Biden campaign taps Jan. 6 officers to campaign in battleground states ahead of presidential debate

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Three police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol during the deadly Jan. 6 riot will help President Joe Biden's campaign in battleground states ahead of next month’s debate between Biden and former President Donald Trump, the campaign announced Tuesday.

Former U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, former Police Officer Harry Dunn and Washington Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel “Danny” Hodges will campaign in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and New Hampshire, the campaign said in a news release.

The officers will meet with local elected officials, law enforcement organizations and community members to underscore what it described as the threat Trump poses to democracy and the “ongoing threat of political violence” if he is re-elected, the release said.

Dunn was joined Tuesday by former Washington Police Officer Michael Fanone — who suffered a heart attack and a traumatic brain injury after he was violently assaulted during the Capitol attack — and actor Robert De Niro at a news conference the Biden campaign held outside the New York City courthouse where Trump’s hush money trial is taking place.

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During the news conference, Dunn argued that Trump continues to pose "the greatest threat" to democracy as he seeks a second presidential term.

"The fight for a lot of us didn’t end on Jan. 6 that evening when we went home. The fight still continues now," Dunn said. "What happened that day was an attempt to halt, to overthrow, an election. Donald Trump is the greatest threat to our democracy and the safety of communities across the country today. He has encouraged and continues to encourage political violence.

"Political violence is never acceptable. But you have a presidential candidate, you have a presidential candidate that champions it, that encourages it and supports it," he added. "We cannot have that."

In a statement included in the Biden campaign’s news release, Dunn said Trump has gone so far as to say “there will be a ‘bloodbath’ if he loses again and has promised to be a dictator on ‘day one’ and to pardon January 6 rioters.”

“Donald Trump only cares about Donald Trump, which is why come November, Americans will reject his extremism once and for all and re-elect the only candidate in the race committed to protecting our democracy and standing up for law enforcement: Joe Biden,” he added.

At the news conference, Fanone recalled being "brutally assaulted" by Jan. 6 Capitol rioters and stressed that Trump supporters were "fueled by Trump’s lies and the lies of his surrogates lies that the 2020 election was stolen."

"At the end of the day, this election is about Donald Trump and his vision for the office of the president of the United States, not as a public servant who answers to the elected, to the people who elected him, but as an authoritarian who answers to and serves only himself," Fanone said.

De Niro said he hopes a new campaign ad he participated in reminds Trump supporters of the “danger” he poses, decrying the mob that stormed the Capitol and left “death and destruction in its wake.”

“That’s why I needed to be involved and wanted to be involved in the new Biden-Harris ad, because it shows the violence of Trump and reminds us that he’ll use violence against anyone who stands in the way of his megalomania and greed,” De Niro said.

The ad, titled “Snapped,” features a voiceover by De Niro, who describes Trump as someone “desperately trying to hold on to power” after he lost the 2020 election and running to be a “dictator” in his 2024 campaign.

“Trump wants revenge, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it,” De Niro says in the ad.

The Trump campaign responded to the news conference with its own statements to reporters at the same spot outside the courthouse. Senior adviser Jason Miller and spokespeople Karoline Leavitt and Steven Cheung maintained that Trump did nothing wrong in the hush money case and echoed his assertions that the trial is an election interference effort by Democrats and that the judge overseeing it, Juan Merchan, is “highly conflicted.”

“They’re making a political mockery of this entire thing,” Cheung said. “The fact remains that President Trump will overcome, he will fight these charges up and down, and there’s nothing to stop the truth from coming out.”

The three officers have publicly detailed their harrowing experiences in battling Capitol rioters amid Trump’s claims of a rigged election and refusal to concede his loss.

Dunn, a 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police force who lost his bid in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat in Maryland this month, frequently made appearances on cable news programs, provided emotional testimony before a House Jan. 6 committee hearing and wrote a book about the Capitol attack and his life.

Gonell, who experienced injuries as a result of the Capitol attack, also testified before the House Jan. 6 committee, giving a firsthand account of the violence of the riot. During his testimony, Gonell called the attack an "attempted coup" and recalled the rioters' calling officers traitors and shouting that he should be executed.

Gonell had also testified in the trial of Kyle Fitzsimons, who was convicted of assaulting Gonell during the Jan. 6 attack.

Hodges, who testified before the House Jan. 6 committee, was crushed by a pro-Trump mob in a tunnel leading into the Capitol during the attack. He sought medical attention after the attack on him, a video of which was aired at the House Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings. He also appeared in court for the trials of several Capitol defendants.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com