MATTHEWS: Democrats are on shaky ground with ‘incitement’ charge against Trump

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, D.C., en route to his Mar-a-Lago Florida Resort. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The Senate’s impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump began this week with much fanfare and hype from the usual mainstream media and Democrat circles.

But beyond the predictable swooning and swaying from the press and the left, a good look should be taken at the charge against Trump that led to this point. As some have suggested, Democrats are traveling down a very troubling path in charging him with “incitement” based on the Jan. 6 speech he gave as Congress convened for a joint session to affirm and debate electoral votes.

The House’s impeachment article against Trump reads as follows:

“Shortly before the Joint Session commenced, President Trump, addressed a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. There, he reiterated false claims that ‘we won this election, and we won it by a landslide.’ He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.’

Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol …”

There are multiple problems with this argument.

For starters, during the same speech, Trump also told the rally attendees that “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” He also called on people to “primary” the Republicans who didn’t voice objections to the electoral votes. Urging supporters to “peacefully” make their voices heard and to “primary” Republican politicians doesn’t sound like an incitement to riot.

Secondly, the case Democrats will make — that Trump supporters spontaneously decided to breach the Capitol building after hearing his speech — is crumbling. Evidence is piling up to suggest the attack was pre-planned, with the FBI and NYPD reportedly warning the Capitol police in advance as to the possibility there would be violence during Trump’s speech.

In addition to that, pipe bombs were planted at the RNC and DNC headquarters the night before the attacks. They were found and reported the next day during Trump’s speech.

“If you see anybody from that [Trump] Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” 

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)

According to the Washington Post, former Capitol police chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the riots, “said he suspects the bombs were an intentional effort to draw officers away from the grounds of the Capitol.”

Thirdly, congressional Democrats, including the House’s lead impeachment manager, Jamie Raskin, have objected to certifying electoral votes in presidential elections where Republicans have won. This goes against the current Democratic argument that such a thing is undemocratic, unprecedented and unconstitutional.

Lastly, Democrats who are pursuing the “incitement” line of argument might regret it when such arguments are used against them. Because, by their standard, a number of current Democratic officeholders could be investigated for alleged incitement, and for using rhetoric that actually did encourage people to aggressively confront their political opposition.

Here’s what House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) urged a crowd of fired-up Democrats to do in June 2018:

“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that [Trump] Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

When asked about her past comments, Waters defensively claimed what she said “does not in any way equal what this president has said and what he has done.”

The Republicans who were stalked and harassed out of restaurants and terrified at their homes as “protesters” converged on them might beg to differ.

Media analyst Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.