Former President Trump on Thursday defended his supporters who laid siege to the U.S. Capitol on January 6 in an attack that resulted in five deaths, arguing they posed "zero threat." Lawmakers were inside the Capitol that day to confirm the Electoral College results certifying Joe Biden's presidential victory.
"It was zero threat. Right from the start, it was zero threat," Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham.
The flood of rioters who broke into the Capitol crushed through windows and pressed up stairways, and sent lawmakers and law enforcement running for their lives. Some of the rioters may have sought to harm or assassinate lawmakers present, according to court documents, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who was present at the Capitol to preside over the certification of election results.
The assault led to five deaths, including that of a Capitol police officer who died due to injuries sustained during the riots. Two West Virginia men were arrested for allegedly assaulting the officer, Brian Sicknick. They are accused of spraying police officers with a chemical spray.
Approximately 140 Capitol and Metropolitan police officers were seriously harmed, with Capitol Police union leader Gus Papathanasiou saying in a statement in January that injuries included cracked ribs, brain injuries, smashed spinal disks and one officer losing an eye. Two Capitol Police officers present that day died by suicide after the riots.
Mr. Trump did acknowledge that some people "went in [to the Capitol], they shouldn't have done it." But he slammed federal law enforcement for "persecuting" the Capitol rioters, complaining that "nothing happens" to left-wing protesters.
He also falsely claimed that the insurrectionists had "great relationships" with law enforcement.
"Some of them went in and they're, they're hugging and kissing the police and the guards. You know, they had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in and then they walked in and they walked out," Mr. Trump said.
Officers were verbally abused by rioters, many of whom belonged to white nationalist groups. Officer Harry Dunn, a Black Capitol Police officer, told The New York Times last month that rioters repeatedly used racial slurs against him.
Mr. Trump delivered a speech at a rally before the attack, urging his supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn the election results. The House impeached Mr. Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection on January 13. He was later acquitted by the Senate. While, seven Republicans joined all Democrats in voting "guilty," Democrats failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to convict the former president.
Hundreds of people have been charged in connection to the attack on January 6. In an interview with "60 Minutes," Michael Sherwin, a federal prosecutor who had been leading the criminal investigation until March 19, said there are more than "400 defendants."