The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump has just begun, but did his actions warrant it? Find out in this Australians.News Fact Check.
On the 13th of January, Donald Trump was impeached for the second time by the Democrat-led House of Representatives voting 232-197 in favour of the “incitement of insurrection” charges, following the storming of the Capitol building on January 6th.
Yesterday, the impeachment trial of Donald Trump began, making him the first US president to be impeached twice, as well as the first former president to face impeachment charges.
The impeachment efforts against Trump assert that he committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” on January 6th when the Capitol building was invaded by MAGA supporters during a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally.
The storming of the Capitol building occurred while the electoral college certified votes for Joe Biden, thus officially securing him the position as the 46th President of the United States.
Democrats have connected the statements made by the President amid his Stop the Steal speech, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating:
“The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
So did Trump incite the events that occurred at the Capitol Building on January 6th? Let’s take a look.
Trump’s Stop The Steal Statements
Here are the statements Trump made during his speech which have been used as evidence of his incitement to insurrection:
“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. And we’re going to have to fight much harder.”
“After this, we’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we are 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.”
“We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” Trump said. “Our country has had enough. We’re not going to take it anymore.”
“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard. Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy.”
I deemed the claim that Trump incited insurrection to be mostly false – read on to find out why.
Did Trump Incite Insurrection?
Insurrection is defined as a “violent uprising against an authority or government,” and the events that occurred at the Capitol on January 6th certainly fit that description, particularly given that five people died.
However, the question at hand is whether or not the insurrection occurred at the behest of the President, or if it was the result of rogue actors.
When looking at Trump’s statements, there are several things that may give a reader pause, particularly references to “fighting much harder” and “never giving up.”
However, references to “fighting” are hardly unique within a political context, with political juggernaut Hilary Clinton famously saying during her 2016 concession speech that voters must “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is, it is worth it.”
Much like Trump, whose statements were predicated upon his belief that the election was stolen, Hilary Clinton’s statements came amid her concession speech, after repeatedly asserting that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.
To this day, Clinton maintains that the 2016 election was not “on the level” and she also went on to urge Joe Biden to “not concede under any circumstances” if the 2020 election results were close in a later public appearance.
Both Trump and Clinton’s statements can be interpreted as a call for political action, such as protesting or calling their local politicians, or they can be interpreted as a call to physical action, and violence.
However, in the case of Trump, an important point to highlight is that he stated within his speech that his supporters would be “marching peacefully and patriotically” to the Capitol building to “make [their] voices heard.”
Finally, the insurrection occurred roughly 20 minutes prior to the completion of Trump’s speech, suggesting that the rioters acted independently of Trump’s rhetoric on the day.
Ultimately, while Trump certainly set the frame that the 2020 election was stolen from him, this fact on its own doesn’t necessitate insurrection as a response, as we illustrated with Hilary Clinton’s prior comments.
Instead, Trump’s speech can be more easily interpreted as a passionate plea for supporters to rally outside the Capitol to express their dissatisfaction, without him encouraging them to break the windows and deface the building while politicians were inside.
Moreover, Trump’s mention of heading to the building “peacefully and patriotically” suggests that he did not wish for violent acts to occur, which follows his mantra of being the “law and order” president, a position that he reiterated in the midst of protests about racism in the United States.
Perhaps his statements were delicately chosen to provide him plausible deniability, and perhaps the President suspected or hoped that violence would indeed occur. However, many of his supporters can be heard booing those who were breaking the windows at the Capitol, suggesting that at the very least, his statements weren’t interpreted as an incitement by the majority in attendance of the rally.
As such, I have deemed the claims of Donald Trump’s “incitement of insurrection” to be Mostly False.