A lawyer for Jacob Chansley, the “QAnon shaman” who took part in the rioting at the U.S. Capitol last week, is calling on President Trump to pardon his client and to “stand up and own these people” who participated in the unrest.
In an appearance on CNN on Thursday, attorney Albert Watkins said his client “felt like he was answering the call of our president” when he stormed the U.S. Capitol with a pro-Trump mob last week. He likened the president’s supporters who participated in the siege to the Jonestown cult members who committed mass suicide in 1978.
“You know the only thing different here? There’s no Kool-Aid,” he said.
Chansley, a 33-year-old man from Phoenix who was one of the first three people indicted by federal prosecutors in connection with the unrest, gained widespread notoriety for dressing as a Viking – wearing a headdress and face paint and carrying a six-foot spear — inside the Capitol during the breach.
He is charged with a felony violation of the Federal Anti-Riot Act, obstruction of Congress and other offenses.
In a memo requesting that Chansley be kept in detention, Justice Department lawyers in Arizona wrote that “strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol” show that rioters’ intent was to “capture and assassinate elected officials.”
Watkins said Chansley “like a lot of other disenfranchised people in our country, felt very, very, very solidly in sync” with Trump.
“He felt like his voice was, for the first time, being heard,” Watkins said. “And what ended up happening, over the course of the lead-up to the election, over the course of the period from the election to Jan. 6 — it was a driving force by a man he hung his hat on, he hitched his wagon to. He loved Trump. Every word, he listens to him.”
Ahead of the rioting at the Capitol, Trump held a rally at the White House urging his supporters to march on the Capitol while Congress met to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said. He also said that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Watkins argued that the president’s words “meant something, not just to my client.”
“They meant something to a lot of people,” he said. “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 strewed forth worldwide.”
“And they did. And now they’re turning around [and] they’re getting arrested, as well many should be.”
Nevertheless, Trump “needs to stand up and own these people,” Watkins argued. “He has an obligation to them. He has an obligation to our nation. It’s not going to happen.”
When asked by host Chris Cuomo what he would like the president to do, Watkins responded: “Oh, give a pardon.”
As Chansley’s attorney, “my role is not to judge somebody. My role is to be an advocate,” Watkins said. “If there’s one iota of a chance that the guy who’s the president of our country — who invited everybody down Pennsylvania [Avenue] — will give my client a pardon, you know what? I’m going to do it.”
He said he is not holding his breath thinking the president will pardon Chansley, but said, “with Trump, you never know.”
“He may say, ‘I want the guy with the horns.’ Next thing you know, maybe he’s represented by the shaman instead of Rudy Giuliani.”