- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2021

President Trump said Thursday night that he is “outraged” by his supporters’ attack on the U.S. Capitol and called for “healing and reconciliation,” moving to stave off an avalanche of condemnation for his role in the attack.

In his first comments on the Capitol attack and on Congress’ certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s victory, Mr. Trump said serving as president “has been the honor of my lifetime.”

“We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high, but now tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” Mr. Trump said in a video address posted on his restored Twitter account. “We must get on with the business of America.”

He made the comments, which did not include his oft-repeated war cry that the Democrats “stole” the election, a day after he told a massive crowd of supporters in Washington that he would never concede the election.

Hours earlier, Mr. Trump strongly suggested that he would seek a second term in 2024. He eyed a political comeback as the walls of his current administration began to crumble with resignations and some conservatives openly questioned Mr. Trump‘s future role in the Republican Party.

Minutes after Congress verified Mr. Biden’s victory in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Mr. Trump sent out a statement at 3:49 a.m. that grudgingly acknowledged “the end of the greatest first term in presidential history.”

“It’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again,” he said.

Outside of Washington, Mr. Trump is a political force who received 75 million votes in November. In Ohio, former Rep. Jim Renacci, GOP chairman in Medina County, said the state is still solidly Trump country.

“It’s not a Republican state. It’s a Trump state,” Mr. Renacci said.

But inside his administration, the rebukes to Mr. Trump‘s leadership were growing in the aftermath of his supporters’ deadly storming of the Capitol on Wednesday.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao became the first Cabinet member to resign Thursday over the episode, saying the riot at the Capitol “has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

“Our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” she said.

Ms. Chao is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has blamed “unhinged criminals” for the incident. Her resignation is effective Monday.

At least four other administration officials have resigned in response to the assault on the Capitol, including Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger, and special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney, formerly the White House chief of staff.

“We didn’t sign up for what you saw” at the Capitol, Mr. Mulvaney said on CNBC. He said that Mr. Trump is “not the same as he was eight months ago.”

And former Attorney General William P. Barr condemned Mr. Trump in a scathing statement that blamed the president for inciting his supporters to violence.

“Orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable. The president’s conduct … was a betrayal of his office and supporters,” Mr. Barr said.

Vice President Mike Pence is furious with Mr. Trump for questioning his courage in failing to stop Congress from certifying Mr. Biden’s win in his role as president of the Senate, said Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican. Mr. Pence said he did not have the legal authority.

Amid growing calls in Congress for Mr. Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office as unfit, the president abruptly canceled plans to spend this weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland that he rarely visits, instead staying hunkered down at the White House.

White House officials did not give a reason for the canceled weekend getaway.

Mr. Trump‘s political future after leaving office suddenly seems less certain, in the wake of the riot and the GOP‘s losses in both Senate runoff races in Georgia on Tuesday, which threw control of the Senate to Democrats.

The president made what amounted to a courtesy call Thursday morning into the Republican National Committee meeting in Florida, and was met with applause and shouts of “We Love You!” from some members. He did not mention the episode at the Capitol.

“Unfortunately a lot of members are in denial, and want to say it was a small minority that stormed the Capitol and want to ignore the fact that it did great great damage to the party,” said Bill Palatucci, an RNC member from New Jersey.

“I think some of us who have been around a while have a very much more sober view of what took place. When a mob wearing red MAGA hats storms the Capitol, the vast majority of Americans think, ‘There are a bunch of Republicans supportive of the president ascending on, you know, the cathedral of democracy,’” he said.

Mr. Palatucci credited RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel for pushing members “to be mindful of the damage that has been done to the party and the brand.”

Mr. Trump endorsed Ms. McDaniel in November to stay in her post.

She appears to be on her way to keeping her job, but Vice Chair Tommy Hicks, another staunch Trump ally, could have a tougher time.

“Tommy Hicks, who is a very nice guy, was the White House’s emissary here, and was here to do their bidding,” Mr. Palatucci said. “That is over. I think most people feel, like I do, that it is time for the committee to reassert its independence and have a member as the co-chair.”

Rob Steele, an RNC member from Michigan, said the 2024 presidential race is “not on the radar yet,” and said there is “no upheaval within the RNC.”

Others in the GOP say they won’t abandon Mr. Trump over the storming of the Capitol. Freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, wore a MAGA hat during a TV interview on Thursday to demonstrate that the president’s supporters “should stand firm in their beliefs.”

“You don’t walk away from Make America Great Again or America First policies because bad actors get involved and try to hijack the movement and make it look horrible,” she said on Parler.

Bruce Ash, a former RNC member from Arizona, said the GOP is still Mr. Trump’s party because the positive aspects of his legacy outweigh the chaotic ending to his four years in office.

“Even if Donald Trump doesn’t decide to run for election again in 2024, the policies that he embraced and accomplishments he achieved were lifetime accomplishments for most conservatives. And even if it is not Donald Trump himself, if it is a new face of the GOP and the conservative movement, they are going to embrace those same achievements and those same principles,” he said.

Mr. Ash said Mr. Trump‘s actions likely cost the GOP the Senate seats in Georgia, but that he “would have to be the odds-on” favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 if he runs again.

Stuart Roy, a former aide to Mr. McConnell and to former Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, said the party should end its relationship with Mr. Trump.

“Given the desecration of the Capitol and loss of life, the loss of the presidency, loss of the Senate with the political malpractice in Georgia, and serious staff and Cabinet secretaries resigning, Trump seems to be losing his political grip on the party and the adults in the room are at work,” Mr. Roy said.

Still, he said, “it will be important to let Trump find his way to the exit and not be punitive once he’s gone.”

He said many “Republicans of good will voted for him, not backing his sometimes bizarre behavior but because they sincerely thought he was the best hope for conservative policies of individual freedom and limited government.”
But Mr. Roy thinks that time is ending, never to return.

“Let’s stand at the dock and wave goodbye to his presidency but be sure to destroy the mooring when we’re done,” he said.

Charlie Gerow, a member of the American Conservative Union, said he is still processing what comes next for the GOP after the election losses in Georgia and the mayhem at the Capitol.

“The raw emotions of yesterday are going to be felt for some time to come and that is going to impact everybody’s thinking, but the Republican Party clearly has a lot of work to do,” he said. “This is clearly not the best day in the history of the Republican Party.”

Tim Miller, who served as political director for Republican Voters Against Trump, said that it remains to be seen whether this shakes Mr. Trump‘s hold on voters.

“This is going to be voter driven — not by consultants in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Miller said.

He said the number of Republicans that have split with Mr. Trump is still relegated to a small group, surmising that members of the GOP are giving themselves an “out” in case Mr. Trump survives this controversy, just as he has survived others.

“I think it is fair to say he is weakened within the party over the past 48 hours, but it is way too early to say that he is out of the picture or he has disgraced himself in the eyes of Republican voters on anything like that,” Mr. Miller said. “We’ve been down this road before.”

S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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