Over hours of opening statements in former President Donald Trump’s Senate trial, impeachment managers sounded similar themes: that several months of stolen-election messaging led to the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. One of the most visible figures of that insurrection quoted and validated those remarks in the middle of those proceedings.
Eric Munchel, the rioter dubbed the “zip-tie guy” for toting tactical restraints while accompanying his mother to the Senate, cited the impeachment managers’ trial memo in arguing that his actions could only properly be viewed in the context of Trump priming his supporters to believe that he could only lose reelection through fraud.
“Beginning in 2020, parts of the United States government—first and foremost the President of the United States of America—told the public that the only way President Donald Trump could lose the presidential election was if the election was rigged,” Munchel’s latest defense memo reads, in the first line of a section titled “Prologue.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat whose statement this morning was dedicated to some of that background, showed one of Trump’s tweets six months in advance of the election echoing this theme: “It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history,” the 45th president wrote on May 24, 2020.
“They firmly believed that if he lost, then the election was rigged,” Castro noted.
Munchel’s defense team linked to the impeachment managers’ trial brief in one footnote and quoted a series of Trump tweets with stolen-election lies in another.
“After President Trump lost the election, he and other government officials said that the presidency had been stolen from him by widespread election fraud,” Munchel’s legal brief continues. “President Trump invited Americans to come to Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, for his ‘Save America’ rally. On the day of his rally, he invited the citizens who had gathered to go to the Capitol: ‘We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women’ and ‘We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.'”
The so-called “zip-tie guy’s” attorneys deployed this timeline in support of the argument that their client should be allowed to await trial from his home.
“The government presented no evidence that Mr. Munchel is affiliated with any militant groups or hate groups or anti-government groups, or any groups who planned to do anything on January 6th beyond attending a rally to protest what they perceived as ‘the steal,'” his public defender Sandra Roland wrote in the brief.
Before another jurist in Washington kept Munchel behind bars, the Middle District of Tennessee’s U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffery S. Frensley ordered his release following a lengthy hearing on Jan. 22. Prosecutors warned that those tactical restraints Munchel found could have been used to take hostages.
“There is every reason to think the defendant and his mother would have put those flexicuffs to use if they found lawmakers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader said.
But Judge Frensley found that the “emotional” appeal of the prosecution’s argument could not deter his finding that he could order conditions that would guarantee Munchel’s appearance at his upcoming trial.
“There’s an obvious visceral reaction to it that I think is natural and reasonable for individuals to have, and the Court has to give that the appropriate consideration but also has to be guided by the law in this case and has to consider the factors that the law requires to be considered in this case,” Frensley ruled at the time.
Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell, who leads the District of D.C., put a stay on that decision until she could review it. The defense motion was submitted to her court on Wednesday, in the middle of House Democrats delivering their opening statements against Trump.
Read Munchel’s latest defense memo below:
(Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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