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CNN Live Event/Special
House Impeachment Managers Present Case To Convict Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired February 11, 2021 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): 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.
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 Plaskett 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.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.
TRUMP: Yes, 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. OK? There's not the hell. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees, I promise. I promise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: 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 protester 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 him 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 6th, 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 protester.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) and Ted Cruz, their book of Bible down going to lie.
UNKNOWN: Oh. TRUMP: But we've had a couple that were really violent and the particular one, when I said like that (INAUDIBLE), that was a very -- you know, there 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.
UNKNOWN: And we will talk to you about that later.
UNKNOWN: Yes, but there's (INAUDIBLE). I'm just curious --
UNKNOWN: OK, speak with shame (ph), please.
UNKNOWN: I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last time you 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?
UNKNOWN: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.
UNKNOWN: You're the last guy did the same damn thing.
UNKNOWN: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.
TRUMP: But Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand that now? Never. Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my candidate.
CROWD: You will not replace us! You will not replace us! You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!
UNKNOWN: I'm saying we're non-violence. I'm saying the fact we didn't aggress. We did not initiate force against anybody. We're not nonviolent. We'll kill these people if we have to.
TRUMP: What I'll do I think there's blame, yes. I think there's blame on both sides. You look at -- you will be both sides. I think there's blame on both sides and you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: 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, quote, 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 Heyer. And he said that an attack on a black protester 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 the 6th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: What is your personal responsibility?
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: 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 6th, fight like hell, where you won't have a country anymore, he meant for them to fight like hell. On January 6th, 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.
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 27th, 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 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 Capitol in Lansing. They stormed the building. Trump's marching orders were followed by aggressive action on the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: We have the right (INAUDIBLE).
UNKNOWN: No more wrinkles (ph). No more wrinkles (ph). UNKNOWN: Heil Hitler. Heil Hitler, the Whitmer.
UNKNOWN: The Whitmer.
UNKNOWN: Heil the Whitmer. You (INAUDIBLE) out power. You betrayed us.
UNKNOWN: Not betrayed the people.
CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: 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 U.S. 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 Capitol 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.
The day after the mob attack in Lansing, Trump told Governor Whitmer to negotiate with the extremists tweeting that the Governor should just, quote, give a little to the violent men who had stormed the Capitol, 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 Capitol. 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 Capitol. 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 Capitol, Trump continued to assail her in public. At a rally in Michigan on September 10th, Trump whipped up the crowd against Governor Whitmer saying, quote, 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 were revealed to the whole world.
Look at this. 13 men were arrested by the FBI for plotting to storm the Michigan state Capitol building, launch a civil war, kidnap Governor Whitmer, transport her to Wisconsin and then try and execute her.
This was an assassination conspiracy, kidnapping conspiracy. Look at the language that they used. In the charging document, the FBI reported that one of the conspirators said he needed, quote, 200 men to storm the Capitol building and take political hostages, including the Governor. The suspect called it a snatch and grab, man, grab the f-ing 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 6th.
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.
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.
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 Whitmer 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.
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 Capitol 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We got to get her going. I don't think she likes me too much.
CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
TRUMP: See, I don't comment to 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: So 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'll 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? 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 Capitol 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.
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 6th 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.
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 Capitol building. And he knew they would be ready to heed his call on January 6th 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?
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.
UNKNOWN: Ted Lieu will return now to tell you about President Trump's total lack of remorse after the insurrection.
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Good afternoon. My colleagues walk you through President Trump's actions leading up to January 6th, and then their horrific events on January 6th. And we saw both during the attack as well as in the days after the attack, that this was a President who showed no remorse and took no accountability. In fact, quite the opposite. As Representative Raskin showed you, President Trump claimed that his actions were, quote, totally appropriate.
Their assertion that everyone thought Donald Trump's actions were totally appropriate, including people in this room is of course untrue. It is also dangerous. And that's why members of Congress and U.S. senators, former and current administration officials, state and local officials, all unequivocally confirmed what we witness with our own eyes, that Donald Trump's conduct was wrong. It was destructive, dishonorable on American.
President Trump's lack remorse and refusal to take accountability during the attack shows his state of mind. It shows that he intended the events of January 6th to happen. And when it did, he delighted in it. President Trump's lack of remorse and refusal to take accountability after the attack poses its own unique and continuing danger. It sends a message that it is acceptable to incite a violent insurrection to overthrow the will of the people and that a President of United States can do that and get away with it.
That is why we have to hold President Trump accountable to send a message that is never patriotic to incite a violent attack against our nation's Capitol. And that future presidents will know that they cannot follow in Donald Trump's footsteps and get away with it.
So let's start with the day of the attack. On insurrection day, January 6th, President Trump did not once condemn the attack, not even once. Even when he finally asked the violent extremists to go home, which was three hours after attack began, he sends this video and he ends it with, you're very special. We love you. That was his message to people who perpetrated this violent, gruesome attack. We love you.
And then two hours later, he tweets, remember this day forever. This is not a man who showed remorse. But it's worse than that. After that tweet, it took him another full day to even condemn the attack itself. The very next day, President Trump was eerily silent. And then at 7:01 p.m., he releases a pre recorded video. And there, President Trump, for the first time, nearly 30 hours after attack began, acknowledges and condemns the violence and mayhem that occurred. He said the demonstrators defile the seed of American democracy. He said that these demonstrators didn't represent this country. And if they broke the law, they would pay.
But even in that video, he says more lies. He says in the very same video, that he immediately deployed the National Guard. That again is not true. The National Guard was not deployed until over two hours after attack began at around 3:00 p.m. Because of this late deployment, the National Guard not arrive until after 5:00 p.m. And when the guard was deployed, the Pentagon had released a statement that showed the list of people and you saw that list of folks that were consulted before deploying National Guard.
Several people were on that list, including the Vice President. President Trump was not on that list. And, you know, as a veteran, I find it deeply dishonorable that our commander in chief did not protect us.