On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s last full day in office, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused the president of being an “accessory” to “murder.” Even though the attack on the Capitol had been planned before Trump’s speech, House Democrats have impeached Trump on the premise that his speech incited an insurrection. Even that dubious claim proved insufficient for Pelosi, however.
“If you’re Donald Trump talking to these people, they believe it. And they used his words to come here,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s Joy Reid in an interview that aired Tuesday. “When we talk about did any of our colleagues [House Republicans] collaborate, well, that remains to be seen. We have to get the evidence of that, and if they did, they would be accessories to the crime. And the crime, in some cases, was murder.”
“And this president is an accessory to that crime because he instigated that insurrection that caused those deaths and this destruction,” Pelosi charged.
— Evan Semones (@evansemones) January 20, 2021
Democrats would have an extremely difficult time proving such claims in court. As PJ Media’s Matt Margolis pointed out, the rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6 had planned the attack days in advance.
Trump had every right to challenge the election, although he arguably engaged in dangerous rhetoric while doing so. Even though some of Trump’s statements during the Capitol riots were beyond the pale, the president has since condemned the rioters and promised to support a peaceful transition of power. He left the White House on Wednesday, allowing Joe Biden to become president.
When Trump spoke to the crowd on January 6, he did not tell his supporters to riot, to attack the Capitol, or to engage in acts of destruction, let alone murder.
Trump did fan the flames of unrest after the election, claiming that he had won the election “by a landslide” and encouraging Mike Pence to unilaterally reject Electoral College votes from certain states. Such rhetoric was arguably irresponsible, especially for a president. While Trump’s claims regarding the election did inspire the protest that devolved into a riot, Democrats should think twice before applying such a broad standard of liability when it comes to extreme rhetoric and unrest.
After the horrific death of George Floyd, Democrats repeated the narrative that America is plagued with “systemic racism” despite the legal prohibitions on racial discrimination. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called for the “dismantling” of America’s “economy and political system,” in order to root out supposed racist oppression. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) claimed that allegedly marginalized groups have “no choice but to riot.”
They said these things amid Black Lives Matter protests that devolved into riots. Those riots disproportionately hit black communities in Kenosha, Wisc., Minneapolis, and Chicago. The riots destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 26 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.
Democrats’ rhetoric arguably fueled the Black Lives Matter riots, and those riots involved vandalism, arson, and even murder. Does that mean Democrats are “accessories” to murder?! Of course not.
Many Republicans consider some of Trump’s behavior in the lead-up to the Capitol riot and afterward to be impeachable. Even National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy, a firm Trump defender who tirelessly worked to expose the falsity of the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, has supported convicting Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Yet Pelosi’s Democrats seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Rather than working with Republicans to draft the kind of impeachment article that would convince more Republicans to join with Democrats, Pelosi stretched logic in order to accuse Trump of “incitement of insurrection.”
This further claim that Trump was an “accessory” to “murder” just further alienates Republicans, especially those who would think twice about joining her impeachment effort.
President Trump made many mistakes in challenging the election results, especially when it came to pressuring Mike Pence before January 6. But the president did not “incite an insurrection” and he certainly is not an “accessory” to “murder.” Such claims may be more dangerous than any of the former president’s rhetoric concerning the election.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.