Opinion: Trump warns his supporters of bad weather, but welcomed the Jan. 6 hurricane

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

Two different rallies in support of Donald Trump posed a dangerous situation, yet produced two vastly different responses from the former president.

On Saturday, shortly before his rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, was scheduled to kick off, Trump — by phone from his private jet — told his supporters who remained for the outdoor event that he was canceling because of the severe weather threat that posed “a certain danger to all of this.” Trump — whose message played over loudspeakers at the rally — added that “we want to make sure that everybody is safe above all,” as he urged them to quickly “leave the site and seek shelter.”

Dean Obeidallah - CNN
Dean Obeidallah - CNN

Yet on January 6, 2021, as Trump supporters laid siege to the Capitol — and 129 of those participants have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to police officers who tried to maintain law and order — Trump was silent for more than three hours rather than swiftly putting out a statement similar to the call to his North Carolina supporters to immediately “leave the site” for the safety of all.

Instead, as member Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat, said during a July 2022 hearing of the bipartisan House committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 attack, “Trump sat in his dining room and watched the attack on television while his senior-most staff, closest advisers and family members begged him” to put out a statement urging his supporters to immediately leave. Luria added, “When lives and our democracy hung in the balance, President Trump refused to act because of his selfish desire to stay in power.”

We saw dramatically different conduct by Trump in the face of these two events. On Saturday, after the National Weather Service warned of the likelihood of dangerous winds and hail, Trump appeared to be concerned for supporters whom he desperately needs to win the battleground state of North Carolina — which he barely won in 2020 by less than 1.5%. Trump promptly directed his faithful voters to leave to avoid danger.

In contrast, on Jan. 6, Trump was concerned with remaining in power despite losing the election and, thus, wanted his supporters to remain there to help him with that task. In fact, more than an hour into the brutal Capitol attack that Trump was “gleefully” watching on television, per then-White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, Trump attacked Vice President Mike Pence with a tweet that declared Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Former Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger later described that tweet as “fuel being poured on the fire.”

The Jan. 6 committee’s investigation determined that Trump’s tweet was followed by surging crowds both outside and inside the Capitol, which had been breached 11 minutes earlier.

Trump has celebrated and defended the Jan. 6 attackers in the years since. Some shockingly unpatriotic examples include Trump speaking at a fundraiser he welcomed at his country club to support those charged for their role in the attack.

Then there’s Trump kicking off a rally by asking the crowd to “please rise for the horribly and unfairly treated January 6 hostages” followed by a recording of the national anthem performed by a choir of people incarcerated in connection with the attack on our Capitol on Trump’s behalf. And Trump has defended the Jan. 6 prisoners as “hostages” and “patriots” as he has vowed to pardon “a large portion of them” — “as soon as the first day” of a new term — if he is elected in November.

Trump’s continued praise of the Jan. 6 attackers may explain why at Trump’s rally on Saturday at least 10 men wearing the uniform of the Proud Boys — an extremist organization very involved in the Jan. 6 attack — were seen outside the entrance. And it’s why one of those people felt comfortable holding a sign that read, “Free All of the J6 Prisoners.” Several high-ranking members of the Proud Boys — whom Trump directed at a September 2020 presidential debate to “stand back and stand by” — have been convicted of serious felonies in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, including their leader, Enrique Tarrio, who was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and other charges. The Proud Boys and the others who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 were there for Trump, which is apparently why Trump has their back if he gets back in office.

As NBC News reported, after Trump told his supporters to flee the bad weather Saturday, loud groans of disappointment were heard from the audience. But that was followed by their “swift departure.” On Jan. 6, Trump finally released a video at 4:17 p.m. that called for “peace” and directed his supporters “to go home now.” A little over an hour later, the Capitol building was secured.

Trump supporters obviously listen to him. So should you. Not to heed Trump’s words like they do, but to grasp that Trump’s celebration of the Jan. 6 attackers and especially his vow to pardon them risks encouraging future violence by his supporters. And this is the man GOP voters have chosen to be their 2024 presidential nominee.

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