WASHINGTON ― The bipartisan House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection painted a damning portrait of an American president who sent an armed mob to the U.S. Capitol in hopes of overturning a free and fair election and then did nothing for hours as his aides begged him to help quell the violence.
But to Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters who were at the Capitol as a medieval-style battle raged in its halls, the horrific events of that day and Trump’s decision not to lift a finger to stop them are just a big fuss over nothing.
“What’s he gonna do? He told them not to go down there and be destructive. What else are you going to do?” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) said Tuesday. He added that he feels “100%” confident about his vote to acquit the former president in his February 2021 impeachment trial.
“I’m OK with those decisions ― those are things you do with the information you have at the time,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) added.
Trump ignored pleas from his children and close aides to denounce the violence at the Capitol and urge hundreds of his supporters to stand down, according to testimony given to the House select committee investigating the vents surrounding Jan. 6, 2021. Instead, the former president sat at his dining table in the White House and watched the disturbing events unfold on television. He didn’t call anyone ― not the secretary of defense, the attorney general nor the head of the Department of Homeland Security ― to put down the riot.
It wasn’t until hours after the riot began that Trump posted a video to his Twitter account tepidly urging his supporters to leave the Capitol. “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, but you have to go home now,” Trump said in the 4:07 p.m. address from the White House Rose Garden, repeating his lies about a fraudulent election.
The attack led to several deaths and the injuries of more than 140 police officers. More than 850 people have been charged with taking part in the riot so far.
Trump is now flirting with another run for president, with GOP primary voters and nearly the entire House Republican conference behind him. Most Republicans in the Senate shy away from questions regarding his conduct and won’t condemn it despite all the new information presented by the Jan. 6 investigators.
“I think we all sort of knew ― and know ― what happened. I don’t know how many minds have changed, because I think we knew the basic facts,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said without elaborating on said facts.
Asked if he could support Trump in the 2024 presidential election, Cornyn dodged the question.
“I’m focusing on the midterm elections; 2024 will take care of itself. I think there’s one person that will make that decision, and it’s not me,” he said.
Republican leaders, meanwhile, say they stand by their argument that the Senate could not have voted to remove Trump after he had already left office. The House voted to impeach Trump on Jan. 13, 2021, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked a quick impeachment trial in the Senate, putting the chamber into recess instead.
“What’s he gonna do? He told them not to go down there and be destructive. What else are you going to do?”
Trump’s impeachment trial over the Capitol riot began Feb. 9, 2021, under a Democratic majority and concluded with his acquittal on Feb. 13. Seven Republican senators ultimately voted to convict him despite the fact that he was no longer in office.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is retiring this year, said the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings “served a purpose.” But he maintained that “the purpose of impeachment is to remove somebody from office” and declined to comment when asked about Trump’s actions during the riot.
Asked if he regretted his vote to acquit Trump, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) silently walked into a Senate elevator. He smiled and took a sip of his coffee as the doors closed, giving no answer.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), approached about the possibility of another Trump presidential run, said that “Trump or anybody else is going to have to come [to Iowa] and compete for it.”
Asked if he believed Trump was fit for office, Grassley said, “I judge people by their policy.”
Trump delivered what was billed as a policy speech in downtown Washington on Tuesday, about a mile from the U.S. Capitol. It was his first visit to the nation’s capital since being ousted from the presidency. The event was attended by a number of congressional Republicans.
In the address, the former president repeated the same lies about the 2020 election that sparked the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in the first place. Addressing the 2024 race, Trump said that “we may just have to do it again.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said he wasn’t surprised by the rhetoric.
“I think that’s part of his strategy for motivating, perhaps, his next campaign ― if he does it,” he said.
“If he wants to, he should,” Cramer added.