Commentary

Trump continues to threaten violence against those who stand for rule of law

And the former president remains intent on overthrowing the government

Pro-Trump demonstrators set up a guillotine at the Arizona Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, during a rally for conservatives upset that Congress was poised to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Like his buddy Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump is a thug willing to use violence to achieve what he cannot achieve by legitimate means. He has shown a willingness to do so in the past, and because he himself has paid no price, he is threatening to do so in the future.

We know all this, because we have witnessed it. In those anxious days and weeks leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, it had become clear to many of us that Trump saw mob violence as a means to try to keep himself in the White House, in defiance of the eviction notice served upon him by the American people. But at the time, some were not willing to hear what their own ears were telling them, what Trump’s own words were communicating.

“He’s not that crazy,” some people said. “He wouldn’t dare.”

But he was, and he did.

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He directed his angry supporters toward the Capitol, where our elected representatives were performing the constitutional rites of a peaceful transfer of power. He watched the resulting violence on television, violence that he himself had inspired, and by all accounts he enjoyed it. Throughout the hours-long riot, with members of Congress fleeing for their lives, he refused pleas to intercede from family members, from top aides and advisers, from members of his own party who were also under siege from the angry mob.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” he told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had called Trump at the White House to beg him to call off his dogs.

And afterward, when the insurrection had finally been put down, he told the rioters to always remember that day, and that he loved them.

To this day, the only regrets that Trump has expressed about the events of Jan. 6 is that they failed to keep him in office. In a rally last weekend in Texas, he reiterated that regret, complaining that Vice President Mike Pence “did have the right to change the outcome.”

“Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power,” Trump whined. “He could have overturned the election!”

Read that statement carefully, because Trump could not have been more clear about his intentions: Pence “did have the right to change the outcome.… he could have overturned the election!” Believe what your eyes and ears are telling you, what Trump himself is telling you. He was trying everything in his power, and many things not in his power, to end American democracy.

Believe what your eyes and ears are telling you, what Donald Trump himself is telling you. He was trying everything in his power, and many things not in his power, to end American democracy.

– Jay Bookman

As a consequence of his actions, Trump faces a number of investigations — congressional, civil and criminal. And just as he did before Jan. 6, he is threatening violence to try to intimidate those who stand up for the rule of law, who dare to defend the Constitution.

“If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt,” Trump told the crowd in Texas.

Don’t fool yourself: In Trump’s mind, and in the minds of his followers, “anything wrong or illegal” means anything that attempts to hold Trump accountable. And do not listen to those familiar refrains of “He wouldn’t dare or “He isn’t that crazy.” Because once again, yes, he would and yes, he is. He is basically saying now what he told the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers when asked to condemn political violence: “Stand down, and stand by.”

I’ve long been wary of the investigation launched by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis into Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia. My thinking has been that any prosecution of a president on charges this grave ought to take place at the federal level, or, if necessary, at the state level. I say that because we don’t need some spotlight-hungry local district attorney in Oklahoma or Wyoming filing nonsensical criminal charges against a future liberal president, citing Willis as precedent.

However, I’ve changed my mind. If that D.A. in Oklahoma or Wyoming has even half the evidence against a future president that Willis can already muster against Trump, then that president, regardless of party, has probably earned prosecution. We can’t allow our country, our democracy, our rule of law and our freedom to be threatened without legal consequence or recourse.

Any government that is given legitimacy by a vote of the people has not just the right but the absolute obligation to defend itself against those who would try to overthrow it. And Trump, by his own repeated admission, is intent on overthrowing it.

This commentary was originally published Feb. 3, 2022, by the Georgia Recorder, a sister publication to the Arizona Mirror and a member of the States Newsroom network of local news outlets. 

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Jay Bookman/Georgia Recorder
Jay Bookman/Georgia Recorder

Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press.

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