On Wednesday, Jan. 6, supporters of President Donald Trump forced the Capitol into lockdown as lawmakers met to count the Electoral College votes certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Following news of clashes with Capitol police and calls for backup law enforcement, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to share a message with his followers that was seemingly contradictory to what he’d said during a rally earlier that day. Many people are criticizing Trump’s tweets during the attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol, in which he’s calling for supporters to "stay peaceful," as being too little, too late. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment and clarification on the situation as well as any additional comments towards those involved, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
According to Capitol police officers, supporters of Donald Trump breached exterior security defenses and stormed the Capitol after pushing through law enforcement dressed in riot gear on shortly after 1 p.m. ET. The Trump supporters, many of whom referred to the police as "traitors" as they fought with them, were able to enter the Capitol shortly after 3 p.m. ET and, according to video from inside the building, they were marching through Statutory Hall and entered the Senate floor, per CNN. A source also told CNN that there were several suspicious devices left outside the building. As the rioters entered the Capitol, The New York Times reported that Capitol Police instructed members of Congress to take cover and prepare for the dispersion of tear gas.
Trump appeared to blame Vice President Mike Pence for not attempting to unlawfully override the Electoral College votes, a power he doesn’t actually have. In a tweet that has now been removed by Twitter for violating Twitter’s rules, Trump said at the time of the attempted coup, "Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!"
About 15 minutes after fanning the flames with his initial tweet, Trump appeared to take a different tone. "Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!" he tweeted. About 45 minutes later, Trump added, "I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!"
However, he did not ask any of his supporters to leave the Capitol.
While President Trump urged against violence in his latest tweets, many critics argued that he’d been inciting these actions for months by calling on his supporters to overturn the results of the election. In fact, the attempted coup comes shortly after President Trump held a rally that same day where he told supporters, "We will never concede."
President Trump has also been peddling conspiracy theories of voter fraud, even though it has been repeatedly made clear that there was no voter widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Most recently, Trump called Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on Jan. 3, seemingly pressuring him to unlawfully overturn the election in his state. Trump’s false claims have been gaining traction. In fact, according to an NPR/Ipsos poll released on Dec. 30, "one-third of Americans believe that voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the election, despite the fact that courts and election officials have found no evidence of this."
Given Trump’s penchant for claiming voter fraud, people couldn’t help but draw a line from Trump’s claims to the attempted coup. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ niece Meena wrote, "Trump incited this," she added in another tweet. "He needs to be removed from office immediately."
People also harkened back to Trump’s "stand back, and stand by" remarks from the first presidential debate back in September, where Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, namely the Proud Boys, when asked by moderator Chris Wallace. The Trump 2020 campaign did not immediately respond to request for clarification on the remark at the time. Considering the Proud Boys were expected to be in attendance to protest the certification, people immediately drew the connection.
As it became clear the crowds wouldn’t disperse in response to a few tweets, more necessary action was taken. Around 3:30 p.m. ET, Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam confirmed in a tweet that he was sending members of the Virginia National Guard along with 200 Virginia State Troopers to help the Capitol police.
According to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the Washington D.C. National Guard was on its way as well, as of just after 3:30 p.m. ET. McEnany added, "We reiterate President Trump’s call against violence and to remain peaceful."
Trump’s actions (or inaction), though, led to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to issue a joint statement directed at the president just before 4 p.m. ET, saying, "We are calling on President Trump to demand that all protestors leave the U.S. Capitol and Capitol Grounds immediately."
Finally, around 4:15 p.m. ET, a little more than three hours from the start of the attempted coup, President Trump posted a minute-long video, which was initially flagged for disputed claims of election fraud and eventually removed from Twitter late on Jan. 6 for violating its rules, asking his supporters to go home while also still claiming election fraud took place.
He began, "I know your pain, I know you’re hurt," before going into claims of election fraud, saying it was "stolen from us." Veering back to the message at hand, Trump told his supporters, "You have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt." After making more voter fraud claims and saying he "loves" the rioters, he closed the video with a call to disperse: "Go home, and go home in peace."
It’s unclear if the video had an immediate effect, but as of 5 p.m. ET, CNN reporter Abby Phillip tweeted that there appeared to still be "hundreds of people on the grounds of the Capitol."
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on Jan. 7 following actions taken by Twitter late on Jan. 6 to remove certain tweets from President Trump’s account for violating Twitter’s rules.
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