Under heavy pressure from his advisers, President Trump on Wednesday released a five-minute video recorded in the Oval Office condemning last week’s popular violence on Capitol Hill and urging his supporters to desist from further riots next week.
The video was made public hours after Mr. Trump was impeached a second time and was the result, advisers said, of Mr. Trump’s realization of the catastrophic fallout from the deadly riot, which also left the lawmakers fear for their lives at the American headquarters. the democracy.
The video was posted to a White House Twitter account.
Mr. Trump offered no notes of humility, regret or self-reflection about his two months of false claims that the election was stolen from him. But it was also a broader condemnation of the violence than he has offered so far.
A week ago, just hours after the rampage, Mr. Trump told his supporters who had revolted, “We love you. You are very special. “
Mr. Trump’s aides warned him he risks facing justice for the riot, which was carried out by his supporters immediately after a speech in which the president urged them to “fight” the results of the election. The House indicted him on a single article, accusing him of “inciting violence against the United States government.”
The video’s release came after the president’s company, the Trump Organization, faced canceled contracts in New York City, and after Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, told his allies that he was happy with the Democrats’ impeachment efforts and that it was happening. publicly known that he was considering voting to convict the president in a Senate trial.
“As I said, the incursion of the United States Capitol struck at the very heart of our republic,” Mr. Trump said. “It angered and dismayed millions of Americans from all political walks of life.”
“I want to be very clear: I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week,” said Mr. Trump. “Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country. And no place in our movement. Making America great again has always been about upholding the rule of law ”and supporting law enforcement officials.
“The mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. None of my real supporters will ever be able to endorse political violence, ”he said.
“If you do any of these things, you are not supporting our movement. You attack it and you attack our country, ”Mr. Trump said. “We cannot tolerate it.”
But Mr. Trump did not mention the name of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., he did not concede the election, and he did not speak about Mr. Biden’s nomination, which is due to take place. next week under extraordinary security due to threats inspired by the Capitol Riot. He also didn’t mention that he had just made history as the first president to be impeached twice.
He did, however, use the video to denounce what he called restrictions on free speech, not only referring to social media platforms that banned him, but alluding to the argument made by members of the the Republican Chamber to argue against his dismissal.
The assistants most involved in the video were White House attorney Pat A. Cipollone; his deputy, Pat Philbin; and Mr. Trump’s senior speechwriter Stephen Miller.
Capitol Riot Fallout
Over the course of the day, Mr. Trump watched the impeachment debate in the House at different times and told advisers he was furious with Mr. McConnell and felt blinded by him.
Some advisers have raised the possibility of Mr. Trump resigning days earlier, in part because it would give him the opportunity to run again in 2024 and perhaps avoid the risk of being convicted and expelled from his office. future functions by the Senate.
But the president rejected any suggestion of leaving the presidency earlier and told White House aides that President Richard M. Nixon, whose influence in the party ended when he resigned, did not much to show.
Advisers said Mr Trump should be dissuaded from going to the House to try and defend himself in Wednesday’s impeachment process, which he wanted to do when he was first arraigned in December 2019, said counselors.
Mr Trump has also left open the possibility of forgiving himself, despite Mr Cipollone’s concerns and warnings from outside advisers that he would inflame investigators who are already pursuing him.
Mr. Trump has never been so isolated as this week. The White House is poorly staffed, according to people who went to work there on Wednesday. Those who went to work tried to avoid the Oval Office.
More and more staff have resigned and the White House attorneys office is not preparing to defend him in the Senate trial.
Plans to move Mr. Trump to another online platform after his final suspension by Twitter have been halted. One option was the Gab platform, which hosted extremists and followers of the QAnon plot. Gab was favored by Trump’s adviser Johnny McEntee, but blocked by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, according to people familiar with the talks.
Part of Mr Kushner’s reasoning was the anti-Semitic comment that often plays on Gab, according to people familiar with the discussions, which were reported earlier by Bloomberg News.
Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, also faces recriminations over his involvement in inciting the mobs that attacked the Capitol. A group of former U.S. assistant lawyers who worked with Mr. Giuliani when he was a federal prosecutor in Manhattan sent him a letter on Wednesday expressing dismay at his behavior at the rally ahead of the Capitol siege.
The group said Mr. Giuliani’s comments, in which he urged Trump supporters to engage in a “fight trial” to stop the certification of election results, contributed to the loss of life and damage. caused to the country, and contrasted sharply. to the values he had sought to defend when he was a prosecutor.
“It was shocking and utterly disheartening to have seen one of our former colleagues engage in this behavior,” said the former prosecutors in the letter, which was signed by many of Giuliani’s colleagues, including Kenneth Feinberg, Ira Lee Sorkin, Elliot Sagor and Richard Ben -Veniste.
“We unequivocally reject and denounce what you have said: it’s totally destructive of everything we value,” they wrote, urging him to do what Mr. Trump did in the video and explicitly calling for them supporters of the president to “withdraw”.
“It is important that you do this at this very moment not only because it would be the right thing to do,” they continued, “but also to mitigate the risk of further violence and minimize further damage to our democratic institutions and our democracy. “