Yesterday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Republicans in Congress that he had spoken with President Trump, who in turn expressed remorse and responsibility for whipping up a mob that stormed the Capitol. “I asked him personally today if he holds responsibility for what happened, if he feels bad about what happened,” McCarthy recounted. “He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened.”
This surprising and delightful conversation between the two men, while extremely useful for McCarthy’s efforts to prevent his members from supporting a second impeachment, nonetheless sounded a bit strange. The admission of error is a rather uncharacteristic move for Trump, unless the error is confessing excessive trust and generosity toward his enemies.
And so, today, when Trump appeared before the media, he did not sound at all like the version McCarthy presented yesterday. Trump told the press that he accepted no responsibility for the riot and that his speech — like his 2019 phone call extorting Ukraine’s president — was perfect. “So 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’s been analyzed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” he explained.
In that perfect speech, Trump exhorted his crowd, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” Unsurprisingly, many of the radicals in the crowd interpreted his demand for “strength” as a request that they use force.
Trump also insisted that impeaching him for inciting his supporters to commit violence would merely incite them to commit more violence:
This impeachment is causing tremendous anger. And you’re doing it, and 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 wants no violence. He’s just giving the sort of friendly warning a gangster might give a shopkeeper. Nobody wants violence. Give the man what he demands, and there won’t be any.