Trump’s former campaign manager called the situation “a sitting president calling for civil war” and added, “This week I feel guilty for helping him win.” He noted someone had died. When Pierson tried to talk him out of the idea that Trump’s rhetoric was responsible, Parscale responded, “Katrina.” And then: “Yes it was.”
By this point, Parscale had been fired months earlier by Trump. But it’s nonetheless one of the starkest instances of a Trump loyalist drawing a direct link between Trump’s actions of him and what transpired that day. (Text messages from Jan. 6 have shown that Trump supporters understood, in real time, that he was the catalyst for that day’s events and pleaded with the White House to get him to stop his supporters, but the Republican Party as a whole has renounced the idea that Trump actually incited the riot.) Here was a guy who helped elevate Trump to the presidency reckoning with what he had wrought — and blaming Trump directly for pursuing no less than civil war.
Exactly a month later, though, Brad Parscale had evolved considerably. He decided it was time for this same former president to return to office. On Feb. 6, Parscale urged Trump to run again. The reason? The system was begging for Trump to again “kick it in the a#$.”
Statement to Trump:
“If they only impeached you twice, you need to run again. Because to change the system you have to kick it in the a#$. I would love to be the only President to be impeached three times. Because history remembers those that didn’t conform.
I’m in, are you?”
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) February 6, 2021
Since then, Parscale’s business has accepted $150,000 in payments from Trump’s political operation.
It’s hardly a secret at this point that many an ambitious person has been seen fit to set aside their scruples in the name of pursuing the power and influence that come with riding the Trump Train. But this is surely one of the most remarkable examples. And it’s a microcosm of how Trump has retained loyalists who, in many cases, had at some point objected to what they witnessed from his conduct.
That said, Parscale is hardly the first to see the danger of Trump’s rhetoric and either later convince themselves otherwise, or decide that other considerations are more important.
Shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection, we noted just how many Trump allies had, in fact, warned about his rhetoric fomenting violence.
Nikki Haley in 2016 linked Trump’s rhetoric to the kind of violence she saw in her home state of South Carolina in the massacre at a church in Charleston. “I know what that rhetoric can do,” Haley told the Associated Press. “I saw it happen.” She later became Trump’s United Nations ambassador. After Jan. 6, she briefly spoke out against Trump, before pulling back.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in 2016 also went after Trump for suggestive comments about political violence at his rallies: “When a candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face, the predictable consequence of that is that it escalates.” And Cruz did say the day after Jan. 6 that Trump’s “language and rhetoric crossed the line, and it was reckless.” But he later voted against convicting Trump of incitement at Trump’s impeachment trial, saying the former president “used heated language, but he did not urge anyone to commit acts of violence.”
Rick Perry offered a particularly prescient comparison the same year, alluding to members of the Know-Nothing Party who launched an attack on Washington in 1854 based upon a false belief in a conspiracy theory involving the pope. “These people built nothing, created nothing. They existed to cast blame and tear down certain institutions — to give outlet to anger,” Perry said. “Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the Know-Nothing movement.” Perry later became Trump’s energy secretary, and remained quiet after Jan. 6.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in 2016 that “words have consequences” and that Trump was responsible for his supporters’ behavior. He later stumped for Trump in 2020 while praising Trump supporters who had dangerously surrounded Biden’s campaign bus on a road in Texas, saying, “We love what they did!” After Jan. 6, he voted to acquit Trump, after generally avoiding linking him to the violence, which he blamed on conspiracy theories and people who “got caught up in the moment.”
If Trump’s rhetoric was so dangerous — dangerous enough to be called out at the time as such a threat by his fellow partisans — how can you separate that from what transpired Jan. 6, the most pronounced example of people acting on Trump’s rhetoric in a violent way?
It’s certainly possible to argue that Trump’s rhetoric didn’t directly incite in that specific case, even if you were that worried that it might ultimately do so, one day. But Parscale’s comments and plenty of others suggest that many of those around him processed what really happened here, and it was the predictable result that some of them predicted might one day come to pass.
But time passes, and other considerations have a way of being considered.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism