Hours after being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on a charge of “incitement of insurrection,” President Trump released a video in which he called for calm from those who plan to take to the streets to protest President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“There has been reporting that additional demonstrations are being planned in the coming days both here in Washington and across the country. I have been briefed by the U.S. Secret Service on the potential threats,” Trump said in a video posted to YouTube, a site that had restricted his use in recent days. “Every American deserves to have their voice heard in a respectful and peaceful way. That is your First Amendment right, but I cannot emphasize that there must be no violence, no law-breaking and no vandalism of any kind.”
On Tuesday, the FBI warned in a bulletin that “armed protests” were expected at state capitols across the country from Jan. 16 through Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
“On 8 January, the FBI received information on an identified group calling for others to join them in ‘storming’ state, local and federal government courthouses and administrative buildings in the event POTUS is removed as President prior to Inauguration Day. This identified group is also planning to ‘storm’ government offices including in the District of Columbia and in every state, regardless of whether the states certified electoral votes for Biden or Trump, on 20 January,” the bulletin stated.
A Joint Intelligence Bulletin, a product of the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and National Counterterrorism Center, obtained by Yahoo News on Wednesday stated that insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week will likely spur domestic extremists to carry out more violent attacks.
Trump’s second impeachment, which the House passed Wednesday, came one week after he spoke to thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House. Immediately afterwards, many of those who attended marched to the U.S. Capitol, broke into the building and disrupted the certification of the Electoral College vote in Biden’s favor. Five people died in the riot, and a Capitol Police officer who was on duty at the time was later reported to have committed suicide.
Trump himself had summoned his followers to the nation’s capital, promising them a “wild” event, and in his speech exhorted them to “fight like hell” to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he insists was tainted by vote fraud.
State governors and election officials of both parties insist the election was honest, and numerous legal challenges to the results have failed.
Notably, Trump did not correct his debunked claims of voter fraud in the new video. Instead he called for an end to violence “whether you are on the right or on the left.” Self-described “antifascist” and Black Lives Matter protesters held demonstrations in numerous cities last summer, some of which turned violent, in response to a series of police killings of Black men and women. But there is nothing to suggest that the rioters who took over the Capitol were other than the same Trump supporters who had just come from his “Stop the Steal” rally.
Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., also gave fiery speeches at the rally.
In a video posted last week as his supporters continued to skirmish with police inside and outside the Capitol, Trump had also told the crowd to disperse, but added, “We love you, you're very special." That video was removed by YouTube, which said it contained messages that could be interpreted as encouraging further violence.
House Democrats and 10 House Republicans cast votes Wednesday signifying their belief that Trump’s role in inciting the insurrection as disqualifying him for the presidency.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-most-powerful Republican in the House, wrote in a statement. “Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
In his new video, Trump struck a very different note than he had last week, or for almost all of the last four years. “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in,” Trump said, “and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence.”
But footage from the riot showed that those who attacked the Capitol considered themselves true supporters of the president, who believed they were acting on his wishes.
In his latest message, which YouTube allowed to be posted to its platform despite an earlier suspension of his account, Trump noted that he had activated National Guard troops to help protect Washington as Biden’s inauguration approached.
“I have directed federal agencies to use all necessary resources to maintain order,” Trump said. “In Washington, D.C., we are bringing in thousands of National Guard members to secure the city and ensure that a transition can occur safely and without incident.”
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen also warned Wednesday that violent protest would not be tolerated.
“I want to send a clear message to anyone contemplating violence, threats of violence or other criminal conduct,” Rosen said. “We will have no tolerance whatsoever for any attempts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20 that our Constitution calls for.”
A recurring refrain from Republicans who voted against Trump’s impeachment on Wednesday was that impeaching Trump would lead to more disorder and strife. The president seemed to be trying to reinforce that message.
“Now I am asking everyone who has ever believed in our agenda to be thinking of ways to ease tensions, calm tempers and help to promote peace in our country,” Trump said.
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