On January 6, the accused testifies that he believed that Trump had sent him to attack the United States Capitol: “I had to do something to earn his respect”

“Besides being ordered by the president to go to the Capitol, I don’t know what I was thinking,” Thompson told the jury. “I was taken by the moment.”

Thompson disputed almost nothing the government claimed to have done on Capitol Hill: breaking into the Senate congressman’s office twice, stealing a bottle of bourbon and a coat rack, watching one of the the most violent scenes of the riot, then running away from a Capitol Police Officer attempting to interrogate him.
Instead, Thompson said he believed he was acting at the behest of then-President Donald Trump, who told crowds at a rally this afternoon to march to the Capitol and “stand beat like hell”. The trial is a major test of that defense, which dozens of riot suspects have embraced so far, and could influence how others argue in court.
Thompson’s defense attorney previously asked Judge Reggie Walton, who is presiding over the case, for permission to ask the former president to testify at the trial. Walton denied that request, saying, “I don’t think we want individuals to feel like they can listen to anybody and go out and commit a criminal act.”

During his testimony, Thompson said he was fired from his job as an exterminator at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He said he was “isolated” and “stuck at home”, and eventually “fell down the rabbit hole” of online conspiracy theories.

When Joe Biden took the lead in the 2020 presidential election, Thompson testified that he ‘didn’t think it was possible’ and believed Trump when the then-president claimed the election had been stolen. Over the next few weeks, Thompson’s embrace of conspiracy theories grew stronger, he told the jury, and he decided to attend the Jan. 6 rally after Trump tweeted about it.

Thompson said he listened to all the speakers at the “Stop the Steal” rally that served as the prelude to the riot and that the speakers questioned the fraud allegations.

Thompson testified that after a year out of work, he felt good when Trump told the crowd that they were “stronger” and “smarter” than anyone. He then went to the Capitol, Thompson said, because he “felt like I had to do something to earn his respect, his approval.”

Justice Department lawyers sought to undermine Thompson’s argument by portraying the 38-year-old defendant as an adult capable of making his own decisions.

Prosecutor William Dreher asked Thompson if “on the morning of January 6, 2021, you got dressed, all by yourself” and if “no one told you what to wear?”

“Yes,” Thompson answered. He also confirmed that he appeared in court alone on Wednesday morning.

Dreher also argued that Trump was not “standing right next to” Thompson when he walked into the Capitol, nor did the then-president say during his speech that day that “it is now legal to fly in the United States Capitol building”.


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