|A pipe bomb found at the home of an Oregon man.|
Donald Trump's name was invoked in more than 50 criminal cases involving violence, according to an ABC News analysis. This comes less than two months after a Legal Schnauzer post that Trump likely was violating state and federal laws by exhorting his followers to engage in violent acts. From a Yahoo! summary of the ABC News report:
President Donald Trump has repeatedly distanced himself from acts of violence in communities across America, dismissing critics who point to his rhetoric as a potential source of inspiration or comfort for anyone acting on even long-held beliefs of bigotry and hate.
"I think my rhetoric brings people together," he said last year, four days after a 21-year-old allegedly posted an anti-immigrant screed online and then allegedly opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring dozens of others.
But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 54 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
Want some examples? ABC News provides them:
After a Latino gas station attendant in Gainesville, Florida, was suddenly punched in the head by a white man, the victim could be heard on surveillance camera recounting the attacker’s own words: “He said, ‘This is for Trump.'" Charges were filed but the victim stopped pursuing them.
When police questioned a Washington state man about his threats to kill a local Syrian-born man, the suspect told police he wanted the victim to "get out of my country," adding, "That’s why I like Trump."
Reviewing police reports and court records, ABC News found that in at least 12 cases perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically assaulting innocent victims. In another 18 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant's violent or threatening behavior.
Inflammatory words can have consequences, and that apparently is why we have laws against overheated rhetoric. From our post of April 21:
As for lawlessness emanating from the White House, Mary McCord addressed that in an op-ed at The Washington Post. McCord is legal director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and a visiting professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. She was acting U.S. assistant attorney general for national security from 2016 to 2017. From the McCord op-ed:
President Trump incited insurrection Friday against the duly elected governors of the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia. Just a day after issuing guidance for re-opening America that clearly deferred decision-making to state officials — as it must under our Constitutional order — the president undercut his own guidance by calling for criminal acts against the governors for not opening fast enough.
Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” followed immediately by “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and then “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” . . .
“Liberate” — particularly when it’s declared by the chief executive of our republic — isn’t some sort of cheeky throwaway. Its definition is “to set at liberty,” specifically “to free (something, such as a country) from domination by a foreign power.” We historically associate it with the armed defeat of hostile forces during war, such as the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control during World War II. Just over a year ago, Trump himself announced that “the United States has liberated all ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq.”
In that context, it’s not at all unreasonable to consider Trump’s tweets about “liberation” as at least tacit encouragement to citizens to take up arms against duly elected state officials of the party opposite his own, in response to sometimes unpopular but legally issued stay-at-home orders.
The April LS post provided details about the relevant law:
Our lawyer source provides details about state insurrection laws, especially from the Code of Virginia, and notes that states are not precluded from prosecuting a sitting president. Writes our source:Trump calls himself the "law and order" president. The "law-breaking president" is more like it.
It is obvious Trump's tweets to protesters to "liberate" themselves from the "siege" the state governors have ordered was intended by Trump to encourage and incite those protesters (his base) to intimidate state governors. After all, wasn't intimidation of public officials the purpose of the so-called "Brooks Brothers Riot" in Florida in 2000?
You may find it interesting that the Criminal Code of Virginia has several applicable criminal provisions, including mob crime laws and criminal solicitation statutes. Also, the Criminal Code of Virginia defines a criminal "act of terrorism" as an act of violence with the intent to either "intimidate a civilian population at large" or to "influence the conduct or activities of a government, including . . . a state . . . through intimidation." Crim. Code of Va., Section 18.2-46.4. Trump's tweet was not violence; but the message Trump tweeted clearly suggested that Trump was encouraging protesters to act as a mob of public assembly and intimidate state officials to withdraw state orders issued to protect lives and public health. Therefore, if protesters, especially those known to revere Trump, end up forming a mob and engaging in any violence whatsoever, it is absolutely clear that Trump could be criminally prosecuted in Virginia for his public communications (tweets) in which he sought to command, entreat, or otherwise persuade persons to intimidate their state governments and state public officials and to resist execution of lawful state-government orders. If protesters followed Trump's encouragement and assembled, fomented riot, and/ or killed anyone, then Trump could be criminally prosecuted for criminal solicitation to incite riot, unlawful assembly, treason, and terrorism.
Virginia also criminalizes inciting a riot or unlawful assembly.
Finally, Virginia also criminalizes and calls it "treason" for a person to (1) solicit or encourage others to wage war against the Commonwealth of Virginia (e.g., insurrection or riot); or (2) solicit or encourage others to resist the execution of the laws of Virginia under color of its authority. See Crim. Code of Va., sections 18.2-29 and 18.2-481(1) and (5).