While thousands of his supporters stormed the US Capitol, Donald Trump watched the horror unfold on TV inside the White House despite earlier promising supporters he would march with them.
A White House official told The Washington Post Trump appeared to be disinterested as hordes of his supporters stormed the US Capitol in scenes that shocked the world, while he maintained a majority were “peaceful”.
Just hours before the chaos, the US president addressed the crowd, likely for the last time, in an hour-long speech to people gathered at The Ellipse in Washington DC.
He called on Vice President Mike Pence to intervene in Congress, which on Wednesday (local time) was certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory, and made abundant false claims of election fraud.
Pence does not have the authority to throw out election results in states the president narrowly lost.
Trump repeatedly incited his passionate supporters “to fight” to “take back our country”.
“After this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you,” he said during his speech, which started at 11.50am on Wednesday.
“We're going to walk down to the Capitol,” he continued.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, and you have to be strong... We will never give up, we will never concede.”
Trump also made several baseless claims of fraudulent vote counting and labelled the Democrat win the result of “explosions of bulls***”.
“We’re going to the Capitol... We’re going to try and give our Republicans... the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
Pence declared in a public letter issued at 1pm he would not be intervening in Congress – a matter that reportedly infuriated Trump.
When his supporters breached the Capitol about half hour later, Trump was preoccupied with the supposed betrayal of his long-time ally.
According to a White House official, Trump appeared disinterested in what was occurring at the Capitol and ignored pleas from people to end to the violence.
“He kept saying: ‘The vast majority of them are peaceful’,” one unnamed official told The Washington Post.
Trump reportedly argued, “My people are peaceful. My people aren’t thugs”, claiming “no one cared” about stopping the Black Lives Matter riots.
“He was a total monster today,” the official said, labelling Trump’s behaviour indefensible.
White House aides reportedly pleaded with him to intervene in the rioting, but he was distracted and showed little interest.
Just before 2.30pm, Trump tweeted his frustration at Pence and made no mention of the violence unfolding.
“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!” he wrote.
About 10 minutes later, at the insistence of aides, Trump tweeted again, asking protesters “stay peaceful”.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” he wrote.
Just before 3pm, one of his supporters, US Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit, was shot dead by police while trying to break into the Capitol.
Three other people died as supporters of the president violently occupied congress.
While he again refused to concede defeat, falsely claiming “it was a landslide election and everyone knows it”, he encouraged his “very special” supporters to “go home”.
“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,” he said in part of the video.
There have since been reports of a planned mass resignation among White House aides, with First Lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham submitting her resignation on Wednesday.
Officials said Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger, White House Social Secretary Rickie Niceta and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews have also resigned.
More staff members are expected to do the same in coming days.
Crowds were slowly diffused throughout the remainder of the afternoon with the help of more than 1000 District of Columbia National Guard officers and the commencement of a 6pm curfew.
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