As a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and sent lawmakers scrambling for their lives, Trump tweeted at 2:38 p.m. ET that day: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” The tweet came 20 minutes after Trump supporters were smashing through windows and evacuations of lawmakers had begun.
The former official, who was working in the West Wing and was close to White House messaging during the insurrection, said Trump did not want to include the words “stay peaceful” and was “very reluctant to put out anything when it was unfolding.” Trump was “letting it play out,” the official said of the violence at the Capitol.
Top Trump aides – including the then-President’s daughter, Ivanka, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – were pleading with Trump to call off the mob, the ex-aide said. Those officials eventually convinced Trump to include the “stay peaceful” message in the tweet about the Capitol Police, the former aide added.
A Trump spokesperson denied that Trump resisted including the “stay peaceful” message in the tweet.
The former staffer’s account that Trump was resisting the “stay peaceful” portion of the tweet runs counter to excuses given by Trump allies that the then-President was urging his supporters to avoid violent acts in their protest of the January 6 certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Trump’s reluctance to issue a forceful message was an indication he understood the impact that his Twitter account had on his supporters, the ex-aide said.
The former official, who relayed the account to the House select committee investigating January 6,, says congressional investigators are requesting specific information from Trump staffers who are cooperating with the probe.
Aides are being asked about the days leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol, conversations among key officials, and minute-by-minute details about what was happening behind closed doors at the White House, the ex-official added.
The former official, who declined to be named out of fear of retaliation, described January 6 as “one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.”
Other Trump staffers described the then-President as enjoying the mob violence as he watched live TV coverage of the insurrection at the Capitol. Trump was “loving” it, a separate former senior White House official said.
Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who was working as the chief of staff to the first lady on January 6, 2021, told CNN Thursday that Trump was “gleefully” watching television coverage of the riot.
Trump’s actions and inactions during the Capitol attack have become a major line of inquiry for the January 6 select committee.
Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s top Republican, has said the panel already has obtained testimony establishing that senior Trump aides attempted to prod the then-President to do more.
“He could have told them to stand down. He could have told them to go home, and he failed to do so,” Cheney said of Trump.
“We have firsthand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence,” she continued.
That “stay peaceful” tweet was posted 14 minutes following a separate Trump tweet assailing then-Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to overturn the 2020 election results.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” Trump tweeted from his @realDonaldTrump account, which has since been permanently suspended by Twitter.