Analysis | On his way out the door, Trump tries to blame the left for violence on the right

Over that interval, the scale of what had occurred had develop into more and more clear. Capitol Police officers had been in locations overwhelmed by the sheer variety of rioters. Video clips emerged displaying the brutality of the assaults on cops, certainly one of whom died of his accidents. Various rumors about these current had arisen and already been debunked.

One of these debunked theories was that two men current at the riot had been related to the left-wing ideology of antifa, a decentralized community of activists which has at instances used violence in opposition to right-wing actors. An article in the conservative Washington Times, since retracted, claimed that two men pictured in the Capitol had been linked to antifa. They weren’t. But the article mentioned exactly what many Trump allies needed to hear — the worst facets of the day weren’t the fault of Trump’s facet — so the declare rapidly permeated conservative media, together with Fox News, and was elevated by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) as he voted to reject the certification from states that supported President-elect Joe Biden.

All of that was final week, although. Again, by Monday morning, the actuality was clear: The violence was pro-Trump, not some false flag effort by Trump’s opponents. Yet, in accordance to Axios, that’s exactly the declare that Trump himself made in a name with the highest-ranking Republican in the House.

“In a tense, 30-minute-plus phone call … with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Trump trotted out the Antifa line,” Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported. “McCarthy would have none of it, telling the president: ‘It’s not Antifa, it’s MAGA. I know. I was there,’ according to a White House official and another source familiar with the call.”

McCarthy is clearly right. The Washington Post and Reuters tracked down different on-line rumors of antifa presence at the Capitol, discovering no proof to assist the claims. The FBI instructed reporters that there was “no indication” of antifa presence. Trump supporters who celebrated the motion had been quick to insist that they had been the ones who deserved the credit score.

One of these arrested, Terry Brown of Pennsylvania, described the scene inside the constructing.

“There were probably 2,000 to 3,000 people in there at any given time,” he mentioned. “There were a bunch of garbage cans they threw down the steps … and people stopped and they were yelling ‘we’re not Antifa.’ ”

Yet Trump insists they had been. There are most likely a minimum of two causes he does so.

The first is that he has repeatedly tried to place antifa as a violent menace to the United States for months. Over the course of the 2020 marketing campaign, Trump tried to use antifa as a foil, a daunting imaginative and prescient of what the United States would develop into ought to he lose his reelection bid. When protests targeted on police brutality at instances devolved into vandalism and violence in the spring, Trump repeatedly claimed that antifa was at fault — and, by extension, left-wing politics.

But that, too, was false. The violence throughout that interval was not a perform of antifa, in accordance to a Post review of arrest records. The administration saved making an attempt to pin the most harmful acts of that interval on antifa however the recognized suspects saved not being associated with antifa.

Behind the scenes, authorities consultants had been figuring out different, extra harmful teams. In September, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned that the most vital deadly menace got here from self-proclaimed white supremacist teams — teams which had been in obvious attendance final week. (A authorities whistleblower alleged shortly earlier than that testimony that the danger posed by self recognized white nationalists had been downplayed inside DHS in favor of elevating antifa.) The Capitol riot was additionally well-populated with adherents of the QAnon conspiracy idea, which was included in a May 2019 warning from the FBI about the rise of “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists.”

The different motive Trump probably ascribed the violence to antifa was encapsulated in a quote from an administration official reported by The Post last week.

“He kept saying: ‘The vast majority of them are peaceful. What about the riots this summer? What about the other side? No one cared when they were rioting. My people are peaceful. My people aren’t thugs,’ ” the official mentioned. “He didn’t want to condemn his people.”

The central chorus — we aren’t antifa — echoes the chants Brown heard in the crowd. But that little addition about Trump’s individuals not being “thugs” offers away the subtext.

Trump has used the time period “thug” repeatedly as president, typically in reference to his political opponents and sometimes when these opponents are or are perceived to be non-White.

“Weakness will never beat anarchists, looters or thugs,” Trump tweeted shortly after protests started in May, “and Joe [Biden] has been politically weak all of his life. LAW & ORDER!”

“They are usually not ‘peaceable protesters”‘, as [Biden] and the Democrats call them, they are THUGS — And it is all taking place in Democrat run cities,” Trump said of protesters in September. “Call me and request Federal HELP. We will solve your problems in a matter of minutes.”

The thugs are those on the left who use violence as part of their protests. His supporters aren’t thugs; ergo, someone else must have been at fault for the violence. This is, of course, in keeping with Trump’s long-standing view of the criminal spectrum in the United States, from insisting that his allies deserve pardons after being caught committing crimes by then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to claiming that police need to crack down more forcefully on immigrant criminals and left-wing protesters. That this typically overlaps with the racial spectrum is just not a coincidence.

There is a third possible explanation for Trump’s claim to McCarthy that antifa was involved: He hoped that McCarthy, like some of his least reality-adherent supporters, would simply accept his claim at face value. That McCarthy would simply default to the assumption that it was The Others who were misbehaving, not his own side.

While McCarthy has broadly supported Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential contest, he — reportedly — put his foot down on this one point in his conversation with Trump on Monday. In fact, the crowd reflected precisely the ideologies that Trump’s administration had been warning about for months: far-right and fringe extremists.

It is not hard to figure out why Trump would want to downplay that.

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