President Donald Trump has urged his supporters to “go home”, but is also keeping up claims that the results of the November election were fraudulent.
He posted a video message to Twitter more than two hours after protesters began storming the Capitol as politicians convened for an extraordinary joint session to confirm the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
President Trump opened his video by saying: “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now.”
He also went on to call the supporters “very special”. He said: “We can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
Republican politicians and previous administration officials had begged President Trump to give a statement to his supporters to quell the violence.
In earlier tweets, President Trump had offered only a muted response to the violence as loyalists brandishing his paraphernalia clashed with police, occupied the Capitol and even stormed the Senate chamber.
At a rally near the White House, President Trump had encouraged supporters to march on the Capitol and suggested at one point that he would join them on Capitol Hill.
In his remarks, he used incendiary language with violent undertones.
President Trump had urged his supporters to “get rid of the weak Congress people” — presumably through primary challenges. He said “get the weak ones get out. This is the time for strength”.
Republican politicians pleaded with President Trump to do more to stop the violence. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California said he told the president to “calm individuals down”.
“I’ve already talked to the president,” Mr McCarthy told Fox News. “I called him. I think we need to make a statement, make sure that we can calm individuals down.”
A Senate ally, Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, appealed directly to the White House: “Mr. President @realDonaldTrump the men & women of law enforcement are under assault. It is crucial you help restore order by sending resources to assist the police and ask those doing this to stand down.”
Former White House staff also joined the pleas. .
“Condemn this now, @realDonaldTrump – you are the only one they will listen to,” tweeted former White House communications direct Alyssa Farah.
Added his former chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney: “The best thing @realDonaldTrump could do right now is to address the nation from the Oval Office and condemn the riots. A peaceful transition of power is essential to the country and needs to take place on 1/20.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who was ushered out of the Senate chamber to a secure location as protesters breached the building, tweeted for protesters to disperse.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now,” he said. “Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building.”