Trump condemned for mob actions at Capitol
A day that President Trump saw as a last stand for him and his supporters descended into one of the ugliest scenes in American political history, as a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol shortly after Trump spoke to it, forcing the evacuation of Congress.
The episode led to broad condemnations of Trump for inciting the riots, with some calling for his immediate impeachment and removal.
The fury and outrage did not only come from Democrats.
The National Association of Manufacturers, a conservative business group, said the 25th Amendment should be invoked for Trump’s removal.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said a video the president released, in which he repeated his baseless claims about having won a landslide election before telling his supporters to go home, was insufficient. She said the day’s events will be remembered by history as a “part of his legacy.”
The chaotic day also further revealed the deep divide within the Republican Party over Trump’s behavior since losing the election and the efforts by dozens of Republicans to challenge the Electoral College vote count on Wednesday despite a lack of evidence of meaningful voter fraud.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who found out his party had officially lost the majority in the upper chamber while the riots were taking place, opened the day by warning that if the election were overturned “our democracy would enter a death spiral.”
Less than one hour later, Vice President Pence had to be evacuated from the Senate and the Capitol was under siege, with police firing tear gas into crowds of protesters and one person fatally shot. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) was forced to implement a 6 p.m. citywide curfew and all 1,100 D.C. National Guard troops were activated to respond to the protests.
“Lies have consequences,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the President’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Trump has for weeks inaccurately insisted to his supporters that he won the presidential election, calling it “fraudulent,” “rigged” and “stolen.” The president has long had his eye on Jan. 6, believing that Vice President Pence and Congress could somehow block the certification of electoral votes affirming Joe Biden as the next president.
Thousands of demonstrators flocked to the capital as a result, with many prepared for clashes and to confront lawmakers who did not support Trump’s objections.
It resulted in a humiliation for America on a international stage just more than two weeks before Trump will leave office.
Trump explicitly urged the protesters to march on Congress after the rally. The mob clashed with police, climbed the walls, broke windows, ran roughshod through the Speaker’s office and the House and Senate chambers, and hung Trump flags outside.
“This is how election results are disrupted in a banana republic – not our democratic republic,” said former President George W. Bush.
“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes,” he said.
Biden, who will take office in two weeks, implored Trump to forcefully condemn the chaos after it unfolded, describing the events as an assault on the rule of law and close to an act of treasonous “sedition.”
“The words of a president matter no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite,” Biden said in an afternoon address. “Therefore, I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”
But Trump showed little interest in pressing his crowds of supporters from stopping their behavior, releasing a video that asked them to go home in “peace” but that continued to stoke his baseless claims about the election, which have repeatedly been tossed from court and led directly to Wednesday’s stunning scenes.
Trump’s speech to supporters at the White House Ellipse just prior to the joint session of Congress was littered with attacks on members of his own party, including Cheney and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).
Trump also used the speech to elevate many falsehoods about the election, including that he won in a “landslide,” claims he continued to make in the video message.
The president, enraged after Pence said he did not have the authority to unilaterally reject the election results as Trump had hoped, said little as the violence unfolded, even as those close to him issued searing denunciations of the chaos and pleaded for him to intervene.
As Pence was being evacuated, Trump took to Twitter to incite the siege, saying the vice president “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.” Only later did he urge supporters in a few tweets and a video message to be peaceful.
Several former White House aides, including former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and recently departed communications director Alyssa Farah, implored Trump to more forcefully condemn the actions of his supporters.
“I need you to hear me: the Election was NOT stolen. We lost,” Farah tweeted.
GOP lawmakers, including staunch allies like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), phoned into live cable news broadcasts from hiding at the Capitol to denounce the protests as “un-American” and urge the president to intervene.
But Trump has struggled throughout his time in office to explicitly speak out against those who back him. He was panned for praising “both sides” of the Charlottesville, Va., clashes of 2017, he hailed followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory as people “who love our country” last year; and he was chastised after one of last year’s presidential debates when he refused to clearly denounce a fringe white supremacist group.
Trump was widely scrutinized for his response to protests against racial injustice over the summer. As riots broke out in Minneapolis over George Floyd’s death, he invoked the racially charged phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The same habit plagued his recorded video address on Wednesday, where Trump further fanned the flames of the conspiracy that the election was “fraudulent” and portrayed those who initiated violence as victims.
“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” Trump said in the one-minute video. “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.”
The president’s address did little to quell the unrest or undo what had already transpired. Instead, it largely added to what some in the GOP viewed as a final, lasting stain on Trump’s legacy.
“The president of the United States’ statement now, in my view, was completely inadequate,” Liz Cheney said. “What he has done and what he has caused here is something that we’ve never seen before in our history.
“This will be part of his legacy, and it is a dangerous moment for the country,” she added.
Later, Trump seemed to excuse if not condone the chaos.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and other Democrats called for Trump’s impeachment, a scenario some party leaders have tamped down, noting Trump’s term will expire in two weeks.
But others took the view that Trump is a threat to public safety and democracy and that he should be removed from office immediately.
“This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such,” the manufacturers group said. “Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.”