Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he was astounded to hear former President Donald Trump at his Texas rally Saturday float pardons to Jan. 6 insurrectionists if he’s reelected.
“I cannot believe I would ever hear this from somebody running for office or in office” in America, Leahy told Jim Acosta Sunday on CNN. He called it “definitely” a “threat” from someone acting like a “two-bit dictator.”
“I was a prosecutor for eight years,” Leahy noted. “To think that someone would run for a high office and say, ‘You can conduct any kind of criminal conduct you want. Don’t worry, if you’re doing it to support me, I’ll give you a pardon when I get there.’ As a prosecutor, I’d say: ‘This has to be somebody’s making this up. It couldn’t be real.’”
Leahy, who serves as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, said he was in the Capitol on Jan. 6 last year when Trump supporters stormed the building and demanded that then-Vice President Mike Pence be hanged unless he upended Americans’ choice of Joe Biden as president.
“I look out and I see them putting a noose up to hang the vice president if he didn’t throw the election out,” Leahy chillingly recalled the day.
“I see people storming through, I could smell the tear gas ... And then seeing people say, ‘We’re doing this because Donald Trump told us to.’ This is not a democracy. This is something you’d see in a third-world nation with a two-bit dictator,” the senator added.
Leahy said people with integrity from both parties must stand against Trump’s shocking position, just as both Democrats and Republicans did with former President Richard Nixon after Watergate.
“When somebody commits a crime or incites crime, that’s wrong; I don’t care if they’re Republicans or Democrats,” said Leahy.
“There’s no question [Trump] incited a riot last year, and there’s no question that he wants to keep on encouraging it,” he added.
“Can you imagine he’s saying, ‘Look, don’t worry, you go out and commit whatever crimes you want. If it’s helping me get elected, if I get elected, I’ll take care of you. I’ll give you a pardon.’ That’s something nobody — Republican or Democrat — should accept.”
Some Republicans did speak out Sunday against Trump’s offer of a pardon to Jan. 6 rioters. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), typically a staunch Trump ally, called the offer “inappropriate.” He said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he hopes the rioters “go to jail and get the book thrown at them ’cuz they deserve it.”
More mildly, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on “This Week” on ABC: “I do not think that President Trump should have made that pledge.”
Check out Leahy’s interview in the video clip up top.