President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged swarms of his supporters rioting in and around the U.S. Capitol to “go home now,” while continuing to falsely insist that his reelection was stolen.
The president’s remarks in a brief video on Twitter came after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle publicly urged him to speak out with force against the chaos caused by his base during what would normally be a mundane, formal declaration of the election results.
Nearly 40 seconds of the one-minute video, however, showed Trump offering sympathy for the rioters.
“I know your pain, I know you’re hurt,” Trump said. “We had an election that was stolen from us, it was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side.”
“But you have to go home now, we have to have peace,” he added. “We have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order.”
The brief clip came as the Capitol building, where a joint session of Congress was underway to count the Electoral College ballots and confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, remained under lockdown.
Shortly after Congress began the proceedings, presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, throngs of pro-Trump protesters migrated to the Capitol. The process came to an abrupt halt soon after; Pence and other officials were quickly evacuated.
“We don’t want anybody hurt,” Trump said in his video statement. Reports of injuries have already emerged, including at least one person shot at the Capitol and five sent to the hospital, according to NBC News.
“It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election. But we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace,” he said.
“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.”
Several officials, including Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, begged Trump to flatly condemn his supporters’ unprecedented actions.
Less than an hour before the video’s release, Biden spoke in person to reporters and unequivocally condemned the riots, demanding that Trump do the same on national television.
“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,” Biden said.
Trump earlier in the day, at a rally outside the White House, angrily lashed out at a wide array of his perceived political enemies, including “weak Republicans” who refused to aid in his efforts to overturn the election.
He repeatedly pressured Pence to reject key electoral votes during the joint session of Congress in order to hand Trump reelection.
The vice president rejected those demands, initially provoking a furious tweet from Trump claiming Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.” Experts say Pence’s role in the process is ceremonial and he has no legal right to reject any votes.
Critics were quick to accuse Trump of stoking anger among the protesters who were already surrounding the Capitol at the time the message was sent.
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