Trump’s pressure on investigators prompted Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who sits on the House committee probing the insurrection, to warn that the ex-President had issued a “call to arms.”
“Calling out for demonstrations if, you know, anything adverse, legally, happens to him, is pretty extraordinary. And I think it’s important to think through what message is being sent,” the California Democrat told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Sunday.
In yet another sign of Trump’s incessantly consuming inability to accept his election loss, he issued a statement that same evening slamming former Vice President Mike Pence for refusing his demands to overturn the result of the democratic election in 2020, and falsely claimed that the then-vice president had the power to do so.
Trump’s signals possible new abuse of power
Trump’s latest comment on pardons was in line with his attempt to whitewash the truth of a day when his mob, incited at his Washington rally, invaded the Capitol to try and disrupt the certification of Biden’s win, beat up police officers and sent lawmakers running for their lives. Throughout his presidency, he used the chief executive’s pardon power to shield his political cronies.
“If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly,” Trump said on Saturday. “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly.”
People dragged into the criminal justice system because they tried to stage a coup based on lies about a stolen election are not being treated unfairly. But it is characteristic of Trump’s democracy-threatening brand of politics to play up a sense of grievance and victimhood. He spent four years of his twice-impeached presidency sowing a narrative that opponents and subordinates who tried to check him were in fact the ones guilty of abusing power. And he repeatedly sought to force the Justice Department to embrace his anti-constitutional schemes.
One of Trump’s closest enablers, Sen. Lindsey Graham, also dismissed Trump’s promise in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “I think it’s inappropriate. I don’t want to reinforce that defiling the Capitol was okay. I don’t want to do anything that would make this more likely in the future,” the South Carolina Republican said. His comments were notable since he has previously warned that the GOP needs to find a way to work with Trump if it wants to wield power. Another Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, also condemned Trump’s remarks. “I do not think … President Trump should have made that pledge to do pardons. We should let the judicial process proceed. January 6 was a dark day in our history,” said Collins, who just won reelection in 2020, speaking on ABC’s “This Week.” She also said it was “very unlikely” that she would support Trump if he does officially decide on a third presidential run.
This must have been a case of déjà vu for Republicans who often had their talking points overshadowed by the ex-President’s extremism when he was in power. But it is one thing for key Republicans to criticize the ex-President now. On every previous occasion when the GOP faced a choice between appeasing Trump to keep or win power and standing up for American democracy and the rule of law, it has chosen the first option. In a sense, Trump’s demagoguery this weekend was a fresh sign that he is convinced that his personality cult still holds his party in thrall.
Trump fires off racist attack on New York prosecutors
“These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They’re racists and they’re very sick — they’re mentally sick,” he said. “They’re going after me without any protection of my rights from the Supreme Court or most other courts. In reality, they’re not after me, they’re after you,” he told his crowd.
It was the second recent occasion when Trump has sought to stir up racial hatred as part of his increasingly dangerous rhetoric. He claimed at a rally in Arizona two weeks ago that White people could not get Covid-19 treatment or vaccines in New York, grossly distorting a policy that says that race should be one factor in the use of limited therapies for a disease that disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic populations.
Trump’s speech once again presented a conundrum about how much attention should be paid to an ex-President who is using his high profile to stir division and outrage in order to stay politically relevant. Yet given his power in the Republican Party and the intensity of those who follow a once and possible future President who has already incited a coup to overthrow an election, it would be unwise to ignore the implications of his rage.
Even out of office, Trump has convinced millions of Americans that the election was stolen and Biden is an illegitimate president. Multiple Republican-run states have passed laws that make it harder to vote and easier for political officials to interfere in election results rooted in his false claims of voter fraud. And Trump is touring the country inciting polarization and racial animus as the hot favorite for the GOP 2024 nomination.
“This is beyond being a demagogue to the stuff of dictators. He is defying the rule of law. Failure to confront a tyrant only encourages bad behavior,” Dean wrote. “If thinking Americans don’t understand what Trump is doing and what the criminal justice system must do we are all in big trouble!”