Trump's Suggestion He'll Pardon Jan. 6 Rioters 'the Stuff of Dictators': Nixon WH Lawyer

John W. Dean, who served as White House counsel under former President Richard Nixon, blasted former President Donald Trump's suggestion at a Saturday rally that he will pardon those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, saying such an action is "the stuff of dictators."

During a rally near Houston, Texas, Trump told thousands of his supporters that the rioters who stormed the Capitol in an apparent effort to disrupt the formal certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory are being treated "so unfairly." He went on to float the idea that they would receive "pardons" if he becomes president again.

"This is beyond being a demagogue to the stuff of dictators. He is defying the rule of law. Failure to confront a tyrant only encourages bad behavior. If thinking Americans don't understand what Trump is doing and what the criminal justice system must do we are all in big trouble!" Dean tweeted late Saturday evening, sharing a clip of Trump's remarks at the rally.

Dean was infamously involved in the cover-up of the Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of Nixon, a Republican, in 1974. The former White House counsel pleaded guilty to a single felony charge in exchange for becoming a key cooperating witness for the prosecution in that case. He formerly identified as a member of the GOP, but now is an independent.

"And another thing we'll do, and so many people have been asking me about it, if I run [in 2024], and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly," Trump told supporters at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe. "We will treat them fairly, and if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons," he promised.

Other legal experts quickly raised alarms about Trump's remarks as well. "I have no doubt Trump is serious about this. He is saying he'll dismantle the legal system retroactively," Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, tweeted.

Joyce Allen, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, urged journalists to ask Republican lawmakers whether they supported Trump's pardon suggestion.

"This is a good opening for the media. Ask every GOP elected if they agree with Trump that everyone convicted in connection with the insurrection should be pardoned. It's a simple yes or no question," Allen wrote in a Twitter post.

Hundreds of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol a little more than a year ago, largely animated by the then president's lies about the 2020 election. Ahead of the violence, Trump told thousands of followers at a nearby rally to walk to the legislative building and "fight like hell" to save their country. The assault came as Congress met to carry out the formal certification of Biden's Electoral College win.

More than 760 people have been charged thus far in connection to the January 6 riot. While Trump and his allies have claimed that these individuals are facing inhumane treatment in jail, the vast majority have been released as they await their hearings. The indictments range widely from relatively low-level trespassing offenses to serious allegations of violence—and even seditious conspiracy charges for members of the far-right Oath Keepers group.

Trump has not officially announced whether he plans to launch another presidential bid in 2024. However, he has repeatedly teased the possibility, as he did again on Saturday. The former president has said his supporters will be "very happy" with what he decides to do.

Although Trump and his allies continue to claim that the 2020 election was "rigged" or "stolen" in favor of Biden, they have not provided evidence substantiating the allegation. To the contrary, more than 60 election challenge lawsuits they've filed have failed in state and federal courts. Even 10 judges appointed by Trump ruled against the legal challenges.

January 6 rioters
Former President Donald Trump suggested he will pardon rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol a little more than a year ago during a Saturday speech at a Texas rally. Above, pro-Trump rioters clash with police and security forces as people storm the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Audits and recounts around the country—including in areas where the election process and reviews were managed by pro-Trump Republicans—have consistently reaffirmed Biden's victory. High-profile Trump administration officials and supporters of the former president have said publicly that there is "no evidence" to support the claims of widespread voter fraud leading to Biden's win.

Nonetheless, the lies about the 2020 election have been widely accepted by many Republicans. Numerous polls over the past year have shown that a substantial majority of GOP voters do not view Biden as the legitimate president and believe that Trump actually won.

Newsweek reached out to Trump's press office for further comment, but did not immediately receive a response.