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Former President Donald Trump is a chief cheerleader in normalizing political violence, a presidential historian warned Friday after an attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi.
“We’re in a time where violence is licensed and encouraged by an ex-president of the United States,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said on MSNBC’s “The Beat.”
“An awful lot of people are encouraged by a former president to think the way you get your political goals — which may be an authoritarian, even fascist, society — is by encouraging violence,” he added, while noting the motive for the attack remains unknown. “That’s the climate we’re in.”
The home invasion and hammer attack on Paul Pelosi rattled the public, which is still reeling from the siege of the Capitol in an assault on the government last year.
Suspect David DePape was after Speaker Pelosi, who was not at the San Francisco home at the time, according to a source briefed on the attack. The Republican Party has long demonized Pelosi in comments and political ads.
Online posts that appear to belong to DePape cite QAnon conspiracy theories and election misinformation promoted by Trump and fellow Republicans. DePape was arrested and law enforcement said he will be charged with multiple offenses, including attempted homicide and assault with a deadly weapon.
Threats against federal lawmakers are currently at a record high, MSNBC’s Katie Phang noted on “The Beat.” U.S. Capitol Police launched investigations into 1,820 threats and concerning statements in just the first three months of this year, authorities said Friday.
Beschloss agreed with other experts and pundits that political violence threatens the country. He cited the storming of the Capitol last year, calls then for then-Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged and threats against others that day, and the invasion of the Pelosi home.
“You and I look at the 45 presidents of the United States ― all but about one have taken it seriously that part of their job was preserving public safety,” Beschloss told Phang.
“Once again, Donald Trump as an ex-president and a president is in a dark category of his own,” Beschloss added. He said Trump “encouraged violence at his rallies” beginning back in 2015 during his campaign, and “did this periodically as president of the United States.”
Phang also featured a dire warning from presidential historian Jon Meacham during an earlier appearance on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
“One of the marks of the end of a republic is the normalization of political violence,” Meacham said Friday. “It just is. And everybody needs to remember, including us, that what we say matters, that words have consequences, and that things that seem improbable one hour can happen in the next.”
“Violent acts can change history,” he added. “And a mature democratic society ― lowercase ‘d’ ― has to have a way where we mediate our political differences without political violence.”
Check out the full interview with Beschloss: