Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters feel angry and betrayed over the Thursday video in which the president tried to distance himself from a pro-Trump riot in Congress, despite the president’s advisers assuring him he had not alienated too many of his fans.
Shortly after his White House video—in which a scripted President Trump acknowledged that a transition to a “new” administration was underway, but stopped short of even admitting that he indeed lost fairly to his 2020 Democratic opponent—posted online, Trump started having second thoughts. Throughout the evening, the outgoing, increasingly authoritarian leader of the free world quizzed close advisers and White House officials about whether or not he did the right thing and if the reception from the public, the media, and his supporters was “good,” according to two people with direct knowledge of the conversations on Thursday. He asked if his supporters felt let down.
And, with the nation still reeling from the week’s tumult and deaths, the president is also now looking to other ways he can make himself look “good,” recent casualties aside. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Trump and some close to him are now discussing the possibility of him doing multiple media interviews as soon as next week to attempt to highlight his legacy, including with an interview they're hoping to focus on the Middle East deals he and his son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, helped strike. Even though certain top officials want him to lie low as much as possible, Trump, the sources say, is excited and keen on sitting for interviews in the coming days—because he says he wants to showcase as many of his and his administration's “amazing achievements” before his time in office is up.
Some who spoke to him attempted to comfort and reassure him that his video was being well-received and that he did what he needed to do and that Democratic lawmakers who were calling for his removal from office were just trying to kick him when he was down. On Friday, Trump received further assurance about his Thursday video, and is, as of Friday afternoon at least, “fine” with it, another person with knowledge of the matter insisted. The president, of course, has been known to abruptly change his mind on these things.
Left unsaid was the fact that the backlash from his diehard fans had already begun online. Some called for Trump to keep up the fight, others said they felt betrayed.
But, despite confidants’ efforts to shield him, by early Friday, it appeared that he’d started noticing some of the fallout.
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” Trump posted to Twitter on Friday morning, in his first written tweet since getting temporarily locked out of his account for openly egging on the deadly riot in Washington, D.C.
He followed up that post with another one reading, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th,” implying that a Biden inauguration would indeed occur.
But many of Trump’s hardcore supporters were distraught to see Trump call for prosecution of the rioters “heinous” actions, just a day after he urged them to go to the Capitol in a speech outside the White House.
On the pro-Trump forum “The Donald,” some Trump supporters saw the video as proof Trump had abandoned them to the predations of a Democratic Party that will soon control the White House and both houses of Congress. A 4,000-comment thread reacting to Trump’s speech appeared to have been deleted by Friday.
“I’m angry as fuck that Ashli Babbit [sic] died for this and received this speech in return and you should be too,” wrote one poster, referring to the rioter who was shot by Capitol Police on Wednesday. “To call what we did heinous is.....fucked.”
Many of Trump’s supporters in the QAnon conspiracy theory world have alienated their friends and family in the pursuit of the idea that Trump was a sort of messianic figure who would literally murder their enemies and create a kind of MAGA utopia. As a result, they took the quasi-concession speech hard.
“So that's it? It's over?” one QAnon fan tweeted at former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. “Has the towel just been thrown in and the hell with the rest of us? How do we pick up the shattered pieces and mend our families and friendships?”
White nationalist Nick Fuentes took to Twitter to request pardons for people who had invaded the Capitol. But after Thursday’s video, Fuentes accused Trump of abandoning his supporters.
“People were willing to die for this man and he just threw them all under the bus,” Fuentes complained on Twitter.
Later, Fuentes decided that Trump may not have ditched his supporters after all, positing that the video may have been a hoax “deepfake” video created by artificial intelligence to create a fake Trump.
Fuentes wasn’t the only Trump supporter getting into conspiracy theories. Many promoted the idea that Trump had been forced to make the video against his will, or that the video itself was a high-tech fabrication. DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, a QAnon promoter and former congressional candidate whose call for Trump to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci was once retweeted by the president, posted her confusion about the video on conservative social media site Parler.
“Did he get hacked?” Tesoriero wrote.
As the most devout of Trump’s dead-enders have made clear, nothing will shake their belief that the imagined election-theft occurred.
“God chose Donald Trump for eight years, not four,” MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a personal friend of the president’s and a big financial backer of several recent pro-Trump efforts to nullify the election, previously told The Daily Beast. “Even if Biden is inaugurated, there’s no statute of limitations [on stealing an election]. Yes, I will keep investigating this, [even if he’s sworn in], and I’m not going to stop trying to get this out there to the American people.”