Donald Trump has performed a dramatic U-turn by condemning the violent mob of his own supporters who stormed the US Capitol building, provoking anger from backers who “risked their lives” for him in Washington DC.
In a desperate bid to prevent Congress certifying November’s election results and confirming Joe Biden as the country’s 46th leader, the president encouraged a march on the heart of American democracy.
But on Thursday evening, in the aftermath of the first invasion of the Capitol since 1814 and amid fresh calls for his impeachment or removal from office by invocation of the 25th Amendment to the US constitution, Mr Trump adopted a very different stance.
“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem,” he said in a brief video message, saying the Make America Great Again (Maga) faithful had “defiled the seat of American democracy”.
“To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country,” he said. “To those who broke the law, you will pay.”
The sudden volte-face from the president was met by anger among those who said they had travelled to DC to support his “Stop the Steal” rally.
“Get f***ed. Seriously. I am now saying it. F*** TRUMP,” reacted Reddit user KAG_2020_BB.
“He’s disrespected everything we risked our lives for.
“I have a right to dislike Trump for this video … I respected Trump for everything he did for us, but he has now abandoned us and disrespected everything we believe in. I have a right to be angry. He can go f*** himself in this video.”
Shocking scenes of pro-Trump rioters breaking into the legislative complex and engaging in acts of looting and vandalism were shared around the world, with many of the self-styled “revolutionaries” involved known to be associated with extremist movements, such as the Proud Boys and QAnon, and seen bearing weapons and far-right symbols including Confederate flags and Third Reich insignia.
Five people have now died as a result of the chaos that broke out before Capitol Hill police could restore order. Frightened representatives were evacuated from Congress before returning to complete their duties in the early hours of Thursday morning, formally confirming Mr Biden’s 306-232 electoral college victory over Mr Trump.
Before their assault on the Capitol, the rioters had attended a rally nearby in which speakers including President Trump, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, had riled up the crowd by insisting that the election had been “stolen” from them, despite their efforts to challenge the outcome resulting in 60 legal defeats across the country. Evidence to support their conspiracy theories about corrupt local officials tearing up ballots and manipulating voting machines failed to materialise.
“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” Mr Trump had told the crowd, speaking with the White House as his backdrop and promoting the Republicans who had pledged to voice their objections to the certification process.
“We will never give up. We will never concede.”
Mr Trump’s abrupt about-face was also echoed by the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, who said the would-be insurrectionists represented “the opposite of everything this administration stands for”.
Equally angry was user ConfiscateTheCoats, who wrote on the forum: “F*** Donald Trump. This f***ing piece of s*** dragged us into DC for what? To leave us holding the bag? What the f***.”
Their sentiments were shared by many others, including the user bck-, who commented: “Wow, what an absolute punch in the gut.”
“He says it’s going to be wild, and when it gets wild, he calls it a heinous attack and middle-fingers to his supporters that he told to be there. Unbelievable.”
Another user, named Toughsky_Shitsky, said: “Thousands exerted time, money, and emotion on his request to travel to DC and let their voices be heard in support of fair elections and in support of Trump … only to get a rusty sheave [shiv] in the back when they act like free people in a free nation.”
“Really feel let down. Just when the pot was about to boil over,” added Kentastic.
Others observed that the president “looks like a hostage reading a prepared script” in the video, while DukeDicky spoke for many disappointed and disillusioned Trump supporters when he branded the situation “the final betrayal”.
But their dismay was not unanimous, with some loyalists on Twitter clinging to the fact that the president has still not publicly conceded to Mr Biden, while others fantasised about a last-minute military coup materialising to restore Mr Trump to the presidency for a second term.