Three years to the day that supporters of Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s electoral victory, Mr. Trump said yet again that the mob had been acting “peacefully and patriotically.” He called for the release of people imprisoned for their actions that day, and he criticized the congressional committee that investigated the attack as “fake.”
Speaking to crowds of several hundred people at two events on Saturday in Iowa, Mr. Trump,who faces criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, made only passing references to the riot, focusing much of his speeches instead on criticizing President Biden’s policies.
But at his second event, Mr. Trump — who has repeatedly referred to the people serving sentences in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack as “hostages” — called on Mr. Biden to free them. More than 1,200 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, 170 have been convicted of crimes at trial and more than 700 have pleaded guilty.
“Release the J6 hostages, Joe,” Mr. Trump said in Clinton, Iowa. “Release them, Joe. You can do it real easy, Joe.”
Mr. Trump’s speeches on Saturday came a day after Mr. Biden forcefully condemned the former president as “pro-insurrectionist” and a perilous threat to democracy. Mr. Trump offered only minimal response to those denunciations.
At his first event, in Newton, Mr. Trump called Mr. Biden’s speech “ridiculous” and argued that the president was overly focused on the Jan. 6 attack in order to divert attention from his record.
“That’s going to be their case,” Mr. Trump said later in the day. “Because he can’t say anything good.”
Throughout both speeches, Mr. Trump repeatedly invoked the lie at the heart of the riot: that the 2020 election was stolen from him. And, as he frequently has in recent months, Mr. Trump sought to deflect accusations that he and his policies are anti-democratic by pointing his finger at Mr. Biden.
“He’s a threat to democracy because he’s incompetent,” Mr. Trump said in Newton, even as he accused Mr. Biden of being the mastermind behind the criminal charges against him. There is no evidence that President Biden has meddled in any of the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump, which span federal and state courts.
“He’s corrupt. He’s incompetent. He has no idea,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Biden. “He weaponized the D.O.J. and the F.B.I.”
Many of those in attendance in Newton, and at a rally in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Friday, said they supported mild punishment for anyone who had, in fact, committed a crime on Jan. 6. But they added that the severity of the event had been overstated and that the investigations into the riot had no merit.
“You do the crime, you do the time. But just being there is not a crime,” Bruce Fedders, 67, said in Sioux Center, adding, “Jan. 6 — I won’t even use ‘insurrection.’”
Gary Leffler, a Trump caucus captain and former candidate for the House of Representatives, said he had marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, though he had not gone inside the building.
“There was no feeling from anyone that was there that this was an insurrection,” Mr. Leffler, 62, said in Newton. “That’s a pile of horse manure.”