Brendan Hunt, a 37-year-old Trump loyalist from Queens, faces up to 10 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of making a death threat against elected officials.
Two days after rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Hunt posted an 88-second video titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS: Slaughter them all” to BitChute, a platform popular on the far right. In the video, he called on viewers to travel to Washington, DC for President Joe Biden’s inauguration and “spray these motherf——” with guns.
“If anybody has a gun, give me it,” Hunt wrote. “I’ll go there myself and shoot them and kill them.”
In December 2020, Hunt demanded Trump hold a “public execution of pelosi aoc schumer etc,” referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He said outside groups would kill the lawmakers if they weren’t executed by the government. Hunt didn’t participate in the Capitol riot.
That same day, Hunt posted another threatening comment in response to a New York Daily News article about a man who, infuriated by police enforcement of COVID-19 regulations, ran a police officer over with his car.
“Yeah booiii run those pigs over,” Hunt wrote. “Anyone enforcing this lockdown mask vaccine bulls— deserves nothing less than a bullet in their f—— head! Including cops! If you’re going to shoot someone tho, go after a high value target like pelosi schumer or AOC. They really need to be put down.”
Prosecutors argued that Hunt’s speech is not constitutionally protected because he made detailed and specific violent threats. They also put forward evidence that he holds racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic beliefs.
Hunt’s attorneys argued his rhetoric didn’t amount to a serious threat and Hunt defended himself in court in Brooklyn on Tuesday, telling the jury that he was depressed and bored during the pandemic and had been using a lot of marijuana and alcohol. He said he was not sober while filming the video in which he made the death threats.
The violence and disruption that ensued in Washington, DC, on Wednesday was unlike anything seen in modern US history: crowds of people marching through the halls of Congress, waving Trump flags, ransacking lawmakers’ offices, and planting MAGA hats on historic statues.
It was, though, in some ways a natural consequence of President Donald Trump’s chaotic four years in office, and a manifestation of his relentless attacks on American democracy.
The violence that erupted at the US Capitol was unprecedented and disturbing, but also entirely predictable — and ultimately won’t stop Trump’s term from coming to an end.
One of the central pillars of American democracy withstood a devastating blow on Wednesday when an angry mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters converged on the Capitol building in Washington, DC, and, in relatively short order, breached its barricades, shattered its windows, and stormed in.
The violence and disruption that ensued was unlike anything seen in modern US history: crowds of people fanning out and marching through the halls of Congress, waving Trump flags, ransacking lawmakers’ offices, and planting MAGA hats on historic statues.
One intruder took a seat at the dais where Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been conducting the business of certifying the electoral votes that will confirm President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the next administration to assume the White House. He stood with a clenched fist, in a stance that’s become common amongst hardcore Trump acolytes.
The unrest followed a rally at a DC park where thousands of people supporting Trump and his crusade to delegitimize Biden’s victory showed up to hear the president speak. Trump has stubbornly rejected the reality that he lost the election to Biden, and he only leaned further into that rhetoric Wednesday morning, even as the House and Senate prepared to execute their duties under federal law, just two miles away.
Political worlds collide
Lawmakers tasked with counting the electoral votes for each state had only managed to get through two of them, Alabama and Alaska, before a handful of Republicans launched into their planned objections to the states Biden won. But the digression didn’t last long before the Capitol went into lockdown. Secret Service agents swept Pence out of the room; Pelosi, other lawmakers, and congressional aides were rushed away to secure locations.
At least four people died, including a woman who was shot inside the Capitol. Residential neighborhoods surrounding the riot were placed on lockdown. A suspected pipe bomb was found near a building occupied by the Republican National Committee. The DC National Guard was deployed, and National Guard troops from Virginia were sent to help.
In the ensuing hours, the culmination of Trump’s four years in office unfolded in a dramatic, and yet ultimately unsurprising way. Years of the president’s unapologetic rhetorical attacks against democratic institutions and governance were manifested in the explicit and destructive actions of his supporters.
Trump’s Republican colleagues have long tolerated and appeased his bombast in the name of partisan expediency, but after the insurrection on Wednesday, the strong rebukes Trump received from some people within his own party may signal the true end to his grip on power.
A disparate law-enforcement response
The standoff between pro-Trump agitators and police stretched into the night in the District of Columbia, even after a 6 p.m. curfew imposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser went into effect. Protesters lingered and shouted at the police as they moved the crowds away from the Capitol building.
Police said they made at least 30 arrests, according to the Associated Press, prompting comparisons to the law-enforcement response seen months earlier during Black Lives Matter protests where peaceful demonstrators were tear gassed, brutalized, and arrested in far greater numbers.
At the end of the day, the picture was clear. Years of Trump’s allies insisting that his divisive rhetoric be taken seriously but not literally, and the argument that his fiercest supporters are patriots who are simply passionate about America, came unglued. And police did not appear as ready or eager to douse the flames.
World leaders react in dismay, the president punts
Reactions to the unrest on Wednesday were swift, and they stretched far beyond Washington’s political bubble. Top Republicans and Democrats rejected the savagery. Vice President Mike Pence said, “We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms … We grieve the loss of life in these hallowed halls, as well as the injuries suffered by those who defended our Capitol today.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, once a strong ally to Trump, went further: “The United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats.”
Former President Barack Obama said the violence at the Capitol was “incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election,” calling Trump’s actions “a great dishonor and shame for our nation.” Former President George W. Bush called the insurrection “sickening and disheartening,” and added, “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic.”
Trump’s former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis offered a bleak assessment of the soon-t0-be former president’s future: “Trump will deservedly be left a man without a country,” he said.
World leaders lamented the scenes playing out on screens around the globe. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it “disgraceful.” Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “I think the American democratic institutions are strong, and hopefully everything will return to normal shortly.”
Ireland’s minister for defense and foreign affairs, Simon Coveney, said: “We must call this out for what it is: a deliberate assault on Democracy by a sitting President & his supporters, attempting to overturn a free & fair election.”
In contrast, Trump tweeted hollow pleas for peace to his 88 million-plus followers, asking them to “remain peaceful,” and “respect the law.” The messages were seen as lukewarm, with Trump weaving platitudes like, “We love you,” and “You’re very special” into his remarks.
Members of Trump’s own inner circle publicly urged him to go further, but he resisted, staying true to his refusal to strongly condemn anyone who supports him, even if there is violence and bloodshed. One of the first examples of this came in 2017, in the midst of the deadly Charlottesville riots.
Trump’s former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney pleaded with him on Twitter at the height of Wednesday’s chaos: “The President’s tweet is not enough. He can stop this now and needs to do exactly that. Tell these folks to go home.”
It didn’t work. Trump followed up his Twitter statements with a video that rehashed his lies that he won the 2020 election. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pulled down the president’s video and the social media outlets temporarily locked his accounts.
The wheels of the US government keep turning, but Trump’s future is uncertain
Despite the relentless chipping away of democratic norms during the Trump presidency, the wheels of the US government kept turning, as lawmakers reconvened on the Senate floor late Wednesday night to continue counting electoral votes that will inevitably certify Biden’s clear victory in the presidential election.
But the last two weeks of Trump’s presidency are less clear. Multiple news reports of internal deliberations about how to deal with the outgoing president circulated in the hours following the attempted coup.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar said she would draw up new articles of impeachment. Rep. Cori Bush called on the House of Representatives to investigate whether lawmakers had “violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution” and should face sanctions or removal.
And the specter of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office loomed larger than ever, one of the clearest signs yet that Trump is an imminent threat to the country he was elected to lead.
In a presidency that has prided itself in its appetite for chaos, Trump is getting what he wanted, but the long-term damage to America’s standing in the world may be costlier than anyone can quantify.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Washington, DC, on Saturday in support of President Donald Trump’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Hundreds of members of the far-right Proud Boys were part of the crowd, according to WTOP journalist Alejandro Alvarez, who tweeted a video of a mass of men chanting “fuck antifa” as they walked past a bus advertising the march. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group with ties to white nationalism.
Since Biden’s victory weeks ago, Trump has refused to explicitly acknowledge his loss. In the hours after the race was called for Biden, Trump said the “election is far from over.”
He’s since doubled down and sought to overturn the results in state and federal courts across the country. The Trump campaign and the president’s allies have so far filed, and lost, dozens of lawsuits in multiple battleground states contesting the results.
And allegations of voter fraud have been struck down and disproven numerous times since Trump and his lawyers presented their arguments. The Trump-appointed Attorney General Bill Barr, who’s repeatedly positioned himself as one of the president’s strongest defenders, conceded earlier this month that neither the Justice Department nor the FBI found widespread evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
The Supreme Court dealt the latest blow on Friday, when it struck down a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to overturn election results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia.
In the justices’ order throwing out the lawsuit, they cited a lack of “standing,” meaning that Paxton had not sufficiently proved that the state of Texas was harmed in any particular way that could be addressed by the court.
Still, Trump continues to claim otherwise, posting frequently on his personal Twitter account about widespread voter fraud and a “rigged” election. Saturday’s rally is proof that his baseless rhetoric is continuing to resonate with his constituents, despite all the evidence that says voter fraud did not occur.
Business Insider asked some people who attended why they are aligning themselves with Trump’s allegations of voter fraud. Here’s what they had to say.
Andrew Lichtenstein contributed reporting.
“If this election stands, we just do not have a country anymore. It’s as if we are saying, ‘Here, China, take it.'”
“I support the president. I know he won the election,” Seth Rosenblit told Business Insider. “They stole our vote, and I will not accept it. That’s why I’m here,” he continued. “It’s just unacceptable.”
“We the people are not going to stop, and I’m speaking for the majority of Americans.”
“I’m here to fight for our freedoms and to fight for my president against the fraud of this election,” Tina Fortey said.
“We must take our country back. Trump won,” she said, adding that she was “speaking for the majority of Americans,” though Biden won the election with 81 million votes, compared to Trump’s 74 million.
“Time will tell, but President Trump is always 10 steps ahead of everything.”
“I’m here today because I believe in election integrity,” Dylan Quattrucci said, before repeating several false allegations about voting machines and election misconduct, which have previously been disproven.
“Dominion machines are responsible for miscounting thousands of votes, and suitcases were found with thousands of votes in the key swing states,” Quattrucci said, likely referring to a viral video showing Georgia election workers taking out large bins of ballots from underneath tables.
Georgia officials have investigated the videos and determined all the workers were following normal vote-counting procedures, and the bins were full of legal votes that had simply been stored under tables due to the room’s lack of space.
Trump supporters have also accused Dominion Voting Systems of enabling vast voter fraud in the country. In late November, the company tore into one of Trump’s lawsuits claiming “massive election fraud” and called the allegations “baseless,” “senseless,” and “physically impossible.” The company is not a defendant, but it’s mentioned in multiple instances throughout the 104-page Georgia lawsuit.
“I want a full audit of the vote so that we can have faith in free and fair elections in the future,” Quattrucci added, though most states are already required by law to conduct post-election audits, which so far have not found any instances of widespread voter fraud.
“People need to awaken.”
“I’m here for liberty, justice, freedom, and the American dream. Biden is going to take all of those rights away,” Scott Schultheis said, incorrectly adding that “Trump won in a landslide.”
Schultheis described how he noticed Trump appeared to be ahead of Biden by 200,000 votes when he took a nap as election results were coming in on November 4. When Schultheis woke up, “he was losing.”
He continued: “Come on. The fraud is so obvious, it’s disgusting.”
In fact, Schultheis was describing a common misconception about how counties count ballots and report their election results. “Fraud” did not make Trump lose his lead — rather, Trump was never technically leading. Though he appeared to be ahead of Biden in several states on November 3, not enough votes had been counted at the time to accurately project a winner.
Trump’s apparent lead diminished as counties began to report more results, which consisted of legally cast votes that went largely for Biden.
Since the batches of legally cast mail-in votes in many states leaned disproportionately Democratic, Biden’s victory only became clear after those batches were counted and reported.
“There is going to be a bloodbath to pay for it.”
“People spoke up when they voted, and that vote was robbed,” Donna Warb told Business Insider. “Everyone knows it and no one is doing anything about it.”
“So we are here in DC to just do the little bit that we can,” Warb continued. “If we do not win, if we do not get this corrected, we are going to be a communist country under a communist leader, and there is going to be a bloodbath to pay for it.”
“I’m a mom and a proud American, and I’m really scared about what is happening in this country.”
“We must speak up. For me, it’s not about an election. It’ about the truth, and good versus evil. I just never realized how much of this country was surrounded by evil,” Lisa Morin said.
“Trump is speaking on our behalf, he is our voice, and watching that voice try to be silenced, it’s just so sad,” she added.