On Thursday, President Donald Trump condemned the rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, and called for national healing. This reconciliatory address came after bipartisan calls for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment after Trump told the rioters, “We love you” and suggested their actions were the natural result of a stolen election.
Trump condemned “the heinous attack on the United States Capitol.”
“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem,” he said. The president claimed to have “immediately” deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building “and expel the intruders.”
“America is and must always be a nation of law and order,” Trump insisted. “The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country, and to those who broke the law, you will pay.”
“We have just been through an intense election, and emotions are high, but now tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” the president added. “We must get on with the business of America.”
“My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results. My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote,” Trump insisted. “In so doing, I was fighting to defend American democracy. I continue to strongly believe that we must reform our election laws to verify to verify the identity and eligibility of all voters and to ensure faith and confidence in all future elections. Now Congress has certified the results.”
“A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation,” the president added.
Trump acknowledged that “2020 has been a challenging time for our people. A menacing pandemic has upended the lives of our citizens, isolated millions in their homes, damaged our economy, and claimed countless lives. Defeating this pandemic and rebuilding the greatest economy on earth will require all of us working together. It will require a renewed emphasis on the civic values of patriotism, faith, charity, community, and family.”
The president concluded his remarks with a tease of his post-presidency plans.
“We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family,” he urged. “To the citizens of our country, serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime, and to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”
The president’s reconciliatory message struck the right notes, but he has a great deal of explaining to do. Trump did exhaust every legal avenue to contest the results — and many claim he tried a few illegal avenues, too.
His call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger has raised many red flags. While Trump did present various examples of alleged fraud, he also pressured Raffensberger to “find” enough votes to put him over Joe Biden. When Raffensperger refused, the president accused him of destroying ballots, warning that would be “a criminal offense.”
Trump also repeatedly insisted that when Mike Pence opened Electoral College votes and read them to a joint session of Congress, the VP could unilaterally reject votes that the states had certified. Pence himself explained that this was not his role, but Trump had publicly pressured him to do it, anyway.
Trump was right to unequivocally condemn the rioters who stormed the Capitol, and he was right to say that they would “pay.” However, on Wednesday he had coddled these lawless attackers.
Trump released a video statement encouraging his supporters to “go home now.” He went on to say, “go home, we love you, you’re very special.” In a follow-up tweet, the president wrote, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
The president should apologize for these horrendous statements, but he was right to correct them on Thursday.
Trump’s latest video message should put to bed any demands for Pence using the 25th Amendment — itself a dangerous strategy, anyway — and calls for impeachment at this late hour. While the president’s aggressive election rhetoric inspired the horrific assault on the Capitol, he has now rightly put that rhetoric to bed.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2021
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.