The conspiracy theorist who stormed the U.S. Capitol sporting a fur hat and horns is willing to testify against former U.S. president Donald Trump at his Senate impeachment trial, says his lawyer.
Jacob Chansley, a longtime Trump supporter from Arizona known as the “QAnon Shaman,” is one of at least four people facing federal charges related to the Jan. 6 riot who claim the former president incited them to action that day.
“My client was, just like tens of thousands of others, just like the high school students being jazzed up by their coach before a big game on a Friday night,” Chansley’s lawyer, Albert Watkins, told As It Happens host Carol Off.
He said this does not excuse his client’s behaviour but “does, however, mitigate that culpability.”
Trump faces his second Senate impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, on charges of incitement of insurrection.
In impeaching him, the U.S. House of Representatives alleged the former president provoked his followers into seizing control of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 with his inflammatory rhetoric and repeated false assertions that he, in fact, won the recent presidential election.
“The president, in a very propaganda-ridden series of words, basically put my client and tens of thousands of others in a position of genuinely believing that they were being invited by the president to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol to save our great country,” Watkins said.
Five people were killed during the chaos and violence that day. One was a Capitol Hill police officer. Trump later denounced the violence and some of his supporters have denied he was responsible.
‘The man behind the horn and the fur’
Chansley is a well-known figure at Trump rallies and among those who subscribe to QAnon, a complex and wide-ranging conspiracy theory that paints Trump as the hero standing against an evil cabal of Democrats and Hollywood elites who run a global pedophile ring and drink the blood of children.
He’s currently behind bars on charges including civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct in a restricted building and demonstrating in a Capitol building. He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Washington.
In successfully seeking his detention until trial, prosecutors said Chansley went into the Capitol carrying a U.S. flag attached to a wooden pole topped with a spear, ignored an officer’s commands to leave, went into the Senate chamber and wrote a threatening note to outgoing vice-president Mike Pence.
When pressed about those charges, Chansley’s lawyer insisted his client was “peaceful” throughout the riot, and that “the spear is not a functional spear.”
“He’s a longstanding and committed follower of the shaman faith. This is his attire. It is something that he wears and has worn at not just at Trump rallies, but over the course of his adult life,” he said.
“You have to get to know the man behind the horn and the fur.”
Watkins said he hasn’t spoken to any member in the Senate about having his client testify at the impeachment trial. But he says it’s important for senators to hear from someone who was incited by Trump.
“[Trump] is charged with inciting insurrection. In order to prevail in a legal action of that nature, you have to demonstrate that, in fact, the state of mind of the incited was such that they felt the president had been responsible for them taking those steps that they took,” he said.
Watson also says Chansley is the early stages of disentangling himself from QAnon. He say his client feels betrayed after the former president left office without offering pardons to him and the others charged for storming the Capitol.
“I can tell you that my client’s process of deprogramming is not one which is complete,” the lawyer said.
“We all are deprogrammed when we’re betrayed, whether it’s our first love of our life, or whether it’s the mail man with our significant other, it doesn’t matter. The betrayal is something that requires a process, a process to reconcile. My client is in the middle of that process.”
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Albert Watkins produced by Chris Harbord.