Donald Trump’s assault on the truth didn’t end when he left office. If anything, it’s picked up steam since then.
The latest example came Thursday night, when Trump released a deeply irresponsible statement trying to reframe what happened on January 6 – in advance of another rally in Washington set for Saturday.
“Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump said in a statement released by his Save America PAC on Thursday. “In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!”
This is a classic bit of gaslighting by Trump. He’s trying to make you believe that the way you remember the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol isn’t, actually, how it played out. In Trump’s conception, these were peaceful protesters gathered to draw attention to the fact that the 2020 election was stolen. The “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday is simply a way to commemorate the wrongs committed against protesters that day.
“People are so disgusted with the way people are being treated from the Jan. 6 situation,” Trump told The Federalist, a Trump-friendly publication, in an interview Thursday. “It’s a combination of that compared to how Antifa and BLM were treated. When you compare the treatment, it is so unjust, it is so unfair. It’s disgraceful.”
Of course, we all know the reality. And it’s this: A violent mob descended on Washington on January 6. After the president and other members of Congress spoke to the group, a chunk of them stormed the Capitol. Five people died. More than 100 police officers were injured. Almost 600 people have been charged by federal authorities for their actions that day. Thousands of people who live and work in or near the Capitol remain traumatized from the events of that day.
We remember that. We know that it wasn’t Antifa or Black Lives Matter protesters stoking the violence and bloodshed. We know that it was some of Trump’s most ardent supporters, fueled by months of being lied to about the 2020 election. We know that Trump not only egged on the crowd at the original “Stop the Steal” rally, but also refused to intervene on that day until long after it was clear that the situation had grown badly out of hand.
That Trump is trying to re-frame what January 6 was – “people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election” – should surprise no one. This is who he is. This is what he does.
That he would do so as a way to promote another protest of the election on Saturday speaks to the natural result of Republican leaders’ unwillingness to confront the full scope of Trump’s actions on January 6. Because so few Republican elected officials spoke out against what he did that day – as well as in the days leading up to it and the days after it – Trump has been further emboldened. And will continue to push boundaries and attempt to rewrite history. Because there simply aren’t enough – or, really, hardly any – voices within the Republican Party who are willing to stand up and say “ENOUGH.”
Trump’s gaslighting may work for his base. But the vast majority of the public knows the truth: January 6 was a dark day driven by people who lived in a fantasy world constructed for them by a dangerous president interested only in self-preservation. it’s not a day to be celebrated, it’s a day that should stand as a cautionary tale of what can happen when people are fed lies – and choose to believe them unquestioningly.