MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Ryan Kelley, a Republican candidate for governor in Michigan, was arrested today by the FBI. He was then charged with four misdemeanors for his alleged involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 last year. Kelley - no relation - was released without bond. All of this comes as the House Select Committee on January 6 is holding its first hearing tonight.
Joining us from Lansing is Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network. Hey, Rick.
RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: What are the charges specifically against Ryan Kelley?
PLUTA: Well, sure. I mean, what we know is that Mr. Kelley is essentially charged with cajoling and helping demonstrators - who were really rioters at this point - push past barricades and into the Capitol as the Electoral College was getting ready to certify President Biden's victory. And there are photos and videos that show Ryan Kelley at the Capitol and helping to lead the crowd. And so that is a key part of the government's case. And the judge in the case said today that those four misdemeanors carry a sentence of up to a year.
KELLY: What's Kelley saying?
PLUTA: Well, his campaign Facebook page did put up a post that says, political prisoner. And we should note that he was released without having to post bond, so he is not being held. He did not say anything as he was leaving the courthouse. There were demonstrators there supporting him.
Previously, he has said that, at that day at the Capitol, he was really just kind of along for the ride. But that didn't seem to hold water when there are these pictures of him pushing past the barricades. The state Republican Party put out a statement saying that this is Democrats weaponizing - that's the word they used - the justice system.
KELLY: All right. So a little bit of context here - Ryan Kelley is officially on the ballot for Michigan's primary for governor. That's in August. Some other Republicans were removed after being accused of collecting fraudulent ballot-qualifying signatures. I guess I'm wondering how all this shapes up for the primary and then, eventually, for the general election in November.
PLUTA: Yeah. The signature fiasco is its own, you know, separate issue. And actually, analysts say that this could embolden Ryan Kelley that's - in a race that's still crowded. It's got five remaining contenders. So this could be a breakout moment with those five Republicans still in the race. Republicans are all trying to get support of that Trump sector of the party. But it's hard to predict. You know, at the same time, Biden Democrats are feeling disenchanted. And so this just adds more to the chaos.
KELLY: And can we just focus on the timing? Again, this arrest coming today as, today, we have the first hearing from the House Select Committee on January 6, primetime national TV.
PLUTA: Oh, yeah. You know, it's going to be, you know, must-see viewing. And, you know, we sort of talked about it a little bit before - that Republicans are capitalizing on that. They're saying, is this really coincidence, as, you know, these - you know, as these hearings are getting underway in such a prominent way.
KELLY: Wow - lots to keep your eye on there for us. Thank you, Rick.
PLUTA: Oh, a pleasure.
KELLY: That is Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network. He joined us from Lansing.
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