Impeachment managers: Armed Michigan rally was a ‘state-level dress rehearsal’ for Jan. 6 insurrection

House impeachment managers' visual of the April 30 Michigan protest and Jan. 6 insurrection | Screenshot

Democratic U.S. House impeachment managers said Thursday that an armed rally at the Michigan Capitol on April 30 was “a state-level dress rehearsal” for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The U.S. Senate trial is being held to determine whether to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) pointed to tweets Trump sent in March attacking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after she had requested more federal support during the COVID-19 pandemic, before bringing up an April tweet in which Trump tweeted: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

Later that month, armed Trump supporters showed up to the Michigan Capitol and more than 200 poured inside.

“Trump’s marching orders were followed by aggressive action on the ground,” Raskin said.

Raskin said the events at the Michigan Capitol were “a preview of the coming insurrection,” highlighting a number of parallels between the two events.

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“This Trump inspired mob may indeed look familiar to you,” Raskin said. “Confederate battle flags, MAGA hats, weapons, camo army gear. Just like the insurrectionists who showed up and invaded this chamber on Jan. 6.”

During another armed protest at the Michigan Capitol in May, a Trump supporter was seen carrying a Barbie doll in a noose.

“This time, one man brought a doll with a noose around the neck – foreshadowing the appearance of the large gallows erected outside this building, downstairs from here, on Jan. 6, as the crowd chanted – and I can still hear the words ringing in my ear – ‘Hang [Vice President] Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence,’” Raskin said.

Raskin pointed out that Trump did not condemn the armed protests, instead encouraging Whitmer in a tweet to “give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

“Following the armed siege in Lansing, President Trump refused to condemn the attacks on the Michigan Capitol or denounce the violent lawbreakers. Instead, he did just the opposite – he upheld the righteousness of his violent followers’ cause, and he put pressure on the victim of the attack to listen to his supporters,” Raskin said. “It’s clear he doesn’t think that they’re at fault in any way at all.”

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Raskin pointed to the foiled extremist plot to kidnap and kill Whitmer as another example of Trump inciting violence in Michigan.

“Over the coming months, even after a crowd threatening Gov. Whitmer stormed the Capitol, Trump continued to assail her in public,” Raskin said. “Then, on Oct. 8, the precise consequences of the president’s incitement to violence were revealed to the whole world. Look at this: 13 men were arrested by the FBI for plotting to storm the Michigan state capitol building, launch a civil war, kidnap Gov. Whitmer, transport her to Wisconsin, and then try and execute her. This was an assassination conspiracy, kidnapping conspiracy.”

Trump continued to attack Whitmer in the weeks after the plot came to light, suggested that the plot may not have been an issue, and did not disavow his supporters chanting “lock her up” on multiple occasions.

“What did Donald Trump do as president of the United States to defend one of our nation’s governors against a plotted kidnapping by violent insurrectionists? Did he publicly condemn violent, domestic extremists who hoped and planned to launch a civil war in America? No, not at all,” Raskin said. “He further inflamed them by continuing to attack the governor who was the object of their hatred in this kidnapping conspiracy.”

Raskin said Trump also began laying the groundwork to undermine faith in the election during rallies in Michigan.

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“He had now seen that some of his followers were prepared to engage in criminal violence, with orchestrated attacks, deadly weapons and willing bodies to storm a state capitol building to attack his perceived political enemies,” Raskin said. “And so, as the crowd chanted, ‘Lock her up,’ he pivoted to his next goal: he told them they couldn’t trust the governor to administer fair elections in Michigan. He used a crowd that he knew would readily engage in violence to prepare his followers for his next, and of course his paramount, political objective: claiming the election was stolen, and inciting insurrectionary action.”

Raskin argued that following the events in Michigan, Trump understood the power his words had – like when he told his supporters that the election was stolen, to fight for their country, and to march to the U.S. Capitol.

“Trump knew exactly what he was doing in inciting the Jan. 6 mob,” Raskin said. “He had just seen how easily his words and actions inspired violence in Michigan. He sent a clear message to his supporters: he encouraged planning and conspiracies to take over capitol buildings and threaten public officials who refused to bow down to his political will.”

In Michigan, Trump “demonstrated his willingness and his ability to incite violence against government officials who he thought were getting in his way,” Raskin said.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) did not have a visible reaction to the prolonged focus on Michigan, per Capitol Hill pool reports.

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Impeachment managers also pointed to Michigan several times on Wednesday, including showing video of a group of Trump supporters who gathered after dark outside Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s home in December.

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach Trump a second time on Jan. 13. Ten Republicans joined the effort, including two Michigan Republicans: Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph).

The Senate held a vote Tuesday on the constitutionality of holding an impeachment trial for a president who is no longer in office, which has never happened before. The vote was 56-44, with six Republicans joining all 50 Democratic senators in voting in favor of its constitutionality, including Stabenow and Peters.

The Senate would need 67 votes to successfully convict the former president, barring him from running for federal office in the future and stripping him of various post-presidency benefits.