The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump wishes happy birthday to fatally shot Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt, calls for Justice Department to reopen investigation

Former president Donald Trump waves after his speech during a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Saturday. (Rachel Mummey/Reuters)

Former president Donald Trump recorded a video to mark the birthday of Ashli Babbitt, the Capitol rioter fatally shot by police, in which he offered “unwavering support” to her family and called on the Justice Department to reopen its investigation into her death.

“On that horrible day of January 6, Ashli arrived at the United States Capitol,” Trump said in the video. “She was shot and tragically killed. Today would’ve been her birthday. Happy birthday, Ashli.”

The video was reportedly played at an event Sunday in Freeport, Tex., where family and friends of Babbitt commemorated what would have been her 36th birthday.

In the video, Trump called Babbitt a “a truly incredible person” and made no mention of his own role on a day when thousands of his supporters violently stormed the Capitol, disrupting Congress’s count of the electoral college votes in the November 2020 presidential election. The violent siege ultimately resulted in five deaths.

“To Ashli’s family and friends, please know that her memory will live on in our hearts for all time,” Trump said, citing Babbitt’s service in the military, including time in Iraq.

Video of the event, including Trump’s remarks, was posted on social media by News2Share’s Ford Fischer. Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) also offered a recorded message at the event, according to Fischer’s postings.

‘The storm is here’: Ashli Babbitt’s journey from capital ‘guardian’ to invader

Babbitt was among a mob of Trump supporters who used a flagpole, a helmet and other items to batter the barricaded doors to the Speaker’s Lobby, the hallway outside the House Chamber where some lawmakers were sheltering on the afternoon of Jan. 6. A Capitol Police officer shot Babbitt as she was trying to climb through a broken glass panel in one of the doors, hitting her in the shoulder. She later died.

The Justice Department found in April that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Babbitt’s civil rights had been violated and that it was reasonable for the officer to believe he was firing in self-defense or in defense of lawmakers fleeing the House chamber.

In the video, Trump contested that finding.

“Together, we grieve her terrible loss,” Trump said of Babbitt. “There was no reason Ashli should’ve lost her life that day. We must all demand justice for Ashli and her family, so on this solemn occasion as we celebrate her life, we renew our call for a fair and nonpartisan investigation into the death of Ashli Babbitt.”

“I offer my unwavering support to Ashli’s family and call on the Department of Justice to reopen its investigation into her death on Jan. 6,” Trump added.

An internal investigation by the Capitol Police found no wrongdoing by the officer who shot Babbitt. The probe determined that the officer’s use of force was within the department’s guidelines, which allow deadly force only when officers believe they are protecting themselves or others from serious harm.

Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt reveals identity in NBC interview, says ‘I saved countless lives’ on Jan. 6

In an interview with NBC News in August, the officer came forward. Lt. Michael Byrd, a 28-year veteran of the Capitol Police, said he fired his gun that day only as a “last resort.” He said he was trying to protect about 60 to 80 House members and staff who were sheltering beyond the glass doors of the Speaker’s Lobby.

“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out.”

Babbitt was a supporter of QAnon, an extremist ideology based on false claims, and an ardent backer of Trump, her since-deleted Twitter account showed. She tweeted support for Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Justin Jouvenal and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.