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Trump’s projection spins ‘insurrectionist’ accusations back at Biden

President Joe Biden said there is “no question” that Donald Trump was responsible for fuelling an insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6. “It’s self-evident. You saw it all,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“I’m not an insurrectionist,” the former president wrote on his Truth Social the next day. “Crooked Joe Biden is!!!”

He didn’t elaborate, but it’s the latest attempt from the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2024 to spin, or project, accusations against him towards those doing the accusing.

It’s a rhetorical device he has weaponised for years, and the projected accusations have only become more severe as the several criminal prosecutions and campaign-threatening lawsuits against him develop.

While the president, Democratic officials and democratic advocates warn against his increasingly fascist rhetoric and his promises of a violent agenda of retribution, Mr Trump has claimed that it’s Mr Biden, actually, who poses a “threat to democracy”.

It’s a claim spread across his marathon rallies and on his social media. It’s echoed by his allies and supporters. And it only comes after Mr Trump faces criminal charges for his own attempts to overturn the results of millions of Americans’ votes in the 2020 presidential election, and the growing list of lawsuits threatening to remove him from 2024 ballots because of it.

President Biden has sought to rally Americans against Mr Trump’s threat to democracy and the spectre of an authoritarian regime under a second Trump White House, which has promised to imprison political rivals, the “largest deportation operation in American history”, ideological tests for immigrants arriving in the US, and the prosecution of journalists and critics, among other campaign vows made on the stages of Mr Trump’s rallies.

Throughout his term in office, the president has repeatedly warned against the “existential” threat posed by the GOP’s antidemocratic agenda and threats to civil liberties from Republican-drafted policies endorsed by his rival.

As Mr Trump faces criminal charges in Washington DC and Georgia stemming from his alleged attempts to unlawfully reject the outcome of the 2020 election, which fuelled the mob that stormed the US Capitol on January 6, Mr Trump now accuses Mr Biden of posing the real threat.

Mr Trump also is pledging to fight a Colorado ruling that bars him from appearing on 2024 ballots under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits candidates who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding public office.

Those intersecting cases have underscored how Mr Trump has relied on court hearings as campaign events, using legal fights to raise millions of dollars for his presidential run, and deceiving his supporters by telling them that the consequences of his own alleged actions are actually threats against them.

“Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy. Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy,” Mr Trump told supporters in Iowa earlier this month.

At a rally in New Hampshire on 16 December, he approvingly quoted Vladimir Putin calling federal prosecutors’ investigations into Mr Trump “politically motivated”.

“Joe Biden is a threat to democracy. He’s a threat,” Mr Trump added. He said the same thing the next day at a rally in Reno, Nevada.

His remarks reveal that “he’s scared that Biden’s framing of the 2024 election as ‘democracy versus autocracy’ is resonating with voters and making Trump look like a threat to democracy, the rule of law, and the American constitution,” according to Jennifer Mercieca, an historian of American political rhetoric and professor at Texas A&M University who wrote 2020’s Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.

“Trump’s strategy here is to ‘accuse the accuser’ … which can have the effect of confusing voters about who is the real threat to American democracy,” she added.

It’s been a feature of his political career, from telling former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton “you’re the puppet” after she accused him of serving as a puppet to Putin, to accusing Democratic officials of trying to “crush free speech” and “censor free speech” while he also wages war against a free press.

“They’ve been waging an all-out war on American democracy,” he said in Iowa this month. “And becoming more and more extreme and repressive.”

A memo from Biden’s campaign first reported by CNN outlines how the president’s re-election efforts will centre on a message that underscores Mr Trump’s threat to American democracy.

“The choice for voters next year will not simply be between competing philosophies of governing,” according to campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez. “The choice for the American people in November 2024 will be about protecting American democracy and the very individual freedoms we enjoy as Americans.”