Trump, Glued to TV, Ignored Pleas To Call Off Riot
Donald Trump was so transfixed watching the riot he incited at the U.S. Capitol play out on television that he ignored repeated pleas from members of Congress, family and aides to do anything substantive to end it.
Hiding from the rioters in a secret location away from the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appealed to Jared Kushner. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter. Kellyanne Conway called an aide who she knew was standing at the president’s side. It was all for naught. Nobody could get through to him.
“He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” one close Trump adviser told The Washington Post. “If it’s TiVo, just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”
Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive.
“It took him awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation,” Graham said in an interview. “The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen.”
The Post reports that “if the president didn’t appear to understand the magnitude of the crisis, those in his orbit did. Conway immediately called a close personal aide who she knew was with the president, and said she was adding her name to the chorus of people urging Trump to speak to his supporters. He needed to tell them to stand down and leave the Capitol, she told the aide.”
Ivanka Trump went to the Oval Office as soon as the seriousness of the riot became clear. Graham was able to reach her on her cellphone and implored her for help. “They were all trying to get him to speak out, to tell everyone to leave,” Graham said.
Even as his supporters at the Capitol chanted for Pence to be hanged, Trump never called the vice president to check on him or his family.
Meanwhile, in the West Wing, a small group of aides — including Ivanka Trump, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and chief of staff Mark Meadows — was imploring Trump to speak out against the violence. Shortly after 2:30 p.m., the group finally persuaded Trump to send a tweet: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” he wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
But the Twitter missive was insufficient, and the president had not wanted to include the final instruction to “stay peaceful,” according to one person familiar with the discussions.
Ultimately Trump recorded three takes of a video but went off script, ad libbing his own description of the domestic terrorists as being “very special.”