Trump promises to 'free' Jan. 6 rioters on first day back in White House if reelected

The Biden campaign criticized that pledge.

March 12, 2024, 2:42 PM

Former President Donald Trump says one of his first acts if elected to a second term would be to "free" people convicted for their roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, whom Trump continues to claim are "wrongfully imprisoned."

He made that promise, presumably about using the presidential pardon power, on his social media platform on Monday night. It's the latest example of how he has repeatedly defended those charged and convicted of crimes for their conduct at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump didn't specify how many of the rioters he would pardon, though he said last year that "I am inclined to pardon many of them. I can't say for every single one, because a couple of them, probably they got out of control."

The Department of Justice announced last week that, to date, nearly 1,400 people have been arrested and charged in connection with Jan. 6, with nearly 800 of them pleading guilty.

Of those charged, 127 people are accused of using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer, according to the DOJ.

Nearly 500 of the defendants have received prison sentences so far, though most of those sentenced to periods of incarceration will have already been released by January 2025, when Trump would return to the White House if reelected.

Trump has downplayed the violence that ensued that day, referring to the defendants as "J6 hostages," calling for their release and appearing at fundraisers supporting them.

At recent events, right before Trump walks on stage, his campaign has been playing "Justice for All" by the so-called "J6 Prison Choir" -- a group of men incarcerated for their roles on Jan. 6 -- singing the "Star Spangled Banner" as Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance.

PHOTO: FILE - An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Leah Millis/Reuters, FILE

The DOJ continues to arrest additional defendants accused of committing violence at the Capitol on a near-daily basis.

Among those that have received the highest sentences for their involvement in Jan. 6 Capitol attack are former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, sentenced to 22 years in prison, far-right group Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, sentenced to 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy, Peter Schwartz of Pennsylvania who was sentenced to more than 14 years, including on assault and civil disorder, and retired New York City police officer Thomas Webster, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after assaulting a Washington, D.C., officer that day.

The Biden campaign criticized Trump's latest support for Jan. 6 defendants, claiming he's "encouraging political violence" to "hold on to power."

"The American people haven't forgotten the violent attack at our Capitol on January 6 – they know Trump is too dangerous to be let anywhere near the Oval Office again, and they'll turn out to protect our democracy and keep Trump out of the White House this November," Biden campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika wrote in a statement.

ABC News' Libby Cathey and Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.