Even the venue was a provocation: Donald Trump held an election campaign event at Waco Airport in the state of Texas over the weekend. The city was the scene of a bloody tragedy 30 years ago. After weeks of siege, police officers stormed a ranch where armed supporters of the anti-government Branch Davidians guru David Koresh were holed up. The property went up in flames, killing more than 80 cult members and four police officers. Since then, Waco has been a place of pilgrimage for right-wing extremists, who see it as a symbol of a tyrannical government.
The fact that Trump then played down the attack on the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021 as a peaceful demonstration and paid tribute to the rioters went too far even for leading politicians from his own party. "I think the best thing President Trump can do is focus on the issues that people are facing today," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's key allies in Congress, said of the "Huffington Post Office". "There is no way to convince the American people that January 6th was anything but a terrible day."
Graham went on to say that claims that the violent riots by hundreds of Trump supporters were "a walk in the park are offensive to me. It's not reality. It was one of the worst days in American history, and it has to be seen that way become".
The South Carolina senator also contradicted Trump on NBC News: "January 6 was one of the worst days in American history," he repeated to the US broadcaster. Everyone has the right to due process, but if you want to say "those involved in January 6th are some kind of heroes? No!" Graham clarified, "I will not endeavor to sugarcoat January 6th."
Similarly, Texas Senator John Cornyn said, "People who broke the law should be prosecuted. And they did," said the former Republican Deputy Speaker in the Senate. "I just don't get that backwards look. When you're running for president or any other office, people don't want you to revisit all the grievances of the past. They want to know what your vision is for the future. And that's why I think I do not that that's a recipe for success."
Cornyn also told The Huffington Post: "I've never seen anyone successfully elected to office whose campaign was about something from the past," he noted. "I think people want a positive vision for the future."
Cornyn's successor in the Senate, current Vice Republican Speaker John Thune, referred to NBC News for previous comments condemning the Jan. 6 violence and also questioned Trump's decision to remain focused on that day. "It's life in the past," Thune complained. "And I think most people want to hear more about the things that are going to be done to make the future better and brighter for them."
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Mike Rounds expressed his dismay that Trump showed footage of the January 6 riot on giant screens during his appearance. "I was disappointed in the way he used clips from that day. It was a bad day for this country," the Huffington Post quoted him as saying. "What happened that day came the closest to an attempted insurrection in a long time, and I don't think any of us should be proud of that day."
Holding a hand on his heart, Trump opened his rally on Saturday with the song "Justice for All". The piece is sung by a male choir whose members were convicted and punished for their part in the storming of the Capitol. Proceeds from the song will go to families of Trump supporters facing justice in connection with the riots. In the song, Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States while the choir sings the national anthem.
The fact that party colleagues are driving Trump on the topic of storming the Capitol does not mean that they are no longer supporting the poll favorite for the Republican candidacy in the 2024 presidential election in his application. "I don't blame him for people taking the law into their own hands," Graham told the Huffington Post when asked if his previous support for the 76-year-old had been shaken. "People wanted to blow up [the Democratic National Committee] headquarters before he even spoke," Graham claimed. "The point is that I will not engage in any effort to belittle January 6."
And Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama even justified Trump's portrayal of the attack on the heart of US democracy as a voter mobilization move: "When you hold rallies like this or you go into an election campaign, you use everything you have at your disposal," stated Tuberville. He couldn't say whether that was good or bad, the senator avoided condemning Trump. But he is sure that the ex-president is trying to inspire people. "Everyone is looking for an advantage. The bottom line is to win. That's politics."
Sources: NBC News, "Huffington Post"