A federal judge on Friday put former President Donald Trump in legal jeopardy by accusing him of personally inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on the U.S. Capitol.
While delivering a prison sentence to MAGA rioter John Lolos, Judge Amit Mehta squarely placed the blame on Trump for the deadly insurrection, suggesting that the former president’s role in seeding lies about the 2020 election — and the effect it had on his followers — has been an underappreciated part of the entire episode.
During sentencing, Judge Mehta said he shortened Lolos’s prison time in part to reflect the fact that Lolos was responding to Trump’s call, Politico reports.
“He didn’t purposely come to Washington, D.C., to storm the Capitol,” said Mehta, according to Politico. “The fact remains that he and others were called to Washington, D.C., by an elected official, prompted to walk to the Capitol by an elected official.”
He added: “People like Mr. Lolos were told lies, told falsehoods, told our election was stolen when it clearly was not.”
Mehta charged that the defendants were paying for conduct that was largely enabled by Trump and his allies.
“We’re here today deciding whether Mr. Lolos should spend 30 days in jail when those who created the conditions that led to Mr. Lolos’ conduct, led to the events of Jan. 6 [haven’t been] held to account for their actions and their word.”
“In a sense, Mr. Lolos, I think you were a pawn,” Mehta continued. “You were a pawn in a game directed and played by people who should know better. I think that mitigates your conduct.”
Politico also reported that Mehta is also presiding over the conspiracy case against 20 members of the Oath Keepers, charged with planning to stop Congress’ certification of the 2020 election, and that the case is “widely seen as one of the most pivotal of the entire Jan. 6 investigation.”
Mehta’s accusation of Trump comes as the Jan. 6 select committee in the House has worked to home in on the former president’s role in efforts to overturn the election results and sow disinformation about his election loss to President Joe Biden.