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Trump’s false election claims are ‘red meat’ for extremist groups

Hours after a pro-Trump mob broke into the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, the president continued to make false claims about the election results. Mary McCord, former acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice. She now teaches at Georgetown Law School, and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss some of the extremist elements of his base.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we step back now to reflect a little more on this remarkable moment with Mary McCord. She was acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice. She now teaches at Georgetown Law School.

    Mary McCord, we appreciate your being with us again.

    I know you have just been listening to Amna talk about the makeup of the people who showed up in Washington today, who showed up at the Capitol. You're somebody who has studied some of these extremist groups, including white supremacists and others.

    What do you make of who these people are, what motivated them to come do what they were doing today?

  • Mary McCord:

    Well, it's not surprising to see these groups showing up. This is something we have seen in the making for sometime now.

    And we have a combination of extremists, far right extremists, including conspiracy theorists, those who buy into debunked false claims of everything from election fraud to QAnon theories about various elected officials, Democrats and Republican.

    But we also have unlawful criminal street gangs and militias from different states. Now, D.C., of course, is not an open carry jurisdiction and, in fact, doesn't even allow concealed carry, unless you have a concealed carry permit from D.C. They don't recognize permits from other jurisdictions.

    But that doesn't mean that people haven't been concealing weapons on their person, under their coats, et cetera. And these are far right, unlawful, private militias who are big Trump supporters.

    I think we also have probably seen some more mainstream Republicans who legitimately are concerned that there might have been some fraud in the election, but they are in with these much more extreme individuals who, I think, are contributing to a real radicalization and the type of violence and rebellion that we saw today at the Capitol.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, from the work that you have done, when the group got to the point today where they went to the Capitol and they weren't simply content to protest outside the Capitol, they breached the perimeters, they got to the doors, they started breaking windows, breaking through the doors, going inside, ransacking or walking through, basically taking over the building, what kind of leadership does it take for something like that to happen?

    Is it spontaneous, or is it something that you think was probably worked out and planned ahead of time?

  • Mary McCord:

    So, I have been watching this develop for months now, even before the election, as the president was, even prior to the election, suggesting that mail-in ballots were susceptible to fraud and that we weren't going to be able to trust the results of the election.

    And, of course, he's doubled down on that post-election. And this is red meat for these groups. The online activity of the far-right extremist movement is extremely prolific. And it is, in some cases, encouraging violence, in other cases encouraging overthrow of the government, and whatever they needed to do to do what they consider stopping the steal.

    The president has been egging it on at every turn. Not only has he himself promoted conspiracy theories and false claims of election fraud that have been debunked through — in every single court, and ,of course, where Secretary of State Raffensperger in the call on Saturday tried to push back, point by point, about the falsity of those claims.

    And he — and the president at the same time as giving this red meat to the base, giving this red meat to the most extremist elements of his supporters, has also refused — not only refused to denounce civil unrest, but encouraged it.

    And we saw that coming through the weekend, as he was encouraging people come together. But we saw it even more so this morning and this evening when he was encouraging that march on the Capitol. And this evening, while he was telling people to go home, at the same time, he was saying: I know your pain. The election was stolen. We won in — I won in a landslide. It was stolen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Mary McCord:

    You can't tell people to go home and be peaceful while you're telling them the election has been stolen.

    So, the leader — there's been no leadership. And I want to say, also, I put this on the hands of the president, but he has been enabled by those in the White House and those in Congress who refuse to stand up to him.

    And right after the election, you might remember that some of them said: We're humoring him.

    Well, the time for humor has long passed. And this violence, this woman killed, the other people who will be injured, this is on their hands.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now the question a lot of us have is, will the death of this woman and will the pleas from so many people, including prominent Republicans and supporters of the president, that this stand down, that this stop, will that have any effect on these people?

    We will certainly be watching to see.

    Mary McCord, thank you very much.

  • Mary McCord:

    Thank you, Judy.

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