Former President Donald J. Trump once again made clear on Thursday night exactly where he stands in the conflict between the American justice system and the mob that ransacked the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power nearly two years ago.
He stands with the mob.
Mr. Trump sent a video statement of support to a fund-raiser hosted by a group calling itself the Patriot Freedom Project on behalf of families of those charged with attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “People have been treated unconstitutionally, in my opinion, and very, very unfairly, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” he said. The country, he warned, “is going communist.”
The video underscored just how much the former president has aligned himself with forces that used to be outside the mainstream of American politics as he seeks to reclaim the White House through a rematch with President Biden in 2024. With the Justice Department targeting him as well as some of his violent allies, Mr. Trump’s antigovernment jeremiads lately sound like those once relegated to the outer edges of the political spectrum.
He has embraced extremist elements in American society even more unabashedly than in the past. The video comes as Mr. Trump has been using music sounding like a QAnon theme song at recent rallies and hosting for dinner Kanye West, a rap star under fire for antisemitic statements, and Nick Fuentes, a prominent white supremacist.
And it comes just two days after the conviction of Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, placed Mr. Trump at the spiritual heart of a seditious conspiracy to illegitimately keep power in a way that is unparalleled in American history.
Mr. Trump’s acceptance, if not outright courtship, of the militant right comes as the Republican establishment blames him for the party’s failure to do better during the November midterm elections. Republican officeholders, led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader in the upper chamber, argue that Mr. Trump’s promotion of candidates based on fidelity to his false claims about the 2020 election cost them seats.
“Trump is doubling down on his extremist and cult leader profile,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of “Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present” and a history professor at New York University. “For someone of Trump’s temperament, being humiliated by people turning away from him will only make him more desperate and more inclined to support and associate with the most extremist elements of society. There is no other option for him.” [Continue reading…]