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Trump deflects blame for Jan. 6 silence, says he wanted to march to Capitol

The Boston Globe 4/7/2022 Josh Dawsey
Federal authorities are in the preliminary stages of investigating the handling of classified material found at former President Donald J. Trump in Florida home after he left office, people familiar with the matter said on April 7, 2022. © BRITTANY GREESON Federal authorities are in the preliminary stages of investigating the handling of classified material found at former President Donald J. Trump in Florida home after he left office, people familiar with the matter said on April 7, 2022.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former president Donald Trump voiced regret Wednesday over not marching to the US Capitol the day his supporters stormed the building, and he defended his long silence during the attack by claiming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others were responsible for ending the deadly violence.

“I thought it was a shame, and I kept asking why isn’t she doing something about it? Why isn’t Nancy Pelosi doing something about it? And the mayor of D.C. also. The mayor of D.C. and Nancy Pelosi are in charge,” Trump said of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in a 45-minute interview with The Washington Post. “I hated seeing it. I hated seeing it. And I said, ‘It’s got to be taken care of,’ and I assumed they were taking care of it.”

The 45th president has repeatedly deflected blame for stoking the attack with false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and in the interview, he struck a defiant posture, refusing to say whether he would testify before a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault. Trump said he didn’t remember “getting very many” phone calls that day, and he denied removing call logs or using burner phones.

Trump also said he had spoken during his presidency with Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A seven-hour gap in Trump’s phone records on Jan. 6, and Ginni Thomas’s texts to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urging the White House to fight the election results, have both come under scrutiny by the Jan. 6 committee.

During the attack, Trump watched television, criticized then-Vice President Mike Pence, and made calls pushing lawmakers to overturn the election as the violent mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol. He was eventually persuaded by lawmakers, family members, and others to release a video asking his supporters to go home — 187 minutes after he urged them to march to the Capitol during a rally near the White House. He was described by advisers as excited about the event.

Trump, speaking Wednesday afternoon at his beachfront club, said he did not regret urging the crowd to come to Washington with a tweet stating that it would “be wild!” He also stood by his incendiary and false rhetoric about the election at the Ellipse rally before the rioters stormed the Capitol. “I said peaceful and patriotic,” he said, omitting other comments that he made in a speech that day.

In fact, Trump said he deserved more credit for drawing such a large crowd to the Ellipse — and that he pressed to march on the Capitol with his supporters but was stopped by his security detail. “Secret Service said I couldn’t go. I would have gone there in a minute,” he said.

The former president praised organizers of the rally, some of whom have now received subpoenas from federal authorities, and repeatedly bragged about the size of the crowd on the Ellipse, when questioned about the events of Jan. 6.


Video: Trump’s violent call: See Jan. 6 rally leader confronted over march on the Capitol (MSNBC)

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On at least a dozen occasions in the interview, Trump blamed Pelosi for the events of Jan. 6. On that day, Pelosi was taken to a secure location and worked with some of Trump’s top military officials and others to help secure the building. Trump supporters stormed her office and vowed to hurt her, with some shouting for her by name.

Pelosi does not have total control over the Capitol Police, as Trump alleged, but shares control of the Capitol with the Senate majority leader. Most decisions on securing the Capitol are made by a police board. He also blamed the D.C. mayor, whose advisers furiously tried to reach Trump’s team that day.

“The former president’s desperate lies aside, the speaker was no more in charge of the security of the US Capitol that day than Mitch McConnell,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi.

Trump said he had not been contacted by the Jan. 6 committee and added that he didn’t know what he would do if he were. “It depends what the request is,” he said. He has repeatedly invoked executive privilege in a bid to block the committee from seeing documents.

He said the committee’s interview with his daughter Ivanka Trump for eight hours this week was a “shame and harassment,” though he insisted he did not know what she had told the members. He said he also did not know what her husband, Jared Kushner, had told the committee, and that he had offered the couple “privilege” if they wanted it. They declined, Trump said.

Trump said he had not destroyed any call logs from the afternoon of Jan. 6 and took part in no phone calls on “burner phones,” even though there is a large gap in his White House phone logs. Trump said that he remembered talking to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, and other people during that period. He said he had a “very good” memory but could not say exactly who he talked to that afternoon, or when.

Trump also delved into foreign policy, lashing into NATO for not doing more to help Ukraine — Trump has repeatedly lampooned the organization — and said he’d threatened NATO leaders during a 2018 meeting in Brussels, a notion his advisers denied vigorously at the time.

When asked whether he had changed his mind on Ukraine, a country he regularly criticized as president, he began speaking about his impeachment trial that was launched after he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son Hunter Biden and find an e-mail server.

Trump offered few ideas for what he would do to end the war between Russia and Ukraine. He said he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was a savvy negotiator for sending troops to the Ukrainian border but thought he “overplayed his hand” by invading the country.

Trump repeated unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, saying new findings from Georgia would emerge next week. He said they would be released by a group called True the Vote and would show millions of illegal votes, but he offered no proof.

He sought during much of the interview to tout his political supremacy inside the Republican Party, which remains strong but has faded in recent months. Trump appeared preoccupied with the notion that his grip on the GOP is not as strong as it once was, beginning the interview with a long riff about how popular he was within the GOP.

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