let your voice be heard!” Nobody told them to break into the Capitol.” Your response?
WATKINS: Right. Well we all have to understand that the words that were spoken by the President meant something, not just to my client. They meant something to a lot of people. They listened to those words. And those words meant something to them, and they had a right to rely on the words of their President that was spewed forth worldwide, and they did.
That is precisely the case House Democrats made in their impeachment. It’s also the case that Senate Democrats will make in an impeachment trial, assuming one materializes next week (or at all). They want to paint Trump as the author of the “abysmal, horrible compromise of our democracy” on January 6th, as Watkins describes the sacking of the Capitol. In fact, House impeachment managers might have difficulty putting it more succinctly in their opening statement than Watkins.
With that in mind, should Trump issue such a pardon? Before answering, bear in mind that the Department of Justice thinks they’re building solid cases against Angeli and his fellow berserkers not just for rioting but for sedition. And it seems like Angeli/Chansley is bound and determined to help them make it too:
Federal prosecutors on Thursday for the first time described last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol as a “violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government” — and one they consider to still be underway.
The language was included in a filing in federal district court in Arizona, intended to deny bail to Jacob Anthony Chansley, a man they describe as “an active participant in” and “the most prominent symbol of” the insurrection. …
Prosecutors say Chansley has expressed his intention of returning to Washington for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden — and that his pending criminal case is unlikely to be a deterrent.
“Chansley told the FBI prior to his arrest that he’ll ‘still go, you better believe it,’” prosecutors said in the 18-page filing. “His status as a symbol of the insurrection, his actions inside the Capitol building, and his demonstrated disregard of orders while inside with the goal of disrupting official Congressional proceedings, demonstrate the danger his release would pose.”
With all of these currents still swirling, a pardon would be the dumbest move possible. Trump would walk right into the trap being set for him with pardons of anyone, especially Watkins’ client, by explicitly owning the revolt and being seen as still promoting it. Most Republican resistance to conviction would have to crumble at that point, and Mitch McConnell might even agree to a special session if such a pardon emerges. One has to wonder whether McConnell has explained this to Trump’s inner circle as well as Watkins did last night.
Update: This might be another reason not to break out the pardon pad:
The self-styled “QAnon Shaman” seeking a pardon from President Trump for storming the US Capitol sought to kill elected officials during the deadly siege – and left a threatening note for Vice President Mike Pence, federal prosecutors said. …
“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” federal prosecutors in Phoenix wrote.
The 18-page memo also alleges that Chansley, who remains held in a federal lockup in Phoenix, left behind a note for Pence on the Senate chamber dias – just minutes after the vice president left.
“It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming,” the note read, according to federal prosecutors.
Chansley told investigators that he didn’t intend the note as a threat. They beg to differ — and one has to assume that Pence probably does as well.