Donald Trump has condemned supporters who rioted at the US Capitol and conceded to US president-elect Joe Biden for the first time.
Trump, who as recently as Thursday morning had continued to claim falsely that the election had been stolen from him, said that “serving as your president has been the honour of my lifetime” in a video released on Thursday evening.
The president condemned Wednesday’s violence, saying rioters had defiled the seat of American democracy, and said his focus would now turn to ensuring a smooth transition.
Trump was returning from his forced Twitter hiatus with a nearly three-minute video in which he acknowledged that “a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20”.
Trump said his months-long crusade to overturn the election results was merely an effort “to ensure the integrity of the vote”.
The statement was a stark reversal for Trump, who has spent months insisting he prevailed in the November 3 election due to widespread fraud, despite no evidence.
Trump’s remarks arrived after top Democrats called for his removal from office following Wednesday’s violence.
A short time later, Trump’s education secretary Betsy DeVos became the latest high-ranking official to quit her post over the attack.
DeVos resigned after saying the president’s rhetoric was the “inflection point” for the attack on the Capitol, with transportation secretary Elaine Chao and the US special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney earlier stepping aside from their positions.
Trump did not address his role in inciting the violence in his video. But he did tell his supporters that, while he knows they are “disappointed”, he wanted them to know “our incredible journey is only just beginning”.
It came hours after House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump should immediately be removed from office or Congress may proceed to impeach him.
Pelosi joined those calling on the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to force Trump from office.
Members of Congress were forced into hiding, offices were ransacked, and the formal congressional count of Electoral College votes was halted for more than six hours during the attack
Earlier, Biden condemned Wednesday’s riots in scathing terms, blaming Trump for “inciting” his supporters with his false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen.
Speaking on Thursday in an appearance announcing his appointments to lead the Department of Justice, Biden condemned the pro-Trump rioters as “insurrectionists” and “domestic terrorists”.
“They weren’t protesters,” he declared. “Don’t dare call them protesters.”
Biden also slammed Trump, blaming him for “inciting a mob to attack the Capitol to threaten elected representatives of the people of this nation, and even the vice president, to stop the Congress ratifying the will of the American people and a just-completed, free and fair election”.
Trump was “trying to use a mob to silence the voices of nearly 160 million Americans who summoned the courage in the face of a pandemic that threatened their health and their lives and cast that sacred ballot”, Biden continued.
He commended the multiple judges for rejecting Trump’s lawsuits challenging the election results, arguing that they showed the enduring importance of the country’s democratic institutions.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.