FLASHBACK: These GOP Senators Explicitly Warned of Trump Inciting Violence in 2016


MSNBC’s Chris Hayes played several clips of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 Republican primary opponents warning of his propensity for inciting violence, highlighting what he viewed as their hypocrisy for defending him — and almost assuredly voting to acquit him for inciting violence at the Capitol — in 2021.

Hayes began the segment by playing a clip of House Lead Impeachment Manager Rep. Jamie Raskin’s (D-MD) argument from earlier in the day.

“January 6th was the culmination of the president’s actions, not an aberration from them,” Raskin said. “The insurrection was the most violent and dangerous episode so far in Donald Trump’s continuing pattern and practice of inciting violence.”

“Today, impeachment managers reminded the Senate that Trump has been encouraging violence from his supporters from the very start,” Hayes noted. “All the way back when he was running for president in his campaign rallies beginning in 2015, and at the time, many of the loudest warnings about that violence he was inciting and encouraging came from some of the very same Republican senators that want us all to move on from January 6th.”

He then played a clip of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX):

In any campaign, responsibility starts at the top. Any candidate is responsible for the culture of the campaign. And when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discord.

And then one of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):

You have candidate in Donald Trump who clearly has used language that appeals to anger and in some instances, has actually said to the crowd, ‘Let’s beat this person up’ or ‘Let’s do this’ or ‘Let’s do that.’ There’s only one presidential candidate who has violence at their events and I do think Donald needs to realize and take responsibility for the fact that some of the rhetoric he has used could be contributing to this environment.

Hayes then turned to NBC News policy editor Benjy Sarlin, who covered the 2016 GOP primary and wrote an article the day after the Capitol riot titled, “Republicans warned this day would come. Then they forgot.

Sarlin noted that Trump’s rhetoric had been relatively consistent since the beginning days of the 2016 primary, with a number of people even raising the specific concern that Trump might incite his supporters to riot if he were denied the nomination at the Republican National Convention.

Throughout the 2016 primary and general election, then the 2020 general election and vote counting, said Sarlin, Trump used “the same playbook: conspiracy theories about how the election is rigged, fears that his supporters might engage in violence, and questions about what role he is playing in either heating them up and whether to take any steps to cool them down if things get out of hand.”

Sarlin also noted that Rubio in particular had been “very emotional” when talking about the risk of Trump endorsing authoritarianism or violence during the 2016 primary. He added that he was “often very moved” interviewing Rubio and hearing him speak at events, especially in his home state of Florida, with so many people in the audience who, like Rubio’s family, had “fled countries where there was authoritarian violence and the threat of elections being overturned.”

But even though “this was very personal for Rubio,” Sarlin continued, he “hasn’t exactly renounced his former views, he’s sort of just sulked on the sidelines a bit during this. He’s rarely called out Trump by name, he’s talked generally about the threat of violence, but he’s generally called the impeachment a waste of time — it’s definitely not a priority for him the way it was then.”

Watch the video above, via MSNBC.

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