January 30, 2022
This will just be a marker to keep the record complete—I need a night off.
Last night, at a rally in Conroe, Texas, former president Trump told supporters that if he runs for president and wins in 2024, he will pardon the January 6 insurrectionists. Observers note that this promise might encourage the bigger fish ensnared by the investigation to keep quiet; Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that “Trump…is committing a form of obstruction of justice in full public view.” Others note that the promise of pardoning the insurrectionists might well become a litmus test for any Republican candidate in 2024.
That promise of pardons might also be for crimes not yet committed. Trump called for "the biggest protest we have ever had" in New York City, Washington, and Atlanta if the prosecutors "do anything wrong or illegal." The specificity of the cities he mentioned suggests that the cases against him in New York City, Georgia, and Washington are weighing on his mind. "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."
Observers saw his comments as a call for violence if the various legal cases against him lead to indictments. Crucially, these statements were clearly part of a plan: he did not say them off the cuff but appeared to read them from a teleprompter. It seems likely that as investigators get closer, he is turning to the threat of street violence to try to get them to back off.
It is not clear that will work, since more than 750 people who took to the streets for him in January 2021 are now facing criminal prosecution. Many have blamed him for where they are. It might be hard to rally more people with that history, and it seems that the promise of future pardons might be designed to address that wavering faith.
But Bunch noted that, overlooked by those not attuned to the siren songs of the right, Trump’s use of the word “racist” is a call to white supremacists. Three of the main prosecutors investigating the former president—Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney Fani Willis; New York State attorney general Letitia James; and Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg (who recently took over from Cyrus Vance, Jr.)—are Black. So is Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who chairs the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“[I]t’s both alarming and yet utterly predictable that Trump would toss the gasoline of racial allegations onto his flaming pile of grievances, knowing how that will play with the Confederate flag aficionados within the ex-president’s cult,” Bunch wrote. Trump, he said, “is seeking to start a race war.”
But, as a sign of just how tied the Republican Party is to the former president now, on ABC News’s This Week, today, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) refused to rule out supporting Trump in 2024 despite last night’s incendiary speech.
Collins’s reluctance to offend the former president didn’t do her much good: tonight, in an astounding statement, he referred to her as “Wacky Susan Collins.”
The statement was astounding not because he was insulting a Republican senator.
Referring to bipartisan congressional discussions about clarifying the law to guarantee that no one ever again will argue that the vice president can overturn the results of an election (this is where Collins came up), Trump claimed those discussions themselves proved the plan his team came up with was, in fact, legal. (It is not.) He went on to say: “Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome and they now want to take that right away. Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!”
After more than a year of insisting he just wanted to address the problem of voter fraud, which he falsely claimed had stolen the election from him, Trump just came right out and said he wanted to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Former U.S. attorney and legal commentator Joyce White Vance wrote: “This is what prosecutors call guilty knowledge. And also, intent.” CNN’s Jim Acosta was more succinct: he tweeted, “Coup coup for Cocoa Puffs.”
It is unlikely Trump’s admission was a slip. He tends to put out in public potential criminal activity, like the phone call to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, which he—not a whistleblower—first told reporters about. Apparently, declaring it openly makes it harder for people to see it as a crime. That he chose to put this out on a Sunday night suggests that he expects bad news this week.
At the very least, it is impossible to imagine that his promise to pardon the January 6 insurrectionists, his call for protests if he is indicted, and his admission that he wanted to overturn the results of the 2020 election will not stir up politics this week.
What will the Republican leaders who have tied themselves to Trump say now that he has openly admitted he was trying to destroy our democracy?