(CN) — Facing a historic second impeachment for inciting a violent mob to overtake the Capitol, embattled President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended the remarks he made at a rally just before the deadly insurrection.
“People thought what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said in his first public appearance since the attack, speaking to reporters before a trip to the border wall in Alamo, Texas.
The outgoing president added that his impending impeachment was “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”
Trump told thousands of supporters at his Jan. 6 “Save America” rally that they would need to “fight much harder” and “show strength” at the Capitol, where Congress was in the process of counting electoral votes to confirm that Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president on Jan. 20.
He also put pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to “do the right thing” by thwarting the certification, which Pence repeatedly told Trump he did not have the authority to do. The president has made baseless claims of voter fraud since the election and has been overwhelmingly unsuccessful in challenging the results in courts across the country.
As the riot unfolded, Trump sat in the White House watching the live footage with delight while terrified Congress members tried to reach him, as reported by The Washington Post. At the insistence of his aides, Trump appeared on camera to call off the siege, but he doubled down on his unproven claims of fraud and called the mob “very special,” adding “we love you.”
The Capitol was secured after six hours of mayhem and Pence presided over the Senate as Biden was declared the winner of November’s presidential election with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
Trump finally acknowledged the end of his presidency in a prepared speech delivered the next day, but the fallout from the unprecedented attack was just beginning.
The biggest blow landed on Jan. 8 when Twitter announced it was permanently suspending Trump’s account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” The ban essentially muzzled the president, who has used the platform to spout lies and attacks since 2011.
Several other social media sites followed suit in banning Trump, and the Professional Golf Association pulled out of holding the 2022 PGA Championship at his New Jersey golf course.
After spending several days holed up in the White House seething, Trump’s Tuesday trip to the largely unfinished border wall was meant to project an image of his administration’s success in following through on his biggest 2016 campaign promise.
But the president used the media attention to label the Black Lives Matter movement as “the real problem,” referring to last summer’s racial justice protests that stemmed from the murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed while in Minneapolis police custody.
While Trump was making his way to the border wall, The Washington Post reported that the FBI had issued a warning about the likelihood of extremists coming together to wage “war” in Washington the day before the violent attack that killed five people, including a Capitol Police officer.
“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C.,” the document obtained by the Post said. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their [Black Lives Matter] and [Antifa] slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.’”