As House Republicans defended President Donald Trump from impeachment for inciting an insurrection that led to the sacking of the U.S. Capitol and five deaths, Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) denounced the proceedings for failing to call any witnesses.
“Has any one of those individuals who brought violence on this Capitol been brought here to answer whether they did that because of our president?” Mast asked. He then waited silently for 20 seconds for an answer, even though House rules did not permit other members to speak during his time. He added, “It appears I will receive no answer.”
Mast’s stunt was meant to prove that insurrectionists weren’t motivated by Trump. But they were ― they’ve said so.
Numerous insurrectionists have stated that they came to Washington, marched on the Capitol and stormed it on Trump’s orders. These statements can be read or heard in statements of facts and affidavits from the Department of Justice, on-the-ground news reports and interviews conducted after the insurrection, and from the livestreamed footage that the rioters took themselves.
“Our president wants us here,” a man live-streaming from inside the Capitol building said, according to a New York Times report. “We wait and take orders from our president.”
“The President asked for his supporters to be there to attend, and I felt like it was important, because of how much I love this country, to actually be there,” Larry Brock Jr., an Air Force veteran who was seen on the floor of the Senate in a helmet and fatigues while holding flex-cuffs, told The New Yorker. (Brock was later arrested.)
“He said, ‘Hey, I need my digital soldiers to show up on January 6.’ And we all did,” Doug Sweet, a 58-year old who stormed the Capitol and was later arrested, told The Wall Street Journal.
Jacob Chansley, the spear-carrying and fur hat-wearing insurrectionist known as the Q Shaman, reportedly came with a group of “patriots” from Arizona, according to prosecutors, “at the request of the President.”
“My client had heard the oft-repeated words of President Trump,” Al Watkins, Chansley’s lawyer, said in a press release that also asked Trump to pardon Chansley. “The words and invitation of a president are supposed to mean something.”
Robert Sanford, an ex-firefighter who threw a fire extinguisher at police officers at the Capitol, was reportedly “following the President’s instructions,” according to a friend who reported Sanford to the FBI.
“We were invited here!” one insurrectionist can be seen in a live video yelling into a bullhorn on the Capitol steps. “We were invited by the president of the United States!”
At one point, insurrectionists confronted police officers, according to an on-the-ground report in The New Yorker, and one man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat told the officers to “stand down.”
“You’re outnumbered,” the man said. “There’s a fucking million of us out there, and we are listening to Trump — your boss.”
“There’s a lot of people here willing to take orders,” a man named Jeff told a New York Times reporter on the scene. “If the orders are given, the people will rise up.”
Some insurrectionists stated their intent to follow Trump’s orders much earlier. For example, Daniel Goodwyn, a member of the Proud Boys, a far-right street fighting gang, quoted Trump’s statement to Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by!” in a tweet on Nov. 7 before writing, “Await orders from our Commander in Chief.” This tweet was included as evidence in the charging documents after Goodwyn was arrested for entering the Capitol during the insurrection.
This should not be surprising at all. For months, Trump and his allies fed his supporters lies that the election was stolen and then called on them to come to Washington and take part in stopping Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
This started at the “Save America” rally on the National Mall, where Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell” or else “you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
“[Y]ou’ll never take back your country with weakness,” Trump added. “You have to show strength and be strong.”
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer and the former mayor of New York City, called for a “trial by combat” to keep Trump in power.
At a far-right rally the night before, Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by the president on Dec. 8, told rally-goers to “bleed” for freedom.
“The members of the House of Representatives, the members of the United States Senate, those of you who are feeling weak tonight, those of you that don’t have the moral fiber in your body, get some tonight,” Flynn said, according to The New York Times. “Because tomorrow, we the people are going to be here and we want you to know we will not stand for a lie.”
When the insurrectionists breached the Capitol, they called out for blood. “Hang Mike Pence!” they shouted after Trump tweeted that his own vice president would not violate the U.S. Constitution and dismiss the electors from enough states to install Trump for a second term. Pence reportedly escaped running into the mob by a matter of seconds.
They called for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s head. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) later said she had a close encounter with the mob where she believed she might die.
After the insurrectionists beat their way past the police, killing one in the process, and forced their way onto the floor of the Senate, one of them strode to the top tier of the Senate dais where the presiding officer sat and took the seat that Pence had occupied just minutes before, according to The New Yorker.
From there, he declared, “Donald Trump is the emperor of the United States.”