Feb 11, 2021
Rep. Jamie Raskin Speech Trump Impeachment Trial Transcript: “Trump’s Continuing Pattern and Practice of Inciting Violence”
Impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin spoke on February 11, 2021, the third day of Trump’s second impeachment trial. He argued that Donald Trump will continue to incite violence if he is allowed to hold office again. Read the transcript of his opening argument remarks here.
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Jamie Raskin: (00:02)
Senators represent them to show how the insurrectionists believed and understood themselves to be following President Trump’s marching orders. She explained in chilling detail how they were acting in perfect alignment with his political instructions and his explicit strategy to retain power. They did what he told them to do. This pro Trump insurrection did not spring into life out of thin air. We saw how Trump spent months cultivating America’s most dangerous extremist groups. We saw how he riled them up with corrosive lies and violent rhetoric so much so that they were ready and eager for their most dangerous mission, invalidating the will of the people to keep Donald Trump in office. But we must remember that this was not the first time Donald Trump had inflamed and incited a mob. Trump knew that his incitement would result in violence, not only because of the thousands of violent messages that were posted all over the forums and the widespread news of preparations for violence among extremist groups and his communications on Twitter with the insurrectionists themselves, he knew it also because he’d seen many of the exact same groups he was mobilizing participate in extremist violence before.
Jamie Raskin: (01:28)
Moreover, he’d seen clearly how his own incitement of violence and praise after the violence took place galvanized, encouraged, and electrified these extremist followers. These tactics were road tested. January 6th was a culmination of the president’s actions, not an aberration from them. The insurrection was the most violent and dangerous episode so far in Donald Trump’s continuing pattern and practice of inciting violence. But I emphasize so far earlier, Congresswoman Plaskitt showed several episodes of Trump’s incitement that took place during the presidential election, but his encouragement of violence against other public officials, who he thought had crossed him long predates the 2020 campaign. The incitement of violence is always dangerous, but it’s uniquely intolerable when done by the President of the United States of America, but that became the norm.
Jamie Raskin: (02:41)
On President Trump’s watch, white supremacists and extremist groups have spread like wildfire across the land. His own Department of Homeland Security called homegrown terrorism the number one threat facing Americans today, but no matter how many people inside and outside government begged him to condemn extreme elements promoting violence and indeed civil war in America and race war in America, he just wouldn’t do it. And that’s because he wanted to incite and provoke their violence for his own political gain and for his own strategic objectives. Ever since he became president, Trump revealed what he thought of political violence. For his side, he praised it and he encouraged it. Right now, I’m going to play for you just a few clips from over the years when the President’s words successfully incited his supporters into assaulting his opponents.
See the first group, I was nice. Oh, take your time. The second group, I was pretty nice. The third group, I’ll be a little more violent. And the fourth group, I’ll say, “Get the hell out of here.” Get them the hell out of here will you please? Get them out of here. Throw them out. I got a little notice in case you see the security guys. We have wonderful security guys. They said, “Mr. Trump, there may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience.” So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them would you, seriously? I promise you. I will pay for the legal fees. I promise.
Jamie Raskin: (04:51)
Well, we’ve seen these clips and many, many more like them before, but think about the brutal power and effectiveness of his words with his followers. You heard him told his supporters to be a little more violent and they responded to his command by literally dragging a protestor across the floor at one of his campaign rallies. He cried, “Get him the hell out of here. Throw him out.” His supporters punched and kicked another protester as he was escorted from the hall. He told supporters to knock the hell out of people who opposed them and promised to pay the legal fees of the assailance. Time after time, he encouraged violence. His supporters listened and they got the message, but it wasn’t just Trump’s encouragement of violence that conditioned his supporters to participate in this insurrection on January 6, it was also his explicit sanctioning of the violence after it took place. Let’s watch some of those incidents beginning with Trump praising supporters who had assaulted a black protestor.
We’ve had a couple that were really violent and the particular one, when I said like that [inaudible 00:06:07]. It was a guy who was swinging, very loud and then started swinging at the audience and you know what? The audience swung back. And I thought it was very, very appropriate. He was swinging. He was hitting people and the audience hit back. And that’s what we need a little bit more of.
Speaker 3: (06:27)
I’m sick and tired of you guys. The last time he came here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. Last night, you do the same thing. Are you with The Guardian?
Speaker 4: (06:48)
Yes, and you just broke my glasses.
Speaker 3: (06:49)
The last guy did the same thing.
Speaker 4: (06:52)
You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.
But Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand that now. Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s [inaudible 00:07:04].
Speaker 5: (07:33)
I’m saying that we did not progress. We did not initiate force against anybody. We’re not nonviolent. We’ll kill these people if we have to.
I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides and you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
Jamie Raskin: (08:07)
So just in case you didn’t catch all of that, the President praised a Republican candidate who assaulted a journalist as my kind of guy. He said they were “very fine people on both sides,” when the Neo-Nazis, the Klansmen, and Proud Boys invaded the city, the great city of Charlottesville and killed Heather Hyer. And he said that an attack on a black protestor at one of his rallies was very, very appropriate. Does that sound familiar? Listen to how President Trump responded when asked about his own conduct on January 6.
So if you read my speech and many people have done it, it’s been analyzed. And people thought that what I said was totally appropriate.
Jamie Raskin: (08:59)
So there the pattern is, staring us in the face. Very, very appropriate he said after a man was assaulted at one of his rallies. Totally appropriate was how he characterized his incitement on January 6th. Meaning that, of course, if given the chance, he would gladly do it again because why would he not engage in totally appropriate conduct? An examination of his past statements makes it clear that when Donald Trump tells a crowd as he did on January 6, “Fight like hell,” where you won’t have a country anymore, he meant for them to fight like hell. On January 6, that became clear to all of America. Now let’s consider the events, senators that took place last year in Michigan, where President Trump demonstrated his willingness and his ability to incite violence against government officials who he thought were getting in his way.
Jamie Raskin: (09:54)
When responding to extremist plots in Michigan, Trump showed he knew how to use the power of a mob to advance his political objectives. Beginning in March, Trump leveled attacks on Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer for the coronavirus policies in her state. On March 17th, the day after governor Whitmer pushed the federal government to better support the states on COVID-19, Trump criticized her handling of the pandemic tweeting, “Failing Michigan governor must work harder and be much more proactive. We are pushing her to get the job done. I stand with Michigan” March 27, he added, “I love Michigan. One of the reasons we’re doing such a great job for them during this horrible pandemic, yet your governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is a way in over her head. She doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude. #MAGA” By April, Trump’s rhetorical attacks and name-calling turned to calls for mass mobilization of his supporters. This was a sign of things to come. On April 17th, 2020, he tweeted “Liberate Michigan.” Not even two weeks later on April 30th, his supporters marched on the Michigan state capital in Lansing. They stormed the building. Trump’s marching orders were followed by aggressive action on the ground.
Jamie Raskin: (12:03)
This video shows these militant protesters showed up ready to take a violent stand. They came armed and tightly packed themselves into the building with no regard, of course, for social distancing. This Trump inspired mob may indeed look familiar to you. Confederate battle flags, MAGA hats, weapons, camo army gear, just like the insurrectionists who showed up and invaded this chamber on January 6th. The siege of the Michigan state house was effectively a state level dress rehearsal for the siege of the US Capitol that Trump incited on January 6th. It was a preview of the coming insurrection. President Trump’s response to these two events was strikingly similar. Following the arm siege in Lansing, President Trump refused to condemn the attacks on the Michigan capital or denounced the violent lawbreakers, instead he did just the opposite. He upheld the righteousness of his violent followers cause and he put pressure on the victim of the attack to listen to his supporters.
Jamie Raskin: (13:17)
The day after the mob attack in Lansing, Trump told Governor Whitmer to negotiate with the extremists tweeting that the governor should just “give a little to the violent men who had stormed the capital,” threatening not only the stability of the Michigan government, but her own life. As you can see, he tweeted, “The governor of Michigan should give a little and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again safely. See them. Talk to them. Make a deal.” The President says heavily armed extremists carrying Confederate battle flags and pushing past police to overtake the Michigan state house chamber are very good people and just negotiate with them. It’s clear he doesn’t think that they’re at fault in any way at all, but April 30th wasn’t the only time Trump’s supporters stormed Michigan capital.
Jamie Raskin: (14:17)
Emboldened by his praise and his encouragement and support, they escalated again. Governor Whitmer refused to capitulate to the President’s demand to negotiate with them. Two weeks later on May 14th, Trump’s mob again, stormed the state capital. This time, as you can see here, one man brought a doll with a noose around the neck foreshadowing the appearance of the large gallows erected outside of this building downstairs from here on January 6th as the crowd chanted and I still can hear the words ringing in my ear, “Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.” Over the coming months, even after a crowd threatening Governor Whitmer stormed the capital, Trump continued to assail her in public.
Jamie Raskin: (15:04)
At a rally in Michigan on September 10th, Trump whipped up the crowd against Governor Whitmer saying, “She doesn’t have a clue about reopening her own state’s economy.” The crowd cheered. Then on October 8th, the precise consequences of the President’s incitement of violence revealed to the whole world. Look at this. 13 men were arrested by the FBI for plotting to storm the Michigan state capital building, launch a civil war, kidnap Governor Whitmer, transport her to Wisconsin and then try and execute her. This was an assassination, kidnapping conspiracy. Look at the language that they used. In the charging document, the FBI reported that one of the conspirators said he needed “200 men to storm the capital building and take political hostages, including the governor.” The suspect called it a “snatch and grab man, grab the fucking governor.” One of those men has already pled guilty to this conspiracy. The plot was well organized, just like the one that was coming on January 6. The men in Michigan even considered building molotov cocktails to disarm police vehicles and attempted to construct their own IEDs, something that actually happened here on January 6th. Police authorities arrested extremists who had weapons and materials to build explosive devices, including one man found with an assault rifle and enough materials to make 11 molotov cocktails.
Jamie Raskin: (16:39)
On September 17th, 2020, one of the Michigan conspiracists posted, “When the time comes, there will be no need to strike fear through presence. The fear will be manifested through bullets.” And what did Donald Trump do as president of the United States to defend one of our nation’s governors against a plotted kidnapping by violent insurrectionists? Did he publicly condemn violent domestic extremists who hoped in plan to launch a civil war in America? No, not at all. He further inflamed them by continuing to attack the governor who was the object of their hatred in this kidnapping conspiracy.
Jamie Raskin: (17:27)
The very night this conspiracy became public and that Governor Whitmer learned that there were 13 men who were planning to kidnap and likely kill her, Trump did not condemn the violence. He did not criticize the extremists. He didn’t even check on Governor Whitmer’s safety. He chose to vilify Governor Wimmer again, and then amazingly took credit for foiling the plot against her, demanding her gratitude and then he quickly of course changed the subject to Antifa. He tweeted, “Governor Whitmer has done a terrible job.” He demanded that she thank him for the law enforcement operation that had foiled the kidnapping conspiracy that had been encouraged by his rhetoric.
Jamie Raskin: (18:17)
On October 17th, a little over a week after these people were arrested for preparing to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Trump riled up a boisterous crowd in Muskegon with more slashing personal attacks on Whitmer driving the crowd to chant, “Lock her up. Lock her up.” He had now seen that some of his followers were prepared to engage in criminal violence with orchestrated attacks, deadly weapons, and willing bodies to storm a state capital building and to attack his perceived political enemies. And so as the crowd chanted, “Lock her up,” he pivoted to his next goal. He told them they couldn’t trust the governor to administer fair elections in Michigan. He used a crowd that he knew would readily engage in violence to prepare his followers for his next and of course, his paramount political objective claiming the election was stolen and inciting insurrectionary action. And he did it again on October 27th during a pre-election rally speech in Lansing, Michigan, where the capital had been stormed. Trump openly joked with the crowd about critics saying his words had provoked the violent plot against Governor Whitmer. check it out. It’s telling.
We got to get her going. I don’t think she likes me too much. See, I don’t comment on that because every time if I make just even a little bit of a nod, they say, “The President led them.” I don’t have to lead you. Even a little nod, they say, “The President said your governor at the urging of her husband who has abused our system very badly.” The only man allowed in the state of Michigan, the only man allowed to go sailing is her husband. Now your governor, I don’t think she likes me too much.
Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. I’m the one. It was our people that helped her out with her problem. We’ll have to see if it’s a problem, right? People are entitled to say, “Maybe it was a problem.” It was our people, my people, our people that helped her up.
Jamie Raskin: (20:52)
President Trump offered them a little winking inside joke about his constant incitement of the mob and how much can actually be communicated by him with just a little nod, just a little nod. He presided over another pounding, rhythmic rendition of his trademark chant, “Lock her up. Lock her up,” then referring to the FBI’s foiling of the kidnapping conspiracy, which was deadly serious. He said that he helped her out with a problem. Maybe it was a problem. Maybe it wasn’t. We’d have to see. Maybe it was a problem. Maybe it wasn’t. The President of the United States of America, he could not bring himself to publicly oppose a kidnapping and potential assassination conspiracy plot against a sitting governor of one of our 50 states.
Jamie Raskin: (21:45)
Trump knew exactly what he was doing in inciting the January 6th mob. Exactly. He had just seen how easily his words and actions inspire violence in Michigan. He sent a clear message to his supporters. He encouraged planning and conspiracies to take over capital buildings and threaten public officials who refuse to bow down to his political will. Is there any chance Donald Trump was surprised by the results of his own incitement? Let’s do what Tom Payne told us to do. Use our common sense, the sense we have in common as citizens.
Jamie Raskin: (22:31)
If we don’t draw the line here, what’s next? What makes you think the nightmare with Donald Trump and his lawmaking and violent mobs is over? If we let them get away with it and then it comes to your state capital or it comes back here again, what are we going to say? These prior acts of incitement cast a harsh light on Trump’s obvious intent, obvious intent, his unavoidable knowledge of the consequences of his incitement, the unavoidable knowledge of the consequences of his incitement and the clear foreseeability of the violent harm that he unleashed on our people and our republic. January 6 was not some unexpected radical break from his normal law abiding and peaceful disposition. This was his state of mind. This was his essential MO.
Jamie Raskin: (23:27)
He knew that egged on by his tweets, his lies, and his promise of a wild time in Washington to guarantee his grip on power, his most extreme followers would show up bright and early, ready to attack, ready to engage in violence, ready to fight like hell for their hero just like they’d answered his call in Michigan. President Trump has said over and over, his supporters are loyal. In his own words, his supporters are the most loyal that we’ve seen in our country’s history. And he knew that his most hardcore supporters were willing to direct violence at elected officials, indeed to attack and lay siege to a capital building and he knew they would be ready to heed his call on January 6 to stop the steal by using violence to block the peaceful transfer of power in the United States. He knew they were coming. He brought them here and he welcomed them with open arms. We hear you and love you from the Oval Office. My dear colleagues, is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he is ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way? Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?
Jamie Raskin: (25:00)
President Trump declared his conduct totally appropriate. So if he gets back into office and it happens again, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.