'Totally appropriate'

Donald Trump shows no remorse over role in Capitol attack

President speaks to reporters for first time since rampage · Democrats condemn Trump’s denial of responsibility

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POLITICS PRESS GROUP

An unrepentant Donald Trump has denied inciting an insurrection at the US Capitol, in an attempt to shift blame Democrats rejected as “despicable”. The president spoke to reporters for the first time since a pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol last week, leaving five people dead. Democrats accuse him of stoking violence and could vote to impeach him on Wednesday.

“So if you read my speech – and many people have done it, and I’ve seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television – it’s been analysed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump insisted at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, ahead of a trip to Texas to tour his border wall.

The president then sought to draw an equivalence with last summer’s mostly peaceful protests against racial injustice, falsely referring to them as “riots”. He said: “If you look at what other people have said – politicians at a high level – about the riots during the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle, in various other places, that was a real problem – what they said.”

It was shortly before noon last Wednesday when Trump gave an incendiary speech to a raucous crowd, insisting his election defeat by Joe Biden could be overturned and urging them to march to the Capitol and “fight much harder” against “bad people”.

He said: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.”

Democrats have directly linked the speech, and previous Trump comments, to the carnage that unfolded when rioters, some carrying Confederate flags, fought with police and looted congressional offices. They have demanded Trump be removed or face a historic second impeachment.

As he left the White House on Tuesday, Trump said: “The impeachment is really a continuation of the greatest witch-hunt in the history of politics. It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous. This impeachment is causing tremendous anger and it’s really a terrible thing that they’re doing.”

Democrats gave short shrift to Trump’s denial of responsibility. Speaking to reporters in New York, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said: “What Trump did today, blaming others for what he caused, is a pathological technique used by the worst of dictators.

“Trump causes the anger, he causes the divisiveness, he foments the violence and blames others for it. That is despicable. The technique Trump is using is used by the worst dictators the globe has ever seen. Donald Trump should not hold office one day longer and what we saw in his statements today is proof positive of that.”

Federal investigators are warning of additional potential security threats around the inauguration of Biden next week. NBC News reported that extremists are using Telegram, an encrypted communication app, to urge violence and even share knowledge of how to make guns and bombs.

Multiple media outlets also confirmed an ABC News report that the FBI expects armed pro-Trump protests in all 50 state capitals and Washington before inauguration day.

Trump’s potential to fuel further unrest is a source of anxiety. Behind the scenes, he has reportedly continued his retreat into paranoia and unreality, repeating in a conversation with the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, the outlandish lie that so-called “antifa” leftwing activists, not his supporters, were responsible for death and destruction inside the Capitol.

“It’s not antifa,” McCarthy reportedly replied. “It’s Maga. I know. I was there.” Maga refers to the Trump slogan “Make America Great Again”.

The House was due to vote on Tuesday night on a resolution seeking the use of the 25th amendment, which provides for the removal of a president deemed unfit for office. Dependent on the vice-president, Mike Pence, the gambit seemed sure to fail.

After days of silence between the pair, Trump and Pence held a “good conversation” at the White House on Monday evening, an unnamed official told Reuters.

Some who responded to Trump’s call to storm the Capitol, prompting clashes in which a police officer was killed, a rioter was shot dead and three others died, were caught on video chanting “Hang Mike Pence”.

A House vote to impeach Trump on one article, for incitement of insurrection, is expected on Wednesday. The timetable for an ensuing Senate trial is uncertain. If Trump is convicted after he leaves power, the Senate could decide to disqualify him from running for office again.

Unlike Trump’s first impeachment in December 2019, a sizable number of Republicans in the House and a handful in the Senate have signaled support. Those lawmakers included Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican. Republicans expect up to 20 GOP lawmakers to vote for impeachment, Punchbowl reported.

Ted Lieu, a Democratic congressman, told the MSNBC network: “We don’t actually need a lot of evidence here because it’s all out in the open. There’s no dispute Donald Trump gave a speech. No dispute there was an attack on the Capitol. No dispute that multiple people died.”

Last week’s huge security failure is under growing scrutiny. The Washington Post said it had obtained an internal FBI document from the day before the attack warning extremists were preparing to commit violence and “war”. The report undermined previous claims that the FBI had no intelligence about an imminent attack.

Explanations for why Trump himself could not be reached as the Capitol was attacked continued to emerge. According to the Post, quoting an unnamed close adviser, the president was “hard to reach … because it was live TV”.

“If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold”, the adviser said.

Trump’s Tuesday visit to the Texas border town of Alamo, 240 miles south of the historic Alamo fort, was promoted as a way to highlight work on the border wall and seen as a potential effort to change the narrative.

News of Trump’s visit was cause for some confusion with the hugely symbolic Alamo fort in San Antonio, a World Heritage Site where fighters for Texan independence were massacred in 1836.

Some observers suggested Trump had booked a venue in error, as his campaign apparently and famously did at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a business in Philadelphia, in November. Many were worried by the prospect of Trump’s visit to Texas, one writing: “Remember the Alamo [is] a rallying cry.”

The former federal cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs, whom Trump fired for saying the election was secure, told CNN: “This is the equivalent of ignoring that pain in your chest for a couple weeks and then all of a sudden you have a catastrophic heart attack.

“We are on the verge of what I fear to be a pretty significant breakdown in democracy and civil society here.”

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