The Capitol rioters' 'Trump made-me-do it' defense will haunt him: former prosecutor
Trump supporters rioting at the US Capitol. (

In a column for MSNBC, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade noted that Donald Trump fans who participated in the Jan 6th insurrection are finding out the hard way that the federal courts are not buying their claims of innocence because "Trump made me do it" but it does cast a cloud over the former president.

As McQuade notes, attorneys for Dustin Thompson tried to pin the blame of the former president for their client's actions during the Capitol riot, but a jury didn't buy it and returned "guilty verdicts on all six offenses Thompson was charged with, including obstruction of an official proceeding, a 20-year felony."

According to the veteran prosecutor, "Thompson’s conviction should signal to the other 700-plus defendants charged in the attack that the 'Trump-made-me-do it' defense is a loser."

Beyond that, she pointed out that the defense has broader implications.

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Writing, "importantly, rejection of this defense does not in any way exonerate Trump. In fact, the proceeding further demonstrated just how dangerous Trump’s disinformation can be," she added one juror "...told a reporter after the verdict, 'Everyone agrees that Donald Trump is culpable as an overall narrative. Lots of people were there and then went home. Dustin Thompson did not.'"

"Although the rioters are responsible for their own actions, it’s hard to believe the attack would have occurred without Trump’s efforts. He engaged in a monthslong campaign to convince the public that the voting was rigged, starting even before the election was held," she wrote. "If Trump was the person who lit the match, then why has he not been charged yet with inciting an insurrection? Such a charge would be risky because of First Amendment protections. Politicians frequently urge their supporters to 'fight' for what they believe in. It is hard to imagine that the Department of Justice would indict a former president based on an untested legal theory. Unless DOJ uncovers evidence that links Trump to the planning of the Capitol attack, his role in the riot is unlikely to serve as the basis for charges against him."

Adding "the riot may be a distraction from more viable criminal charges — conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. Each of those crimes could be proven without tying Trump to the conduct of the rioters," she maintained it still cast a cloud over him.

"Even if Trump is not legally responsible for the acts of the rioters, his complicity still matters. The Jan. 6 attack illustrated in stark terms the power of a dynamic figure to inspire others to engage in violent extremism," she wrote.