In the wake of an attack on the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday by a violent pro-Trump mob, many lawmakers on the left and right have been quick to point a finger at the president for inciting the violence, citing a speech he gave earlier that morning to a crowd gathered to protest the results of the 2020 election.
But was the president’s alleged call to action as clear-cut as many in the media have made it seem? It’s a question that PJ Media’s Robert Spencer wasn’t afraid to ask in a piece published Sunday titled: “Exactly Where and How Did Trump Incite the Mob?”
A “self-inflicted wound”
For his piece, Spencer broke down a transcript of the president’s speech Wednesday morning, arguing that, despite the claims of Trump’s detractors, “nothing” in his talk explicitly “[called] upon the crowd to storm the Capitol, or to overthrow the government, or to do anything but walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and encourage lawmakers to support the president.”
Spencer’s position comes in stark contrast to that of Republican lawmakers like Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Pat Toomey (PA), who have “joined the calls for Trump either to resign or face a second impeachment” over his alleged role in the violence at the Capitol, the writer noted.
Even Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), long an ally of the president, has characterized Wednesday’s events as a “self-inflicted wound” for Trump. “When it comes to accountability the president needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution,” Graham said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) has been more blunt in her remarks, telling CBS’s 60 Minutes in a recent interview that Trump “is guilty of inciting insurrection” and “has to pay a price for that,” according to USA Today.
“Where did he say that?”
So what exactly did Trump say to garner him so much criticism? According to a transcript from Rev, Trump said about 15 minutes into his Wednesday speech:
Our media is not free. It’s not fair. It suppresses thought. It suppresses speech, and it’s become the enemy of the people. […] Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back. It’s like a boxer, and we want to be so nice. We want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people.
We’re going to have to fight much harder and [Vice President] Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. If he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country, because you’re sworn to uphold our constitution. Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy.
After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.
Spencer, for his part, argued Sunday that if Democrats are set on impeaching Trump over his alleged incitement, they’ll need to show exactly where, when, and how. “Where did he say that the crowd should storm the Capitol and disrupt the electoral vote certification?” the writer pressed, citing the transcript. “If he didn’t say this, then he is not guilty of incitement, and to claim that he is threatens the very foundations of America as a free society,” Spencer wrote.
At the conclusion of his talk, Trump revived notions of walking down to the Capitol, but he never explicitly mentioned breaching it, telling rallygoers:
So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give… The Democrats are hopeless. They’re never voting for anything, not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans — the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help — we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.
So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you all for being here, this is incredible. Thank you very much. Thank you.
“You will pay”
In the days since the attack, Trump has been clear in his condemnation of the violence — but it remains to be seen whether that’s enough to stop House Dems from succeeding in their latest attempt to impeach him, which, according to The Orange County Register, is already starting to get underway in the lower chamber on a single charge: “incitement of insurrection.”
“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem,” President Trump said in a video statement Thursday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” he added. “To those who engage in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country, and to those who broke the law, you will pay.”