From the start of the Trump defense team’s presentation Friday, the former president’s lawyers hit senators hard with a wave of false equivalencies and bogus claims that Donald Trump, in fact, was the messenger of peace seeking to calm America’s political waters from the turmoil created by violent Democrats.
“Contrast the President’s repeated condemnations of violence with the rhetoric from his opponents,” Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said before gesturing dramatically to a video montage.
What ensued was a mash-up of clips from protests during the course of 2020 and Trump’s response to them, touting his enthusiasm for “law and order.” The phrase, of course, was and remains Trump’s shorthand for crushing liberal protesters, especially the Black Lives Matter movement — not a plea for peace.
Here's the "law and order" reel Trump's defense just played pic.twitter.com/Ut9jYMUwub
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) February 12, 2021
The very first clip in van der Veen’s montage, for example, showed Trump saying “I am your president of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
The video ignored the reality that within minutes of Trump reciting that line, law enforcement had used flash bang grenades and chemical irritants to clear peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., so that Trump and top administration officials could walk to St. John’s church, for a photo-op in which Trump posed with a Bible.
Attorney General Bill Barr reportedly gave the order to clear the protesters, pursuant to Trump’s desire for a defiant photo-op, at the expense of peaceful protesters.
The lawyers’ montage then cut to a clip of Joe Biden saying that “the vast majority of the protesters are being peaceful” — an indisputably true claim that, nonetheless, the montage contrasted with quick-cut scenes of chaos and violence.
The montage then clipped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) saying in 2018, “I just don’t even know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country.”
Unmentioned: She was referring to widespread outrage over the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the border with Mexico, which was ongoing at the time. “They’re doing away with children being with their moms,” Pelosi said just prior to the clipped quote.
And so on, and so on. It’s predictable, sure, that Trump’s defense team didn’t show clips of him celebrating protesters at his rallies being beaten by his supporters, or praising supporters of his that beat up “antifa scum” in the streets.
But, from the start, the defense strategy appears to be not one of addressing the specific charges at issue — that Trump brought a mob to Washington and then incited it — but rather a wholesale denial of reality, casting the former president as peacemaker.