Trump stands by inflammatory comments on Capitol riots

US President denies responsibility for the storming of the US Capitol, which led to calls for his impeachment

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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US President Donald Trump on Tuesday disavowed any responsibility for his supporters' violent siege on the US Capitol last week, saying his remarks at the time were appropriate.

"If you read my speech ... what I said was totally appropriate," he said at Joint Base Andrews when asked about any personal responsibility he had regarding the January 6 attack when his supporters stormed the Capitol with members of Congress and his  Vice President Mike Pence inside.

Mr Trump told reporters at the White House the prospect of impeachment is causing “tremendous anger” in the nation. But he said he wants “no violence”.

The president spoke as he left for Texas to inspect the wall on the border with Mexico. His remarks were his first to the media since the Capitol attack and he took no questions.

Mr Trump referenced the riots again during his speech touting the 450th mile of a segment of his administration’s still-incomplete wall along the US-Mexico border – but stopped short of directly condemning the mob.

"Millions of American citizens watched as a mob stormed the Capitol,” said Mr Trump. “We believe in respecting America’s history and traditions, not tearing them down. We believe in the rule of law, not in violence or rioting.”

On impeachment, Mr Trump said it’s “a really terrible thing that they’re doing”. But he said: “We want no violence. Never violence.”

Mr Trump faces a single charge – incitement of insurrection – in the impeachment resolution that the House will begin debating on Wednesday, a week before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20.

He did not take questions, but he addressed the efforts by the Democratic-led House of Representatives to impeach him for inciting last week’s deadly riots, calling it “absolutely ridiculous” and a “terrible thing”.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo predicted on Tuesday that Mr Trump’s legacy will not be defined by the riots but rather that “history will reflect on the good work that this president and our administration has done”.

In an interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show, a conservative radio programme, he said: "Those actions – the actual things that happened – will be reflected in a way that shows there was good work done on behalf of the American people".

Mr Trump’s role in instigating a mob of his supporters to march on the Capitol triggered a major backlash from Republicans and Democrats in Congress as well as from major corporations.

Two Cabinet secretaries resigned, citing the violence at the Capitol. But Mr Pompeo and other senior national security officials intend to remain in their roles for the final week of Mr Trump’s term.

“Look, what happened Wednesday was terrible. And I have said repeatedly that those folks who engaged in this activity need to be identified, prosecuted and they are criminals and ought to be treated as such,” Mr Pompeo said.

He did not criticise Mr Trump for encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol.

The FBI has warned of potential armed protests by Trump loyalists in Washington and elsewhere in the US before Mr Biden’s inauguration.

In a dark foreshadowing, the Washington Monument was closed to the public and the ceremony, on the west steps of the Capitol, will be off-limits to the public.

As the end of Mr Trump’s presidency draws near, Democrats and a growing number of Republicans have declared he is unfit for office and could do more damage after last week’s unrest.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot a woman during the violence.

Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

Mr Pence and Mr Trump met late on Monday for the first time since the Capitol attack.

They had a “good conversation”, pledging to continue working for what is left of their terms, a senior administration official said.

Mr Pence has given no indication he would invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr Trump from office.

No member of the Cabinet has publicly called for him to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment process.