Inaugural Dread: What Happened January 6th, and Will it Happen Again January 17th or January 20th?
Epistemic status: Hopefully everything forward-looking here is proven embarrassingly wrong and everyone links back to this post in the future to show how unserious and silly I am.
You may remember that a subjective quarter century ago, a group was arrested prior to attempting to kidnap the Governor of Michigan. This was after President Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in response to her ordering a lockdown of the state to stem the coronavirus outbreak that Trump labeled a hoax that threatened to derail his reelection prospects.
It seems unlikely Trump had knowledge that these specific individuals would take the specific action of planning a kidnapping. Rather, he just issued an all-caps order to the general public through a platform that his supporters now regard as necessary to communicate effectively with the public.
A consequence of that order was a planned kidnapping, but there could have been many other possible consequences.
There have been other instances of the president saying things and then people doing things consistent with what you might expect some people would take him to mean, but let’s skip forward to January 8th Rudy Giuliani:
Over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent. And if we’re wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. So — let’s have trial by combat. I’m willing to stake my reputation. The president is willing to stake his reputation on the fact that we’re going to find criminality there. [Vik: Emphasis added, as will be the case with all emphasis marks in any of the speeches in this post]
Here is a transcript of the president’s January 6 speech that followed and references Giuliani’s speech. I am linking to the full transcript so that interested readers can make their own judgment about the intention meaning and reasonable and likely interpretations of president’s words. You may want to read it yourself since if the president is impeached it will likely be Exhibit 1 both parties submit in the determining whether Trump incited a coup.
In the remainder of this post, I am going to pick out some things from his speech to draw your attention to. (Paragraph breaks are somewhat arbitrary since this is the president speaking.)
All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media. That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.
Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal. Today I will lay out just some of the evidence proving that we won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election. I say sometimes jokingly, but there’s no joke about it, I’ve been in two elections. I won them both and the second one, I won much bigger than the first. Almost 75 million people voted for our campaign, the most of any incumbent president by far in the history of our country, 12 million more people than four years ago. I was told by the real pollsters; we do have real pollsters. They know that we were going to do well, and we were going to win. What I was told, if I went from 63 million, which we had four years ago to 66 million, there was no chance of losing. Well, we didn’t go to 66. We went to 75 million and they say we lost. We didn’t lose.
The president says the election was “stolen.” However, all is not lost as “we will stop the steal.” Sorry to be dogmatic, but notice the tenses. This is an action the speaker and listeners will be performing together to right an injustice committed against them by others in the past. Contrast this with the other option of resignation to the results even if one considers them unfair.
Trump continues, giving his approval of Giuliani’s speech quoted from above:
Thank you. I’d love to have, if those tens of thousands of people would be allowed, the military, the secret service, and we want to thank you, and the police law enforcement. Great. You’re doing a great job, but I’d love it if they could be allowed to come up here with us. Is that possible? Can you just let them come up, please? Rudy, you did a great job. He’s got guts. You know what? He’s got guts, unlike a lot of people in the Republican party. He’s got guts, he fights. He fights, and I’ll tell you.
Thank you very much, John [Eastman]. [Vik: Eastman, incidentally, is the constitutional scholar who said Kamala Harris was not eligible to serve as VP because her parents were immigrants, a position floated by Trump as well.] Fantastic job. I watched. That’s a tough act to follow, those two. John is one of the most brilliant lawyers in the country, and he looked at this and he said, ” What an absolute disgrace, that this could be happening to our constitution.”
Trump now speaks of Mike Pence, identifying him as having a crucial role in the day with the ability to write the injustice. He is one who can stop the steal:
He looked at Mike Pence, and I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All he has to do.
This is from the number one or certainly one of the top constitutional lawyers in our country. He has the absolute right to do it. We’re supposed to protect our country, support our country, support our constitution, and protect our constitution. States want to revote. The States got defrauded. They were given false information. They voted on it. Now they want to recertify. They want it back.
All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the States to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people.
I just spoke to Mike. I said, “Mike, that doesn’t take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing. That takes courage,” and then we’re stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot, and we have to live with that for four more years. We’re just not going to let that happen. Many of you have traveled from all across the nation to be here, and I want to thank you for the extraordinary love. That’s what it is. There’s never been a movement like this ever, ever for the extraordinary love for this amazing country and this amazing movement. Thank you.
Trump states the stakes and purpose plainly:
We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s Capital for one very, very basic and simple reason, to save our democracy. … We want to go back, and we want to get this right because we’re going to have somebody in there that should not be in there and our country will be destroyed, and we’re not going to stand for that.
Trump describes with some vividness what the plan is:
Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.
We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard. Today we will see whether Republicans stand strong for integrity of our elections, but whether or not they stand strong for our country, our country. Our country has been under siege for a long time, far longer than this four-year period.
You’ll note that he did say “peacefully and patriotically.” He mentions walking down to the Capitol. He does not mention entering, but I would note the Capitol is a building. Congress will not hear their demands without their entering.
Trump explains why he thinks the Supreme Court has been unfairly ruling against him:
I read a story in one of the newspapers recently how I control the three Supreme Court justices. I control them. They’re puppets. I read it about Bill Barr, that he’s my personal attorney. That he’ll do anything for me. And I said, “It really is genius,” because what they do is that, and it makes it really impossible for them to ever give you a victory, because all of a sudden Bill Barr changed, if you hadn’t noticed. I like Bill Barr, but he changed, because he didn’t want to be considered my personal attorney. And the Supreme Court, they rule against me so much. You know why? Because the story is I haven’t spoken to any of them, any of them, since virtually they got in. But the story is that they’re my puppet. That they’re puppets. And now that the only way they can get out of that, because they hate that, it’s not good on the social circuit. And the only way they get out is to rule against Trump. So, let’s rule against Trump, and they do that.
Trump details how he believes Pennsylvania was stolen from him. (You would be excused for just lightly skimming this nonsense.)
There were over 205,000 more ballots counted in Pennsylvania. Now think of this. You had 205,000 more ballots than you had voters. That means you had 200… Where did they come from? You know where they came from? Somebody’s imagination. Whatever they needed. So, in Pennsylvania you had 205,000 more votes than you had voters! And it’s the number is actually much greater than that now. That was as of a week ago. And this is a mathematical impossibility, unless you want to say it’s a total fraud. So, Pennsylvania was defrauded. Over 8000 ballots in Pennsylvania were cast by people whose names and dates of birth match individuals who died in 2020 and prior to the election. Think of that. Dead people! Lots of dead people, thousands. And some dead people actually requested an application. That bothers me even more. Not only are they voting, but they also want an application to vote. One of them was 29 years ago died. It’s incredible. Over 14,000 ballots were cast by out-of-state voters. So, these are voters that don’t live in the state. And by the way, these numbers are what they call outcome determinative. Meaning these numbers far surpass… I lost by a very little bit. These numbers are massive. Massive. More than 10,000 votes in Pennsylvania were illegally counted, even though they were received after Election Day. In other words, “They were received after Election Day, let’s count them anyway!” And what they did in many cases is they did fraud. They took the date and they moved it back, so that it no longer is after Election Day. And more than 60,000 ballots in Pennsylvania were reported received back. They got back before they were ever supposedly mailed out. In other words, you got the ballot back before you mailed it! they were supposedly mailed out, in other words, you got the ballot back before you mailed it, which is also logically and logistically impossible. Think of that one. You got the ballot back. Let’s send the ballots. Oh, they’ve already been sent. But we got the ballot back before they were sent. I don’t think that’s too good. Twenty-five thousand ballots in Pennsylvania were requested by nursing home residents, all in a single giant batch, not legal. Indicating an enormous illegal ballot harvesting operation. You’re not allowed to do it. It’s against the law. The day before the election, the State of Pennsylvania reported the number of absentee ballots that had been sent out. Yet this number was suddenly and drastically increased by 400,000 people. It was increased. Nobody knows where it came from by 400,000 ballots. One day after the election, it remains totally unexplained. They said, “Well, we can’t figure that.” Now that’s many, many times what it would take to overthrow the state. Just that one element. 400,000 ballots appeared from nowhere, right after the election.
However, there is a way. Pennsylvania (he means the Pennsylvania legislature) wants to fix the injustice:
By the way, Pennsylvania has now seen all of this. They didn’t know because it was so quick. They had a vote, they voted, but now they see all this stuff. It’s all come to light. Doesn’t happen that fast. And they want to re-certify their votes. They want to re-certify.
There’s only one thing needed, and it is in reach of one person who is inside the Capitol building:
But the only way that can happen is if Mike Pence agrees to send it back. Mike Pence has to agree to send it back. And many people in Congress want it sent back, and take of what you’re doing.
Pence has said he can’t do that due to his Constitutional duties. Trump recognizes that and offers this retort:
Let’s say you don’t do it. Somebody says, “Well, we have to obey the Constitution.” And you are, because you’re protecting our country and you’re protecting the Constitution, so you are. But think of what happens. Let’s say they’re stiffs and they’re stupid people. And they say, “Well, we really have no choice.” Even though Pennsylvania and other states want to redo their votes, they want to see the numbers. They already have the numbers. Go very quickly and they want to redo their legislature because many of these votes were taken as I said, because it wasn’t approved by their legislature. That in itself is illegal and then you have the scam and that’s all of the things that we’re talking about. But think of this: if you don’t do that, that means you will have a president of the United States for four years, with his wonderful son. You will have a president who lost all of these states, or you will have a president to put it another way, who was voted on by a bunch of stupid people who lost all of these things. You will have an illegitimate president, that’s what you’ll have. And we can’t let that happen.
There is much more detail on other states similar to how he went into detail on Pennsylvania that I am omitting here but you can read in the transcript.
Trump offers some optimism here though when looking at this crowd. He says this to communicate that they can do something about this. Hope is not lost because Pence can fix it:
Looking out at all the amazing patriots here today, I have never been more confident in our nation’s future. Well, I have to say we have to be a little bit careful. That’s a nice statement, but we have to be a little careful with that statement. If we allow this group of people to illegally take over our country, because it’s illegal when the votes are illegal, when the way they got there is illegal, when the States that vote are given false and fraudulent information.
This ending section is one that I have seen quoted from. I think it’s worth seeing an extended section rather than just a line or two though:
And we fight. We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore. Our exciting adventures and boldest endeavors have not yet begun. My fellow Americans for our movement, for our children and for our beloved country and I say this, despite all that’s happened, the best is yet to come. So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give– the Democrats are hopeless; they’re never voting for anything, not even one vote–but we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So, let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you all for being here, this is incredible. Thank you very much. Thank you.
That is the end of the speech, scheduled to end just before election certification would start. We know that after this the crowd headed down Pennsylvania Avenue as directed by Trump, though he did not accompany him as his speech indicated he would. After walking, they entered the Capitol building, leading directly to the deaths of at least five people.
President Trump did not tell anyone to enter the building. He merely told them that “if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Additionally, he says they are going to give “going to try and give [the weak Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” It’s not clear to me how that would be possible without physically entering the Capitol building.
For sake of argument, let’s say you believe that Trump always means for his speech to be taken in the most metaphorical way possible and never intends on anyone actually committing violence. Even assuming this, one would think Trump would at some point realize that a lot of people listen to him and interpret his words as marching orders.
Trump knows that his supporters are capable of violence he mentioned this in 2016 when he predicted his supporters would riot if he did not win the GOP nomination.
His fellow Republicans in 2016 accused Trump of encouraging violence at his rallies:
“I think a campaign bears responsibility for creating an environment,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz told reporters in Illinois Friday night, as networks beamed in live footage of the protests. “When a candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face, the predictable consequence of that is that it escalates, and today is unlikely to be the last such instance.”
Earlier in the day, Florida Senator Marco Rubio strongly condemned Trump, saying there were “consequences” to his words.
“I would point out there isn’t violence at my events, there isn’t violence at Ted’s events, there isn’t violence at a Kasich event, there isn’t violence at a Sanders event, there isn’t violence at a Clinton event,” he told reporters. “There’s only one presidential candidate who has violence at their events.”
For his part, Trump offered to his supporters:
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them,” he said at a separate February rally in Iowa. “Just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”
This is Trump’s history. So it is not a coincidence that two weeks after Trump vetoed a defense bill because it required renaming military bases named after Confederate generals that his supporters broke into the nation’s Capital building waving Confederate Battle flags.
"During the Civil War, the Confederate Army never reached the Capitol. The rebel flag, to my knowledge, had never been flown inside the halls of Congress until Wednesday," @ClintSmithIII writes: https://t.co/BCTrvXRP0b
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) January 8, 2021
I don’t mean to claim that this specific manifestation of behavior was predictable. Such a statement could have taken many forms. Each of those forms are causally connected to Trump’s speech even though they are not predictable in the specifics of who will choose which action. Trump himself knows this. To see this, double back to Trump’s speech:
All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the States to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people.
I just spoke to Mike. I said, “Mike, that doesn’t take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing. That takes courage,” and then we’re stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot, and we have to live with that for four more years. We’re just not going to let that happen. Many of you have traveled from all across the nation to be here, and I want to thank you for the extraordinary love.
Trump says that he told Pence rejecting the electors does not take courage. Accepting the electors takes courage. Why though? Because he has assembled a crowd of thousands of people who are not going to let their country be stolen from them. Trump knows that his supporters are angry. He knows what they are capable of. He says that Pence would require a great deal of courage to deny them what they want: a second Trump presidency.
Now let’s consider the tweets that led to the president getting banned from Twitter.
The tweets themselves are not directly hateful nor are they direct calls for violence. In fact, Twitter quotes them in their entirety when announcing Trump’s permanent suspension:
The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!
To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.
Twitter knows what I have mentioned a few times in this post. Even when the president’s words do not explicitly call for violence, they often reliably lead to some form of violence consistent with his statements.
Twitter then adds the following in its justification:
- President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate and is seen as him disavowing his previous claim made via two Tweets (1, 2) by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, that there would be an “orderly transition” on January 20th.
- The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a “safe” target, as he will not be attending.
- The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.
- Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.
As such, our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.
Let’s visit that last bullet point again. It’s a doozy when read alone:
Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.
This is probably not the only time someone has threatened violence. As I was asked on Twitter, why doesn’t Twitter just handle it its normal way?
There are other solutions though. Contacting FBI? Shadow banning specific users? Alerting news of potential attacks?
— Corgi on Cantaloupe (@Psycholosopher) January 10, 2021
I don’t have any non-public information here. However, I suspect that Twitter is unable to handle the frequency of the threats that were made in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s tweets. I suspect that there is a safety team at Twitter that is supposed to flag, review, and forward to law enforcement suspicious activity and that this team is just overwhelmed to the point that Twitter risks being unable to do what the law requires it to do.
The now-famous Section 230 does protect Twitter from much of the liability stemming from people being mean to each other online, but Twitter still retains liability if it does not commit basic actions to prevent it from being used as a conduit for things like child pornography or terroristic threats, the latter being the of concern here.
I suspect Apple and Google and Amazon AWS felt similar liabilities could accrue to them through unchecked communications on the Twitter-knockoff Parler. That is why Apple and Google kicked Parler off their App Stores and Amazon AWS kicked Parler off its platform. The AWS cancellation is particularly worrying because there was no significant movement to my knowledge to support such a cancellation. No one complains that gas stations sell gas to neo-Nazis. No one was threatening to boycott AWS until they got rid of Parler. I had no idea Parler was on AWS. If anything, future customers might be dissuaded from using AWS knowing that they might get kicked off in the future. Note that in AWS’s letter to Parler, it makes no mention of “hateful” content or neo-Nazis. Instead, they cite specific Parler posts that mention dates for assassinating liberal leaders and Black Lives Matter activists along with dates. The issue is not hateful content; the issue is a deluge of specific, violent, credible threats that exceed platforms’ ability to handle responsibly.
Apple is even more clear in a statement, explicitly stating the problem is not the views expressed on Parler but instead illegality:
We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity.
In Apple’s letter to Parler, however, they do object to “harmful” content instead of just dangerous content, so perhaps Apple does have a view-based objection.
Going back to AWS though, I could not find an AWS Press Release asking that they be patted on the back for discontinuing Parler. The AWS Twitter feed does not mention it. If they think banning Parler is good for business, they are being shy about their good deed.
I suspect, without no more evidence than is in this post, that AWS knows that there are specific, likely threats being made on Parler that is going unchecked and unreported to authorities. I suspect that AWS knows it could be held liable if they continue to host Parler while knowing this is going on, and that is why they are discontinuing service.
What does this mean for January 17 and January 20? (Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet. The 20th is the day of the inauguration.)
I do not know. However, 12% of the American public claim to support “the actions of those people who took part in the riot.” They believe violence resulting in death to overturn the election of Joe Biden is justified and right. This represents some 36 million or more people, some of whom will be willing to act.
Combine this with what we know from Twitter and Parler, and I am genuinely fearful of what is coming.
Update: It appears the inauguration as a public gathering has been canceled.
A presidential inauguration like no other. Fearful of both the spread of coronavirus and the possibility of violence, DC’s mayor asks all Americans not to come to the inauguration. pic.twitter.com/whxL1HJPAS
— Julie Zauzmer (@JulieZauzmer) January 11, 2021