Experts: Trump is encouraging violence with Waco campaign rally on 30th anniversary of deadly siege
Early Friday evening Donald Trump announced he will hold a campaign rally in Waco on March 25, which falls during the 30th anniversary of the 51-day deadly siege in that Texas community. Barely more than 12 hours later the one-term ex-president under at least four criminal investigations posted a statement that some, including legal experts, warn is encouraging or inciting violence, or is “a call for violence,” after claiming he will be arrested on Tuesday.
For those who would like a refresher, in 1993 agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) raided the headquarters of religious cult leader David Koresh and his Branch Davidians. Armed with warrants, federal agents targeted the compound searching for stockpiled firearms. By the end of the standoff, four ATF agents and 82 Branch Davidians had been killed.
Two years later The New York Times pointed to right-wing reaction to that raid, and to the Ruby Ridge siege, as the basis for Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which the FBI called “the worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history.” 168 people, including 19 children, were killed that day.
Marcy Wheeler, a well-respected journalist who writes about civil liberties and national security, Saturday morning warned: “If you want to talk about Trump inciting violence, it’s probably plenty early to point out that Trump staged a rally in Waco during the 30 year anniversary of the siege.”
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NBC News presidential historian and author of ten books, Michael Beschloss, summed it up: “So Trump is planning his first campaign rally for Waco on thirtieth anniversary of the siege where a cult leader challenged the authority of the federal government and threatened violence.”
Saturday morning, in several lengthy all-caps rage posts on his Truth Social platform, Trump claimed he was being arrested on Tuesday, and demanded his followers “protest, take our nation back!”
Retired FBI Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi, now a well-known NBC News national security analyst, wrote: “Cult leader to hold rally where wanted cult leader refused to surrender to feds 30 years ago, killed ATF agents, and ran deadly stand-off where at least 75 died: Donald Trump will host first 2024 presidential rally in Waco.”
Former FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, who led the Bureau’s investigation of Russia’s attack on America’s 2016 presidential election and was targeted by Trump, who demanded his firing, pointed to a passage in another of Trump’s rage posts from Saturday morning, highlighting this phrase: “with no retribution.”
Trump, in his Saturday morning rage posts, offered support for the more than 1000 January 6 rioters and insurrectionists who have been arrested.
“American patriots are being arrested & held in captivity like animals, while criminals & leftist thugs are allowed to roam the streets, killing & burning with no retribution,” he wrote.
That line echoes his now-infamous speech earlier this month at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“In 2016, I declared, ‘I am your voice,’” Trump declared. “Today, I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”
On December 19, 2020, Trump posted a now-infamous tweet, saying: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” and “Be there, will be wild!”
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Strzok says Saturday’s “retribution” reference is “Will be wild 2.0,” referring to Trump’s December 2020 tweet that’s widely seen as a “call to arms,” including by the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.
Legal, national security, and political experts are warning that Trump is encouraging or inciting violence, all over again.
“Trump also calls on his supporters to ‘PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!’—words that echo the language he used to encourage violence in the days leading up to the events of Jan. 6, 2021,” says Anna Bower, who writes for Lawfare Blog and has been reporting on Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis’ election fraud investigation into Trump.
“To be clear: Trump is encouraging violence,” adds Bower. “It’s a move ripped from his Jan. 6 playbook, when he told supporters at the Capitol ‘..if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.’ His conduct was contemptible then; it remains contemptible now.”
That “fight like hell” remark is echoed in another comment Trump made recently, as Strzok points out.
Responding to news five local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are coordinating security for if and when Trump is indicted, Strzok writes:
“So if indicted, law enforcement is worried about violence from the followers of the guy telling his followers two weeks ago, ‘This is the final battle, they know it…Either they win or we win. And if they win, we no longer have a country’? This is the stuff of failed states.”
Olivia Troye, a former Dept. of Homeland Security official who also worked on national security and homeland security at the National Counterterrorism Center during the Trump administration, issued this warning: “Trump has issued a call for violence. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Republicans need to publicly rebuke this dangerous rhetoric immediately.”
Donald Moynihan, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy professor, says, “The thing about Trump, is that you never can be sure when it all might tilt over into political violence. Because for sure, that is how some of his followers will read ‘take our nation back’ in the context of his possible arrest.”
Top national security attorney Brad Moss says: “Trump is trying to incite another mob for next week.”
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen told The New York Post on Saturday, “Donald would have no reason to put out the statement unless he has been contacted by the [office of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg] and advised accordingly.”
“Donald’s post is eerily similar to his battle cry prior to the January 6th insurrection; including calling for protest,” he added. “By doing so, Donald is hoping to rile his base, witness another violent clash on his behalf and profit from it by soliciting contributions.”
Author and political commentator Jared Yates Sexton, who covered the Trump 2016 campaign and hosts a live weekly podcast, issued this warning:
“For everyone who has spent years now trying to argue that Donald Trump isn’t a fascist or a demagogue, open your eyes. Facing indictment he’s calling for unrest and violence. Exactly as he did when he was soundly beaten in an election. We’re in this thing. Time to get serious.”