President Donald Trump’s defenders in right-wing media are now attempting to deny his role in inciting the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol by pointing to evidence that the violence was planned in advance.
On January 6, a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Seven days later, Trump was impeached for his role in inciting the violence, becoming the only president in American history to be impeached twice.
Now, Trump’s allies in right-wing media are suggesting that his speech calling for his supporters to march on the Capitol just before the insurrection could not have incited the mob because recent reporting reveals that the attack may have been planned ahead of the rally.
This impeachment defense obscures the dangerous rhetoric Trump used during his January 6 speech, in which he told the crowd that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” More broadly, it ignores the months both Trump and right-wing media spent feeding the lie that the election had been “stolen," which was also cited in his article of impeachment:
"In the months preceding the Joint Session, President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials."
Trump’s defenders are trying to distract from his role in inciting violence
- On January 15, Rush Limbaugh cited reporting by The Washington Post and CNN detailing evidence that violence was planned ahead of time and argued, “They’ve been saying that there was no indication of violence until Trump gave his speech, that’s just B.S. It is an entire lie.”
- The night before, Fox host Laura Ingraham complained about Republicans who voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment. Ingraham argued that in Trump’s defense, “The planning for this converging on the Capitol took place in the days preceding Trump’s speech. … It was happening while the speech was still going on.” Ingraham continued, “I am not saying no mistakes were made, but come on.”
- Radio host Mark Levin claimed that “Donald Trump was unconstitutionally impeached and he’s an innocent man, he didn’t incite anybody.” Levin argued, “These marauders had prepared, they had planned, some of them are being charged with conspiracy. Well conspiracy isn’t spontaneous. The entire narrative is a lie, a big damn lie.”
- Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “If these federal law enforcement agencies had prior knowledge that this was a planned attack then POTUS didn’t incite anything. If he didn’t incite anything then Nancy Pelosi and the Dems used impeachment on yet another sham political witch-hunt.”
- During an interview with former law professor John Eastman, another speaker at the January 6 rally, Newsmax host Greg Kelly said, “We’re now hearing, professor, that the riot, the mayhem, that was planned well ahead of time potentially, well ahead of time. So yes, the idea that this was incited by your words or by the president’s -- nonsense.”
- Another host on Newsmax, Chris Salcedo, asked, “So if this was really just a protest that got out of hand at the president’s urging, the fact that there was a group of people already at the building before the president finished speaking and individuals using specialized tactical methods really throws a lot of question on that argument.” Salcedo continued, “Apparently Liz Cheney and nine GOP members of Congress didn’t bother to get all the facts before undertaking their votes of vengeance against Trump.”
- The Washington Times published a piece on January 14 titled “Evidence of planned attack on Capitol undercuts Dems' incitement claim.”
- In his outlet Just the News, John Solomon asked, “How could Trump incite an attack that had already been pre-planned and was in motion before his speech ended?” Solomon is a Trump ally who played a key role in his first impeachment.
- Fox host Steve Hilton claimed, “The riot we saw Wednesday was planned, it was organized. … So if it was planned, how is it that the president suddenly incited it on the day, if it was planned? So none of it actually makes sense.”
- On January 13, Fox host Sean Hannity pointed to reporting by CNN indicating that violence was potentially planned in advance, arguing, “That is exactly why you can’t have a snap impeachment. Well, now different facts are beginning to emerge. … That’s why you don’t rush to judgment.”