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President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied all responsibility for last week's riot on Capitol Hill, saying his firery speech to his supporters before they marched on the Capitol was 'totally appropriate.'
In his first public remarks since Wednesday's MAGA storming of the Capitol, the president slammed Democrats, accusing them of creating 'tremendous danger' with their attempt to remove him from office but said repeatedly he wanted 'no violence.'
The president defended his speech at a rally on ellipse, where he encouraged his thousands of supporters to 'march' on the Capitol.
They did so, leaving five dead and a path of destruction in their wake in the form of busted windows, broken furniture and destroyed office space. Dozens have now been rounded up by police and FBI.
'If you read my speech - and many people have done it and I've seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television, it is been analyzed - and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,' he said as he boarded Air Force One to head for Alamo, Texas, on the Mexican border, to inspect his wall.
'They've analyzed my speech and my words and my final paragraph, my final sentence and everybody to a tee thought it was totally appropriate,' he continued. He offered no indication of who 'they' are; Democrats accuse him in their article of impeachment
Trump also denounced the Democrats' efforts, which has been joined by some Republicans, to remove him from office - and called it a 'danger,' not his supporters' actions.
But, he said he wanted no violence from his supporters. Trump reportedly had initially enjoyed the sight of his supporters on Capitol Hill last week, fighting for him to illegally take a second term in the White House. He changed his tune and called on them to stand down when he warned he could be held legally responsible for their actions.
'We want no violence, never violence. We want absolutely no violence,' he said repeatedly Tuesday before he left for Texas to tout the completion of a section of his border wall.
'And on the impeachment, it's really a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics. It's ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous. This impeachment is causing tremendous anger,' he said.
He denounced Democratic leaders but made no mention of the Republicans who have called on him to leave office.
'It's really a terrible thing that they're doing for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path. I think it's causing tremendous danger to our country, and it's causing tremendous anger, I want no violence,' he said.
Not resigning: Donald Trump spoke in public for the first time since the MAGA riots, taking no responsibility and ignoring a question about whether he would resign
'I want no violence.' Trump claimed he was not fomenting riots - but then said his impeachment, which the House votes on Wednesday, is 'causing tremendous anger'
Farewell: Trump's trip to Texas is the only scheduled time away from the White House between now and leaving office. He is widely expected to fly to Florida on January 19, the day before Joe Biden is sworn in
Off to Alamo (not that one): Trump boarded Marine One to head for the Mexican border in Texas the town of Alamo, which is named for The Alamo but about 200 miles from the site of the original
Out of the White House: Trump's flight to Air Force One will be one of his last trips from the South Lawn
Later Tuesday, the House will vote on legislation calling on Vice President Mike Pence to start the process to remove Trump via the 25th amendment. Pence is not expected to do so.
The House is expected to vote Wednesday on beginning another round of impeachment charges against Trump - this time for inciting the violence on Capitol Hill. Additionally the Justice Department has not ruled out bringing federal charges against the president.
Democrats have called on Trump to resign as have some Republicans including, Senator Pat Toomey and Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
At the end of Trump's remarks, he appeared to reference guidance he has received from attorneys and aides about the content of his Wednesday speech – which form the basis for the impeachment article charging him with 'incitement of insurrection.'
His comment follows reports that White House counsel Pat Cipollone had warned Trump that he faces potential legal exposure for the remarks he made to the crowd that went on to storm the Capitol.
Although Trump did not specifically tell anyone to break a window or trespass, he did tell them to 'fight,' that 'when you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules,' that 'we're going to have to fight much harder,' and that 'if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.'
He also spoke as if Vice President Mike Pence could make a difference in the outcome. 'If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,' Trump said - meaning overturning the Electoral College results, which Pence said he did not have the power to do.
The final substantive paragraph, which he defended, told his supporters that 'we' would march to the Capitol to 'take back our country.'
'So we are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue — I love Pennsylvania Avenue — and we are going to the Capitol. And we are going to try and give — the Democrats are hopeless, they are never voting for anything, not even one vote — but we are going to try to give our Republicans — the weak ones because the strong ones don't need any of our help — going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country,' Trump said. 'So let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.'
It is not known which group of lawyers are currently advising Trump on his role before the riots. Lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke before Trump at the rally, telling participants to engage in 'trial by combat.' Lawyer Cleta Mitchell was on the line during Trump's call to ask a Georgia election official to 'find' 11,780 votes, but she resigned from her firm in the aftermath.
Trump broke his public silence after revealing his false belief that 'ANTIFA people' were behind Wednesday's riot in a private call to the most senior Republican in the House - who claimed that the president does accept some blame for the unrest that killed five people.
And he also publicly contradicted Kevin McCarthy, the fiercely loyal House Minority Leader, who told House Republicans on Monday that Trump bears some blame for last week's deadly Capitol riots and has accepted some responsibility, Politico reported, citing four Republican sources on a private call.
That left McCarthy publicly embarrassed, at a time when his caucus is splitting over what to do about Trump and donors are deserting.
Trump's abdication of responsibility came amid mounting fears that the violence is not over.
On Monday evening lawmakers were briefed by law enforcement that there were three active plots, including one involving 4,000 'armed patriots' planning to surround Congress. They had been issued with 'rules of engagement,' Conor Lamb (D-PA) told CNN - meaning when they would shoot people.
Trump on Monday declared a state of emergency in D.C. amid ratcheting tensions over violent plots which could rock Capitol Hill ahead of Biden's inauguration.
The declaration allows the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate with local authorities as Democrats had been demanding.
Last week's chaos resulted in the deaths of four rioters and one Capitol Police officer from his wounds and the suicide of another; dozens of injuries; and extensive damage throughout the ransacked building.
McCarthy strongly pushed back against Trump's claim that the rioters were Left-wing agitators intent on discrediting Trump and his followers - a claim made by staunchly pro-Trump congressman Matt Gaetz, and repeated by Fox News' anchors and pundits.
'It's not ANTIFA, it's MAGA,' McCarthy replied, according to Axios.
Speaking again: Trump spoke to reporters as he prepared to board Air Force One for Texas, where he is inspecting his border wall
Not me: Trump denied all responsibility for the MAGA riot saying that it had been 'analyzed' and was 'appropriate.' He offered no suggestion for who provided the analysis
Is this the nuclear football? A military aide accompanied the president up the steps of Air Force one with two briefcases which appear similar to the book of command codes which Trump has access to. Late last week Nancy Pelosi sought assurances from Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that a 'deranged' president could not use them
Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, told Trump that he was wrong to blame ANTIFA for Wednesday's chaos
Trump on Wednesday had told his supporters they needed to 'fight' to overturn the election
People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday
Kevin McCarthy, the fiercely loyal House Minority Leader, told House Republicans on Monday that Trump bears some blame for last week's deadly Capitol riots. Pictured: McCarthy talks with President Donald Trump during an event in February 2020
'I know. I was there,' McCarthy said, according to a White House official and another source familiar with the call.
McCarthy later reiterated his position during a two-hour meeting with Republicans in the House, telling them there is 'undisputedly' no evidence that people linked to ANTIFA participated in the insurrection.
The theory that anti-Trump agitators stirred up the unrest has been decisively debunked. Those arrested so far for their part in the riots have in many cases a long and public history of supporting the president: none of those detained has been a supporter of ANTIFA.
Trump, during the tense 30 minute conversation with McCarthy on Monday morning, also continued to insist that the election had been stolen from him.
McCarthy, exasperated, told him: 'Stop it. It's over. The election is over.'