President Donald Trump incited a mob with a self-indulgent, anger-inducing, violence-inciting speech that undermined the country. By the time it was over, four people were dead, the Capitol was vandalized, and Congress was interrupted for hours on a day of extreme importance. Trump is to blame, and Jan. 20 cannot get here soon enough.
Before Trump took the platform, former New York Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the crowd to “have trial by combat.” That’s a direct call to violence, and Trump said nothing to dissuade it.
Throughout 70 minutes outside the White House, Trump belabored a debunked and nonsensical argument that Democrats stole the election for President-elect Joe Biden. In a litany of linear statements, Trump told the onsite crowd — and millions watching from home — they are victims of corruption. There was no other message. Samples:
• “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that’s what this is about. … We will stop the steal.”
• “We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen.”
• We’re gathered “to save our democracy.”
• “For years, Democrats have gotten away with election fraud.”
• “We don’t have free and fair elections.”
• “You will have an illegitimate president, that’s what you’ll have. And we can’t let that happen.”
• “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 … (pause, then unfinished statement). The Democrats are hopeless.”
We know of no darker speech in presidential history. Presidents have declared war with less gloom. At Trump’s suggestion, a large group of his most loyal supporters left the “Save America” rally and marched toward the Capitol believing they were near-helpless victims of a corrupt and unfair society, rather than privileged Americans who have the luxury of travel, the right to vote and the freedom to express opinions.
As they marched, they learned Pence would not overturn the election as Trump had mentioned in his speech. This exacerbated unjustified anger emotions intentionally leveraged by Trump, who knew exactly what might happen. The criminals, rightly called “a mob of thugs” by Biden, embarked on a disgusting attack history should never forget.
The most powerful man in the world — a billionaire who controls a nuclear arsenal and an unfathomable amount of government cash — intentionally inspired criminal acts by an angry mob. That is now the indelible legacy of Donald J. Trump and an embarrassing blemish on our country’s global reputation.
The mob broke windows and forced its way into a sacred institution that stood, until Wednesday, as the world’s symbol of civilized public process. All involved should be arrested, tried and given the harshest sentences possible.
Even after inciting the riot, Trump failed to intervene. He stood by and did nothing to call it off. Later, he told the criminals he understood their anger and gingerly suggested they head home. It sounded intentionally disingenuous, and it probably was.
Trump has acted like a bratty child throwing a tantrum since the day he lost reelection. Dozens of courts have rejected his lawsuits, yet he continues making a fool of himself by insisting he was robbed.
On Wednesday, what was merely silly became violent. By using words like a weapon, Trump inflicted intractable harm on his movement, his party, his legacy and — most tragically — a country built on peaceful and dignified transitions of presidential power.
The Gazette editorial board