Donald Trump began a dangerous new crusade a couple of weeks ago, with an ominous four-word press release: “Who Shot Ashli Babbitt?” That was all, but in the following days, the twice-impeached former president developed his self-serving myth—that Babbitt was a freedom-loving patriot who was gunned down for supporting Trump in the supposedly peaceful January 6 protest. In the days that followed, he began to agitate for naming the officer who, after warning the crowd to stay back, fired the shot that killed Babbitt.
“You know, if that were on the other side, the person that did the shooting would be strung up and hung. Okay? Now, they don’t want to give the name,” he told a Florida rally. “It’s a terrible thing, right? Shot. Boom. And it’s a terrible thing.” Law-and-Order Trump used to be more concerned about the rights of police who shot civilians than about their victims, but that was before his supporters, in their violent attempt six months ago to stop the lawful certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, injured almost 150 officers and contributed to the deaths of at least three others.
On a weekend PR bender, he went further, talking about the “love” that inspired the riot. “There was such love at that rally, you had over a million people, they were there for one reason, the rigged election, they felt the election was rigged,” Trump told Fox Business propagandist Maria Bartiromo, entirely falsely: There were not a million people but merely tens of thousands; the election wasn’t rigged; and there was no love.
But he persisted: “The crowd was unbelievable and I mentioned the word love, the love in the air, I’ve never seen anything like it.” That’s because the sad, neglected narcissist has never seen real love.
As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted, maybe the worst comment of all came from Bartiromo, who praised Babbitt as “a wonderful woman [who was] fatally shot on January 6 as she tried to climb out of a broken window” during a “peaceful protest.” I can’t speak to whether Babbitt was “wonderful,” but everything I do know about that portrait is wrong. Babbitt was trying to climb into a broken window, violently smashed by her fellow rioters, to enter the House chambers at this anything-but-peaceful event. Trump has also implied more than once that Babbitt was killed by a top Democrat’s security detail, but law enforcement officials on Monday told NBC that’s another Trump lie.
After warming up with Bartiromo, Trump hit the Conservative Political Action Committee event in Dallas later that day. If you think you already saw a 2021 CPAC gathering, which has traditionally been an annual affair, that’s because you did, in February, in Orlando. Grifting Trumpers Matt Schlapp, who runs the events, and his wife, Mercedes, a former Trump staffer, know they’ve got a good thing going. Some donors spent tens of thousands of dollars for access to the event.
CNN’s Daniel Dale did a reliable top-line fact-check of Trump’s biggest whoppers, which mostly recycled old claims that he won the November election and that authorities from coast to coast, in both parties, ignored “evidence” of fraud. There is no such evidence. He also hinted at a 2024 return, insisting that after Republicans sweep the midterms, “We will take back that glorious White House that sits so majestically in our nation’s capital.”
Trump’s glorification of January 6 was widely shared at CPAC, where Oath Keepers’ leader Stuart Rhodes, under investigation for his role in the violence, was seen circulating, and where speakers and attendees glorified the insurrection much the way Trump has.
Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Republicans to block an official commission to investigate the Capitol siege; many now seem to be following Trump in denying its violence and playing up its patriotism. On Monday, the increasingly irrelevant former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly claimed on her podcast that “there is no question” the media made the January 6 insurrection look “much worse than it actually was.” Soon they’ll be talking about it the way Trump did Sunday, like it was a million-person love-in.
There’s been a lot of excellent reporting and analysis about the danger of Trump’s remarks, but MSNBC and Peacock TV anchor Mehdi Hasan might have produced the single best commentary on his show Monday night, merely setting Trump’s words to video of the Capitol violence.
If you only watch 1 thing tonight, please watch this rather chilling video that my producer, the great & powerful Ivy Green made, putting Trump’s lying pro-terror words on Fox over images of the actual violence from January 6th.#mustwatch @MehdiHasanShow pic.twitter.com/JGkI6K1Ox8
—Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) July 13, 2021
As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote last week: “All the political momentum is on Trump’s side. He has slowly turned January 6 from a black mark that threatened to expunge him from Republican politics, to a regrettable episode that his allies preferred to leave behind, to a glorious uprising behind which he could rally his adherents.”
After Chait wrote that, it got even worse. Even two impeachments, Trump boasted on Sunday, couldn’t rein him in.
“I didn’t become different. I got impeached twice. I didn’t change. I became worse. I became worse.”
For once, he’s telling the truth.