Trump calls people imprisoned for U.S. Capitol attack ‘hostages’

(Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump on Thursday referred to people imprisoned for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as “hostages,” during a campaign rally, his latest move to embrace his supporters involved in the riot.

“I call them the ‘J-6 hostages,’ not prisoners. I call them the hostages, what’s happened. And it’s a shame,” Trump said at the rally in Houston.

At the beginning of the event, Trump stood saluting as a song by men who were incarcerated for their role in the attack was played. Trump himself collaborated in making the song by the “J6 Prison Choir.”

The riot was an attempt to overturn Trump’s election loss to Democratic President Joe Biden, which the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination continues to falsely claim was the result of widespread fraud.

The song, “Justice for All,” was released on multiple streaming platforms in March. It features Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the imprisoned men singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States.

Trump has promoted the song before, but his use of the word “hostage” marks his latest effort to portray people involved in the attack as martyrs. Trump himself has sought to paint the four criminal cases against him as partisan prosecutions, making the message a centerpiece of his 2024 presidential campaign.

More than 1,000 people have been charged in connection with the assault on the Capitol. Four participants died during the chaos and five police officers died afterward, some by suicide.

(reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)