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Fact check: Trump lies that Jan. 6 was ‘an insurrection caused by Nancy Pelosi’

Former President Donald Trump lied Thursday that Nancy Pelosi caused the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, making a claim that has no basis in reality. He also repeated a previous false claim that the rioters had “no guns.” And he continued to omit critical context about what he said in his speech at a rally prior to the riot.

Trump added false and misleading claims about other subjects in his Thursday comments at his Mar-a-Lago club and residence. Since Trump was speaking after the conclusion of Supreme Court oral arguments about a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that he is ineligible for the 2024 ballot because of a constitutional ban on insurrectionists holding office, we will limit this fact check to his comments related to January 6.

Pelosi and January 6

In comments to reporters on Thursday, Trump blamed the January 6 riot at the Capitol on Pelosi, the Democrat who served as speaker of the House at the time.

“I think it was an insurrection caused by Nancy Pelosi,” Trump said.

Facts First: This claim is complete fiction – an abject lie. Pelosi did not cause a mob of pro-Trump supporters inspired by Trump’s lies about the 2020 election to storm the Capitol.

Some of the rioters made threatening statements about Pelosi or shouted that they were looking to find her. Their anger at Pelosi does not make her responsible for their illegal conduct.

Pelosi spokesperson Aaron Bennett told CNN on Thursday: “No matter what unhinged lies Trump spews about the insurrection he instigated, as numerous independent fact-checkers have confirmed, Speaker Pelosi did not plan her own assassination.”

Trump has previously made a narrower claim that Pelosi was responsible for inadequate security at the Capitol on January 6. But that narrower claim is wrong, too. You can read a complete fact check on it here.

During the riot, Pelosi was filmed while on the phone with Trump’s acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller – urging him to rush Guard troops to the Capitol, telling him “just get them there” and to “just pretend for a moment this was the Pentagon or the White House or some other entity that was under siege.” Trump made no such plea. The House select committee that investigated the attack on the Capitol found that Trump did not call any “high-level Defense official” during the riot.

Guns on January 6

Trump claimed Thursday that “there were no guns, there were no anything” at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, repeating his previous claim that the rioters were completely unarmed.

Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. People who illegally entered Capitol grounds during the January 6 riot were armed with guns and a wide variety of other weapons, including stun guns, knives, batons, baseball bats and chemical sprays. The Justice Department said in an official update in January 2024 that 116 of the people who have been charged in connection to the riot “have been charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon.”

We may never get a complete inventory of the concealed weapons the rioters possessed on January 6, since nearly all of the rioters were able to leave the Capitol without being detained and searched, so it is possible that most rioters were unarmed. But it was always apparent from video footage that there were a variety of unconcealed weapons in the crowd that day – and it has been proven in court that at least some of the people who illegally entered Capitol grounds on January 6 were armed with guns.

Mark Mazza of Indiana brought two loaded handguns onto Capitol grounds on January 6; he was sentenced to 5 years in prison after pleading guilty to carrying a pistol without a license and to assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon (a baton). Another rioter who was armed with a gun on January 6, Guy Reffitt of Texas, was sentenced to more than 7 years in prison after a jury convicted him on multiple charges, including entering and remaining on restricted Capitol grounds with a firearm.

Christopher Alberts of Maryland, who had a pistol during the riot, was found guilty on multiple charges, including illegally possessing the gun on Capitol grounds, and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Jerod Thomas Bargar of Missouri pleaded guilty to entering and remaining on restricted Capitol grounds on January 6 with a pistol and received probation. Mark Ibrahim, who was an off-duty special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration at the time of the riot, has been charged with crimes including carrying a firearm on Capitol grounds on January 6; he has pleaded not guilty.

In its 2023 ruling disqualifying Trump from the Colorado ballot under the Constitution’s ban on insurrectionists holding office, the Colorado Supreme Court wrote: “Contrary to President Trump’s assertion that no evidence in the record showed that the mob was armed with deadly weapons or that it attacked law enforcement officers in a manner consistent with a violent insurrection, the district court found – and millions of people saw on live television, recordings of which were introduced into evidence in this case – that the mob was armed with a wide array of weapons.”

What Trump said on January 6

Trump said Thursday that in his January 6 speech at a rally in Washington before the riot, “I said, ‘Peacefully and patriotically.’ The speech was called ‘peacefully and patriotically.’ It’s ‘peacefully and patriotically.’” He said he delivered the “exact opposite” of the “bad statements” others have claimed he made.

Facts First: Trump left out key context about this speech. He did make one call for peaceful protest in the speech, saying, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” But he also made numerous other remarks in the speech in which he struck a far more combative tone.

Trump, for example, urged Republicans to stop fighting like a boxer “with his hands tied behind his back,” saying, “We want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people. And we’re going to have to fight much harder.” Trump told marchers, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness.” After urging congressional Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College results, Trump said, “And fraud breaks up everything, doesn’t it? When you catch somebody in a fraud, you’re allowed to go by very different rules.”

Trump alleged that there would be dire consequences if his supporters did not take immediate action – saying that, if Biden took office, “You will have an illegitimate president. That’s what you’ll have. And we can’t let that happen.” And he said, “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump also spent much of the speech laying out a false case that the election was marred by massive fraud. And he falsely claimed, “We won this election and we won it by a landslide.”

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