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Rep. Jamie Raskin laid out a powerful case Thursday that former President Donald Trump’s “pattern” of inciting violence began long before the Jan. 6 riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol. To illustrate that point, Raskin, D-Md., revisited the political unrest last spring in Michigan and the alleged plot to kidnap and kill the state’s Democratic governor.
“Jan. 6 was the culmination of the president's actions, not an aberration from them,” Raskin, the lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial against Trump, said, adding, “There the pattern is, staring us in the face.”
Raskin played a series of video clips of Trump encouraging violence against protesters at his political rallies, then pivoted to the unrest in Michigan over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's strict coronavirus restrictions.
“On March 17, the day after Whitmer pushed the federal government to better support the states on COVID-19, Trump criticized her handling of the pandemic, tweeting, ‘Failing Michigan governor must work harder and be much more proactive. We are pushing her to get the job done. I stand with Michigan,’” Raskin said. “On March 27 he added, 'I love Michigan. One of the reasons we’re doing such a great job for them during this horrible pandemic, yet your governor Gretchen Half-Whitmer is way in over her head. She doesn’t have a clue, likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude. #MAGA!' On April 17, 2020, he tweeted, 'LIBERATE MICHIGAN!'"
"Not even two weeks later, on April 30, his supporters marched on the Michigan state Capitol in Lansing," Raskin continued. "They stormed the building. Trump's marching orders were followed by aggressive action on the ground."
Raskin then played video of that attack, the parallels clear with what transpired on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol.
“As the video shows, these militant protesters showed up ready to take a violent stand. They came armed and tightly packed themselves into the building with no regard, of course, for social distancing. This Trump-inspired mob may indeed look familiar to you,” Raskin said. “Confederate battle flags, MAGA hats, weapons, camo army gear, just like the insurrectionists who showed up and invaded this chamber on Jan. 6. The siege of the Michigan Statehouse was effectively a state-level dress rehearsal for the siege of the U.S. Capitol that Trump incited on Jan. 6. It was a preview of the coming insurrection.”
Raskin noted that Trump's response to the violent siege in Lansing was also a precursor to what would later transpire in Washington. Rather than condemn the rioters, he portrayed them as victims.
“The day after the attack in Lansing, Trump told Whitmer to negotiate with the extremists, tweeting that the governor should just ‘give a little’ to the violent men who stormed the Capitol,” Raskin said.
When Whitmer refused to negotiate with the militant Trump supporters, they attacked the Capitol in Lansing a second time. One man showed up with a doll meant to depict Whitmer, a noose tied around her neck, “foreshadowing the appearance of the large gallows erected outside this building,” Raskin said.
As is well documented, Trump continued to rail against Whitmer at campaign rallies last summer and fall. “Then, on Oct. 8, the precise consequences of the president’s incitement to violence were revealed to the whole world,” Raskin said. “Thirteen men were arrested by the FBI for plotting to storm the Michigan state Capitol building, launch a civil war, kidnap Gov. Whitmer, transport her to Wisconsin and then try and execute her. This was an assassination conspiracy, a kidnapping conspiracy.”
Just as his Democratic colleagues had done on Wednesday when they chronicled Trump's refusal to demand that his supporters immediately leave the U.S. Capitol and his failure to swiftly deploy the National Guard to shore up badly outnumbered Capitol Police, Raskin focused on the then president’s response to the news of the plot to kidnap Whitmer and foment a second civil war.
“What did Donald Trump do as president of the United States to defend one of our nation’s governors against a plotted kidnapping by violent insurrectionists? Did he publicly condemn the violent domestic extremeists who hoped and planned to launch a civil war in America?” Raskin asked. “No, not at all. He further inflamed them by continuing to attack the governor who was the object of their hatred in this kidnapping conspiracy.”
The impeachment managers have made a compelling case this week that Trump has shown little remorse for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, and Raskin hammered home that point in recounting the then president’s continued attacks on Whitmer, even after the alleged plot to kill her was found out.
"He tweeted, 'Gov. Whitmer has done a terrible job.' He demanded that she thank him for the law enforcement operation that had foiled the kidnapping conspiracy that had been encouraged by his rhetoric," Raskin said, noting that a week later, Trump was back campaigning in Michigan, where he continued to go after Whitmer, eliciting chants of "Lock her up!"
"Trump knew exactly what he was doing in inciting the Jan. 6 mob. Exactly. He had just seen how easily his words and actions inspired violence in Michigan," Raskin said. "He sent a clear message to his supporters. He encouraged planning and conspiracies to take over capitol buildings and threaten public officials who refused to bow down to his political will."
While Trump's lawyers have argued that the former president's rhetoric was protected under the First Amendment and that he cannot be blamed for the actions of some of his most demonstrative supporters, Raskin concluded by turning the spotlight back on the members of the Senate, who will decide whether Trump can ever hold elected office in the U.S. again.
“My dear colleagues, is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he is ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?” Raskin asked rhetorically. “Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that? President Trump declared his conduct totally appropriate. So if he gets back into office and it happens again, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.”
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