Trump says he would pardon 'a large portion' of those involved in Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

Former U.S. president Donald Trump said he would pardon "a large portion" of the people involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in a CNN town hall on Wednesday night. 

Former U.S. president also doubled down on false claims about 2020 election during CNN town hall

A man walks away from a car.
Former U.S. president and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts after arriving at Aberdeen International Airport in Aberdeen, Scotland, on May 1. (Russell Cheyne/Reuters)

Former U.S. president Donald Trump said he would pardon "a large portion" of the people involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in a CNN town hall on Wednesday night. 

Trump also declined to express regret for the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. He called Jan. 6, 2021, a "beautiful day" and said the crowd he spoke to before the attack "were there with love in their heart."

"I am inclined to pardon many of them. I can't say for every single one because a couple of them probably they got out of control," Trump told CNN host Kaitlan Collins.

When pressed on whether he would pardon four members of the Proud Boys convicted of seditious conspiracy, Trump said he would have to take a look at their case. 

"But I will say, in Washington, D.C., you cannot get a fair trial. You cannot. Just like in New York City, you can't get a fair trial."

Trump repeated false claims

Wednesday's town hall marked Trump's first appearance on CNN since 2016. He had branded the network "fake news" and never granted any of its journalists an interview while president.

The Republican is facing a crescendo of legal problems, yet seems in a stronger position than ever to become his party's presidential nominee, and he's attempting to reach mainstream media viewers despite having deepened his embrace of extremists since leaving the White House.

WATCH | Trump says Jan. 6, 2021 - day of attack on Capitol Hill - was a 'beautiful day'

Trump brushes off sex abuse verdict in CNN town hall

5 months ago
Duration 2:58
After years of calling CNN 'fake news,’ Donald Trump held a campaign town hall on the network. It came just days after a jury found that Trump, the current frontrunner in the Republican primary race, sexually abused and defamed columnist E. Jean Carroll.

The 90-minute town hall was filmed live before an audience of New Hampshire Republicans who gave Trump a standing ovation as he took the stage. 

The former president repeated many false claims. He refused to acknowledge that he lost the 2020 election and reasserted it was rigged against him. 

On the sexual assault case 

Trump also made his first public comments about a New York trial where a jury on Tuesday held him liable for sexually abusing a woman nearly 30 years ago and defaming her when she spoke about it publicly. He skipped the trial and did not testify in his own defence.

The former president denied sexually abusing magazine writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s. 

 "I don't know her," Trump said. "I never met her. I had no idea who she is."

Carroll was awarded $5 million US in damages. Trump said he plans to appeal the verdict.

A woman holds a protest sign
A protester walks past Trump supporters outside the venue for the CNN town hall on Wednesday night. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

No commitment on Ukraine

Trump repeated his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling him "a smart guy," but said "he made a bad mistake" to invade Ukraine.

Trump claimed, without evidence or explanation, that Putin would never have invaded Ukraine if Trump was still president. He said he had "a great relationship" with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, referencing his 2019 impeachment after pressuring Zelenskyy for "a favour" while withholding military aid.

Trump wouldn't answer a question about whether he'd continue to send U.S. aid to Ukraine against Russia's invasion and wouldn't answer a question about who he wanted to win the war, only saying: "I want everybody to stop dying."

People stand in a parking lot with a pro-Trump flag.
Trump supporters gather outside the venue where he took part in a CNN campaign town hall event in Manchester, N.H., on Wednesday night. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

False abortion claims

Trump, responding to a question about the U.S. Supreme Court overturning abortion rights last year, took credit for appointing three of the justices who joined in the majority ruling, saying "it was such a great victory and people are starting to understand it now."

He repeatedly falsely claimed that abortion rights supporters wanted to "kill a baby" in the ninth month of pregnancy or even after a birth. The claim is based on a misleading interpretation of a Senate vote.

Trump also dodged questions about whether, if elected president again, he would sign a national abortion ban. Trump instead spoke about the court ruling as having given anti-abortion activists "negotiating ability." "What I will do is negotiate so people are happy," he said, when asked if he would sign a federal abortion ban. He repeatedly said he would "do what's right," without specifying what that was.

What's next

Stu Rothenberg, a non-partisan political analyst, said Trump's performance was a likely prelude to his 2024 campaign.

"It was classic Trump — it was Donald Trump from 2015 right up until now: the Big Lie, the outrageous style, demeaning individuals, mocking them," said Rothenberg, senior editor at the Inside Elections newsletter. "He hasn't changed, nor will he. It was a glimpse into the next year and a half."

Responding to Trump's remarks, Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison issued a statement calling Trump a "dangerous, extreme candidate who seeks to undermine democracy." Biden sought to fundraise off the event.

"Do you want four more years of that? If you don't, pitch in to our campaign," Biden wrote on Twitter.

With files from CBC News and Reuters