MSNBC Fears ‘Heavily Armed’ Trump Supporters Invading D.C.

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In the midst of rightfully calling out President Trump for some of his overheated rhetoric reacting to the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, on Tuesday, MSNBC immediately undermined its criticism by engaging its own extreme rhetoric and suggesting that “heavily armed” Trump supporters would march on Washington “to protect their president.”

“President Trump ratcheting up his rhetoric as he tries to derail the push for impeachment proceedings. On Twitter, he’s quoted a top supporter who said impeachment could create a, quote, ‘Civil War-like fracture,’” anchor Craig Melvin warned in the 11:00 a.m. ET hour. Turning to Washington Post political reporter Eugene Scott, Melvin worried about “trends” in the President’s “rhetoric.”

 

 

Rather than try to calm down the conversation, Scott instead claimed that Trump made a habit of threatening “an uprising”:

Well, Craig, we noticed that this was not the first time the President had suggested that if things do not go the way he likes, if he is not allowed to govern or lead as he sees fit, that there could be an uprising. And his words infer that it could be led by his supporters. And there’s been some concern about that because this has been interpreted as perhaps the President affirming or encouraging those who feel victimized and disrespected to rise up and act out and push back, even if violently, by any means necessary to protest what they believe is unjust.

Melvin then asked liberal historian Jeffrey Engel for his thoughts on the topic. While Engel initially expressed an aversion to any comparison to the Civil War, he then made the same comparison: “...we really don’t typically like to associate anything with the Civil War. Though there are some similarities building, to be honest, in the sense that before the Civil War, by about 1859, 1860, Congress really ceased to function....people couldn’t work across the aisle.”

Going further, Engel joined Scott in fearmongering over a possible violent insurrection: “...more bothersome to me is the incitement to violence that underlies much of what the President has been saying.” After invoking the Tiananmen Square massacre, he ranted: “I’m concerned personally that if the President continues this rhetoric, it might start drawing people to Washington, it might start drawing heavily armed people to the National Mall to protect their president, to protect their interest. And that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Melvin fretted: “You think that some of this president’s rhetoric could be seen as a call to action, a call to arms even?” Engel eagerly doubled down: “Oh, I think most definitely....I think it’s entirely possible....to think of a scenario where President Trump simply refuses to accept the will of the Senate or of the electorate in 2020, and begins to ask his supporters to come rally to his side.”

“That's a scary thought on a number of levels,” Melvin somberly concluded.

If Trump invoking the Civil War is over the line, which it is, then certainly scaring viewers into thinking that the President’s supporters could act out “violently” in the near future is wildly irresponsible. What kind of actions are these journalists justifying when they portray all Trump supporters as a “heavily armed” mob ready to descend on the nation’s capital?

Here is a transcript of the October 1 exchange:

11:31 AM ET

CRAIG MELVIN: President Trump ratcheting up his rhetoric as he tries to derail the push for impeachment proceedings. On Twitter, he’s quoted a top supporter who said impeachment could create a, quote, “Civil War-like fracture.” He has also called for the what he deemed the “fake whistle-blower” to be revealed and alluded to a punishment worthy of spies – the implication there of course being hanging. He also openly questioned whether House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who’s leading the impeachment inquiry, should be arrested for treason.

Joining me now with more on the impact of this rhetoric is Eugene Scott, political reporter for The Washington Post’s The Fix. And Jeffrey Engel, presidential historian, also co-author of the book Impeachment, which he wrote with one of our colleagues, John Baker, and of course Jon Meacham – excuse me, Peter Baker and Jon Meacham co-wrote that book with him.

Eugene, let me start with you because you write about President Trump’s Civil War rhetoric in The Washington Post. You point out some trends in his rhetoric. What did you notice?

EUGENE SCOTT: Well, Craig, we noticed that this was not the first time the President had suggested that if things do not go the way he likes, if he is not allowed to govern or lead as he sees fit, that there could be an uprising. And his words infer that it could be led by his supporters. And there’s been some concern about that because this has been interpreted as perhaps the President affirming or encouraging those who feel victimized and disrespected to rise up and act out and push back, even if violently, by any means necessary to protest what they believe is unjust.

MELVIN: Jeffrey, as a historian, what goes through your mind when you hear phrases like “Civil War” and “treason” invoked by a President of the United States, not in war times?

JEFFREY ENGEL: You know, two things in particular. I think the first thing is that we really don’t typically like to associate anything with the Civil War. Though there are some similarities building, to be honest, in the sense that before the Civil War, by about 1859, 1860, Congress really ceased to function. And that was really one of the telltale signs that the country was coming apart at the seams over the issue of slavery, yes, but really over the fact that people couldn’t work across the aisle.

But then the second thing that’s more bothersome to me is the incitement to violence that underlies much of what the President has been saying. I mean, we’re in the 30th anniversary year now of Tiananmen Square, a moment when – which we’re seeing replayed out on the streets today – when a government crackdown on people protesting. And I’m concerned personally that if the President continues this rhetoric, it might start drawing people to Washington, it might start drawing heavily armed people to the National Mall to protect their president, to protect their interest. And that’s a recipe for disaster.

MELVIN: You think that some of this president’s rhetoric could be seen as a call to action, a call to arms even?

ENGEL: Oh, I think most definitely. I mean, the Constitution’s actually remarkably clear, as these things go, on how to impeach a president and ultimately how to remove him from office. It’s entirely silent, however, on how to remove him from the White House, from his bedroom, if you will. And I think it’s entirely possible, and we’re way down the road from this, we’re way down the road from any kind of conclusion, but entirely possible to think of a scenario where President Trump simply refuses to accept the will of the Senate or of the electorate in 2020, and begins to ask his supporters to come rally to his side.

MELVIN: That's a scary thought on a number of levels.

(...)

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