Jan. 6 defendant Dustin Thompson believed Trump gave him ‘presidential orders’ to storm Capitol

A defendant charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol testified Wednesday that he believed he was “following presidential orders” from President Donald Trump when he stormed the building and stole liquor and a coat rack during the deadly riot.

Dustin Byron Thompson, 38, has not contested the allegations, specifically that he broke into the Senate parliamentarian’s office twice and stole a bottle of bourbon and a coat rack. He testified at his trial that he made the trip from his home in Columbus, Ohio, to Washington, and later entered the Capitol, in the hope of gaining Trump’s “respect, his approval.”

“Besides being ordered by the president to go to the Capitol, I do not know what I was thinking,” Thompson told the jury, according to CNN. “I was caught up in the moment.”

Thompson is among the first Jan. 6 defendants to argue to a jury that Trump is ultimately to blame for the mob that stormed the Capitol. More than 15 months later, Thompson said he was “deeply ashamed” of his actions, believing that he was misled by Trump’s “outlandish” and false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Although Trump has denied that he is responsible for the actions of the Jan. 6 rioters, Thompson, who attended the Stop the Steal rally that preceded the riot, testified that Trump urged supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” against the confirmation of Joe Biden as president.

“If the president’s giving you almost an order to do something, I felt obligated to do that,” Thompson said, reporting NBC News.

Thompson faces seven criminal charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, theft of government property, and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. He has pleaded not guilty to all but one of the counts, according to the Justice Department. Thompson, who was arrested, indicted and arraigned last year, has remained on personal recognition bond.

Neither Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich nor Samuel Shamansky, Thompson’s attorney, immediately responded to requests for comment early Thursday.

Thompson’s testimony comes at a time when President Biden has authorized the National Archives and Records Administration to hand over a new tranche of Trump White House documents to the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Trump previously – and unsuccessfully – asserted executive privilege over a series of White House documents, including daily presidential diaries, schedules, drafts of speeches, remarks and correspondence concerning the events of Jan. 6.

Biden White House waives executive privilege for more Trump records

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Who is a member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, said in a Post Politics Now interview Wednesday that the House select committee is planning public hearings in May and June. Raskin said that the panel will issue a report that will be “profuse in setting forth crimes that have not yet been alleged.”

Thompson’s jury trial is the third among those of nearly 800 Capitol rioters who have been charged in connection with the attack, according to the Associated Press. The first two jury trials ended with both defendants convicted on all counts with which they were charged. Earlier this month, a federal judge found Matthew Martin, a former Energy Department contract engineer from Santa Fe, NM, not guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct, saying the defendant plausibly argued that police officers allowed him into the Capitol. The acquittal was the Justice Department’s first defeat in a Capitol breach prosecution.

US judge acquits Jan. 6 defendant who said he was waved in by police

Thompson, who had worked as an exterminator and at a pawnshop after graduating from Ohio State University in 2008, found himself unemployed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, he testified. At a time when he was “isolated” and “stuck at home,” Thompson told jurors that he “went down the rabbit hole on the Internet” and latched on to conspiracy theories.

As Biden led Trump, Thompson said he “did not think it was possible” for the Democrat to defeat the president, echoing Trump’s false and debunked claim that the election was rigged, according to the federal complaint.

“Dustin spent a lot of time on the Internet,” Sarah Thompson, his wife, testified Wednesday, according to NBC. She testified that she was a Democrat who had voted for Biden, as well as former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former president Barack Obama.

“He was very angry about the election results,” she said of her husband. “He believed that the election had been stolen.”

After listening to all of the speakers at the Stop the Steal rally, Dustin Thompson joined hundreds in storming the Capitol.

“Wooooo! “Merica, hey!” he yelled, according to video. “This is our house!”

At around 2:51 pm that day, security footage shows Thompson carrying a bottle of bourbon he found in the Senate parliamentarian’s office, according to the complaint. More than 30 minutes later, a photo was taken of a grinning Thompson holding a wood and bronze coat rack taken from inside the Capitol, authorities say.

He was arrested on Jan. 25, 2021, after FBI agents were able to match Thompson’s description with photo records of him from the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles.

Since his trial began this week, Shamansky, Thompson’s attorney, has argued that Trump participated in a “sinister” plot to encourage Thompson and other “vulnerable” supporters to storm the Capitol. A judge rejected the defense attorney’s subpoena request to call Trump and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, as witnesses at Thompson’s trial.

“It’s Donald Trump himself spewing the lies and using his position to authorize this assault,” Shamansky said during Tuesday’s opening statements, according to the AP.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney William Kennelly Dreher has argued that Thompson, who is married and has a college degree, is an adult capable of making his own decisions.

“You’re not a child, right?” he asked Thompson, reported CNN. The defendant responded that he was not.

Thompson did, however, acknowledge that he needed to make decisions on his own and not be persuaded by Trump’s rhetoric and false claims.

“I can not let other people tell me what to do,” he said, according to NBC. “Even if they’re the president.”

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