WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump encouraged supporters who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday in protest of his reelection defeat to “remain peaceful,” but he did not call for them to disperse.
The seat of democracy descended into chaos when protesters overwhelmed police and bulled their way into the Capitol, forcing a delay of the joint session of Congress where lawmakers were counting electoral votes that will affirm Democrat Joe Biden’s White House victory two weeks before Inauguration Day.
Trump offered only a muted response to the violence as loyalists brandishing his paraphernalia clashed with police, occupied the Capitol and even stormed the Senate chamber.
Under growing pressure from allies to condemn the violence, Trump tweeted, “No violence!” adding: “Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue.”
The commander in chief did not ask supporters to vacate the area as the unrest continued.
Several hours later, Trump tweeted again.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he said. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
At a rally earlier, Trump had encouraged supporters to march on the Capitol and suggested at one point that he would join them on Capitol Hill. In his remarks, he used incendiary language with violent undertones.
Trump had urged his supporters to “get rid of the weak Congress people” — presumably through primary challenges. He said “get the weak ones get out. This is the time for strength.”
Republican lawmakers pleaded with Trump to do more to stop the violence. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California said he told the president to “calm individuals down.”
“I’ve already talked to the president,” MCarthy told Fox News. “I called him. I think we need to make a statement, make sure that we can calm individuals down.”
A Senate ally, Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, appealed directly to the White House: “Mr. President @realDonaldTrump the men & women of law enforcement are under assault. It is crucial you help restore order by sending resources to assist the police and ask those doing this to stand down.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., posted a video message urging Trump to “call it off.”
“This is Banana Republic crap that we’re watching right now,” said Gallagher, who had spoken out against objections from fellow Republicans to certifying the Electoral College vote that Biden won.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was ushered out of the Senate chamber to a secure location as protesters breached the building, tweeted for protesters to disperse.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now,” he said. “Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building.”
PIX11 contributed to this report.