Donald Trump largely avoided speaking of January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol during a campaign event on Saturday, which took place on the attack’s third anniversary, reflecting the degree to which Republican voters have absolved him of responsibility for that day’s events.
Speaking to a crowd of hundreds of supporters in the town of Newton, Iowa, the former president brought up Jan. 6 only once. He repeated previous claims that Democratic President Joe Biden, who he is likely to face in a general election rematch in November, is the true threat to democracy.
“You know this guy (Biden) goes around and says I’m a threat to democracy,” Trump said. “No, he’s a threat because he’s incompetent. He’s a threat to democracy.”
“Nobody thought J.6. was even a possibility,” Trump said later, without elaborating.
Trump also attacked former Republican Representative Liz Cheney, who has been sharply critical of Trump since the Jan. 6 attack, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol as legislators were certifying Biden’s 2020 election victory.
House of Representatives’ investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol
Biden has repeatedly called Trump a threat to democracy on the trail, and that messaging has emerged as an central theme of his campaign so far. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke of Jan. 6 at length during an event in South Carolina on Saturday.
At recent campaign events in Iowa, Trump’s supporters – and even supporters of other Republican presidential hopefuls – have downplayed the significance of Jan. 6, and many have embraced conspiracy theories regarding the events of that day.
Trump himself has suggested during previous campaign stops that undercover FBI agents played a significant role instigating the attack, an account not supported by official investigations.
More than 1,200 people have been charged with taking part in the riot, and more than 900 have either pleaded guilty or been convicted following a trial.
“It wasn’t really an insurrection,” said Hale Wilson, a Trump supporter from Des Moines who was at the Newton event. “There were bad actors involved that got the crowd going.”
Trump is in Iowa to curry support ahead of the state’s Republican caucus on Jan. 15, which is the first contest of the Republican presidential nominating contest. He currently leads all competitors by more than 30 percentage points in the state, according to most polls.