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Updated Jun 21, 2024, 6:08am EDT
politics

Will the Jan. 6 prisoner movement make it to the Republican National Convention stage?

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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The News

Donald Trump has loudly touted his support for the hundreds of Jan. 6 participants who’ve faced charges, convictions, and imprisonment all year. Now they’re ready for their close-up at the Republican convention — but there’s no indication that it’s coming.

The Republican National Committee and Trump campaign aides are keeping their cards close to the vest on any convention decisions. (An RNC official, when asked about possible plans surrounding Jan. 6 and the convention, said in a statement that “speculation on programming and speakers is just that.”) But a lawyer who’s been a key connector between Jan. 6 defendants and Trump’s campaign says he’s seen no indication planners are interested in taking up offers to have a speaker representing the cause be featured at the upcoming event.

“I made a few inquiries about that, but it didn’t really go nowhere,” said Joseph McBride, who told Semafor back in March that he hoped the movement would have a convention presence. “I don’t think you have any real interest of anybody outside of the immediate circle at the top.”

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McBride suggested that activism around Jan. 6 “makes a lot of these people uncomfortable,” but that the RNC risked ceding ground to their critics to define the movement.

“It’s unfortunate, but there’s a lot of weak people, spineless people in that group,” he said. “What can you do?”

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Shelby’s view

No doubt many Republicans will breathe a sigh of relief reading the above news. Jan. 6 is still a difficult issue within the party, even as Trump has largely squashed Republican complaints about his attempt to overturn the 2020 election for now. Recent Biden ads also feature images of the Capitol riot and the president seems at his most animated when he’s denouncing Trump as a threat to democracy. Polls show Trump is favored on the economy and immigration, two issues many Republican strategists would like to emphasize with as few distractions as possible.

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But there are some voices in Trump’s orbit who see his relatively strong overall polling and argue there’s no reason to avoid the topic in convention programming. One person who’s worked with the Jan. 6 defendants said the convention could be a chance to “educate” the public about a “two-tier justice system,” especially given that Trump is likely to strike the same themes onstage while discussing his recent felony conviction and the other pending indictments against him.

The convention is still being planned and Trump will ultimately make the decision about whether to include supporters tied to Jan. 6. Some close to Trump have speculated that Jan. 6 will be a topic regardless of the floor schedule, simply because of the former president’s propensity to bring it up.

He often plays the “J6 anthem” at rallies, recently helped one woman convicted of four federal misdemeanor charges raise money for legal bills, and called them “warriors” at a rally in Las Vegas just last week.

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Room for Disagreement

Democrats would likely welcome the chance to remind voters about Trump’s role in the run-up to Jan. 6. But Alex Thompson reported in Axios that there’s also unease from some Democrats about the president’s focus on “Jan. 6, political violence, democracy and Donald Trump’s character” given swing voters appear more worried about issues like inflation. Just as some Republicans worry about losing focus by starting an argument over the aftermath of the 2020 election, these Democrats fear being baited into a conversation that distracts them from more salient issues.

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Notable

At Turning Point Action’s recent convention, Jan. 6 — and the overarching theme of “democracy” — was a key point, our own Dave Weigel wrote. Turning Point Action CEO Charlie Kirk told him that “for low-propensity voters,” Trump’s recent conviction is “a net positive.”

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