By David Corn
A violent mob incited by his false claims of a stolen election stormed the US Capitol, causing chaos, smashing windows, vandalizing offices, and forcing evacuations and lockdowns. Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the counting of electoral votes, had to be rushed out of the Senate chamber by Secret Service agents. The Senate floor was cleared, and one pro-Trump terrorist claimed the podium and shouted, “Trump won that election.” Reports emerged of explosions, tear gas, and gunshots. One person was shot and reported killed. An explosive device was apparently found. Senators and House members were told to shelter in place. Capitol police engaged in an armed standoff with Trump’s brownshirts. It was outright rebellion, an attempt at an actual political coup. An outraged Sen. Mitt Romney exclaimed to a reporter, “This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection.”
Trump owned this terrorism. He has whipped up his cultish followers with lies and conspiracy theories. At a rally on Wednesday morning, Trump told his supporters that the 2020 election was a grave crime and that Republicans and Democrats on the Hill were about to destroy American democracy by accepting the results. (During that event, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer and chief coup-stirrer, called for “trial by combat.”) Trump directed his frenzied supporters toward the Capitol, where they breached police lines and took over the building. They shut down Congress. They terrorized lawmakers and staff, they fought with security forces, they broke American democracy.
This is all Trump’s doing. He has encouraged violence among his supporters since the 2016 campaign. At his rallies, he encouraged followers to assault protesters and provoked violent threats against journalists. During the Black Lives Matter protests, he threatened to shoot looters. When asked during a campaign debate if he condemned the Proud Boys, violent pro-Trump shock troops, he told them to “stand back and stand by.” Wink, wink. As my colleague Mark Follman has reported, Trump has long played footsie with far-right radicals. Elizabeth Neumann, a former Department of Homeland Security official who focused on counterterrorism and threat prevention, contended in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump has been fomenting violence: “Language from campaign materials and Trump’s extemporaneous speeches at rallies have been used as justification for acts of violence.” His “inconsistent and muddied” criticism of violence and white supremacists, she pointed out, exacerbated the problem: “Extremists thrive on this mixed messaging, interpreting it as coded support.”