In his first public comments since thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol last week, President Donald Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his inflammatory rhetoric that incited the mob—and warned Congress that impeachment would be dangerous to the United States.
Trump, speaking to reporters outside the White House as he left for a trip to the border wall in Alamo, Texas, insisted that his speech last Wednesday was not harmful, although just minutes after he exhorted his followers to head to the Capitol, thousands of his supporters invaded the building as Congress met to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, leaving a wake of destruction. Five died in the mayhem, including a Capitol Police officer who was attacked by the mob, and dozens more were injured.
“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said Tuesday, after being asked whether he would take any personal responsibility for the violence. “I want no violence,” he added. “It’s been analyzed and people thought what I said was totally appropriate.”
Trump then compared Wednesday’s attack on America’s beacon of democracy to the protests that erupted last summer over racial injustice and police brutality. “If you look at what other people have said, politicians at a high level, about the riots during the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other—other places. That was a big problem, is what they say,” he said.
In Alamo, he toured a section of the wall alongside Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC). The senator had apparently forgotten his pledge in the wake of the riots to “count me out, enough is enough” when it came to Trumpist conspiracies. Trump signed the wall with a Sharpie and pumped his fists as “YMCA” played.
After briefly saying that he believes in “the rule of law, not in violence or rioting,” Trump proceeded to boast about various achievements. Among his touted triumphs: winning votes among Hispanic communities, developing a coronavirus vaccine, and building 450 miles of border wall (most of which has only replaced outdated or aging fencing, and none of which has been paid for by Mexico).
He praised law enforcement officers manning the border but made no mention of the one who died at the hands of Trump supporters last week, or the dozens of his followers being rounded up for breaking the law in his name.
“Now is the time for our nation to heal and it's time for peace and for… respect for law enforcement,” he said. “We’re a nation of law, a nation of order, that is why we’re here today to talk about what we must do to uphold the rule of law in America and how we must continue to support our law enforcement heroes.”
Last week, of course, Trump didn’t appear as interested in “law and order” as he whipped up a crowd of supporters at a rally that he had promised would be “wild.” He insisted to the crowd that Vice President Mike Pence had the ability to overturn the election result, that Republican enemies would be demolished, and that followers should “fight like hell” against the election result.
“And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you.… We are going to the Capitol, and we are going to try and give... our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re try—going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country,” he told the crowd.
Trump has yet to condemn the Wednesday riots. Instead, he urged his supporters in a brief video speech to “go home,” saying, “We love you.”
On Tuesday, Trump also went after Democratic lawmakers who plan to vote Wednesday to impeach him and charge him with “incitement of insurrection.”
“The 25th amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” he said in Alamo. “As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for.”
Earlier, he went after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer specifically.
“For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our county and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence,” Trump said, flirting with incitement again.
Trump also slammed the various social-media companies that have banned him, saying, “They are making a catastrophic mistake... They’re dividing and divisive, and they’re showing something that I’ve been predicting for a long time.” The high-profile platforms that have blocked Trump include Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
In an apparent reference to his ban on Twitter and elsewhere, Trump insisted it is “very, very bad for our country and that’s leading others to do the same thing.”
“And it causes a lot of problems and a lot of danger. Big mistake. They shouldn’t be doing it,” Trump said. “But there’s always a counter move when they do that. I’ve never seen such anger as I see right now and that’s a terrible thing.”