Trump rallies supporters in Iowa on Capitol riot anniversary

Trump rallies supporters in Iowa on Capitol riot anniversary

Donald Trump hits the campaign trail in the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating state of Iowa on Saturday as Americans mark the third anniversary of the deadly assault on the US Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

Former US President and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump

People watched in horror on January 6, 2021, as TV images were beamed into homes nationwide showing rioters -- egged on by the ex-president and fueled by his false claims of voter fraud -- storming the seat of US democracy to halt the transfer of power.

Trump, the runaway leader in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was impeached for inciting insurrection and faces multiple felony charges over his conduct leading up to and during the violence.

He will headline a rally in Newton, just outside of state capital Des Moines, at 1:00pm (1900 GMT) before delivering remarks at a middle school in Clinton, on the Illinois border.

"Ten days from now the people of this state are going to cast the most important vote of your entire lives," Trump told a crowd in Sioux Center on Friday as he kicked off his Iowa visit.

"I believe that too -- very much. I used to say that 2016 (was), and I believed it then. And now I believe this is even much more important. Our country's going to hell."

Trump leads rivals Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis by more than 30 points in Iowa, which stages its Republican nominating contest -- known as a "caucus" -- on January 15, kicking off the 2024 primary season.

The announcements for his speeches did not mention the January 6 anniversary and the Trump campaign did not respond when asked if he planned to address the subject.

Trump has described January 6 as "a beautiful day" and has made the "great patriots" and "hostages" imprisoned over the riot a cause celebre, vowing to pardon many if elected.

The false claim that Democratic election theft led to January 6 has become orthodoxy among Republicans, with hard-liners in Congress promoting the fantasy that the chaos at the Capitol was a "false flag" operation by federal agents.

A Washington Post/University of Maryland poll released on Thursday found that 44 percent of Trump voters believe the FBI organized and encouraged the riot.

- Threat to democracy -

The House of Representatives, then controlled by the Democrats, impeached Trump for inciting the violence, which was linked to the deaths of five police officers and several rioters, although he was acquitted by allies in the Senate and denies all wrongdoing.

A later congressional investigation concluded that the violence was the culmination of a criminal conspiracy led by Trump to subvert the election. Separately, the ex-president is facing multiple federal and state felony charges related to the events.

Democrats plan to make the tycoon's conduct on January 6 a key campaign issue, pointing to the 450-plus Trump supporters jailed over allegations ranging from seditious conspiracy to trespassing and assaulting police.

Biden gave a speech in Pennsylvania Friday framing the election as a test of the robustness of the republic and highlighting the Capitol riot as a demonstration of Trump's threat to democracy.

He also accused his predecessor of echoing Nazis with his rhetoric on immigration, accusing him of being willing to "sacrifice our democracy" to regain power.

"Donald Trump's campaign is obsessed with the past, not the future. He's willing to sacrifice our democracy, put himself in power," Biden said in a full-throated attack on his presumptive election rival.

Trump retorted at his Sioux Center event that Biden was merely trying to distract from a White House term that has been "an unbroken streak of weakness, incompetence, corruption and failure."

"That's why Crooked Joe is staging a pathetic, fear-mongering campaign event in Pennsylvania today," he said.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House at the time of the assault, marked the anniversary with an op-ed in The Atlantic arguing that Trump "resorted to insurrection" after failing to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

"The threat to our democracy is real, present and urgent," she wrote.

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