“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.”
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”.