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Stand back and stand by

Trump calls Saturday rally in support of Jan. 6 defendants 'a setup' to make him look bad

Washington, D.C., is bracing for Saturday's rally in support of the people charged with storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop Congress from ceremoniously certifying President Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump. The "Justice for J6" rally was organized by a former Trump campaign operative, and the attendees will almost certainly be Trump supporters, but Trump is perhaps surprisingly unenthusiastic about the event. 

"On Saturday, that's a setup," Trump told The Federalist on Thursday. "If people don't show up they'll say, 'Oh, it's a lack of spirit.' And if people do show up they'll be harassed." The former president "has little interest in engaging with the protest and has no plans to be anywhere near Washington on Saturday," The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing aides. "Trump views the planned protest as a setup that the news media will use against him regardless of the outcome."

It isn't clear how many people will attend the rally — perhaps about 500, CNN reports, citing an intelligence report — but even the biggest Trump supporters in Congress are expected to stay away, too. That includes lawmakers who encouraged the Jan. 6 siege, like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and are sympathetic to the idea that many of 600-plus people charged for participating in the riot are being treated unfairly by the criminal justice system. 

"There are a lot of clearly angry people who want to march on the Capitol," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told the Times. "I haven't talked to a single Republican up here in the Senate that has encouraged or enabled anything like that." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said police "need to take a firm line, buddy," and "if anybody gets out of line, they need to whack 'em."

"I can appreciate why Republicans don't want anything to do with this," GOP strategist John Feehery tells the Times, "but there is a lot of angst in the Republican base." Congressional Republicans and Democrats both know that "the only hope Democrats have of keeping the House is to make Jan. 6 the issue of the campaign," he added. "The only people who don't seem to know that are the activists."