Many high-level political figures converge on an astonishing consensus: President Donald Trump personally instigated a violent attack on the US Capitol building on January 6. four dead and an indelible scar on American democracy. These assessments come not only from Trump’s political opponents, but also from members of his own party and even former members of his administration.
Among them, General James Mattis, Trump’s First Secretary of Defense, who said last night that “the effort to subjugate American democracy through mob rule … was fomented by Mr. Trump.General Joseph Dunford, former Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff under Trump, also blame Trump. Republican Senator Mitt Romney directly blamed Trump for the events of last night, and Republican Adam Kinzinger (IL) this morning called for the invocation of the 25e Amendment, which gives the vice president and cabinet the power to remove an unfit president.
Many Trump employees and assistants to have already resigned, and others have reportedly discussed acting to To take it out, largely out of fear that Trump will directly unleash more violence if he is not suppressed. White House attorney Pat Cipollone reportedly urged other staff not to speak or take orders from Trump to avoid future prosecution for treason.
Trump’s statements before and during the storming of the Capitol building, however, did not include explicit calls for a violent attack on American democratic institutions. Instead, those who blame Trump are in part referring to rhetoric that has agitated his supporters with conspiratorial lies and instilled a sense of impending doom – while relying on them to make the final decision to act. This is a version of ‘stochastic terrorism’ tactics common to authoritarian leaders around the world.
In recent weeks, Trump has strongly encouraged the rally that led directly to the assault on Capitol Hill. The rally was part of the “Stop the Steal” movement which, fueled by Trump’s own conspiratorial fantasies, explicitly aimed at stopping the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. On December 19, Trump promised a “big DC demonstration on January 6e. Be there, will be wild! Trump again promoted the rally on December 27, December 30 and January 1, in tweets compiled by the New York Times.
At the rally, Trump delivered the same inflammatory rhetoric and false statements which characterized his entire presidency. For almost an hour, he reiterated claims that the election was stolen – claims that were dismissed as unfounded by at least 59 courts, many of whom are headed by judges appointed by Trump.
Trump has also repeatedly hinted that his supporters should act. Towards the start of his speech, Trump even made what appeared to be an indirect threat to Vice President Mike Pence, who Trump incorrectly said his supporters had the power to overrule the November 6 election results.
“I just spoke to Mike [Pence]Trump told the crowd. “I said Mike, [overturning the results] does not take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing. It takes courage… we’re just not going to let this happen.
As the speech continued, Trump came closer and closer to calling for direct action from his supporters.
“We will never give up; we will never concede, ”Trump said to thunderous applause. “We will stop the theft. We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol … We’re going to try to give our Republicans, the weak … the kind of pride and daring they need to take our country back.
Supporters have followed Trump’s call to march to Capitol Hill. In less than two hours, they had made their way through barricades, then through the doors of the Capitol building, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers.
After the takeover of the Capitol building, Trump issued a recorded statement purported to defuse the violence. Trump was supposed to speak from a script, but he ad-libbed, repeat false statements about electoral fraud and express support for the rioters. A similar improvisation would have led to his infamous remarks from “ many sides ” about the 2017 white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We had an election that was stolen from us. It was an overwhelming election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side, “Trump said in the video, before reluctantly telling supporters,” You have to go home now. We must have peace, we must have law and order. “
“There has never been a time like this when such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us – from me, from you, from our country,” he said. it also stated in the recording. “It was a fraudulent election.”
“We love you. You are very special,” he told supporters as they marched through the Capitol waving Confederate battle flags. “You saw what happened. You saw the way others are treated that are so bad and so bad I know how you feel But come home and come home in peace.
Vague repeated references to a wide range of nefarious enemies – “them” and “others” who “are so bad and so bad” – are typical of authoritarian tactics aimed at consolidating loyalty by invoking powerful but nonspecific threats. While clearly intended to slow the violence, Trump’s message was pretty quick deleted from Facebook and other social media platforms fearing it will make matters worse.
Trump’s rhetoric has led to this moment not for weeks or months, but years. Trump began to build his political base by promoting the racist ‘birther’ conspiracy theory from 2011. This theory falsely claimed that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore was not the rightfully elected leader of the nation.
A constant drumbeat of bogus and conspiratorial allegations has continued ever since, repeatedly amplified by political allies when Trump took power. It remains to be seen what consequences Trump and his proxies might suffer, but yesterday’s assault on American democracy was a clear result of their efforts.
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