Was Capitol siege planned way ahead of Trump's Washington speech? Ex-POTUS not responsible for riot, experts say
Former FBI official Kevin Brock said that he found no evidence of the former president inciting violence in his speech made in Washington DC
Critics and opponents of former president Donald Trump have accused him time and again of inciting the January 6 violence at Capitol Hill. Anti-Trumpers have claimed that the mob violence was something that he incited and the Democratic-controlled House impeached him over the same – a second-time impeachment for Trump within a span of 13 months. However, the Republican members of the Senate have overwhelmingly refused to pursue a trial of the former commander-in-chief saying it would be unconstitutional to do so, since his tenure has ended. Trump’s allies have counter-claimed that it was wrong to hold him responsible for the January 6 disturbance which left five people, including an air force veteran and a policeman, dead.
Conservative outlet Just The News reported last week that more evidence surfaced to suggest that the Capitol riot was planned way ahead and the trouble-makers did not respond spontaneously to Trump’s speech delivered the same day when the Congress met to formalize the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Just The News’s White House Correspondent Carrie Sheffield said in the report: “Growing evidence of advance planning and coordination of the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol undermines claims that the rioters were responding spontaneously to former President Trump's speech to supporters about a mile and a half away, according to legal and intelligence experts”.
The report said while the Democrats are aiming to get Trump convicted and subsequently banned from public office for allegedly inciting the insurrection, experts felt the claim that he instigated his supporters to storm the seat of the Congress received a blow when federal prosecutors charged three persons in connection with the riot, saying their communication and coordination to carry out the attacks dated back to November.
The justice department announced on January 27 about the three individuals -- two men and one woman -- associated with the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary organization that works on recruitment of current and former military, law enforcement and first responder personnel were indicted in the federal court in DC for, among other charges, conspiring to obstruct the Congress.
The Just The News report cited Kevin Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, saying that a speaker must, in the first place, exhibit a desire for violence if he/she is giving a speech to incite and secondly, must “demonstrate a capability or reasonable indication of capability to carry out the violence”. According to Brock, Trump did not show either of the two.
In an interview with Just The News, Brock said he listened to Trump’s entire speech given in the DC on January 6 but failed to find any element of incitement. “I didn’t hear a single word about — or anything that would trigger a reasonable person to believe that he was inciting— violence,” he said. “He even used the words ‘peaceful’ and ‘respectful’.”
Trump’s critics had blasted him on the day saying he didn’t condemn the incident and whatever he said in reaction was too little, too late. His reaction came a week after the riot and hours after his impeachment as he said “violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country, and no place in our movement”. He said that in a video posted by the White House’s official Twitter account. Trump’s own Twitter account was banned following allegations that he incited the violence.
'Trump was caught by surprise'
According to Brock, the former president “was caught by surprise at what happened” and probably did not know about those who wanted to carry out the violence and considered it an intelligence failure. That was “a failure, frankly, on the intelligence that he should have been provided as president of the United States,” Brock said. “We shouldn’t be in a position where knuckleheads like Proud Boys and Oath Keepers can plan a disruptive violent event and it catches us by surprise.”
Brock conceded that Trump used the word “march” to encourage his supporters to march to the Capitol and express their dissent while the proceedings took place to certify the 2020 Electoral College votes. But he also said that there have been instances of peaceful marches in history and the term doesn’t necessarily indicate violent response. “So I think they'd be hard-pressed to prove that he was using words that were inciting violence,” he said.
The outlet also spoke with Alan Dershowitz on the matter and he also said that there was no evidence that Trump had prior knowledge about the Capitol riot. “If you didn’t know about it, they had planned it without him, then you’re missing the causal relationship,” Dershowitz, a longtime Harvard Law School professor, said. “It would have happened without his speech as well. So that would be relevant on the issue of causation.”
Although he personally disagreed with what Trump uttered on January 6, Dershowitz said legally the speech had “nothing wrong” in it. Citing the landmark Brandenburg v. Ohio court ruling of 1969, he said the content of Trump’s January 6 is constitutionally guarded (by the First Amendment). The ruling is used to determine whether an inflammatory speech is aimed at advocating illegal action.
“The Bible has caused violence, the Koran has caused violence. [Karl Marx's] ‘Das Kapital’ has caused violence,” Dershowitz noted, adding: “You can’t be held responsible for making constitutionally protected arguments that lead others to engage in violence. Jefferson wrote about that in 1801. It goes way back in our history, we punish the actor, not the speaker.”