Just 24 hours after calling the rioters who descended on the U.S. Capitol Wednesday "very special," Donald Trump reversed course saying those same people did "not represent our country."
In a recorded speech released late Thursday amid talks he should be removed from office, Trump claimed he was "outraged" by the "violence, lawlessness and mayhem" that took place Wednesday.
"I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders," he falsely said. Officials told the New York Times that it was actually Vice President Mike Pence who gave the order for the National Guard to come in.
"The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy," Trump said reading his speech from a teleprompter. "To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay."
Trump continued to say that "emotions are high" following an "intense election," adding that "now tempers must be cooled and calm restored."
"We must get on with the business of America," he said.
Trump then claimed that his "only goal" in filing multiple lawsuits that challenged the election results "was to ensure the integrity of the vote."
"In so doing, I was fighting to defend American democracy. I continue to strongly believe that we must reform our election laws to verify the identity and eligibility of all voters, and to ensure faith and confidence in all future elections."
After months of failing to do so, Trump said that he will now focus on a "seamless" transition of power to Biden.
"Now Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth orderly and seamless transition of power," he said.
Turning his discussion to the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic — which he has downplayed since its arrival in the U.S. — Trump said that defeating the virus will "require all of us working together."
"It will require a renewed emphasis on the civic values and patriotism, faith, charity, community and family," he said. "We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family."
"To the citizens of our country, serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime," he concluded. "And to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America."
Trump — who has been “indefinitely” banned from Instagram and Facebook for using “his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters” — released a video addressing the riots as they were happening Wednesday. The video was quickly removed and restricted on social media due to "risk of violence."
In that video, Trump called for the mob to disperse while telling them "we love you" and "you're very special” and continuing to repeat baseless claims of election fraud.
In a subsequent statement released overnight by his deputy chief of staff, after Congress reconvened to certify his defeat, Trump agreed to an "orderly" transition on Jan. 20.
Giving a brief press conference on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, on behalf of the president's administration, did not give a sense of responsibility for the Capitol riots, only saying: "We condemn it in the strongest possible terms."
“The violence we saw yesterday was appalling. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Those that broke the law should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” McEnany said. “Those who are working in this building are working to ensure an orderly transition of power. Now it is time for America to unite to come together to reject the violence that we have seen. We are one American people, under God.”
Trump's speech Thursday comes as lawmakers demand that Trump be removed from office.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that “if the vice president and Cabinet do not act the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.”
The House of Representatives previously voted to impeach Trump in 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection with his Ukraine scandal. He was ultimately acquitted by the Senate.
"What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president. This president should not hold office one day longer," Democrat Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
There are reports that top Republicans and members of Trump's cabinet have discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from his final days in office.
The 25th Amendment allows the vice president, along with a majority of the Cabinet, to have the president's powers temporarily transferred to the vice president unless he or she contests the issue. If the president contests, Congress would vote on the matter within a set timeframe.
If invoked, section four of the 25th Amendment of the Constitution can at least temporarily “sideline” the president for days or weeks at a time, Larry Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, previously told PEOPLE.
Under the amendment, the president is not removed from office as he would be under impeachment. But his powers are stripped temporarily — or even permanently, should two-thirds of Congress ultimately side with the vice president and make him acting president.
If section 4 of the 25th Amendment were to be invoked against Trump, it would be unprecedented.
However, it does not yet appear that there is widespread support among Republicans for invoking the 25th amendment.
“I do not believe that’s appropriate at this point,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said during a press conference on Thursday, noting however that “if something else happens all options would be on the table.”
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