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Former Washington AG: Would be difficult to convict Trump for inciting riot at Capitol

President Trump delivering a speech in front of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2021. (Getty Images)

While many leaders and lawmakers place the blame for Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol building at the feet of President Trump, former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna believes it would prove difficult to convict him for inciting a riot in a court of law.

Trump delivered remarks to a crowd of thousands at the Ellipse in front of the White House on Wednesday morning, saying that he would “never concede,” repeating claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and that he would “not let them silence your voices.”

And while that — and speeches from his son Donald Trump Jr. and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — riled up the crowd enough to see it eventually march down Pennsylvania Avenue and storm into the Capitol building, it doesn’t likely meet the legal bar for inciting a riot.

Opinion: WA Republicans share blame for Trump mob’s insurrection

“At no point, as far as I could tell, did he say, ‘go to the Capitol and storm the barricades,'” KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross pointed out.

“That’s part of what’s so disturbing about the president’s actions, that he apparently did not tell them to march to the Capitol and break in and commit violence against people or property,” McKenna noted. “That’s the legal requirement for charging someone with incitement to riot under federal law.”

However, McKenna points out that Trump’s actions over the last few months — as well as his speech Wednesday — still were the driving force behind the events that transpired at the nation’s Capitol, even if that wouldn’t necessarily hold up in court.

“If we don’t think that leaders who act irresponsibly and say things deliberately designed to stir people up cause real harm, this is Exhibit A,” he said. “It traces back to the president’s statements and actions, and his continued insistence that the election was stolen from him.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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