Saunders: Others serving time for following GOP’s Pied Piper

Trump’s ultimate fate is undetermined, but for now, others are paying the price for his election denial.

By Debra J. Saunders /

Former President Donald Trump “deserves life in prison if my father is in prison for this long,” Peyton Reffitt, 18, told The Washington Post.

Her father, Guy, was sentenced to seven years behind bars for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. While Trump was living large on social media, Guy Reffitt was found guilty on five felony charges stemming from criminal efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake estimates that 350 or so individuals have been sentenced to some 700 years behind bars for their role in the Jan. 6 riot.

Trump’s fate — he’s been indicted on multiple charges in four distinct locales — is unclear.

Maybe he’ll be acquitted. Maybe he’ll be convicted on some counts. Maybe not.

In the meantime, hundreds of Trump supporters are behind bars or facing hard time for doing what they believed Trump wanted them to do, while Trump is free and leading substantially in polls of GOP primary voters.

If the polls are correct, it’s not even close between Trump and his closest challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Guy Reffitt never made it into the Capitol building, but he showed up at the Capitol Grounds wearing body armor and a helmet and carrying a gun, flex cuffs and radio. He helped plan the march, and boasted, “I started the fire.”

Other Jan. 6 warriors are talking out of both sides of their mouths, as Trump often does.

Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy, but guilty of stealing an officer’s police shield, which he used to break into the Capitol, and other felony counts.

Prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly to sentence Pezzola to 20 years. Ahead of sentencing, Pezzola told Kelly he would stay out of politics; he sobbed as he begged for leniency. Kelly sentenced Pezzola to 10 years.

After the judge exited the courtroom, Pezzola raised a fist and proclaimed, “Trump won.”

An analysis by the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism estimates that some 15 percent of the 968 activists charged for Jan. 6 crimes were turned in by family members or acquaintances. Those families have suffered, not that Trump seems particularly disturbed by that.

Last month, the one-term president announced he would hold a press conference at which he would present a “large, complex, detailed but irrefutable” report that would prove the 2020 election was stolen.

Then he canceled the event.

Trump has mastered the art of short-attention span misinformation; with a series of rumors of election fraud that, unlike Jan. 6 prison terms, melt away.

If Trump has a superpower, it is that he has been able to persuade conservatives that his woes are their woes. They really believe that the former president is standing up for them. Even from their prison cells.

Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at Copyright 2023,

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Dec. 8

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

The Everett City Council approved a $375,000 settlement Wednesday with a former firefighter who alleged racist harassment went unaddressed in the department.
Editorial: Fosse shouldn’t have to choose between elected roles

The Everett City Council can bar its members from other offices, but should not do so retroactively.

Schwab: Throwing cliches at Trump to see what sticks

Except for his ardent yet uninformed supporters, it all sticks in the craws of the fair-minded.

Comment: McCarthy delivers parting elbow to GOP’s House majority

Two months after saying he’d stay in office, McCarthy bows out, complicating things for his party.

Comment: Hospitals turning health care into a stay at a spa

The focus on amenities and health care as ‘a journey’ are driving up the cost of U.S. medicare care.

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, Dec. 7

A sketchy look at the eews of the day.… Continue reading

Ben Ramirez is doused with water by teammates after the AquaSox beat the Emeralds to clinch a playoff berth on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, in Everett. (Photo provided by AquaSox)
Editorial: City’s $1 million an investment in Everett baseball

Contracts for preliminary work on an AquaSox stadium honor team’s 40 years of family fun and tradition.

civic health white board
Editorial: Improving civic health starts by coming to table

Efforts locally and at the state level seek to counter the incivility that has mired public discourse.

From the bodycam footage of Everett police officer Ryan Greely and footage from Molly Wright, Wright films officer Greely before he arrests her for obstructing a law enforcement officer on Aug. 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Screenshot from a video provided by Molly Wright)
Editorial: Duties on both sides of camera during arrests

The right to record police activity is clear, but so is the need to respect the safety of officers and others.

Comment: Ranked-choice voting the big winnter on election day

More cities and counties — and two states — are using RCV and instilling more confidence among voters.

Comment: Democracy survived Nixon; Trump is a greater threat

A special. prosecutor in the Nixon investigation is concerned about how society has changed since then.

Burke: Dilemma in donations is in where to put your money

With a range of worthy causes — charitable and political — how should one weigh where the need is greatest?

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.