"I did what my president told me to:" How Donald Trump's own supporters are convicting him of inciting insurrection

Trump-supporting domestic terrorists who stormed the US Capitol on January 6 are beginning to get rounded up, and a good number of them are settling on a familiar defense: I only did what my president told me to.

The lawyer for Jacob Chansley of Arizona, the man seen at the Capitol Hill insurrection carrying a spear, appealed publicly for Donald Trump to pardon his client, specifically because, his lawyer said, Chansley's crimes sprouted from believing and heeding Trump's calls to overturn the election.

Jenna Ryan, the North Texas real estate agent who took a private plane to DC (because you know, uh, economic anxiety) and stood in front of a broken Capitol window with a 'V' sign, went a step further and said Trump should pardon all Hill insurrectionists because they had all been there at the president's invitation and were only answering his call to arms.

This line is unlikely to hold up as a defense in a court of law unless those using the defense are willing to plead 'not guilty by reason of insanity' and further argue that they should themselves be committed to a psychiatric facility. But that line of defense, coming from a preponderance of Trump-loving domestic terrorists, is quite inconvenient for the second president of the confederacy.

If a good number of 1/6 terrorists assert - either as an exonerating argument or a mitigating circumstance - that they believed they were merely acting as agents of the president of the United States, Donald Trump's culpability into the charge of inciting the insurrection becomes a matter of record - court record. His fans would in essence be testifying that Donald Trump incited them to commit the crimes they did at the Capitol.

One thing that is important to understand here is that the incitement to the 1/6 insurrection at the Capitol was not a matter of just a single speech Trump gave from behind a barricade of bulletproof glass to his unwashed supplicants on that day. The argument Trump's followers are making across the country isn't that one speech sent them down to the Capitol to loot public property, violently attack law enforcement, and call for the hanging of the presidential line of succession, though that speech was the immediate precipitating event. They are saying that the months-long campaign by Trump himself to spread the big lie that the election was going to be - and eventually was - stolen was at the root of the insurrection. The months-long drumbeat, the spreading of disinformation, and the unprecedented pressuring of public officials - by Donald Trump - were all critical to the setting of the false narrative that the violent mob (and others) saw as incontrovertible truth.

That much is becoming self-evident not just from the arguments being presented by those who are being arrested but from newly released videos of the coup as it was happening in real-time. As they confronted badly outnumbered police initially after storming the capitol, the Trump mob told officers that the president sent them and demanded the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence after Trump accused him of disloyalty.

With every passing day, the evidence is growing that as Congress met to do its Constitutional duty to count the electoral votes for president and vice president, the pro-Trump mob that ransacked the citadel of American democracy was not merely there to advocate for and 'protect' Trump. They believed that they were there at the explicit instruction of Donald J. Trump. Many even considered themselves deputized by the sitting commander-in-chief. And as demonstrated by Ryan's comments, many believed that what they were doing could not be illegal because the president was asking them to do it.

That does not make the perpetrators any less guilty, but it does make Donald Trump the leader of the pack, almost in a religious sense. And it also means that were Trump to pardon the rioters before he left office, it would only speak to his own corrupt intent. That, in turn, means, no dice for the Trump sheep seeking the pardons.

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