Pam Hemphill is a 70-year-old Idaho woman who served 2 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack. Though initially a staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump and believer in his stolen election lies, Hemphill completely reversed her position after witnessing firsthand the violence at the Capitol that day and the consequences thereafter.

In a powerful interview with CNN on the 2nd anniversary of the assault on Congress, she strongly condemned Trump for intentionally inciting the insurrection attempt to remain in power at all costs. She admitted feeling Trump took advantage of supporters like herself, “trapping” them through propaganda.

Trump Knew His Words Would Have Consequences

On December 19, 2020, Trump tweeted about plans for a “wild” protest rally to overturn the election result. At the event, he riled up crowds saying they needed to “fight like hell”. His language sparked real violence that day.

Source: Wikimedia/Marc Nozell

Hemphill now sees Trump’s words were intentionally manipulative. “Trump knew exactly what was happening that day, and he sent us down there – it was a trap,” she argued in the CNN interview.

A Believer In The “Big Lie” Changes Her Tune

Hemphill admitted to formerly believing Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. But after violence erupted, she recognized his rhetoric for what it was – dangerous lies and propaganda.

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“Struggling with it, because it’s a struggle trying to get away from gaslighting, Trump’s narcissism and all the tactics they use,” Hemphill described of her change in perspective after the riots.

Facts Versus Fictions

Despite more than 140 officers injured on January 6, Trump continues falsely portraying the event as a “peaceful protest.” But Hemphill is speaking out to counter his dangerous revisionist history. “Telling me it was a peaceful protest? I was there,” she told CNN’s Pamela Brown, angry at ongoing attempts to rewrite what happened even over a year later. “When [the mob] pushed those gates and those officers, and when they stepped on my head. It was an officer that saved my life that day.”

Source: Wikimedia/Josh Hallett

Hemphill recalled the true brutality and violence she witnessed firsthand. She explained how the charged crowds quickly assaulted police officers with overwhelming force along with weapons and chemical sprays. Her experience completely contradicts Trump’s sanitized version of events.

From Critics To Enablers

Initially, many Republican leaders condemned both Trump’s inciting rhetoric before the January 6 riots and the subsequent attack itself, which threatened lawmakers of both parties. Over time, however, Hemphill notes many Republicans have shifted to downplaying and whitewashing the events of that day.

Source: Flickr Gage Skidmore

Worse still, a growing number of GOP congress members are again acting as Trump enablers by promoting his false claims about the 2020 election or attempting to prevent an investigation into the Capitol assault. Hemphill believes Republican leaders are failing in their duty by empowering Trump’s damaging behavior instead of holding him accountable. Their tolerance poses an ongoing threat, she argues.

Stoking Dangerous Passions

In the CNN interview, Hemphill worried that Trump continues stoking anger and feelings of persecution among his supporters who still believe his stolen election lies.

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“The narrative with the J6 is getting worse,” she told host Pamela Brown, arguing Trump’s alternate reality fuels an ever-more radicalized base. “The lone wolves are what I’m worried about. They’re going out there and becoming dangerous,” Hemphill said, regarding the violent threats now regularly emerging from Trump’s most die-hard followers. She believes Trump is intentionally nurturing domestic extremism for his political gain.

From Die-Hard Supporter To Harsh Critic

Hemphill admitted she was once an ardent Trump supporter who believed he could do no wrong. Her two months in federal prison for illegally entering and demonstrating in the Capitol fundamentally altered her views.

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She now states Trump repeatedly and intentionally lied to his followers about election fraud. And she calls him “disgusting” for gaslighting supporters to undermine democracy for his ego. “A lot of people are starting to recognize Trump is a cult leader,” she told CNN host Pamela Brown. “He turned MAGA into a cult. He’s responsible because he said, ‘March down there.'”

The Fateful Words

Hemphill no longer disputes that Trump deliberately used inflammatory rhetoric like “fight like hell” to provoke the attack on Congress to stop the 2020 election certification process.

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“He’s responsible because he said, ‘March down there.’ He tries to use ‘Peacefully.’ No, he said, ‘Go fight like hell.’ That’s what he said, and he was talking to the wrong people because they took that literally,” she now recognizes. Hemphill emphasized how Trump riled up crowds using aggressive, combat-oriented language. She firmly denies his claims it was ever meant to be a “peaceful protest” – his language proves otherwise.

The Search For Accountability

Hemphill expressed faith that federal investigations will provide evidence of Trump’s involvement in orchestrating the assault on the Capitol. But she worries denialism will persist until then.

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“I have a lot of faith in Jack Smith coming with receipts to prove that Trump was involved,” she told CNN, referencing the special counsel probe. “I think that, sadly, we’re going to have to wait till court for people to start realizing that Trump has lied.”

Cult Of Personality

Hemphill now sees Trump as a “cult leader” who preyed upon supporters’ fears and loyalty to overturn the election. She hopes investigations will expose his obstruction.

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“A lot of people are starting to recognize Trump is a cult leader. He turned MAGA into a cult. Trump is disgusting,” Hemphill argued during the CNN interview.

Moment Of Clarity

Hemphill described her 60-day federal prison sentence for joining the Capitol mob as a profound wake-up call that shook her out of years of “brainwashing”. She was forced to reconsider long-held beliefs. She admits she once saw Trump as a patriotic hero fighting for supporters like herself. But with distance and reflection, she recognized the ways he intentionally fed supporters lies and false hopes to undermine American democracy for his ego and power.

Source: Wikimedia/Max Goldberg

Hemphill now uses her story as a cautionary tale to persuade others not to fall for Trump’s conspiracy theories, which already led the nation down a dark road once before on January 6th. Without accountability, she worries Trump’s rhetoric will continue steering America toward the brink again.