Karl Rove: Law-and-Order Trump Has an Evil Twin

From a Wall Street Journal commentary by Karl Rove headlined “Law-and-Order Trump Has an Evil Twin”:

Which Donald Trump is running for president? When it comes to law and order, there are two.

There’s the Donald Trump who said the day after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that he was “outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.” This Mr. Trump then declared, “America is, and must always be, a nation of law and order. The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy.” He spoke directly to “those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction,” saying “you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay.”

When Portland, Ore., was rocked in July 2020 by violent demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, this version of Mr. Trump condemned the protestors as “anarchists.” That October, when rioters tore down that city’s statutes of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, trashed the state’s Historical Society and ransacked local businesses, the same Mr. Trump tweeted, “Put these animals in jail, now.”

This is a man who is for law and order, backs the police, demands respect for the Constitution and opposes using violence to settle political arguments.

But there’s another Donald Trump. This one seemed at best indifferent to the street fighting of the alt-right Proud Boys, telling them in a nationally televised presidential debate to “stand back and stand by,” phrasing that suggested he might call them to violence if their muscle was needed.

On Jan. 6, this Mr. Trump watched his Oval Office television for 187 minutes without making a public statement. Meanwhile, rioters broke through police lines, stormed the Capitol, smashed windows and doors, ransacked offices, and urinated and spread feces in rooms and hallways, all to disrupt a statutorily mandated joint congressional session that was to receive the Electoral College vote.

Ignoring pleas from staff, family and those under attack, this Donald Trump finally spoke three hours into the riot. He urged rioters to “go home,” saying “I know your pain; I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it.” While “this was a fraudulent election,” he said, “we have to have peace.” “We love you. You’re very special.”

This version of Mr. Trump has now gone even further, opening campaign rallies by showing on giant screens a video filmed last year of people jailed for Jan. 6 crimes singing the national anthem in their cells. This Mr. Trump says “our people love those people” and that they shouldn’t have been imprisoned.

The Washington Post identified five of the 15 men who appear in Mr. Trump’s video. The Post reported four “were charged with assaulting police, using weapons such as a crowbar, sticks and chemical sprays.”

One of them pleaded guilty to using a chemical spray on a policeman who died the next day of a stroke. The medical examiner said the officer’s death was of natural causes and found no evidence of injury or allergic reaction to the spray. But the examiner said that “all that transpired” on Jan. 6 “played a role in his condition.” The man who sprayed him is now serving 80 months in prison.

Another defendant was found guilty in March of nine charges, including “assaulting, resisting or impeding” police with deadly weapons and “engaging in physical violence.” He has a criminal history and will be sentenced soon.

Three men in Mr. Trump’s video are awaiting trial. One was released last November pending trial on eight charges—to which he has pleaded not guilty—including assaulting police with “a deadly or dangerous weapon,” in this case pepper spray. Two others were denied pretrial release because of the severity of the charges, which include threatening a federal officer and “repeatedly hitting police officers with a giant stick,” according to the Post.

If this second Mr. Trump glorifies Jan. 6 prisoners, what does he now believe about the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys found guilty of seditious conspiracy? Sedition is the crime of “inciting revolt or violence against a lawful authority with the goal of destroying or overthrowing it.” Would this version of Mr. Trump pardon those found guilty of Jan. 6 crimes if elected president?

The old Donald Trump who promised Jan. 6 lawbreakers “you will pay” has been replaced by a new version who recently wrote on his social media platform “LET THEM GO FREE, NOW!” in response to the release of Jan. 6 footage. That soft-on-crime attitude could well cost him the presidency. Because it involves violent criminals attempting to overthrow our government, it should.

Karl Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is author of “The Triumph of William McKinley.”

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