Trump’s Twitter 'Hostage Video' Is Weird, Even By His Standards

The president returned to Twitter amid impeachment threats to release a *very* carefully-worded statement on the Capitol riots.

Donald Trump’s latest statement – a carefully-worded and apparently edited video posted to Twitter – has been labelled a desperate attempt to avoid being removed from office.

Following the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on Wednesday, Trump has seen his own social media presence curbed significantly and faces a growing prospect of being impeached or having the 25th amendment used to remove him from power.

What does Trump say in the video?

The video, which many have pointed out bears signs of editing and appears to show the president reading from a teleprompter with none of his usual tangents, is the first time Trump has been shown to condemn the actions of his supporters.

He said: “To demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol: you have defiled the seat of American democracy.

“To those who engage in the acts of violence and destruction: you do not represent our country.”

He also claimed he had “immediately deployed the National Guard”, despite widespread reports on Thursday that he had in fact resisted doing so in the first instance and it was in fact vice president Mike Pence who had made the decision to send in the force.

Released via Twitter, the video shows him telling US viewers that “serving as your president has been the honour of my lifetime” and acknowledged that “a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20”.

This has been widely interpreted as Trump conceding to Biden, but it hasn’t stopped the most committed conspiracy theorists amongst his fanbase from suggesting that the “new administration” would in fact be a second term for Trump.

The outgoing president insisted that his months-long attempt to overturn the election result was an effort “to ensure the integrity of the vote”, claiming he was “fighting to defend American democracy”.

He finished his speech by acknowledging his supporters, saying: “I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”

Isn’t that quite a turnaround from his video on Wednesday night?

Well, yes. In the wake of the video’s release late on Thursday night, many were quick to point out the stark differences in the tone and rhetoric used by Trump, little more than a day after his last message to supporters.

Even as his loyal followers remained inside the Capitol during the violent insurrection, before the news of five deaths and two pipe bombs found inside the grounds had been reported, Trump put out a video in which he continued to push conspiracy theories about electoral fraud.

It followed a speech on Wednesday morning, during which Trump had explicitly suggested that attendees march down to the Capitol to “peacefully and patriotically make our voices heard”.

During Wednesday’s video, Trump told his supporters to “go home” – a message that was more than a little blurred as he pushed the rhetoric of a “stolen”, “fraudulent” election.

Despite the clear chaos playing out at the centre of the country’s democracy, the outgoing president told the violent mob “I know how you feel”, adding: “We love you. You’re very special.”

How have people reacted to Trump’s latest message?

While the immediate replies under the president’s tweet show an ongoing swell of support for Trump amongst his most determined followers, the highly-produced video has sparked allegations of being designed specifically to stave off the threat of removal from office.

Author and columnist Jonathan Freedland shared the video, writing: “Translation: ‘Please don’t remove me from office in the next 12 days. I promise to be good.’”

Translation: “Please don’t remove me from office in the next 12 days. I promise to be good.”

— Jonathan Freedland (@Freedland) January 8, 2021

The BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel described the video as “astonishing. Jaw dropping astonishing.”

Pointing out the disparity between the two videos shared by Trump, Sopel added: “Yesterday morning – we can’t be weak. Have to march on Congress.

“Yesterday afternoon: rioters are special people and we love you. The election was stolen.

This evening: election is over, no mention of fraud. We have to unite.”

Astonishing. Jaw dropping astonishing.
Yesterday morning - we can't be weak. Have to march on Congress.
Yesterday afternoon: rioters are special people and we love you. The election was stolen
This evening: election is over, no mention of fraud. We have to unite

— Jon Sopel (@BBCJonSopel) January 8, 2021

Meanwhile, New York Times opinion writer Charlie Warzel wrote: “lol according to trump’s new hostage video ‘our journey is just beginning.’ fun!”

lol according to trump's new hostage video 'our journey is just beginning.' fun!

— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) January 8, 2021

Trump’s speech sounds like a hostage video.

— Julie Owen Moylan (@JulieOwenMoylan) January 8, 2021

Other UK journalists and commentators also weighed in on the video, some in more direct terms than others. Piers Morgan, who has previously vocally supported Trump and said as recently as November 2, 2020, that he considered the president a “close friend” wrote simply: “Disingenuous, a*se-covering bullsh*t.”

Disingenuous, a*se-covering bullsh*t.

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 8, 2021

This could make impeachment more likely than 25th amendment. Showing he is ‘of sound mind’ means he is culpable for inciting the attack on Congress.

— Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) January 8, 2021

You can read this in two ways: the nauseating sound of the ultimate lying hypocrite or the delicious contrition of the pant-shitting coward trying to keep his miserable fascist arse out of jail. I go for both, in that great duality of evil that was the Trump presidency.

— Irvine Welsh (@IrvineWelsh) January 8, 2021

Why did he make the video?

If it wasn’t already clear, Trump faces serious consequences for his incitement of the chaos on Wednesday and there have been widespread calls for his. removal.

The first is impeachment, which Democrats – including House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer – have been calling for ever since the mob broke through the barricades around the Capitol.

“The president’s dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office,” they said in a statement on Thursday evening, accusing Trump of inciting an “insurrection”.

I am drawing up Articles of Impeachment.

Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate.

We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 6, 2021

It is not clear whether enough time remains to complete the impeachment process, and Pelosi has not yet announced a decision on whether to issue proceedings.

If impeached in the House, Trump would theoretically face trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which is scheduled to be in recess until January 19. Aides to Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, have not said what he would do if the House approves articles of impeachment.

The second is invoking the 25th amendment, as called for by several news publications, including the Washington Post.

The 25th Amendment is a law that allows the vice president – in this case Mike Pence, who Trump attacked on Wednesday – to take over presidential duties if the president is no longer able to do her or his job due to sickness or disability.

Once a president is removed under the 25th Amendment, the vice president and cabinet members can decide if the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the White House.

The amendment itself, introduced in 1967, has never been triggered before.

Trump’s presidency has been, at least partially, defined by his constant social media presence and has consistently used Facebook and Twitter to spread blatant misinformation, particularly since the election.

But with Wednesday refocusing the narrative on the corrosive effect of Trump’s constant social media presence, platforms have taken more decisive action in how they handle the outgoing president.

Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday that Trump had been banned from posting on Facebook or Instagram “indefinitely and at least for the next two weeks”.

Twitter also removed a number of Trump’s posts on Wednesday and temporarily locked him out of his account – followed by almost 90 million people – for 12 hours.

The platform has said it could ban the outgoing president permanently” if he breached the site’s rules once again.


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