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Biggs and Gosar sought pardons for Capitol riot, but didn’t get them

By: - January 19, 2021 5:32 pm

Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar. Photos by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Arizona Republican Congressmen Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar have asked President Donald Trump to preemptively pardon them for their roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but the president has no plans to do so, CNN reported Tuesday.

Trump retains sweeping clemency and pardon powers until Joe Biden takes the oath of office at 10 a.m. Arizona time Wednesday, and CNN noted that the mercurial president could change his mind. However, facing an impeachment trial in the Senate and growing prospects that Republican senators — including longtime GOP leader Mitch McConnell — will vote to convict Trump for his role in encouraging the rioters, Trump has decided not to proactively pardon the congressmen. Per CNN:

Huddled for a lengthy meeting with his legal advisers, Trump was warned the pardons he once hoped to bestow upon his family and even himself would place him in a legally perilous position, convey the appearance of guilt and potentially make him more vulnerable to reprisals.

So, too, was Trump warned that pardons for Republican lawmakers who had sought them for their role in the Capitol insurrection would anger the very Senate Republicans who will determine his fate in an upcoming impeachment trial. 

Several Republican lawmakers who are alleged to have been involved in the rally that preceded the deadly riot on the U.S. Capitol have sought clemency from Trump before he leaves office, but after meeting with his legal advisers for several hours on Saturday, the President decided he would not grant them, according to two people familiar with his plans.

The fear of legal exposure is not limited to Republicans who promoted or spoke at the rally, including Reps. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Paul Gosar. Those who participated, organized and fundraised for it are also concerned, sources told CNN, including his eldest son Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, who both spoke at the rally.

Ali Alexander, a conservative activist who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” protest on Jan. 6 claimed in several now-deleted videos in the days and weeks before the event that he, Biggs, Gosar and Alabama Congressman Brooks “schemed up” the plan to put “max pressure on Congress while they were voting” on whether to certify the results of the Electoral College. Trump and many of supporters hoped that Congress or Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the results during the certification vote.

It was while the House of Representatives and Senate were debating Arizona’s 11 electoral votes that a violent mob pushed its way into the Capitol, forcing members of Congress and their staffs to hide and sparking a disturbance that ultimately killed five people.

***UPDATE: Early Wednesday morning, Trump issued dozens of pardons and commutations. The list did not include Biggs, Gosar or anyone else involved in the Jan. 6 failed coup attempt that sought to block Biden’s certification as president.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.