President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended as “totally appropriate” the speech he made at a rally last week that was followed by his supporters launching a deadly siege of the Capitol.
In his first live remarks since the violence last Wednesday, Trump deflected blame and sought to highlight other politicians’ comments last summer about protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
“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 analyzed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews, en route to Alamo, Texas.
“And 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 and various other places, that was a real problem, what they said,” Trump continued.
“But they’ve analyzed my speech and my words and my final paragraph, my final sentence, and everybody — to the tee — thought it was totally appropriate.”
At last Wednesday’s rally outside the White House, Trump fiercely attacked both political allies and rivals before urging his supporters to march on the Capitol amid Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” Trump said at the time.
Those remarks and others by the president have possibly exposed him to criminal charges for provoking the rioters, and also serve as the basis for an impeachment article accusing him of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol.
Speaking outside the White House earlier Tuesday, Trump condemned House Democrats’ efforts to impeach him a second time, saying it was a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”
“I think it’s causing tremendous anger,” he added, according to a White House pool report.
Trump’s statements Tuesday morning came as the House prepared to vote on a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
If Pence does not do so, House Democrats will proceed Wednesday with a floor vote on impeachment — setting Trump up to be the first president in American history to receive such a rebuke twicer.
Trump has fallen mostly silent in the aftermath of last Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol, in large part due to his Twitter account being permanently suspended last Friday. He had previously posted a pair of video messages on Twitter last week.
In the first video, released amid the chaos last Wednesday, he instructed his supporters “to go home,” but also described them as “very special.” In the second video, released last Thursday, he finally acknowledged he had lost the election to Biden.
The fallout from the Capitol siege has produced the gravest threat yet to Trump’s presidency, with numerous administration officials and three Cabinet members resigning in recent days.