US President Donald Trump. Picture: Reuters/Erin Scott
US President Donald Trump. Picture: Reuters/Erin Scott

Washington — President Donald Trump called on violent protesters who stormed the US Capitol to “stay peaceful” — but didn’t explicitly tell them to leave — after earlier urging thousands of his supporters to march on the building to protest congressional certification of his re-election defeat.

Trump asked protesters to refrain from violence in tweets on Wednesday afternoon after his supporters breached the Capitol building, disrupting the certification of Electoral College votes and forcing lawmakers to flee.

Earlier in the day, Trump held a rally near the White House, where he repeated his false claims that his loss to Joe Biden was due to vote fraud.

At the rally, Trump encouraged protesters to go to the Capitol and support members of Congress who planned to object to some Electoral College votes. He also tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the certification, “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our constitution”.

Pence, who evacuated from the Senate chamber as protesters broke into the Capitol, vowed that they would be prosecuted.

A handful of Trump’s former top aides, including his former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former communications director Alyssa Farah, implored Trump on Twitter to condemn the violence and speak more directly to his followers to de-escalate their invasion of the Capitol.

“The president’s tweet is not enough. He can stop this now and needs to do exactly that. Tell these folks to go home,” Mulvaney wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Senator Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s fiercest supporters on Capitol Hill who is leading a group of lawmakers to contest Biden’s victory, also called on protesters to stop.

“Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW. The constitution protects peaceful protest, but violence — from left or right — is ALWAYS wrong,” Cruz tweeted.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a tweet that Trump had deployed the National Guard.



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