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Donald Trump on defensive after George W. Bush calls out domestic terrorism

Days after former US president George W. Bush called domestic and foreign terrorists “children of the same foul spirit”, former president Donald Trump has lashed out, saying Bush should not be lecturing Americans about national security.

Trump’s statement came days before a planned rally at the Capitol that authorities fear could be a re-run of the January 6 riots.

In decrying “violent extremists at home” during remarks on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Bush appeared to condemn the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, when a pro-Trump mob overran the complex in a violent siege that resulted in the deaths of five people.

Bush warned there was growing evidence that domestic terrorism could pose as much of a threat to the United States as terrorism originating abroad.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks after the fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on September 11, 2021. Credit:Getty

“So interesting to watch former President Bush, who is responsible for getting us into the quicksand of the Middle East [and then not winning!], as he lectures us that terrorists on the ‘right’ are a bigger problem than those from foreign countries,” Trump said in a statement.

”He shouldn’t be lecturing us about anything. The World Trade Centre came down during his watch. Bush led a failed and uninspiring presidency. He shouldn’t be lecturing anybody!”

Former President George W. Bush speaks at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Credit:AP

During his speech on Saturday at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Bush said that “there is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home”.

“But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols – they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them,” he added.

Bush continually invoked “the nation I know” in his remarks, an echo of his previous rejection of the rhetoric of Trump.

Nearly 3000 people were killed by the planes that hijackers crashed on September 11, 2001, in New York, Arlington, and Shanksville.

Matt Braynard, centre, talks to Conservative Political Action Conference attendees at his booth at the event in Florida in 2021.Credit:AP

Trump’s criticism comes days before a planned rally in Washington by allies calling those charged in the January 6 storming of the Capitol “political prisoners”.

The brazen rhetoric is the latest attempt to explain away the horrific assault and obscure what played out for all the world to see: rioters loyal to the then-president storming the building, battling police and trying to stop Congress from certifying the election of Democrat Biden.

“Some people are calling it January 6 ‘trutherism’ — they’re rewriting the narrative to make it seem like January 6 was no big deal, and it was a damn big deal, and an attack on our democracy,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, who studies extremist movements.

The attempted whitewashing of the January 6 attack threatens to further divide an already polarised nation that finds itself drifting from what had been common facts and a shared commitment to civic order toward an unsettling new normal.

The anticipated crowd size and the intensity of the Saturday rally are unclear, but law enforcement appears to be taking no chances. Security fencing was approved Monday for areas around the Capitol, and reinforcements are being summoned to back up the Capitol Police, whose leadership was criticised and summarily dismissed for its handling of January 6.

The January 6 riot at Capitol Hill is being investigated by Congress.Credit:Parler via ProPublica

While authorities have been bracing for a repeat appearance by right-wing extremist groups and other Trump loyalists who mobbed the Capitol, it’s unclear if those actors will participate in the new event. The extremist groups are concerning because, while members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers made up a small portion of the January 6 rioters, they are accused of some of the more serious crimes in the attack.

Whether those groups participate or not, the rally could bring lone actors to Washington. Just after midnight on Monday, Capitol Police arrested a California man who had a bayonet and machete in his pickup truck outside of Democratic National Committee headquarters. The man, Donald Craighead of Oceanside, California, had a swastika and other white supremacist symbols painted on his truck and told officers he was “on patrol.” The police said it was unclear if he was planning on attending any upcoming demonstrations.

Rally organiser Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign strategist, has been promoting the event and others like it in cities nationwide, focusing attention on what he calls the “prisoners” being unfairly prosecuted for their involvement in the January 6 riot.

“I am so proud of all of the brave patriots who participated in these rallies under the same threat to their rights of so many who are being held in prison now for a non-violent expression of their First Amendment rights,” he said in a July news release.

Braynard declined to respond to additional questions by email, and The Associated Press declined to accept the conditions he made for an interview.

As Trump openly considers another run for the White House, many of the Republican lawmakers who joined his effort to challenge Biden’s victory are staying away from the Saturday rally, even though many still echo his false claims that the election was rigged — despite numerous court cases by Trump’s allies that have failed to confirm those allegations.

The Washington Post, AP

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