Jan 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

White House slams Trump for referring to jailed Jan. 6 rioters as "hostages"

Donald Trump speaks to guests during a rally at Clinton Middle School on January 06, 2024 in Clinton, Iowa

Donald Trump speaks at a rally on January 6 in Clinton, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The White House on Monday denounced former President Trump for referring to jailed Jan. 6 rioters as "hostages" over the weekend.

Why it matters: As the nation marked the third anniversary of the deadly Capitol riot on Saturday, polling found Republicans have become more sympathetic to rioters in the years since the attack.

Driving the news: During a rally in Iowa Saturday, Trump called on President Biden to "release the J6 hostages, Joe" — repeating a term he's used before.

  • "It is grotesque to make those kind of comparisons," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday, noting that people taken captive by Hamas in Israel on Oct. 7 were actual hostages, per a White House pool report.
  • Trump's comments came a day after Biden focused on Jan. 6 in his first major re-election speech.

State of play: Jean-Pierre added Monday it's "grotesque and offensive" to compare the rioters who stormed the Capitol and attacked police, with U.S. veterans held hostage or people taken hostage by Hamas in recent months, Reuters reported.

Flashback: Trump made a similar remark at a Texas rally back in November, telling the crowd, "I call them the J6 hostages, not prisoners," the Houston Chronicle reported.

  • During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) echoed Trump's remarks, saying she has "concerns about the treatment of January 6th hostages."

By the numbers: The Justice Department said last week that nearly 1,300 individuals have been arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in the Capitol riot.

  • Nearly 750 people have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds receiving prison terms for their actions on Jan. 6, per AP.

The big picture: Trump, who is also faces state and federal charges over the 2020 election, has vowed to pardon the rioters if he becomes president again.

  • GOP presidential candidates meanwhile have vowed to pardon Trump over the attack.

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