House impeachment managers argued Thursday that last year’s storming of the Michigan State Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, and a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, were a Trump-inspired “dress rehearsal” for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“The siege of the Michigan statehouse was effectively a state-level dress rehearsal for the siege of the U.S Capitol that Trump incited on Jan. 6,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager. “It was a preview of the coming insurrection.”
On the third day of Mr. Trump‘s trial in the Senate, the Maryland Democrat told senators that the former president had engaged in a pattern of inciting violence from his supporters, long before the riot in Washington.
“There the pattern is, staring us in the face,” Mr. Raskin said. “Trump knew exactly what he was doing in inciting the January 6th mob. He had just seen how easily his words and actions inspired violence in Michigan. He sent a clear message to his supporters.”
Mr. Trump was engaged in a long-running public feud with Ms. Whitmer last year over her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The former president, and many residents of the crucial battleground state, considered her restrictions on businesses heavy-handed.
Mr. Raskin noted that Mr. Trump leveled a series of increasingly critical tweets at Ms. Whitmer last spring.
On April 17, Mr. Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” Mr. Raskin said extremists saw it as a call to arms.
The lawmaker did not add that Mr. Trump also tweeted on the same day, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”
On April 30, an angry crowd, some armed and many wearing “MAGA” hats, stormed the Michigan statehouse in Lansing in protest of state lockdown orders. They chanted “Let us in!” at the doors to the House chamber, and stood in the state Senate gallery with weapons as they watched legislators conduct business below.
At least two of those demonstrators were among 13 men charged by the FBI last Oct. 8 in a plot to kidnap Ms. Whitmer. Authorities said they planned to take her out of state and possibly execute her.
“The precise consequences of the president’s incitement of violence were revealed to the whole world,” Mr. Raskin said.
He criticized Mr. Trump for failing to condemn the kidnap plot.
“He did not criticize the extremists. He chose to vilify Gov. Whitmer again,” Mr. Raskin said, pointing to a subsequent tweet in which Mr. Trump said the governor “has done a terrible job” and that she should thank him for the federal government exposing the plot.
At a campaign rally in Michigan later in October, Mr. Raskin said, Mr. Trump attacked the governor again as his supporters chanted “lock her up.”
“He pivoted to his next goal,” Mr. Raskin said. “He told them they couldn’t trust the governor to administer fair elections in Michigan. He could not bring himself to public oppose a kidnapping and potential assassination conspiracy plot against a sitting governor of one of our 50 states.”
He said, “Trump knew exactly what he was doing. He had just seen how easily his words and actions inspired violence in Michigan. He sent a clear message to his supporters. He encouraged planning and conspiracies to take over the Capitol building and threaten public officials who refused to bow down to his political will.”
Mr. Raskin also played a montage of video clips for senators showing Mr. Trump touting violent responses from his supporters at rallies. The video highlighted Mr. Trump defending Montana Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte, who body-slammed a journalist in 2017.
“Any guy who can do a body slam is my kind of guy,” Mr. Trump said in 2018, recalling the incident.