By Aaron Blake | Washington Post
WASHINGTON – No matter what the White House says, President Donald Trump has repeatedly and not-subtly suggested – sometimes in an approving manner – that his supporters could be violent. And there’s a common thread: Again and again, Trump has suggested they could rise up if they feel either he or they have been wronged by the political process.
There are several examples. The most well-worn is when Trump suggested during the 2016 campaign that “2nd Amendment people” could stop a President Hillary Clinton from installing liberal judges. Trump played it off as a coincidence unrelated to violence that he flagged gun-rights supporters as the last line of defense against a political outcome he opposed.
Now Trump is at it again. And this time, his statement has overtones of something bigger.
In an interview this week with Trump-friendly Breitbart News, Trump talked about how “tough” the left was getting, relative to his supporters. His quote meanders a little bit, but stick with it:
“It’s so terrible what’s happening. You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. OK? I can tell you, I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. But the left plays it cuter and tougher.”
As The Washington Post’s David Nakamura pointed out, this is actually quite similar to something Trump said at a September campaign rally for now-Sen. Josh Hawley, R, in Missouri:
“They’re so lucky that we’re peaceful. Law enforcement, military, construction workers, Bikers for Trump — how about Bikers for Trump? They travel all over the country. They got Trump all over the place, and they’re great. They’ve been great. But these are tough people. These are great people. But they’re peaceful people, and Antifa and all — they’d better hope they stay that way. I hope they stay that way. I hope they stay that way.”
Trump’s public comments are often more strategic than his critics give him credit for. He will routinely suggest something without technically saying, “This is what I want.” And he will generally lather himself in plausible deniability. Phrases such as “It would be very bad” and “I hope they stay that way” allow him to say he doesn’t actually want this thing he’s hinting at to happen.
But it’s clear from these comments, and the repetition of this formula, that he’s suggesting his supporters from the military, law enforcement and even bikers could be tempted to rise up if things don’t go Trump’s way. He’s at the very least toying with the idea that things could become violent.
And his inclusion of the police and the military is conspicuous. A few weeks ago, when his former personal attorney Michael Cohen was testifying before a House committee, Cohen said at the end of his testimony that he decided to speak out against Trump because he feared that if Trump were kicked out of office, he wouldn’t leave. Experts rightly point out that any successful Trump effort to actually stay in office would likely require the complicity of the military, what would essentially be a coup. There’s just no way.
(The inclusion of bikers is also interesting – and timely. As The Washington Post wrote last week, motorcycle gangs known as “colectivos” have served as enforcers for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. That, of course, wouldn’t explain why Trump included bikers when he said this in September.)
But even if a coup seems patently ridiculous, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be unrest, and it doesn’t mean that this isn’t a prospect that Trump isn’t proactively wielding for leverage against his opponents. Hinting that efforts to remove him from office – via either the 2020 election or impeachment – could be met with this kind of violence – serves notice to his foes that they better play nice . . . and maybe investigators should back off.
The idea that anything like the scenes Trump is describing would ever happen is difficult to believe. But that’s not really the point. Musing about this kind of thing is a great way to plant a seed in certain people’s minds, and the fact that Trump keeps fertilizing that seed shouldn’t escape notice.
Source: Mercury news
Analysis: Trump again hints at violence from his supporters