The former President’s role in motivating widespread violence, both in America and abroad, is now beyond doubt, says CJ Werleman

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When a gunman opened fire on a Fourth of July celebration parade in a leafy Chicago suburb on Monday morning, killing six people and injuring 38, he became responsible for the 309th mass shooting incident in America this year.

The suspect taken into custody is 22-year-old Robert ‘Bobby’ E. Crimo III, son of a prominent local businessman who staged an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2019 on the back of a pro-Trump agenda.

Based on videos and photos posted on the alleged gunman’s social media pages, it appears that Crimo shares his father’s political views, with one showing him at home draped in a Trump 2020 flag and another attending a Trump presidential motorcade covered also in Trump paraphernalia. 

Two months ago, his father shared a tweet that reads, “Protect the Second Amendment like your life depends on it. RT if you agree”. It now appears that his son took this message to heart.

While authorities have not yet disclosed the motive for the attack, it seems likely that the US is left to grapple with another violent incident or terrorist attack that was motivated or inspired, at least in part, by the former US President – Donald J. Trump.

Two years ago, a nationwide review conducted by ABC News found at least 54 criminal cases in which Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault, with 12 perpetrators hailing Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of the attack; 18 perpetrators cheering or defending Trump while threatening others; and 10 cases in which Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behaviour.

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This does not include the many white supremacist terrorist attacks that Trump has inspired around the world, including Brenton Tarrant, a far-right extremist who murdered 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019. Tarrant described Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity”. Likewise, the gunman who murdered six Muslims at a mosque in Quebec City four years ago counted himself as a fan of the former US President.

The ABC News findings were published in May 2020, a full seven months before Trump incited the terrorist attack on the US Capitol that left five people dead and scores injured. At least 874 people have been charged for their roles in the insurrection so far.

That nearly 1,000 Americans were willing to harm and kill police officers, and their fellow Americans, while desecrating the Capitol, to sate the criminal pleas of a defeated President is telling of the emotional and psychological hold wielded by Trump over large swathes of white America.

The Proof

Today, many far-right extremists now refer to themselves as ‘Trumpkriegers’ or ‘fighters for Trump’, according to the US Department of Justice (DoJ), which will soon have to weigh evidence brought forward by the House of Representative’s bipartisan January 6 Committee, charged with investigating the Capitol insurrection.

The likelihood of criminal charges being brought against the former President is reasonably high and climbing. The committee will soon forward to the DoJ evidence and eyewitness testimony proving Trump knew that he lost the election fairly and that there was no evidence of widespread electoral fraud; that he knew the mob was armed and didn’t care, even telling Secret Service officers, “You know, I don’t f*cking care that they have weapons. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.” 

It will also be told how Trump defied pleas from members of his own party to call off the attack; that he didn’t care Vice President Mike Pence’s life was in danger; and that he was directly involved in a plot to commit electoral fraud by deploying a slate of fake electors to battleground states. 

The committee has also signalled that more evidence is to come, saying that the crucial testimony of former White House aid Cassidy Hutchinson has motivated more eyewitnesses to come forward, even hinting that the White House coordinated the attack on the Capitol with white supremacist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

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But, as noted by journalist Mehdi Hasan, both mainstream media organisations and the Democratic Party have, at least until now, “failed to draw a clear line between Trump’s racist rhetoric and the steadily multiplying acts of domestic terror across the United States”.

It’s now high time that Trump is identified as the leader of a violent right-wing insurgency that hides behind Republican Party branding for political cover. 

Trump has not only unleashed a wave of terror across the United States, as illustrated by the fact that right-wing extremists are responsible for more than 90% of domestic terror attacks and plots since 1 January 2020 but also has made the GOP a vehicle for his assault on American democracy, as illustrated by the fact that more than 100 Republican primary winners support Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’.

A lawyer who represented three Kansas men for plotting to bomb a largely Muslim apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, in 2019, told jurors that Trump’s discourse was to blame for his client’s radicalisation. It was claimed that the former President had become “the voice of a lost and ignored white, working-class set of voters,” and that his rhetoric amped up those prone to violence.

It seems likely we will soon hear the same defence from the lawyers representing the gunman who murdered six people during the Chicago parade on Monday.


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