Some Republicans placed the blame on President Trump after a group of his supporters besieged the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, voicing frustration with the president for fomenting the riot with his rhetoric about the election.
Within the span of just a few hours, what began as a rally to support the president descended into a mob that stormed the Capitol during the certification of the Electoral College vote, forcing lawmakers, staff and reporters to shelter in place in both the House and Senate. One woman was shot and later died.
Several in the GOP cited Trump’s refusal to concede to Joe Biden, his threats against fellow Republicans who disagreed with him and his insistence during his 70-minute speech that he wanted followers gathered on the National Mall to go to the Capitol in protest of what he said was a stolen election as the reason behind the violence.
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“We witnessed today the damage that can result when men in power and responsibility refuse to acknowledge the truth,” Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said from the Senate floor. “We saw bloodshed because a demagogue chose to spread falsehoods and sow distrust of his own fellow Americans. Let’s not abet such deception.”
In social media posts later removed by Facebook and Twitter, Trump – who has maintained, without evidence, that the election was rigged – told the rioters “we love you” and “you’re very special,” but asked them to “stay peaceful” and later to “go home.” Early Thursday morning, Trump promised there would be an “orderly transition of power” on Jan. 20 when Biden is inaugurated.
Republicans who have closely aligned themselves with the president over the past four years implored Trump to stand down.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a 2024 Republican hopeful, said it was “past time” for the president to accept defeat and released a statement calling on Trump to concede.
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“It’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people and repudiate mob violence,” Cotton said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump’s closest Capitol Hill allies, said “enough is enough” and told the president to “count me out.”
“Trump and I, we had a hell of a journey,” Graham said on the Senate floor Wednesday night. “I hate it being this way. Oh my God, I hate it … But today all I can say is count me out. Enough is enough. I tried to be helpful.”
Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Trump’s rhetoric “sure didn’t help” matters.
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“Certainly encouraging people to go to the Capitol and some of the sort of implied suggestions I think are you know … they just encourage the wrong behavior,” Thune said.
Asked whether he wanted to hear about what Trump said about the violence, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he “didn’t want to hear anything.”
“I think it was a tragic day,” Blunt said. “And he was part of it.”
Some of the president’s frequently outspoken critics were more direct, with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, calling the riot “an insurrection incited by the president of the United States.”
“We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride, and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,” Romney said. “What happened today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States.”