(CNN) — Hours after rioters overran the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, then-President Donald Trump released a video message to them.
Even at the time, it was weird. Here’s the transcript (bolding is mine):
“I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.
“It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil.
“I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.”
I still remember watching his statement on Twitter on January 6 and thinking: “This is the best he could come up with?” After all, the Capitol had just seen an armed insurrection that left several people dead and more than 100 police officers wounded. (Since then, more than 840 people have been arrested in connection with the attack that day.)
And Trump was telling those people that he loved them and that they were “very special”? Not to mention repeating the same lies about the election (“We had an election that was stolen from us”) that led to the insurrection in the first place?
Turns out, Trump wasn’t sorry about the tone of his remarks that day. And in a speech he gave the following day, he wanted to even more explicitly express his support for the rioters.
As CNN reported Thursday morning of outtakes from the speech Trump gave on January 7, 2021:
“They show Trump having a difficult time working through the effort to tape the message. Trump refused to say the election results had been settled and attempted to call the rioters patriots. He also went to great lengths to not accuse them of any wrongdoing.”
The speech Trump ultimately gave was brief (under three minutes) and largely conciliatory.
“A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20,” he said. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of powers. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
But we now know that wasn’t the speech he initially wanted to give. Instead, he wanted to continue to raise questions about the elections and to praise the people who, roughly 24 hours before, had overrun the Capitol.
That’s broadly consistent with Trump’s approach to both January 6 and the 2020 election in the intervening 18 months.
Earlier this spring, Trump told The Washington Post about marching to the Capitol on January 6: “I would have gone there in a minute.” Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified to the House select committee investigating the insurrection that Trump approved of the “hang Mike Pence” chants from the rioters after the vice president refused to attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. And of course, on a near-daily basis, Trump sends out unfounded missives about how the last election was stolen from him.
What’s so revealing about the latest reporting about the aftermath of the Capitol riot is that it affirms something we’ve had hints of before: Trump didn’t grasp (or didn’t care to grasp) the severity of what happened on January 6. He didn’t see it as an attack on our democracy. Instead, he viewed it as an expression of patriotic fervor.
He didn’t get it then. He doesn’t get it now. And he’s very likely to be the Republican nominee for president comes 2024. Sit with that for a minute.