tv Frontline PBS March 17, 2021 4:00am-5:01am PDT
>> president trump's supporters are gathering d.c. to protest... >> we will stop the steal. we're going to walk down to the capitol, and i'll be there with you. >> narrator: they had been summoned by the president of the united states. >> we fight, we fight like hell. and if you don't fight like hell, we're not going to have a country any more. >> scuffles breaking out as trump supporters gather in
support of his efforts to stay in power. >> madam speaker, members of congress, pursuant to the constitution and the laws of the united states... >> they have stormed the u.s. capitol, and something else that should be noted, they haveone so with ease. >> it happened very quickly, that the mob ran over the first barricades, that were really just bicycle racks, and then ran up the steps. >> stand aside and let us in, you traitors! >> this is the united states of america a we're watching protesters try to undermine the course of an election? >> the situation igetting out of control, but it is, has turned insane, frankly. >> i could not believe when they actually were able to shatter glass that i had assumed was bulletproof. they were able to wedge open what i thought was the strongest door on earth. >> narrator: their goal: to overturn the presidential election. >> (bleep) the g.o.p.! (bleep) mitch mcconnell! >> we are debating a step that has never been taken in american
history. i've served 36 years in the senate. this will be the most important vote i've ever cast. >> narrator: the mob was hunting republicans who turned on trump. >> you're scared now, mother (bleep)! >> (chanting): hang mike pence! hang mike pence! hang mike pence! >> narrator: it was the final chapter of donald trump's presidency. >> it's ending pretty much the sa way it began-- with a lot of chaos and disarray and... just a lot of head-shaking at events tt have transpired. >> get off of him. get off, get off of him! get the (bleep) off! >> this is donald trump's america. we were warned, over and over and over about it, and we ignored all of that. so here we are. >> he's got a gun!
>> this is going to get dirty, man. >> narrator: now on "frontline," "trump's american carnage." (gun fires) >> shots fired! shots fired! >> shots fired! >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org. the ford foundation: working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. at fordfoundation.org. additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... the heising simons foundation unlocking knowledge,
opportunities and possibilities. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additional support from koo and patricia yuen. (sirens wailing) >> u.s.a.! u.s.a.! u.s.a.! >> narrator: donald trump's presidency ended in a violent assault on american democracy. >> fight for trump! fight for trump! fight for trump! >> narrator: just four years before, he stood at this very place, lighting the fires that would become an insurrection. >> the eablishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. their victories have not been your victories. their triumphs have not been your triumphs.
>> narrator: america's elected leaders looked on... >> from this day forward, it's going to be only america first. america first. >> narrator: ...unable to stop it or unwilling to see it. >> now arrives the hour of action. >> narrator: the carnage he vowed to end was in fact just beginning. >> this american carnage stops right here and stops right now. (siren wailing) >> narrator: from his early days as a candidate, donald trump came out fighting. >> we are going to start winning big league. >> narrator: rallying distrust and anger against the government. >> we can't beat isis-- give me a break. >> narrator: tarting washington's leaders. >> we are led by very stid people. >> and it was every location. it was the same messages: "we're
tired of washington lying to us." >> we're going to drive the cars over the illegals. build a wall! >> (chanting): build a wall! build a wall! >> the american people were angry, and they have a right to be, and what they see in donald trump is someone who's willing to fight for them for a change. >> narrator: and as trump's appeal gw, his rivals in the republican party triedo fight back. >> he's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. and you know how you make america grt again? tell donald trump to go to hell. >> in 2016, president trump is seen as an outlier in the republican party. the republican party is in some ways shunning him. the loudest voices in the republican party are not getting behind trump. >> guys, we have a con artist as the front-runner in the republican party, a guy who has made a career out of telling people lies. >> he was a shock to the republican establishment, and they did everything they could, for the most part, to prevent him. >> this man is a pathological liar. he lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.
>> tonight, live from the peace center in... >> narrator: on the debate stage, trump spared nothing to destroy his political opponents. >> you are the single biggest liar, you probably are worse than jeb bush. you are the single biggest liar. this little guy has lied so much about my record. >> the way that donald trump rose was one very much of a pit bull. i mean, very much of a fighter. and i think that was largely his appeal from very early on. >> narrator: and he was willing to enlist a type of support others would not. >> made in (bleep) u.s.a. >> what trump exploited was that most americans carry some level of prejudice. >> most americans carry some fear of people who are different than them. the power of that message, i think, was deeply underestimated. >> the campaign is continually
dogged by a small and vocal number of white supremacists, klansmen, neo- nazis. this isn't a very large group of people, but they are very vocal. and they attach themselves to trump. >> narrator: as anti-trump protesters showed up at his rallies... >> there's a guy. totally disruptive, throwing punches. >> narrator: ...he stirred chaos and violence. >> i love the old days. you know what they used to do to guylike that when they were in a place like this? they'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks. i'd like to punch him in the face, i'll tell ya. ah, it's true. >> you start seeing these really ugly moments at the rallies, um, with protesters, some of whom are non-white protesters, getting treated very violently by, by his supporters. trump himself seeming to incite his supporters to go after protesters. >> knock the crap out of him, would you? just knock the hell...
i promise you i will pay for the legal fees, i promise. i promise. >> narrator: it worked in state after state. >> donald trump is the projected winner... >> he regains his front-runner status in a crowded field. >> he's pulling ahead in virtually every super tuesday... >> narrator: trump had marshaled a powerful base of support in america. >> trump, unlike any other political figure, has been able to channel the real ger and dissatisfaction on the part of half of the country, if not more. >> we are going to make... >> this makes back-to-back victories for donald trump, dominating his third consecutive... >> donald trump is a professional political wrecking ball. >> donald j. trump! (cheers and applause) >> narrator: by july 2016, donald trump headed to the republican convention after crushing the establishment candidates. >> let's face it, he was larger than the republican party.
in fact, his nomination was the hostile takeover of the republican party. >> narrator: in their feat, the g.o.p. leaders lined up behind the man who had ridiculed and attacked them. >> they ceded the reins to somebody who was pulling together this enormous movement on the far-right fringe that was swamping the party. they thought-- the g.o.p. thought they were in control. but by that point, they were already losing control. >> narrator: they even gave him one of their own as s running mate. >> the next vice president of the united states, governor mike pence. >> it was a shock to the staff when they found out that mike pence had been chosen, given trump's etoric and how extreme he was. i don't think that they expected him to be the one chosen as the running mate. >> and when we elect donald trump the 45th president of the united states, together we will
make america great again. (crowd cheering) >> mike pence was added to the ticket to give donald trump a measure of legitimacy in the republican party. if somebody like mike pence would agree to join the ticket and be tng mate for somebody like donald trump, then maybe he wasn't that bad. >> nartor: it was an unlikely partnership. >> donald trump will be the 45th president of the united states. >> narrator: on election night, it paid off. he had the party, a powerful base, and now the presidency. (crowd calling and cheering) >> most people who have assumed the office of the presidency believed that they had a responsibility to bring the country together. that's not the way president trump came to office. >> we are just passing trump hotel. we did pass protesters, so...
>> we didn't win an election to bring the country together. it's time to take on the elites in this country, take the torch to 'em. hit 'em with a blowtorch. >> narrator: day one, the divisiveness was on full display. a few blocks from the white house, peaceful protests against trump morphed to standoffs... (indistinct yeing) ...to violence. (yelling) (sirens wailing) (crowd roaring) >> there's a brand-new team in charge of the white house, a brand-new staff to keep the wheels turning >> this is just the beginning of what is going to be a very busy day... >> narrator: and in his first week, trump leaned in, alienating and angering huge swaths of the public with an executive order aimed at blocking people from seven predominantly muslim countries. >> "protection of the nation from foreign terrorists entering
into the united states." it's big stuff. >> narrator: the tensions were rising on both sides of the divide. >> swift reactions from around the country... >> now protests, outrage, and backlash from president trump's... >> these actions that trump does to appease his base and to excite his base have incited the resistance against him. >> no ban! no wall! >> the travel ban is one of the most important days of the trump presidency. not just because of the policy itself and what it says about us as americans, much less the people themselves who are now imperiled, unclear if they could come to the united states. but it was the thousands of people rushing the airports. (indistinct chanting) >> no ban! no wall! >> it was the day when it felt like democracy may be crumbling at its seams. >> let them go! >> right now! >> let them go! >> right now!
(applause) >> narrator: in those first weeks... >> the president and vice president... >> narrator: ..trump reveled in the imagery of the job. >> how am i doing? am i doing okay? i'm president. hey, i'm president! do you believe it, right? >> we know this president to be the kind of president who was not very steeped in details of legislation or policy or just the nitty-gritty aspects of governing. so he was very happy, i think, to let others take the lead, and he would just be the to sign the legislation. >> narrator: what he wanted were "wins," and he expected republicans on capitol hill to deliver. the highest priority: repealing obamacare. >> the senate is scheduled to vote on the latest version of the bill to replace obamacare. >> much anticipated vote on healthcare, a vote that's too close to call. >> narrator: it came down to one vote and one senator-- republican john mccain, a longtime trump adversary.
>> ...at capitol hill today to cast what is expected to be a yes vote on... >> narrator: mike pence, representing trump at the senate, tried to convince mccain to vote for the bill and give trump a win. >> the vice president stood toe- to-toe with john mccain. and he was in his space, it was very close. they went on for, i don't know, it seemed like 15 or 20 minutes, back and forth, back and forth. vice president pence turned on his heel and walked away. avel pounding) >> the clerk will call the roll. >> it was the most dramatic night on the senate floor i had seen in all my years up there. >> mr. durbin... >> john mccain walks up the vote clerks are and he lifts his hand very dramatically. >> narrator: mccain, with a thumbs down gesture, shocked the chamber. >> no. (gasps, light applause) >> you could hear audible gasps in the chamber. and those gasps of surprise came
from both sides of the aisle. >> in the senate chambers, you could hear the shock, first gasps, then applause. >> another devastati blow to republican... >> narrator: the president had been watching on television. >> we were in the dining room off the oval office. ere was profound disappointment that we were that close, and that had spent a lot of effort really believing that we could finally do something when it comes to healthcare. so it was just a huge disappointment. >> narrator: in response, president trump would deal with his party much as he had his opponents on the campaign trail-- he'd attack. >> you can thank congress, the same people that can't even give us hcare! >> narrator: he targeted congressional republicans, especially the senate leader, mitch mcconnell. >> senator mitch mcconnell said i had "excessive expectations," but i don't think so. after seven years of hearing repeal and replace, why not done? >> there's a lashing out when things don't go his way. john mccain was the deciding
vote, and so, you know, it was hard to understand howch mcconnell would be the blame of it, but, you know, that's the president's nature, as we all know. >> can you believe that mitch mcconnell, who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years, couldn't get it done. trump was using the most powerful weapon he has, which is twitter, to humiliate him repeatedly, to rake him over the coals, to let his followers know"this is mitch mcconnell's fault. he's failed you, not me." >> mitch, get back to work and put repeal and replace, tax reform and cuts, and a great infrastructure bill on my desk for signing. >> narrator: mch mcconnell learned a lesson-- he had to keep donald trump on his side. >> mitch mcconnell is a very smart politician. i think he understood the trump base, perhaps better than most. and he understood that the trump base was probably not loyal to him, but was loyal to trump, and he needed th. so what mitch mcconnell did was to try and patch things up with the president, to try and
say supportive things as much as he could, and say nothing any other time. >> ...will not replace us! you will n replace us! >> narrator: then, an ominous harbinger of things to come. >> ...the torch-wielding white nationalists coming face to face... >> ...a demonstration by white nationalists at the university of virginia in charlottesville. >> what you had in charlottesville was the alt-right people, many of them marching in trump's name. >> this is trump's america! >> we could see them marching with torches, and it looked like something out of nazi germany. >> narrator: neo-nazis and white nationalist protesters were forming, protesting plans
to remove a statue of robert e. lee. >> hello, how y'all doin'? >> narrator: former ku klux klan leader david duke praised president trump. >> we are determined to take our country back, we're going to fulfill the promises of donald trump, that's what we believed in, that's why we voted for donald trump. >> charlottesville was a long time coming. even during the campaign, dold trump's flirtation with white supremacist organizations and the alt-right was a real problem. (crowd yelling) those folks were being brought back into the political mainstream by donald trump, and charlottesville was the moment. (indistinct yelling) >> vlent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protters broke out... >> charlottesville under siege... >> narrator: and then, the unthinkable. (crowd screaming)
>> holy (bleep)! holy... (crowd screaming) >> a man drives his vehicle into the crowd, killing heather heyer and wounding others. (metal scraping) this was an incident that was clearly the tale of these far right, white supremacist powers emboldened and out of control. >> panic and horror in charlottesville: a car slams into a crowd of counter- protesters at a white supremacy protest... >> ...woman was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd, injuring 19 others. >> ...when a driver plowed into the crowd, killing a young woman... >> narrator: in the face of that horror, donald trump would send a message. >> excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? do they have any semblance of guilt? >> he's so fiery, he's so angry, and he's really getting a personal back and forth with members of the press. >> so, you know, as far as i'm concerned, that was a horrible,
horrible day. wait a minute! i'm not finished! i'm not finished, fake news. >> you have a president of the united states who is willing to give tacit approval to some of the darkest elements of american politics. and even when it goes wrong, even when it turns ugly, he's unwilling to denounce it. because these were allies that were useful, and you didn't want to alienate them. >> i think there's blame on both sides. and i have no doubt about it, and you don't have any dou about it, either. (crowd clamors) and, and, and if you reported it accurately, you would say it. (cross-talking) and you had some very bad people in that group; you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. you had people... >> the president evidently, i mean, you know, did not want to discourage that type of activity; as a matter of fact, wanted to encourage it. and as we've seen over the course of his four years
of service, the strength among those organizations, their place in what is happening around the country, has, has continued to increase. >> but you had many people in that group other than neo-nazis and white nationalists, okay? thank you all very much. thank you. >> what about the nazis who support you? >> it's probably the first time where the country realizes this is gonna get bad. and it is the beginning of a time in america where people realize that america is not just a place where racist ideals can exist, but it's a place where racist ideals can be fueled by the white house. >> president trump is being criticized by fellow republicans... >> trump had faced criticism... >> narrator: some republicans broke ranks and came out against him. >> white supremacy, bigotry, and racism have absolutely no place in our society, and no one
especially potus, should ever tolerate it. >> mr. president, you can't allow #whitesupremacists to share only part of blame. >> there's no moral equivalency between racists and americans standing up to defy hatend bigotry. >> i reaed in a way that most of my colleagues did, as well. this was not where a president should be. this was a layup. this was easy, you know? if there's white supremacy in any form, you condemn it. i mean, that's, that's the easy thing to do. and he, and he didn't. and i thought, "oh, man. that's really drilling dn on the base." >> narrator: while vice president pence condemned white supremacists, he also stepped up to defend the president. >> many in the media have spent an awful lot of time focusing on what the president said and criticisms of what the president said, instead of criticizing those who brought that hatred and violence to the streets of charlottesville, virginia. >> he certainly was appalled at
the events in charlottesville. i heard him say that behind closed doors. the problem is, this is a white house where, if he said that, it would be in direct contradiction to sort of the side-stepping that the president was doing. but by doing that, when you're mike pence, you're enabling it to happen again. >> president trump is holding a make america great again rally in phoenix... >> narrator: but trump showed no regret. >> ...campaign-style event tonight... >> narrator: he went after his critics, especially republicans who had spoken up. >> well, i'm thrilled to be back in phoenix, in the great state of arizona. (crowd cheering) >> narrator: he rallied his base against their own senator jeff flake. >> they all said, "please, mr. president, don't mention any names." so i won't.
i won't! >> it's about going back to the base, to demonstrate how popular it is to be with the president, particularly in jeff's own state. >> and nobody wants me to talk about your senator, who's weak on borders, weak on crime, so i won't talk about him. (crowd cheering) no, i will not mention any names. very presidential, isn't it? very presidential. >> when the president criticizes you, people back home are upset. they think that he's the supreme it, if you will, in the republican party. and therefore, if you're, if y'all are at odds or you're disagreeing, then, then it's not good for your health. >> narrator: trump put an end to flake's political career. >> i think he knew at that time that i was out of step with a lot of the republican base, that, that he represented more
of their feelings than i did. >> we will make america great again. thank you, arizona, god bless you... >> he wielded er over republicans. a lot of that power instilled in them a certain level of fear, which then led them, many of them, to refrain from calling out the president when he did something that they disagreed with.th. >> breaking news-- two more g.o.p. congressmen announcing that they will not seek reelection in the 2018... >> president tmp from two republican senators calling it quits. >> narrator: in time, dozens of republicans would be run out by trump. >> ...of more than a dozen republicans who've decided... >> narrator: senator bob corker was one of them. >> to me, we're the party of lincoln. to be race-baiting, to be demeaning people because of their color or their background, i mean, that's... i'm sorry, that's just not the republican party that i grew up in. but instead, ours became the party of grievances, right?
>> narrator: in the wreckage of charlottesville, trump emerged even stronger. >> charlottesville was shocking at the time, but actually the template for much that followed. he understood that there were no practical limits or constraints except for norms that he was willing to violate; except for public opprobrium, which he didn't care about. >> it looks like president trump is going to get his christmas wish. >> the most sweeping rewrite of our tax code... >> narrator: it culminated in front of the cameras at the white house... >> republicans cheered as they passed the most sweeping tax overhaul in three decades. >> narrator: ...at a ceremon for the passage of his first major piece of legislation-- a tax cut. >> a major victory for president donald trump. >> i guess it's very simple. when you think you haven't heard this expression, but we are making america great again. you haven't heard that, have you? >> (cheering) >> narrator: one by one, congressional leaders,
including those he'd attacked... >> mitch, how about you start it? >> narrator: ...came forward to praise the president. (applause) >> let me just say, mr. president, you made the case for the tax bill, but this has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the trump administration. thank you, mr. president, for all you're doing. >> a very special guy, and great friend of mine, vice president mike pence. >> what the republican establishment now know is donald trump is unequivocally the leader of the republican party. he is the one who sets the tone for what takes place in washington. he is the leader of our countr both politically and from a legislative side of things. >> i serve with him every day. president donald trump is a man of his word. he's a man of action. thank you, mr. president. thank you for your leadership. thank you for your love for this country and the people of this country. you will make america great
again. (applause) >> their bottom line was, "give us what we want." the tax cuts were what they wanted. the judges were what they wanted. and i think donald trump thought, "this is a good deal for me. in return, i get ownership, lock, stock and barrel, of the republican party." >> orrin, say a few words, please. >> mr. president, i have to say that you're living up to every-- everything i thought you would. you're one heck of a leader, and we're all benefiting from it. and we're going to make this the greatest presidency that we've seen not only in generations, but maybe ever. god bless all of you. (cheers and applause) >> this was a fight for the soul of the republican party, and trump won. there's no question about it. and it's not so much that trump took over the republican party, it's that the republican party
completely capitulated to him. they're all united in believing that in order to survive politically, and not lose in a primary, they have to stick as close to him as possible. even when he puts out racist tweets, you cannot criticize him in public. even when he engages in the most reckless behavior, you cannot break with him in public. >> narrator: with his party behind him, trump was emboldened. he seized an issue that would continue appealing to the extreme elements of his base: immigration. >> we want our country to be a sanctuary for law-abiding americans, not criminal aliens. >> the closer we get to 2020, the more this president and his advisers are saying immigration is our fire. th's the fire we put in our torch. >> narrator: the shocking centerpiece: "zero tolerance," separating children from their
parents. >> now democratic lawmakers are voicing their anger over the family separation... >> young children are pulled from the arms of their mhers. >> t growing outrage over families being separated at the border... >> it ushers in a part of america and a history of america that peoe are going to look at for years to come as the defining moments of the trump presidcy. >> narrator: trump kept raising the stakes. >> if we're going to have a great country, we have to have a great, strong powerful border. >> narrator: and his followers were right there with him, ready to fight. >> tonight, american civilians on our side of the border preparing to take matters into their very own hands. militia group called the texas minutemen are headed to the mexican border... >> to stop what president trump calls the migrant invasion. >> narrator: now with the base behind him, and the 2020 election looming, trump would see just how far he could go. >> this is cnn breaking news.
>> we're following breaking news on president trump's contacts with ukraine. >> about the phone call that inspired a whistleblower complaint. >> he has his phone call with president zelensky, the new president of ukraine. >> i would like you to do us a favor though... >> there's theyou know, brazen request to open an investigation relating to the bidens. >> there's a lot of talk about biden's son and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. >> clearly driven by a very narrow political purpose, which was to neutralize a biden candidacy that looked like it was about to be a real threat to his reelection. >> the president pressured ukraine's leader about eight times-- eight times! >> narrator: it created a firestorm on capitol hill. >> (chanting): impeach trump! >> narrator: impeachment. >> the question is on adoption of article two.
those inavor say "aye." >> aye. >> those opposed, "nay." >> no! >> the "ayes" have it. >> trump is waking up as the third president in u.s. history to be impeached. >> narrator: as the democrats marched to the senate to present the case against the president, republican leader mitch mcconnell had made clear he would stand by trump. >> he had decided that he was going to marry his fortunes to trump, no matter how unpleasant or painful that might be to him. and that meant that he was going to steer trump through this trial successfully. >> narrator: frustrated, the democrat leading the prosecution of trump, congressman adam schiff, issued a warning. >> the daily attacks on e guardrails of our democracy, so relentlessly assailed, have made us numb and blind to the consequences. does none of that matter anymore if he's the president of our party?
>> over and over again, that speech has echoed in my head over the last couple months. he said, "by letting donald trump off, y are enabling his attack on our election. >> the scheming persists and the danger will never recede. he has done it before, he will do it again. what are the odds if left in office that he will continue trying to cheat? i will tell you: 100 percent. if you have found him guilty and you doot remove him from office, he wl continue trying to cheat in the election until he succeeds. >> they were warned over and over and over again about donald trump, who he was, and what he was capable of doing. and they looked the other way. they thought that the tradeoff was worth it. they thought, well, how bad can it possibly be? what could he possibly do?
>> in this article of impeachment, 52 senators have pronounced him not guilty. donald john trump, president of the united states, is not guilty as charged in the first article of impeachment. (cheers and applause) >> narrator: he would use the moment ttighten his grip on the party. >> this is what the end result is. (cheers and applause) >> narrator: and continue rallying his base. >> the impeachment process acted as a slingshot for donald trump, because he came out of that suddenly convinced, not only that he had total impunity, he could more or less do what heedy with it... but that he also had the support of almost every republican leader in congress behind him. (cheers and applause) >> we can take that home, honey, maybe we'll frame it. it's the only good headline i've ever had in the "washington post." thank you very much, everybody.
thank you, thank you very much. thank you. (cheers and applause) >> it was a kind of moment of permission. (cheers and applause) and then, at that point, all the guardrails fell away. he had nothing to be afraid of at that point. he could do whatever he wanted. (protestors shouting) >> narrator: and that's exactly what he did. as the country was reeling in protest over racial injustice... >> (chanting): i can't brehe! >> narrator: ...he exercised his power violently. >> i'm sitting on the corner of pennsylvania and 17th street. and i start coughing, and choking, and i start wondering what's going on? (people screaminking) and i look up and it's, it's clouds of smoke and it's officers throwing some sort of chemical gas that is making my throat and my eyes burn.
and i see people running. (explosions) and this line of police officers coming and they're clearing the streets. and i'm completely confused because i'm wondering, why is the white house doing this? >> narrator: it was a photo op, the president marching from the white house with staff in tow. >> the fact that the presint and his inner circle celebrated that moment, i think, says everything about the type of people that they truly are. that should have been a major warning to these republican leaders that, you know, there was no line he wouldn't cross. >> empty streets lead to packed emergency rooms across new york city. >> paralysis in this typically vibrant city in just a matter of weeks. >> narrator: across america, desolation and despair. >> fema sent 85 refrigerated
trucks to new york city to hold the people who've perished. >> narrator: as trump's handling of the pandemic cost lives and threatened his reelection. >> true cost of covid, measured not by numbers, but families. >> narrator: in the crisis, trump attacked opponents. >> now the democrats are politicizing the coronavirus, you know that, right? (crowd boos) cororus... they're politicizing it. >> narrator: and incited supporters to rise up against governors who ordered pandemic lockdowns. >> liberate virginia! liberate minnesota! liberate michigan! >> (chanting): lock her up! >> he went on twitter and tweeted "liberate michigan." you saw a lot of them stream to the state capital with weapons and roam the halls of the state capitol there. >> narrator: the far right forces and militias heeded his call. >> heil hitler! >> narrator: some went even further. >> a stunning domestic terror
plot to storm the michigan state house and kidnap governor gretchen whitmer has been foiled tonight. >> narrator: trump stoked the uprising. >> you got to get your governor to open up your state, okay? >> there were chants of "lock them up, lock them up." and the president didn't say to the crowd, "well, no, we don't want to lock anybody up,"" he kind of joined in with them. >> lock... >> (chanting): lock them up! >> lock 'em all up. >> narrator: and all over the country, anger was boiling over. (shouting, whistling) >> to the violent socialist mob, we will not be silenced. >> get outta here you (bleep)! >> we know that there are people out there who can be radicalized. what was different here was you had a president who, for however he was communicating, gave those people the idea that he was on their side.
they feel like they have the ultimate cover-- the president of the united states, they believe, is fighting for them. >> narrator: with the election nearing, the president courted extremists like the proud boys. >> proud boys, stand back and stand by. >> narrator: casting his struggle as their struggle. >> you can't underestimate the fervor from that base. >> but you sometimes you have to meet force with force; you can't just stand back, sit back and watch it take it place. >> that's for everything that you (bleep) did to me, bitch! i told you i'd get you! >> him telling those people who believe in him and who have made him a part of their lives and their hopes, that he's under attack, they all feel under attack. and i think that's when we saw things really get haywire. >> get his ass! (gunshots) >> narrator: despite the violence, publican leaders stood by trump. >> like president trump, we won't be bullied by a liberal media intent on destroying
america's institutions. >> president donald trump has been fighting for you, and now it's our turn to fight for him. (cheers and applause) >> decision 2020. election night. >> narrator: but on election night... >> it's 192, 114. >> biden picking up arizona changes the math... >> narrator: the presidency began slipping away. >> right now biden has 220, trump has 213; we're watching... >> narrator: just before 2:30 in the morning, trump went before the cameras. >> this is a fraud on the american public. this is an embarrassment to our country. we were getting ready to win this electn. frankly, we did win this election. (cheers and applause) >> what trump said to them on election night, "we're going to win-- unless they steal it from us, we're going to n."
>> trump is set to speak for the first time... >> we have not seen the president since the early hours of wednesday morning... >> thank you very much... >> narrator: he would not let go. >> if you count the legal votes, easily win. if you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us. >> narrator: now trump's final assault on democracy would begin. >> we are up big but they are trying to steal the election. >> narrator: he took to twitter. >> they are findinbiden votes all over the place. >> narrator: to promote baseless conspiracy theories. >> surprise ballot dumps were counted, very strange. >> that's when it got out of control. >> stop the count! >> rather than just being a sore loser who's complaining that he didn't get what he thought he deserved, he becomes the fomenter of a whole new reality. >> where are the missing military ballots in georgia? watch for massive
>> we saw the annihilation of truth aggressively in the weeks after the election, where the president pushed one bizarre conspiracy theory after another, one lie after another. >> narrator: one by one, congressional republicans jumped on board. >> you got more than 10,000 dead people confirmed in michigan to have voted. that is outrageous! >> narrator: they ramped up the disinformation, inciting the pro-trump base. >> philadelphia elections are crooked as a snake. >> they are setting the stage to potentially steal an election. it is lawless and they need to follow the law. >> president trump won this election, so everyone who's listening, do not be quiet. >> trump people believe, to this day, that the election wasas rigged. >> (chanting): stop the count! >> ty believe, to this day, that donald trump elected president of the united states, they believe that. they are wrong, but thve it.
>> (chanting): we want justice! >> narrator: at vote counting centers, the anger was growing. >> the president perpetrates this total untruth about the election. >> stop the count! >> and intelligent, hardworking americans follow him, lock, stock and barrel. and it demonstrated to me the tremendous fragility of our democracy. >> stop the count! >> threats were beginning to pour in-- election officials were beinear their homes, it was... this was becong something that was about much more than just politics or elections. it was beginning to take on the aroma of a physical conflict. >> and now some of those folks that have been misled are threatening violence. >> death threats have targeted the secretary of state and other state officials. >> one election official even had a noose hanging outside their home. >> it has all gone too far! >> narrator: in georgia, a republican election official had
a warning to the president and mitch mcconnell. >> someone's going to get hurt. someone's going to get shot. someone's going to get killed. and it's not right. >> this was the warning, and donald trump was unmoved by it. it was building and building and building, and there were... there was one warning after another. >> mr. president, you have not condemned these actions or this language. senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. this h to stop. >> president trump has accused georgia and its leaders of voter frd. >> fiery rebuke om republican officials in georgia. >> narrator: undeterred, the president pushed even harder, calling georgia's republican secretary of state brad raffensperger. >> okay, thank you very much hello, brad, and ryan, and everybody... >> it was very blatant. the conversation was more than an hour long with the president
of the united states continually pressing these officials to find votes, to find enough votes to be able to declare him the winner of a state that he clearly lost. >> so look, all i want to do is this, i just want to find 11,780 votes, so what are we going to do here, folks? i only need 11,000 votes. fellas, i need 11,000 votes. give me a break. >> startling phone call where president trump is heard pressuring officials to overturn the election... >> this remarkable phone call the president does vaguely threaten the state election officials. >> some legal experts say this could actually be criminal behavior. >> narrator: desperate, trump was running out of time and out of options. >> donald trump tried to get the courts to overturn the election. they refused. he tried to get republican legislators to overturn the election-- they refused. he tried to bully governors into overturning the elections. they refused. he went after the secretaries of state, one after another.
>> narrator: he turned to vice president mike pence with a stunning demand. >> trump had come to be convinced that pence could actually do something about it. and his team adopted the belief that the vice president of t united states could unilaterally choose the president. >> he continually turned the screws on mike pence. and so this was a moment for mike pence to either stand up or buckle under the pressure. >> there is this remarkable confrontation between president trump and vice president pence that goes on for hours in the white house. and trump is just haranguing him and berating him. "you have to do this, after all the things i've done for you, how can you not do this? you were a loser until i came along and saved you." >> (chanting): fight for trump! >> narrator: then with congress meeting to ratify the election, trump unleashed the insurrection.
>> we will never give up, we will never concede, it doesn't happen-- you don't concede when there's theft involved. >> this was specifically a rally to stop normal democratic process of u.s. government. it was a rally, stop the steal, that was intended to oppose the peaceful transition of power. >> our country has had enough. we will not take it anymore, and that's what this is all about. >> he incites this sort of rhetoric. he incites angers, he gets these people fired up. you have a whole group of supporters out there who thinks that's their call to action. >> now it is up to congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. and after this, we're going to walk down, and i'll be there with you. we're gonna walk down to the capitol. >> he may not have said, "man the barricades, storm the
capitol," but that's what they heard. and he should have known better. (crowd screaming) after five years in politics, he should have known better. >> narrator: inside the capitol, mike pence would disobey the president. >> madame speaker, mbers of congress, pursuant to the constitution and the laws of the united states, the senate and house of representatives are meeting in joint session. >> narrator: mitch mcconnell would also break with the president that day. >> if this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. >> mitch mcconnell finally says, "that's it, no more, we are done." we never heard mitch mcconnell say anything like that in the last four years-- he h finally had enoully had enough. >> narrator: as the angry crowd ransacked the capitol, trump gave them a target.
>> trump in the middle of it, he sendout a tweet attacking mike pence. >> mike pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our constitution. >> i still can't get over that. i imagine that mike pence can't get over that. >> (chanting): hang mike pence! >> narrator: the mob began hunting for pence. >> whenever in the recent history of this country have we ever heard regular people calling for the vice president of the united states to be hanged for doing his job? >> narrator: he was whisked away only seconds before the mob arrived. >> mike pence must have thought, "it has come to this, that the one moment as vice president where i have stood on principle, i am being treated as the enemy. and they come for me. and the president is attacking
me, he's not... not only is he not calling to say, 'are you okay?' he's egging it on." >> narrator: they also seized the senate chamber where mcconnell presided. >> mitch mcconnell achieved so much with president trump, but on that day it was clear how much it had cost, to him and to his party. >> narrator: a few hours later, after the deadly riot was quelled, congress returned. >> the senate will come to order. >> narrator: but the battle over the election was not over. >> mr. president, sadly but resolutely, i object to the electoral votes of my beloved commonwealth of pennsylvania. >> narrator: even after the attack that would leave five people dead and many injured, 147 republican members of congress stood with the president, voting to orturn the election results. >> they may think they did it for short-term political gain,
but the videos of people beating cops with american flags, running around, "where's mike pence? hang mike pence!" is that who you want your political base to be? is that... do you feel the need to pander to those folks? i would hope the answer to that would be no. but that's exactly what that vote was-- it was a pandering vote to people who were resortinto violence with the tools and the intent to really hurt people. >> narrator: donald trump had brought carnage to the nation's capital. in his wake, a fractured republican party and a bitterly divided america. >> it is not over. this is an ongoing attack on democracy. the big lie is still out there. this is now prologue to what i think is going to be a feature in american politics for some time, that if lies and conspiracy theories will be embraced by this many people, if
one of the two major political parties is not willing to push back against it, this becomes part of the reality. and we're going to be living with that, i'm afraid, for a very, very long time. >> go to pbs.org/frontline for the latest frontline transparency project. explore interviews from the film. >> chaos and disarray... >> ran over the first barricades... >> ours became the party of grievances, right? >> and listen to our podcast with director michael kirk. >> and it wasn't until the ve end that yout, finally, see it all culminate in what happens at the capitol building. >> connect with frontline on facebook, instagram and twitter, and stream anytime on the pbs app or pbs.org/frontline. >> china is not the producer of this epidemic. >> narrator: frontline investigates the beginning of the pandemic. >> he had identified the virus and that it was not highly
transmissible. >> i think he was just wrong. >> it seemed absolutely ridiculous that we couldn't release the data. >> narrator: the missed opportunities. >> that was the shot we had and we lost it. >> narrator: and how china responded. >> they haven't admitted anything. they haven't admitted any kind of mistakes. >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org. the ford foundation: working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. at fordfoundation.org. additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... the heising simons foundion unlocking knowledge,
opportunities and possibilities. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additional support from koo and patricia yuen. captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> for more on this and other "frontline" programs, visiour website at pbs.org/frontline. ♪ ♪ frontline's, "trump's american carnage" is available on amazon prime video.
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know how to get in touch with your family. write down phone numbers for your parents, siblings and neighbors. (children laughing and screaming) - every human being craves connection. we all want to love and be loved, to feel like we matter, to feel like we belong. like we're part of something bigger than ourselves. the quality of our personal connections defines the quality of our lives. (car horn honking) in recent years, the term connected has taken on a new meaning. instead of describing a close relationship, it describes electronic access to billions of people and almost infinite data. social media in particular
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