Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., ominously suggested Monday that Donald Trump supporters within the National Guard charged with helping protect Joe Biden “might want to do something” to the president-elect.
In an unprecedented show of security force, 25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed to Washington, D.C., to protect Biden’s inauguration this week. The city is on edge after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which disrupted the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory and resulted in several deaths. The FBI is vetting Guard service members charged with protecting the Capitol this week.
Cohen told CNN he had been reminded that former India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own bodyguards and said any Trump supporters within National Guard units were suspicious.
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“The [National] Guard is 90 some-odd percent male, and only about 20 percent of white males voted for Biden,” he said. “You’ve got to figure that in the Guard, which is predominantly more conservative … they’re probably not more than 25 percent of the people there protecting us that voted for Biden. The other 75 percent are in the large class of folks that might want to do something.”
CNN’s Jim Sciutto pushed back on Cohen, saying being a Trump voter was “far different from being a threat of violence.” When asked to substantiate his claim of the possible dangers surrounding Biden, Cohen said he had none but added “you draw a circle first” around Trump voters in the Guard who you should be “suspect of.”
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler criticized Cohen for implying any Trump supporter was a possible “seditionist.”
“Hmmm, does a Democratic congressman really want to suggest that if you voted for Trump you might be a seditionist?” Kessler tweeted. “What happened to the idea that military people are professionals and do their jobs regardless of political preferences?”
Fourth Watch newsletter editor Steve Krakauer called the comment “absolutely reprehensible” and borderline seditious in its implications.
Others, particularly conservative voices online, piled on Cohen over his remarks.
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Cohen also appeared to overestimate the level of white male support for Trump. One exit poll found Biden got about 38 percent of white male voters in the election. Trump’s support from white voters decreased from his 2016 win over Hillary Clinton and was key to Biden’s triumph.