He spent the months following the 2020 election trying to hold on to power by any means necessary, including encouraging Vice President Mike Pence to undermine the January 6 election result himself. Trump repeatedly lied about electoral fraud, claiming that the election was stolen from him, which was not the case. He embraced all the theories of how this happened and traded new iterations for those that had been irreparably debunked.
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Then, of course, he focused on DC on that day. He encouraged people to show up on January 6, promising it would be a “wild” day. During a speech that morning, he continued to make false claims about the election and demanded that his audience go to the Capitol, even though he knew many were carrying guns. As people in the crowd poured into the Capitol, he pointed them to Pence, who was theoretically still capable of doing what Trump wanted.
“If this happened to the Democrats, hell would be going on all over the country. There would be hell all over the land. But remember this: you are stronger, you are smarter, you have more to offer than anyone else,” Trump told them in that speech.
“We want to get this right because we’re going to have someone there who shouldn’t be there and our country is going to be destroyed and we’re not going to stand for that,” he said.
“Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back. … We will have to fight much harder,’ he said.
“We fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight hard, you have no country left,” Trump told the crowd. Then the speech ended a few minutes later, with many in the audience fighting like crazy.
But as he seeks his third consecutive Republican Party presidential nomination, this narrative becomes increasingly unhelpful. Republicans are concerned about Trump’s eligibility, and many think he’s too extreme. January 6 is a powerful reminder of a near-worst-case scenario that could follow Trump’s return to power — at worst, he might have succeeded.
So Trump’s campaign on Tuesday produced a document rejecting the idea that he is responsible for the day’s events. In it, he attacks the usual suspects, falsely claiming that he had called in thousands of troops to guard the building and blaming Democratic leaders for the failure to keep the building safe.
He also introduced a new culprit: Twitter.
“It was shockingly recently revealed that Twitter colluded with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to rig and steal the 2020 presidential election in favor of Joe Biden, and to deform and illegally censor me,” the document begins. That’s all false, of course: There’s no evidence that the FBI and Twitter “colluded” against Trump, and Twitter’s pre-election actions had no apparent effect on the outcome. But, you know, the most natural thing in the world.
His argument is essentially that his removal from Twitter after the riot made his tweets inaccessible, meaning his calls for peace after the riot started were hidden from view.
“The two acquittal tweets and the Rose Garden video, which were posted in the early afternoon of January 6, 2021 and attempted to be concealed by the January 6th Unselect Committee,” the document reads, “clearly and undeniably state my desire that all demonstrators are peaceful and abide by the law.”
The document contains the two tweets:
This is a characteristically weak argument.
First, the idea that locking Trump’s Twitter account somehow hid these tweets from view is ludicrous. No Twitter user has documented his posts more thoroughly than the former president, and anyone wanting to know what Trump said that day could easily do so. (For example, here or here or here.) The reason these tweets weren’t used to exonerate him from guilt for the riot isn’t that no one could find them, but that they didn’t exonerate.
What is missing from the screenshots included in the document is the time each tweet was sent. The first (shown above as second) was published on 2:38 pm The other came out 3:13 pm
Each came more than an hour after Trump was told by a White House staffer that the mob had passed law enforcement at the Capitol. They arrived over half an hour after rioters broke into the building itself.
And they came after Trump tweeted his angry attack on Pence at 2:24 p.m
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution by allowing states to affirm a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate facts they were previously required to affirm. US demands the truth!”
Trump deleted that tweet, which is why he is not one of the tweets he sent that day. (And, for what it’s worth, this incriminating tweet used to be mentioned by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack, undermining the idea that all of Trump’s tweets were somehow hidden from view.)
At other points in the document, Trump engages in the kind of cherry picking that has become a regular part of efforts to defend him. He isolates lines from his speech in which he called on rally participants to “raise your voices peacefully and patriotically” – ignoring that this line followed his calls to fight and came at the end of a sentence encouraging them to march to the Capitol.
Most ludicrous, however, are Trump’s attempts to suggest that the actual perpetrators of violent rhetoric are Democrats.
Rep. “Maxine Waters encouraged her supporters to ‘become more confrontational,’” the document states, citing comments made by Waters (California) at the time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was being tried for the murder of George Floyd. . Citing other examples of allegedly violent rhetoric, he complained that “despite that horrible and hate-filled words and violence, no attempt has ever been made to hold these politicians accountable or accountable for their wrongful statements, despite the death and destruction caused. “
Of course, Waters’ words did not lead to obvious death or destruction. Even if there had been deadly riots after those April 2021 comments, Waters wouldn’t have been centrally responsible for it. It was not Waters who advanced the idea that injustices had to be addressed regarding the police killings of black Americans. Nor was it the case that Waters had engineered this perceived injustice for her own benefit. It wasn’t like Waters speaking to an angry group of people, telling them to fight and encouraging them to march to police headquarters. Of course none of that happened.
Trump wants to praise those who stormed the Capitol as victims of an overzealous federal government and argue that the riot was not his fault in the first place. He wants to have his rebellion and also deny it.
But again, Trump and reality clearly disagree.