Several hours after a mob of pro-Trump insurrectionists and conspiracy theorists overwhelmed police officers and forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, after the formal certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory was postponed and terrified members of Congress were told to hide under their seats in the House gallery or lock themselves in their offices for the safety of themselves and their staffs, after deranged fanatics with QAnon shirts and Confederate flags and “Make America Great Again” hats smashed the Capitol’s windows and flooded onto the Senate floor, after Capitol security officers barricaded the entrance to the House floor and drew their guns and aimed them at the intruders on the other side of the door — after this terror and chaos had lasted for hours, President Trump spoke.
He did not condemn the mob that had trespassed and spread terror in his name.
He did not pledge that those who’d broken the law would face justice.
He released a one-minute video in which he said to the insurrectionists: “We love you. You’re very special.”
In his remarks, Trump complained yet again about a “stolen” election despite the absence of evidence. He gently told his supporters to “go home now” and “have peace.” But just as quickly as he said that, he returned to the subject of that stolen election, shifting the focus, as he so often does, back onto to himself. “There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country,” he said. “This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace.”
Trump’s short, taped address to the American public, on one of the nation’s darkest days, will surely go down as one of the most pathetic and appalling presidential statements in modern history. Richard Nixon’s “mistakes were made” pales in comparison to Donald Trump’s choice of words after his flag-toting supporters, incited by the president’s own words that they needed to “fight like hell,” carried out an act of terror in the heart of the nation’s capital.
So go home, he told the MAGA faithful. “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.”
I know how you feel. When the moment called for a condemnation, Trump delivered a heartfelt and half-hearted plea.
Of course, it was much too little, far too late. For two months, the president has raged against non-existent fraud that denied him the victory that was rightfully his. For four years, the president has urged his supporters to trust in him and him alone. He called the violent fringes of his base “very fine people” who should “stand down and stand by.” The tragedy of January 6, 2021 was years in the making; nothing Trump could say would convince his followers to retreat.