Trump agreed to condemn the Capitol rioters only after realizing he could face legal trouble for inciting them, report says

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Bill Bostock
·4 min read
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A still from a video of President Donald Trump on Thursday denouncing the Capitol rioters. Donald J. Trump/Twitter
  • President Donald Trump agreed to record a video criticizing the Capitol rioters only after he realized he could face legal consequences, The New York Times reported.

  • In a video on Thursday, Trump said he was "outraged by the violence" and promised a smooth transition to the Biden administration.

  • The day before, as his supporters stormed the Capitol, the president refused to speak out against them, despite his aides' pleas and warnings, The Washington Post reported.

  • The US attorney in Washington, DC, said on Thursday that prosecutors were investigating "all actors" who might have played a part in the riot, and he did not rule out Trump.

  • Trump had told his supporters at a rally on Wednesday, before they overran the Capitol, to "fight like hell."

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump agreed to record a video denouncing the rioters who stormed the Capitol only after he realized he may face legal trouble for cheering them on, The New York Times reported.

In a two-minute video posted on Twitter on Thursday, a full day after the attack, Trump said he would ensure "a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power" to the Biden administration. He began by denouncing those behind Wednesday's destruction.

"Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem," Trump said, adding, "To those who broke the law: You will pay."

Read more:We analyzed 23 memos from CEOs responding to the US Capitol riot. The most effective messages get personal.

But The Times reported that Trump had been reluctant to record the video until "he appeared to suddenly realize he could face legal risk for prodding the mob."

Before the rioting on Wednesday, Trump addressed a crowd that had gathered near the Capitol. "We will never give up," he said. "We will never concede."

He also urged his supporters to "fight like hell."

The crowd marched on the Capitol shortly after the speech.

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Trump supporters clash with police officers and security forces as they try to storm the Capitol building on Wednesday. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Prosecutors 'looking at all actors'

According to The Times and The Washington Post, several aides and members of Trump's inner circle - including Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel; and members of Trump's family - had warned him of the legal repercussions he could face for encouraging the mob.

Then on Thursday, Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney in Washington, DC, said federal prosecutors were investigating anyone who may have played a role in the Capitol riot.

When asked by journalists whether that included Trump, Sherwin said: "We are looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role, if the evidence fits the element of a crime, they're going to be charged."

New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi tweeted on Thursday that Trump was now fully aware of the legal trouble that could await him.

"A person who currently advises Donald Trump tells me: 'It's all hit him since yesterday: 'You may have legal exposure from yesterday. You definitely have legal exposure from other things. You have less than two weeks to remain ensconced in here with executive privilege,'" she said.

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Trump supporters storming the Capitol. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

The Post reported that it took Trump a long time to say anything about the Capitol insurrection at all and that he refused aides' pleas to call into Fox News to urge the rioters to stop.

The aides were eventually able to persuade the president to tweet, The Post said. "Stay peaceful!" Trump said in one post. Shortly after, he tweeted, "No violence!"

"He didn't want to say anything or do anything to rise to the moment," a US official told The Post.

The president also recorded a video on Wednesday calling on his supporters to stop the violence. But in it, he continued to peddle false claims about the 2020 election and said, "We love you; you're very special."

Trump was reportedly enjoying the riot

On Wednesday afternoon, the Times reporter Maggie Haberman said a Trump advisor had told her that people close to Trump were "certain the president wanted this and is enjoying it."

Nuzzi also described an advisor as saying that Trump was enthusiastically watching TV coverage of the riot but was later upset by the mess the mob created.

"Donald Trump was annoyed by the violent siege on the Capitol Wednesday - which left several dead - because it looked 'low class,' according to his adviser. 'He doesn't like low class things,'" Nuzzi tweeted.

She added: "The adviser confirmed that he was watching television coverage of the siege enthusiastically, but noted that the sight of his own supporters forming a violent mob and destroying property and lives offended him on aesthetic grounds."

Multiple US politicians have directly blamed Trump for the violence. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, on Thursday also called for the president's removal via the 25th Amendment. Vice President Mike Pence, however, is opposed to activating the amendment, advisors told Insider.

A slew of Trump administration officials have also resigned over what happened at the Capitol.

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