President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his speech to supporters before violence broke out at the US Capitol was “totally appropriate,” adding that impending impeachment proceedings against him were “ridiculous”.
He went on to claim that the move by Democrats to impeach him would arouse “immense anger” across the United States.
“This is the continuation of the biggest witch hunt in history… It is causing immense anger,” the president said from the White House gardens before flying to Texas for his first trip since the violence on Capitol Hill.
“I don’t want violence,” he added in his first statement to the press since the January 6 violence that stunned America and the world.
As the political turmoil continued eight days before the end of his term, the White House occupant adopted a combative tone, assuring that his virulent speech to his supporters before the storming of the Capitol was “quite appropriate” and denouncing the “catastrophic mistake” of social networks such as Twitter to suspend his account.
The FBI has warned of more potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Denial of responsibility
Trump’s denial of any role in fomenting last week’s insurrection comes despite his comments encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol — he called on them to “fight like hell” — and praise for them while they were still carrying out the assault.
In the days preceding the storming of Congress, he promised a “wild” rally to support his bogus claims of election fraud.
As lawmakers were tallying Electoral College votes affirming Biden’s victory, the pro-Trump mob — fresh from listening to the outgoing president’s speech — went on the rampage through the halls of Congress.
Lawmakers of both parties and Trump’s own vice president were rushed into hiding, as crowds called for Mike Pence’s lynching over the vice-president’s role overseeing the vote count. At least five people died, including one Capitol police officer.
Pompeo cancels visit
On Tuesday, Mike Pompeo, a loyal ally of Trump, cancelled his last visit abroad as Secretary of State just a day after it was announced. The official reason given was that he would stay in Washington DC to facilitate “smooth and orderly transition”.
Pompeo was due to travel to Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday to meet his Belgian counterpart Sophie Wilmès and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to, among other things, “underline the enduring importance of the transatlantic partnership”.
The president met with Vice President Mike Pence on Monday night, who has apparently decided to make a common front with him against the Democrats, rejecting calls to remove him from office with the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.
Democrats step up impeachment proceedings
In Congress, Democrats are preparing to make history with impeachment proceedings which would make Trump the first American president to be impeached twice.
The House will consider the indictment on Wednesday and is expected to vote on it that same day.
Backed by a large number of Democrats, and with possible support from Republicans, the indictment against Trump is expected to pass easily.
But doubts remain about the course, and outcome, of the trial that will then take place in the Senate which currently retains its Republican majority. The Democrats will take control of the upper house on 20 January but will need to rally many of the Republicans to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to convict him.
As long as they do not remove him from power, the Republicans’ “complicity” with the president will “endanger America,” Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Speaker, said on Monday.
In addition, a trial could hinder the Democrats’ legislative action at the start of Joe Biden’s presidency by monopolising Senate sessions.
President-elect Biden will be sworn in under heavy guard on January 20 on the steps of the Capitol, the seat of the US Congress.