QAnon Shaman Was Just Following Orders, He Can Have Pardon?
This past Saturday, Jacob Anthony Chansley, aka Jake Angeli, aka the QAnon Shaman, was taken into police custody and charged with "knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds." Since then, he briefly went on a hunger strike demanding to be fed organic food, which his mother claims he will be physically ill without — though it has not been specified if this is a religious or physical requirement. Despite reports to the contrary, Chansley has not, in fact, been granted an "organic diet."
Chansley's lawyer, Albert Watkins, is now pushing the line that either the charges against him should be dropped or that Trump should pardon him, because of how he was just following orders.
In an interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN last night, Watkins explained that Chansley basically worshiped Trump and listened to everything he said and therefore, when Trump told them to go down to the Capitol, he thought doing that was totally fine.
Watkins, Chansley's attorney, said on Thursday that his client, "like a lot of other disenfranchised people in our country, felt very, very, very solidly in sync" with the president — suggesting Chansley was incited to storm the Capitol in Trump's name.
"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."
Cuomo seemed skeptical that Chansley or anyone else would actually believe the things Trump said and take him at his word, but I think it's beyond clear that a whole lot of people did just that. They absolutely believed every single thing Trump said and thought that everyone but him was lying. And like I've mentioned 87,000 times before ... these people have also been told, repeatedly, for decades, that the Second Amendment gives them the right to overthrow the government if things don't go their way. This is not a defense of these people or their actions, but the fact is, there are consequences to telling people that, just like there are consequences to electing someone like Trump.
There are people who knew better, who knew he was full of shit, who voted for him anyway just because they really hated Mexican people or women. There are people who know that people who try to assassinate world leaders or overthrow the government will end up in prison, but tell people that it's totally fine and okay for them to do that so long as they are "patriots" — because there is a lot of money in telling those people that.
Trump is absolutely responsible for all of this. He incited it. He knew those people would do anything for him and they did. It is very possible that, because of that, many of them truly didn't think they were doing anything criminal. That doesn't mean it was actually legal.
This is not the first time a defense attorney has tried the "Trump made me do it" defense. MAGA bomber Cesar Sayoc's lawyers tried the same thing — and the judge did buy it. A little. He reduced his sentence from 50 years to 20 as a result. Lawyers for Patrick Stein, who was arrested and convicted of a conspiracy to bomb Somali immigrants, argued that he had sincerely believed Trump when he said that the immigrants were all terrorists and rapists.
As ridiculous as it seems to believe anything Trump says, it's naïve to assume that no one will. This was one of the dangers of his presidency to begin with, one of the things people warned about — that people would believe him and act on his incendiary lies. It's almost surprising that it wasn't worse than this.
Watkins admitted that a pardon was likely, but that as Chanley's attorney, it was his job to give it a shot.
Watkins acknowledged, however, that his plea was unlikely to succeed. "Am I holding my breath thinking that Donald Trump is going to be sitting around going, 'You know what? … What's the name of that guy with the horns? Yeah … let's give him a pardon.'"
But "with Trump, you never know," Watkins said. "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."
He's not wrong there.
Where he is wrong, however, is in the fact that he describes Chanley as like ... some peaceful, organic food eating, hippie shaman guy, which he's not. You can't really be that person and also be into Donald Trump, QAnon, and storming the Capitol with a giant spear. If you think Donald Trump, shady ass billionaire and professional bigot, is "giving you a voice," if you are marching with dudes wearing "Camp Auschwitz" t-shirts, you are not a freaking flower child.
Also rather difficult to jibe with "flower child" is a note Chanley reportedly left on Mike Pence's desk reading "It's only a matter of time, justice is coming," which prosecutors are saying is evidence that he planned on capturing and assassinating government officials. I don't know that one can really read into the mind or intentions of this kind of guy without the assistance of a lot of PCP, but it certainly doesn't sound great.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse