Calling Democrats "villains" who must and will be "eliminated", Donald Trump's rally Saturday in Waco, Texas on the 30th anniversary of the Branch Davidian standoff was a call to arms against Tump's many, many opponents, a war he expects his MAGA faithful to fight every day in the 2024 campaign and beyond.
Efforts by Trump’s team to steer a more conventional, disciplined candidacy have wilted in recent days as the 76-year-old unleashed words and images that – even by his provocative standards – are unusually dehumanising, menacing and dangerous.
He opened the rally by playing a song, “Justice for All”, that features a choir of men imprisoned for their role in the January 6 insurrection singing the national anthem intercut with Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Trump stood solemnly on a podium with hand on heart and footage from the Capitol riot was shown on big screens and US flags billowed in the wind. “That song tells you a lot because it’s number one in every single category,” he told a crowd of thousands. “Number two was Taylor Swift, number three was Miley Cyrus.”
The choice of location for the rally was also striking: Waco, a city in Texas, exactly 30 years after a 51-day standoff and deadly siege between law enforcement and the Branch Davidians that resulted in the deaths of more than 80 members of the religious cult and four federal agents.
It came with Trump facing the prospect of becoming the first president in US history to be indicted. A grand jury in New York investigating a hush money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, who alleged a sexual encounter with Trump, a claim he denies.
Trump falsely predicted his own arrest on Tuesday last week and called for protests without adding that they should be peaceful. On his Truth Social platform he warned of “potential death & destruction” if he is eventually charged.
He also used increasingly racist rhetoric as he launched ever more personal attacks against Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, raising fears that supporters could try to lash out on his behalf. Trump even shared an image of himself holding a baseball bat next to a picture of Bragg.
Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives, said: “The twice-impeached former president’s rhetoric is reckless, reprehensible and irresponsible. It’s dangerous, and if he keeps it up he’s going to get someone killed.”
On Friday a powdery substance was found with a threatening letter in a mailroom at Bragg’s offices; officials later determined the substance was harmless.
Yet at Saturday’s rally at Waco airport, there was little sign of Trump heeding the warnings and cooling off. Behind him supporters held signs that said, “Witch hunt”, “I stand with Trump” and “Trump 2024”.
The 45th president repeated his false claim that the the 2020 presidential election was “rigged”, praised the rioters of January 6 and raged against the “weaponization of law enforcement”, branding the prosecutors overseeing multiple investigations into his conduct as “absolute human scum”.
At this point, anyone left in Trump's MAGA fold is a terrorist and needs to be treated as such. We won't do that, of course, but it would prevent the lethal violence that is coming in the weeks and months ahead.
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