'Two-tiered justice': Republican presidential candidates slammed for floating MAGA rioter pardons
As longtime Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was handed his sentencing of 22 years in prison by a Washington, DC federal judge for his involvement in organizing the January 6, 2021 insurrection on the United States Capitol this week, Republican leaders rushed to defend those involved in the attack and even threatened future violence, The Daily Beast senior columnist Matt Lewis writes in a recent op-ed.
Tarrio was the last of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers leaders to be sentenced, while more than 1,000 other rioters have also been charged and sentenced across the country this year.
Lewis points to the fact Florida governor and 2024 GOP hopeful Ron DeSantis, former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Pailin, ex-Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, and DeSantis' rival — biotech multimillionaire Vivek Ramaswamy, all painted January 6 rioters as heroes. DeSantis and Ramaswamy both suggested they would work to pardon rioters if elected.
Regarding to DeSantis' warning that he'd pardon the "excessive sentences" and his comparing of Black Lives Matter protestors to January 6 rioters, Lewis writes:
There is the implication that America now has a two-tiered justice system, where people on the right are being targeted and receiving 'excessive' sentences (never mind the fact that Tarrio's sentence was handed down by a Trump-appointed judge—or that sentences handed down were below what the government was seeking).
The columnist notes that "Scott Adams, the right-wing creator of the 'Dilbert' comic strip, tweeted this week that '2024 isn't a presidential election. It's a pardon hearing for J6. Treat it that way.' It's a message that the rioters, themselves, have embraced. 'Oh, I know [Trump will] pardon us,' Joe Biggs, a Proud Boys member who was sentenced to 17 years in prison, declared recently. 'I believe that with all my heart.'"
Regardless of the sentencing, it seems likely that the fate of the Capitol rioters will ultimately be determined based on which party wins next year’s presidential election. So while their prosecution wasn't politically motivated, their pardoning most certainly would be.
He adds, "2024 won't just be about pardoning the Jan. 6 rioters; the 2024 election may very well impact whether [ex-President] Donald Trump is in a position to pardon himself," emphasizing that Republican leaders have pointed to the potential of violence if Trump loses again.
Lewis points to ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who said this week, "People in power use their police agencies to arrest their opponents for made-up crimes in an attempt to discredit them bankrupt and imprison them, exile them, are all of the above. And if you're not paying attention, you may not realize that [President] Joe Biden is using exactly those tactics to make sure that Donald Trump is not his opponent in 2024. If these tactics end up working to keep Trump from winning or even running in 2024, it is going to be the last American election that will be decided by ballots rather than bullets."
Anti-gun activist Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was murdered during the 2018 Parkland High School mass shooting, earlier this week blasted Huckabee as "a domestic terrorist who has gotten away with using religion for too many years while pushing hate and violence. His most recent comments should be taken seriously and result in his arrest."
The Daily Beast's full report is available at this link (subscription required).
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