Before his headlining remarks at the nation’s largest Republican conference, after its panels and speakers spent three days giving credence to his false “stolen election” narrative that fuelled violence at the US Capitol, Donald Trump appeared on Fox News to revive his baseless conspiracy theory and downplay his supporters’ attack on Congress.
He called his failure to overturn millions of Americans’ votes “a terrible blot on our country” and lashed out at the US Supreme Court for refusing to indulge in spurious lawsuits to reject election outcomes in states he lost to Joe Biden.
“The Supreme Court did not have the courage to take it up, and they should be ashamed of themselves,” he said during a phone interview with Fox News on 11 July, hours before his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas.
Fox News host Maria Bartiromo, saying that the former president “had some time to reflect” on the events of 6 January, asked “what happened that day” from his “standpoint”.
He called his remarks before the riot “a very mild-mannered speech” – although he faces several lawsuits for telling his supporters to “fight like hell” and was impeached by the House of Representatives a second time for his months-long campaign to undermine election results that inspired the riot.
The former president said there was “such love at that rally” but admitted “they were there for one reason: the rigged election”.
“And these were peaceful people,” he said. “These were great people.”
More than 500 people have been arrested in cases related to the riot, and dozens of law enforcement officers were injured in a violent, hours-long attack.
He called Ashli Babbit – one of his supporters who was fatally shot by a US Capitol Police officer as she climbed through a broken window into the House chambers – an “innocent, wonderful, incredible woman”.
“Who shot Ashli Babbit? Why are they keeping that secret?” he said. “I’ve heard also that it was the head of security for a certain high official – a Democrat – and we’ll see. It’s gonna come out.”
In the weeks and months after the assault, “who shot Ashli Babbit?” has emerged as a rallying cry and a meme among some congressional Republicans and on the far right – downplaying or celebrating the violence in the halls of Congress that day and condemning the killing of Ms Babbitt, who has become a martyr in their cultural and political cause.
He said it at his campaign-style rally on 3 July, adding that had she been “on the other side, the person who did the shooting would be strung up and hung. Now they don’t want to give the name”.
The former president also refused to answer what he said during a phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who was reportedly “furious” with Mr Trump during the assault, to which Mr Trump allegedly said: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
“Do you want to tell us what took place on that phone call?” Ms Bartiromo asked.
“No, I don’t have to, because Kevin will speak and I’m sure Kevin will be very good from that standpoint,” he said.
Mr Trump also criticised the “very partisan investigation” underway by a select House committee to probe the events leading up to and surrounding the attack. Congressional Republicans largely refused to create a bipartisan investigation.