A federal judge took aim at former President Donald Trump on Monday for lying about voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election, saying that former Vice President Al Gore had a better standing to challenge the 2000 election results but that he was “a man” and walked away.
“Al Gore had a better case to argue than Mr. Trump, but he was a man about what happened to him,” Senior District Judge Reggie Walton said of Gore’s decision to end his presidential bid following weeks of legal battles. “He accepted it and walked away.”
The comments from Walton came during a plea hearing for Capitol riot defendant Adam Johnson, who was photographed carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern through the Capitol building. He pleaded guilty on Monday to a low-level charge of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds.
“What concerns me, sir, is that you were gullible enough to come to Washington, DC, from Florida based on a lie,” Walton said, “and the person who inspired you to do what you do is still making those statements, and my concern is that you are gullible enough to do it again.”
Walton, who was appointed by the man who defeated Gore, former President George W. Bush, is the most recent to add his voice to a chorus of judges criticizing Trump for lying to his supporters. Last week, a federal judge also suggested Trump had some responsibility for the attack on the Capitol and called the rioters “pawns” who were provoked into action.
Johnson, 36, told Walton that he accepted responsibility for getting “caught up in the moment,” and said that a “hard couple of years” led him to spend a lot of time “listening to a lot of information and reading things” online.
Investigators identified Johnson days after he was photographed smiling and waving as he carried the lectern through the Capitol building on January 6. According to prosecutors, Johnson started running to the Capitol building from the “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse after someone in the crowd shouted “Pence didn’t do it!” Johnson admitted that he brought a knife with him to Washington, but discarded it in the bushes on his way to the Capitol.
Once inside the building Johnson wandered around until he came across Pelosi’s office suite. He jiggled a door handle, prosecutors say, but it was locked. He then grabbed the lectern and carried it to the Capitol rotunda, posing for several pictures along the way.
After he had discarded of the lectern, Johnson joined a crowd attempting to breach the House chamber. At one point, according to the plea agreement, Johnson said that a nearby bust of George Washington would be a “great battering ram” to get through the doors to the chamber.
During the hearing, Johnson revealed that he may write a book about his involvement in the riot. He agreed that the government can seize any money he makes publicizing the event for the next five years as part of his plea deal.
Johnson was originally charged with three federal crimes including theft of government property, but those charges will be dropped as part of his plea deal. He could face a sentence of up to six months in prison, according to his agreement with prosecutors read at his plea hearing on Monday. He will also pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol during the riot.
More than 130 defendants have pleaded guilty so far to charges connected to the Capitol riot, with most to date admitting to misdemeanor charges.
Man who organized bus travel sentenced to 60 days in jail
Frank Scavo, who told local news outlets and the FBI he organized several buses to bring people from eastern Pennsylvania to Washington for the January 6 rally, was sentenced to 60 days in jail on Monday and received the maximum fine of $5,000.
The sentence, handed down by Senior DC District Judge Royce Lamberth, was much heavier than the 14 days of incarceration that the Justice Department had asked for. Scavo pleaded guilty to illegally demonstrating in the Capitol, a misdemeanor offense, in September.
Before issuing the sentence, Lamberth told Scavo he gave him “credit for the fact that you did not put anyone at risk” or engaged in violence but said that “without you and other people” the attack on the Capitol “would not have happened.”
Scavo told the judge he had a “deep sense of regret” for his actions on January 6, adding later that “it was a crime.”
“From the point the jig was up, you’ve done everything you could,” Lamberth told Scavo in a brief comment following the sentence. “Good luck to you.”
According to the Justice Department, Scavo had captured assaults on Capitol Police officers while filming on his phone and bragged about “storm(ing)” the Capitol. On his Facebook page that day, Scavo posted that “PENCE IS OUT OF CAPITOL” and “No certification Today!!!”
“He had more or less a front-row seat” to the Capitol siege, Assistant US Attorney Seth Meinero said during the hearing, adding that Scavo saw the crowd push into the east front of the Capitol after the Trump rally.