Donald Trump’s Misleading Claims Regarding the Attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump said during a debate with President Joe Biden last week that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol involved a “relatively small” group of people who were “in many cases brought in by the police.”

But that didn’t happen. Thousands of his supporters were outside the Capitol that day, and hundreds broke in, many of them beating and wounding law enforcement officers in brutal melee as officers tried to stop them from storming through windows and doors. There is ample video evidence of the violence, and more than 1,400 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot.

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Many of those who broke into the Capitol repeated Trump’s false claims of election fraud, and some menacingly shouted the names of lawmakers — particularly then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to try to challenge Biden’s rightful victory. The riot interrupted the certification of Biden’s victory, but lawmakers who had evacuated both chambers returned that night to finish.

Trump, now the presumptive Republican nominee to challenge Biden, not only continued to mislead voters about what happened that day, but also heaped praise on the rioters, calling them “hostages” and promising them a pardon if he were elected.

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Let’s take a look at some of his false claims:

“Peacefully and patriotically”

CLAIM: During the debate, Trump was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper what he would say to any voter “who feels he has violated his constitutional oath by his actions, by his inaction on January 6, 2021, and is afraid he will do it again?” Trump simply replied, “Well, I didn’t say that to anybody. I said it peacefully and patriotically.”

THE FACTS: In a speech to thousands of supporters on the White House Ellipse the morning of Jan. 6, Trump did tell the crowd to march “peacefully and patriotically” to the Capitol. But he also used much more inflammatory language as he improvised other parts of the speech, such as telling the crowd, “We’re fighting like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

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Trump did not respond to Tapper’s question about his inaction when his supporters breached the building and injured police officers. More than three hours passed between the time his supporters violently breached the Capitol grounds and Trump’s first attempt to force the rioters to disperse. At 4:17 p.m. that day, he posted a video message in which he asked his supporters to go home but assured them, “We love you, you are very special.”

Some rioters facing criminal charges have told the court they believed they were following Trump’s instructions on Jan. 6. Evidence presented at the trials shows that far-right extremists were mobilized by Trump’s tweet inviting his supporters to a “wild” protest on Jan. 6. “He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to do it wildly!!!” wrote one Oath Keepers member, who was convicted of conspiracy to incite a sedition.

The police “let them in”

CLAIM: Trump said during the debate, “They’re talking about a relatively small number of people who went to the Capitol. And in many cases, they were ushered in by police.” The next day, Trump said at a rally, “So many of these people were asked to come in, right? Police: ‘Come in, come in, come in.’”

THE FACTS: More than 100 Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers were injured, some seriously, as they tried to stop rioters from entering the Capitol. In some cases, police retreated or gave way when overwhelmed by the aggressive, advancing crowd, but there is no evidence that any rioters were “herded” into the building.

IN internal note Last year, U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said the accusation that “our officers were aiding and abetting rioters and acting as ‘tourist guides’” was “outrageous and false.” Manger said police were completely overwhelmed and outnumbered, and in many cases resorted to de-escalation tactics to convince rioters to leave the building.

The Capitol Police said in a statement this week that “under extreme circumstances, our officers carried out their duties to the best of their ability to protect Members of Congress. With the assistance of multiple law enforcement agencies and the National Guard, which more than doubled the number of officers on the scene, it took several hours to secure the United States Capitol. Ultimately, thanks to the sacrifices of our officers, no one they were assigned to protect was injured and the legislative process continued.”

National Guard response

CLAIM: Trump said he offered Pelosi 10,000 National Guard troops, which she “now admits she turned down.” Referring to a recording Pelosi’s daughter made that day, Trump claimed Pelosi said, “I take full responsibility for January 6th.”

THE FACTS: Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed that he offered National Guard troops to the Capitol and that his offer was rejected. He has previously said that he signed an order to send 20,000 troops to the Capitol.

Although Trump was involved in discussions about calling in the National Guard before the joint session in the days leading up to Jan. 6, he did not issue an order or formal request before or during the riot, and the Guard’s arrival was delayed for several hours as Pentagon officials considered how to proceed.

In a 2022 interview with a Democratic House of Representatives committee investigating the attack, Christopher Miller, then acting defense secretary, confirmed there was no presidential order.

The Capitol Police Board decides whether to call in National Guard troops to the Capitol, and two members of the board — the House sergeant at arms and the Senate sergeant at arms — decided in informal talks not to call in the Guard before the joint session that was ultimately shut down by Trump supporters, despite a request from the Capitol Police. The House sergeant at arms reports to the speaker of the House, who was then Pelosi, and the Senate sergeant at arms reports to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. However, Pelosi’s office said it was never informed of the request.

The board ultimately requested security guard assistance after the riot began, and Pelosi and McConnell called the Pentagon and pleaded for military assistance. Pence, who was in a secure location inside the building, also called the Pentagon to request reinforcements.

IN video recently released by House Republicans, Pelosi is seen in the backseat of a car on January 6, talking to an aide. In the raw video recorded by her daughter, Pelosi angrily asks her aide why the National Guard wasn’t at the Capitol when the riot began. “Why wasn’t the National Guard there at all?” she asks.

“We had no responsibility for what happened there, and we should have, it’s ridiculous,” Pelosi says, while her aide responds that law enforcement officials believed they had enough resources. “They clearly didn’t know, and I take responsibility for not telling them to just prepare for more,” Pelosi says in the video.

There is no record of Trump’s request, and Pelosi never said she took “full responsibility for January 6th.”

Pelosi spokesman Ian Krager said in a statement that Trump’s repeated comments about Pelosi are a revisionist departure from history.

“Multiple independent fact-checkers have repeatedly confirmed that Speaker Pelosi did not plan her own attack on January 6,” Krager said. “The Speaker of the House is not responsible for the security of the Capitol complex — on January 6 or any other day of the week.”

“Innovative” rioters

CLAIM: Trump told Biden during the debate: “What they did to some such innocent people, you should be ashamed of yourself, what you did, how you destroyed so many people’s lives.”

THE FACTS: Echoing Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, Capitol rioters engaged in hand-to-hand combat with police, with many rioters carrying weapons including firearms, knives, gloves with brass knuckles, a pitchfork, an axe, a sledgehammer and a bow. They also used makeshift weapons including flagpoles, a table leg, a hockey stick and a crutch to attack officers. Officers were bruised and bloodied, and some were dragged into the crowd and beaten. One officer was crushed by a door frame, and another suffered a heart attack when a rioter put a stun gun to his neck and shocked him repeatedly. One rioter was charged with climbing scaffolding and firing into the air during the brawl.

Rioters broke through windows and doors, ransacked the Capitol and briefly occupied the Senate chamber. Senators had evacuated minutes earlier. They also tried to break into the House chamber, smashing glass windows and pounding on doors. But police stopped them with drawn weapons.

About 900 rioters were convicted, with about two-thirds receiving prison sentences ranging from several days to 22 years. Hundreds of people who entered the Capitol but did not attack police or damage the building were charged only with misdemeanors.

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