Amidst the violence, Trump says, “Remember this day forever!” – Twin towns



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By ZEKE MILLER and JILL COLVIN

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump appeared to apologize for the violent occupation of the United States Capitol by his supporters on Wednesday, hours after storming the symbol of American democracy in an attempt to disrupt the formalization of his electoral defeat .

Trump, who had encouraged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill to protest the actions of lawmakers, expressed empathy for the crowd, which violently broke inside, clashed with police and forced lawmakers to hide.

“These are the things and events that occur when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped of the great patriots who have been treated badly and unfairly for so long,” Trump wrote in a post that was then deleted by Twitter. He added, “Go home in love and in peace. Remember this day forever!

In a previous video, he had greeted the protesters as “special” people and said he understood their pain. Twitter then locked his account for the first time by demanding he delete the tweets and threatening “permanent suspension”.

Trump’s response to the violence underscored his obsession with trying to overturn the election results. He spends the last days of his presidency simmering and attacking Republicans for perceived disloyalty.

Trump spent much of Wednesday afternoon watching the insurgency on TV from his private dining room next to the Oval Office. But aside from appeals for calm at the insistence of his staff, he was largely disengaged as the nation’s capital sank into scenes of unprecedented chaos as a crowd of thousands attempted to break through. stop the peaceful transition of power.

Instead, a White House official said, most of Trump’s attention has been absorbed by his anger at Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he will not reverse the will of the voters during the congressional electoral count. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The violence, coupled with the president’s lukewarm response, appeared to drive many Republicans to the breaking point after years of allegiance to Trump. In growing frustration, a number of White House aides were discussing a possible massive resignation, according to people familiar with the conversation, though some have expressed concerns about what Trump might do during his last two weeks in power if they weren’t there to act as a guardrail when so little remains.

After four years without a shortage of difficult times, Wednesday’s events quickly emerged as the highlight of Trump’s White House morale, as aides watched in horror at the chaos on Capitol Hill fomented by Trump.

Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to the first lady and former White House press secretary, tendered her resignation on Wednesday, but declined to say what had motivated her. White House Social Secretary Rickie Niceta and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews have also resigned. More departures are expected in the coming days, officials said. But other aides have indicated they are staying to help ease President-elect Biden’s transition to administration.

Trump has been steadfastly focused on his electoral defeat since Election Day, aides said, to the detriment of his office’s other responsibilities, including the fight against the raging coronavirus. Indeed, it was Pence, not Trump, who spoke with the acting Secretary of Defense to discuss the DC National Guard mobilization on Wednesday afternoon.

Trump only reluctantly posted the tweets and recorded a video urging an end to the violence. The posts came at the insistence of staff and amid mounting criticism from Republican lawmakers urging him to condemn the violence perpetrated on his behalf, according to the official.

And even as authorities struggled to gain control of Capitol Hill after protesters overwhelmed police, Trump continued to make unsubstantiated allegations of massive electoral fraud and hailed his followers as “very special.” .

“I know your pain. I know your injury. But you have to go home now, ”he said in a video released more than 90 minutes after the House and Senate lawmakers were evacuated. “We cannot play in the hands of these people. We must have peace. So go home. We love you. You are very special. “

Hours earlier, Trump had appeared at a massive rally near the White House, where he continued to urge supporters to fight the election results and urged them to march to Capitol Hill in speech-studded remarks. incendiary and full of violent nuances. At one point, he even suggested he might join them – a prospect that was discussed by the White House but ultimately dropped.

“We’re going down Pennsylvania Avenue… and we’re going to the Capitol… we’re going to try to give our Republicans… the kind of pride and daring they need to take our country back,” he said.

Earlier in the rally, his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had advocated what he called the “trial by combat”.

Trump’s tweets and video also caught the attention of social media giants he has often decried. The video was deleted by Facebook, “because overall we believe it helps rather than lessen the risk of continued violence,” said site integrity manager Guy Rosen. Twitter took a more punitive approach, locking down Trump’s account and warning, “Future violations of Twitter’s rules, including our civic integrity policies or violent threats, will result in the @realDonaldTrump account being permanently suspended.”

Before Trump released the video, Republican lawmakers and former administration officials pleaded with the president to intervene as the violence escalated.

“I called him. I think we need to make a statement, make sure we can calm the individuals down,” GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy of California told Fox News.

A Senate ally, Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, appealed directly to the president in a tweet: “Mr. President @realDonaldTrump Law enforcement men and women are under attack. It is essential that you help restore order by sending in resources to help the police and asking those doing this to step back. “

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Posted a video message urging Trump to “cancel” it.

“It’s Banana Republic shit we’re watching right now,” said Gallagher, who spoke out against the objections of fellow Republicans to the certification of the constituency vote Biden won.

Former White House staff have also launched pleas.

“Condemn this now, @realDonaldTrump – you are the only one they’ll listen to,” tweeted former White House communications director Alyssa Farah.

His former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney added, “The best thing @realDonaldTrump can do right now is address the nation from the Oval Office and condemn the riots. A peaceful transition of power is essential for the country and is due to take place on January 20. “

Pence, who was kicked out of the Senate Chamber to a safe place as the protesters entered the building, also called on the protesters to disperse.

“The violence and destruction taking place on the United States Capitol must stop and it must stop now,” he tweeted. “Anyone involved must respect the police and leave the building immediately.”

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Associated Press editors Alexandra Jaffe and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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