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Trump 'authorized' assault on Capitol, Jan. 6 defendant argues at trial

An attorney for Dustin Thompson argued that "vulnerable" people like his client "believed the lies that were fed to them" by Trump.
Donald Trump and Dustin Thompson.
Donald Trump and Dustin Thompson.Getty Images/FBI

WASHINGTON — An attorney for a man who took a coat rack and a bottle of liquor during the U.S. Capitol attack argued to a jury Tuesday that former President Donald Trump "authorized" the assault on the building on Jan. 6, 2021, by convincing "vulnerable" people like his client that the election had been stolen.

Dustin Thompson, 38, of Ohio, is the third Jan. 6 defendant to face a trial by jury after the convictions of Guy Reffitt and former police officer Thomas Robertson. Thompson faces six charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and theft of government property. His co-defendant, Robert Lyon, pleaded guilty last month, admitting that he and Thompson traveled to Washington together and saying stole the coat rack and fled from police when they were confronted on the grounds of the Capitol.

Samuel Shamansky, an attorney for Thompson, told jurors Tuesday that his client had "snatched the coat rack, foolishly," and that there was "no question" that his client took part in the "horrible" event on Jan. 6 that interrupted a "solemn and sacred proceeding."

But, Shamansky argued, the "genesis" of the attack began months before Jan. 6, and responsibility fell at the feet of Trump, who "authorized this assault" on the Capitol.

"It was a plot, it was a scheme, it was a conspiracy ... that began at the highest levels of our government," Shamansky argued.

Thompson and other "vulnerable" Trump supporters like him "believed the lies that were fed to them" in the months leading up to Jan. 6, Shamansky argued. Thompson was "predisposed" to "this lunacy," Shamansky said, and losing his job at the beginning of the Covid pandemic left him sitting at home to digest the "garbage" that Trump and his supporters were spreading.

"This is the garbage that Dustin Thompson is listening to," Shamansky argued. "Donald Trump encouraged people like Dustin Thompson to storm the Capitol."

The question for jurors to answer, Shamansky argued, isn't whether Thompson stormed the Capitol — "he most certainly did," Shamansky conceded — but "why."

Shamansky, who argued Tuesday that Trump took part in a "sinister, disgusting" plot to overturn the election results, had tried to subpoena the former president at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, according to a previous court filing, but was turned away by a person believed to be with the Secret Service.

Trump, who has said he is not responsible for the actions of the rioters that day, has sought to blame others who were at the Capitol.

Nearly 800 people have been charged in connection with the attack, and almost 250 have pleaded guilty. Hundreds of additional cases are in the works.