Trump tweeted a quote one of his evangelical advisers said on “Fox & Friends Weekend” warning of violent consequences if the Democrats are successful with having him impeached.
“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,” Trump tweeted, adding a parenthetical in his paraphrase of words by Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor. Jeffress was asked about the reaction of evangelical Christians to the possible impeachment of Trump.
The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker over the weekend wrote about Trump’s “deep sense of persecution,” and how he has used that to connect with his political base:
Victimization always has been core to Trump’s identity, both as a politician and as a real estate promoter and reality-television star. It is the emotional glue that yokes Trump to the grievance politics of the right. Many of Trump’s grass-roots followers have said they feel protective of the president in part because they also feel oppressed and ostracized by elites.. . .This shared sense of persecution is one reason so many Republican officeholders and conservative media personalities are defending the president — at least for now — against allegations that he abused the power of his office for personal political gain.
But Trump’s approach to portraying himself as a victim is to fight back — something his supporters celebrate about him. That sense of shared grievance has been turned into a rallying cry that seems threatening and alludes to violence before, but referring to a civil war was a step further than Trump has previously gone.
Much of the response to Jeffress and to Trump amplifying his sentiment was harsh.
Pundits and social media users across the political spectrum said the president was being irresponsible in citing America’s most divisive moment as a parallel to his own political morass. (There were at least 620,000 casualties in the Civil War.) But this was not the first time the president or his allies have claimed there would be a violent uprising if Trump wasn’t guiding the country.
In November 2015, Trump said he — or his supporters — would get physical with Black Lives Matter activists who attempted to hijack the mic at one of his events to prevent him from sharing his vision for America.
“I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself or if other people will,” he said.
In August 2016, Trump seemed to imply that gun rights supporters could take matters into their own hands if he lost the election and a Clinton administration led to harsher gun laws. “Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” he said. “By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. [Pause] Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know. But I tell you what, that’ll be a horrible day.”
In December 2018, Trump told Reuters there would be a revolution if he were impeached.
“It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” he told Reuters in an Oval Office interview.
“I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” Trump added.
And Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, told Sky News in August 2018 that if Trump were impeached, Americans would rebel against that.
“You could only impeach [Trump] for political reasons and the American people would revolt against that,” he said.
In a March 2019 interview with Breitbart, Trump talked about what can happen when his supporters decide to get tough.
“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,” he said.
As my colleague Aaron Blake suggested, the president’s words have the potential to “plant a seed” in his supporters’ minds that violence is a reasonable option if they feel “wronged by the political process.”
The response to the president’s latest tweets expresses some people’s disappointment that instead of encouraging support for the political process when it comes to impeachment, Trump could be encouraging his supporters to subvert it.