After encouraging his supporters to march to the Capitol on Wednesday, triggering an insurrection inside the halls of Congress as he sought to reject his loss in the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump returned to social media after he was frozen from his accounts to call for a moment of “healing and reconciliation.”
“Like all Americans I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem,” he said in a brief video message, days before the end of his one-term presidency as lawmakers prepare to remove him from office.
He said that the rioters “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,” he said. “To those who broke the law, you will pay.”
His remarks are in stark contrast to the messages he gave his supporters as they terrorised the Capitol, as he accused his vice president Mike Pence of disloyalty, falsely insisted that the election was stolen from them, and expressed no urgency to condemn the violence in their wake, instead telling them he loves them and that they are special.
In his pre-recorded message from the White House, the president lied that he “immediately” deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement, leaving lawmakers and staff barricaded in House and Senate chambers and offices.
He spun his spurious post-election legal effort to undermine millions of Americans’ votes as an effort to preserve election integrity.
“We have just been through an intense election, and emotions are high, but now, tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” he said. “My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results. My only goal was to ensure the to ensure the integrity of the vote. In so doing I was fighting to defend American democracy.”
At least four people have died from the chaos on 6 January, including a woman shot by Capitol police and three people who died from medical emergencies.
His message followed widespread calls among lawmakers and officials across the US demanding the vice president invoke the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution to remove the president from office. Congressional leaders – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and a growing list of Democratic members of Congress – have called for the president’s impeachment, should Mr Pence refuse to act.
The president’s brief remarks nearly resembled his concession, telling Americans that “serving as your president has been the honour of my lifetime.”
“Now Congress has certified the results,” he said. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
To his supporters, he said: “I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredibly journey is just beginning.”