Rumored Trump VP contender Sen. Tom Cotton suggests nonviolent J6 defendants should be granted pardons

 June 4, 2024

A purported new contender has emerged amid the speculation over who will be former President Donald Trump's vice presidential nominee, and their chances may have been bolstered by recent comments about what should happen with many of the individuals overzealously prosecuted by the Biden administration for their alleged participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot of 2021.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said on Sunday that Jan. 6 defendants who were nonviolent and not destructive during the Capitol riot should be considered to receive presidential pardons, according to leftist outlet Mother Jones.

Cotton's position appears to be a slightly more nuanced version of Trump's recent and repeated suggestion that, if re-elected, he would consider pardons for most Jan. 6 defendants.

Cotton says nonviolent and non-destructive Jan. 6 defendants should be granted pardons

On Sunday, Sen. Cotton appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" with combative guest host Peter Alexander and was grilled over former President Trump's pledge to pardon convicted Jan. 6 Capitol rioters.

"Anyone who is charged with silly misdemeanors about parading on public grounds without a permit, who did not attack a law enforcement officer, who did not damage public property, their pardon should be considered -- in many cases, I would say it should be granted," Cotton said.

The Arkansas senator went on to say that "many" of those Jan. 6 defendants "are about to have their convictions or their charges erased by the Supreme Court in just a few weeks" -- a reference to the pending decision in the case of Fischer v. United States that challenged the Biden DOJ's overbroad use of an obscure "obstructing an official proceeding" statute typically used in white-collar financial crimes to boost criminal charges and prison sentences for hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants.

Cotton previously said Jan. 6 "insurrectionists" should "face the full extent of federal law"

As both the NBC host and Mother Jones pointed out, Sen. Cotton's suggestion of leniency for some Jan. 6 defendants stands in stark contrast to his initial statement in reaction to the Capitol riot in 2021, when he said at the time that there should be "no quarter for insurrectionists. Those who attacked the Capitol today should face the full extent of federal law."

To be sure, Cotton's initial reaction came before the Biden DOJ began to arrest, detain, and harshly prosecute hundreds of nonviolent participants in the unrest at the U.S. Capitol building, and his current position more closely resembles that of former President Trump, who has repeatedly pledged to grant clemency to most of the "hostages" and "political prisoners" prosecuted by the incumbent administration.

In an April interview with TIME magazine, Trump said that he "absolutely" would "consider" pardoning Jan. 6 defendants, though he added as a caveat -- conveniently ignored by NBC's Alexander and Mother Jones -- that "If somebody was evil and bad, I would look at that differently," which clearly implies that destructive and violent rioters would not receive a pardon.

Cotton reportedly a "top contender" to be Trump's VP

The New York Times reported in late May that, according to several anonymous sources, Sen. Cotton had "unexpectedly emerged as a top contender" in the speculative race to be former President Trump's running mate in the 2024 election.

He joins a few other purported top VP prospects that include North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and fellow Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), and J.D. Vance (R-OH), along with others like Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and former Housing Sec. Ben Carson, to name just a few.

Per the unnamed sources, Trump is said to be impressed with Cotton's abilities as a "reliable and effective communicator" and to run a "disciplined campaign" free of distractions, not to mention the Arkansas senator's prior military service -- he deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq as a U.S. Army officer -- and background as an attorney with an Ivy League law degree from Harvard.

Some factors could weigh against Cotton as VP, though, such as his stated support for federal regulations limiting abortions, his hawkish stance on foreign policy, his certification of the 2020 election results, and ironically enough, his prior call for the use of military troops to quell riots by leftist groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa, which could serve to motivate some otherwise unenthusiastic Democratic voters to oppose the GOP ticket and vote for President Joe Biden's re-election.

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