Trump rallies supporters in Iowa on Capitol riot anniversary

In a speech, Trump mocks Biden as a stutterer and slams both Haley and DeSantis as soft on border security

By AFP

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Supporters wait for the start of the campaign event held by Donald Trump in Newton, Iowa. — Reuters
Supporters wait for the start of the campaign event held by Donald Trump in Newton, Iowa. — Reuters

Published: Sat 6 Jan 2024, 10:12 PM

Donald Trump is hitting the campaign trail on Saturday in the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating state of Iowa as Americans mark the third anniversary of the deadly assault on the US Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

People watched in horror on January 6, 2021, as TV images beamed into homes nationwide showed rioters — egged on by the ex-president and fuelled by his false claims of voter fraud — storming the seat of US democracy in a bid to halt the transfer of power.

Trump, the runaway leader in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was impeached for inciting insurrection and faces multiple felony charges over his conduct leading up to and during the violence.

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He will headline a rally in the town of Newton in the midwestern state of Iowa, near state capital Des Moines, before delivering remarks at a middle school in Clinton, on the Illinois border.

"Ten days from now the people of this state are going to cast the most important vote of your entire lives," Trump told a crowd in the town of Sioux Center on Friday as he kicked off his Iowa visit.

"Our country's going to hell."

President Joe Biden, who offered blistering criticism of Trump in a speech on Friday, has no public events planned this weekend, the White House said.

Trump leads rivals Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis by more than 30 points in Iowa, which stages its Republican nominating contest — known as a "caucus" — on January 15, kicking off the 2024 primary season.

In his far-ranging speech, Trump mocked Biden as a stutterer and slammed both Haley and DeSantis as soft on border security.

But the announcements for his speeches Saturday did not mention the January 6 anniversary, and the Trump campaign did not respond when asked if he planned to address the subject.

Trump has described January 6 as "a beautiful day" and has made the "great patriots" and "hostages" imprisoned over the riot a cause celebre, vowing to pardon many if elected.

The false claim that Democratic election theft led to January 6 has become orthodoxy among many Republicans, with hard-liners in Congress promoting the fantasy that the chaos at the Capitol was a "false flag" operation by federal agents.

A Washington Post/University of Maryland poll released on Thursday found that 44 per cent of Trump voters believe the FBI organised and encouraged the riot.

But polls also show that Democrats and independents hold strongly negative views of the riot and the rioters, and of Trump's role in encouraging them.

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"We will never forget the horrific events of January 6, 2021," Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a statement Saturday, adding that those responsible "must be held accountable, because in this country no one is above the law."

The House, controlled at the time by the Democrats, impeached Trump for inciting the violence, which was linked to the deaths of five police officers and several rioters, although he was acquitted by allies in the Senate and denies all wrongdoing.

A later congressional investigation concluded that the violence was the culmination of a criminal conspiracy led by Trump to subvert the election. Separately, the ex-president is facing multiple federal and state felony charges related to the events.

Democrats plan to make the tycoon's conduct on January 6 a key campaign issue, pointing to the 450-plus Trump supporters jailed over allegations ranging from seditious conspiracy to trespassing and assaulting police.

In his speech Friday in Pennsylvania, Biden framed the election as a test of the robustness of the republic and he highlighted the Capitol riot as a demonstration of Trump's threat to democracy.

He also accused his predecessor of echoing Nazis with his rhetoric on immigration, accusing him of being willing to "sacrifice our democracy" to regain power.

Trump retorted at his Sioux Center event that Biden was merely trying to distract from a White House term that has been "an unbroken streak of weakness, incompetence, corruption and failure."


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