For weeks, while advancing the false claims that the presidential election was rigged and mired in fraud, then-President Trump had whipped up excitement about the Jan. 6 certification of the 2020 presidential results, inviting his supporters to descend on Washington, promising it would be “wild.”
He arrived at the Ellipse to address the “Save America March” shortly after his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani warmed up the crowd by falsely suggesting voting machines were “crooked” and insisting that then-Vice President Mike Pence could change the election outcome, which he did not have the power to do. “Let’s have trial by combat!” the former New York Mayor told the crowd as they awaited the President.
Backstage, Trump’s son and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, recorded themselves dancing to the soundtrack and encouraging Trump supporters to “fight.”
Inciting the crowd with an address threaded with lies — including that “the states got defrauded” in the election and “want to revote” — Trump stirred anger toward his vice president, telling the crowd once again that he hoped Pence would “do the right thing” — pressuring him to toss out the election results, which would have been illegal and beyond the bounds of his constitutional authority.
He already knew that his vice president would not take that step. Pence had informed him in a tense conversation that he could not overturn the election results, leading Trump to curse at him, according to a source familiar with the conversation. But Trump did not let up at the Wednesday rally as he railed against “weak Republicans” and “pathetic Republicans” who refused to bend to his whims, while calling lawmakers who planned to contest the election results “warriors.”
“We’re gonna walk down to the Capitol. And we’re gonna cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” the President said as he marshaled the crowd for action. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
But as his supporters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and began their assault on the Capitol, Trump had returned to the White House consumed with his schemes for overriding an election that he lost with 232 electoral votes to Biden’s 306.
To the dismay of his aides, he delighted in watching the riot that injured dozens of officers and sent fears of a coup racing across the Capitol. Aides struggled to get him to understand how serious the situation had become. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, one of the President’s staunchest allies, had a “heated exchange” with the President as rioters overran the Capitol building, urging him to denounce the attack and try to quell the violence, according to a source briefed on the exchange.
But Trump declined to do so. Asked on Fox whether he expected Trump to address the situation, McCarthy said only: “I don’t know.”
Trump did not even attempt to secure the safety of Pence, even though several of his supporters who were part of the violent mob were heard shouting “Where’s Mike Pence?” in the midst of their Capitol rampage. Those threats alarmed Pence and his family, a source close to the vice president told CNN’s Jim Acosta, widening the breach between the President and Vice President.
In fact as the siege unfolded, Trump demonstrated the callous depths of his narcissism by trying to pressure senators to derail the affirmation of the election results, as they feared for their safety in the midst of a riot he had incited.
At the White House, Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump and chief of staff Mark Meadows tried to convince Trump to record a message that would direct the rioters to stand down.
But the resulting message satisfied no one as he ad-libbed, telling the insurgents who had stormed the Capitol: “We love you. You’re very special.”
Read more about the day’s events here.
Read a transcript of Trump’s full speech on Jan. 6 here.