On Wednesday, The Washington Post published audio of an interview two Post reporters conducted in March with former president Donald Trump at his club in Florida. In it, he expresses obvious sympathy for the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a futile effort to derail the transition of presidential power.

It has been obvious since the day of the insurrection that Trump’s views of the rioters were not particularly hostile. A review of what he has said about the day since, though, makes that clear.

On Jan. 6, his comments to the rioters were generous and warm. For the final two weeks he was in office, his team managed one last burst of what has come to be known as Teleprompter Trump: Trump reading prepared remarks in an effort to establish a palatable narrative to which his team could point. Teleprompter Trump was usually contrasted with Twitter Trump, the Trump who posted unvarnished and honest opinions on social media, but there was no Twitter Trump after Jan. 6, because his accounts were shuttered out of concern that he’d foster more violence.

But since Jan. 20, Twitter Trump has reappeared in interviews, including with The Post’s team. And as the months have passed, Trump’s generous view of the rioters has become more obvious in his own telling — just as his party has similarly shifted toward increased support for those who engaged in political violence that day.

What Trump has said

Jan. 6, 2:12 p.m. Rioters enter the Capitol.

2:24 p.m. Shortly after Fox News airs an interview with a Trump supporter expressing frustration about Vice President Pence’s decision not to intervene in the certification of the electoral vote, Trump tweets:

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

Around 2:30 p.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called Trump to ask him to tell the rioters to leave the building. After Trump first tried to blame antifa — perhaps based on a Washington Examiner report — McCarthy insisted that they were Trump supporters. This is how Trump reportedly responded:

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

2:38 p.m. Trump tweets.

“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

3:13 p.m. Trump tweets again.

“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

4:17 p.m. After recording a few versions of comments, the White House releases a video of Trump in which he addresses the rioters.

“I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.”

6:01 p.m. Trump closes out the day with another tweet, even as the Capitol is still not entirely cleared.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Police radio communications synchronized with hours of footage show how failures of planning and preparation left police at the Capitol severely disadvantaged. (The Washington Post)

Jan. 7. The day after the riot, the White House released another video in which Trump read from scripted remarks.

“I would like to begin by addressing the heinous attack on the United States Capitol,” he said. “Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem. I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders.” (The Post’s Philip Rucker reports that this is not true.) “America is, and must always be, a nation of law and order. The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy.

“To those who engage in the acts of violence and destruction: You do not represent our country, and to those who broke the law: You will pay,” Trump continued. “We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high, but now tempers must be cooled and calm restored. We must get on with the business of America.”

For the first time, he acknowledged that he would be leaving office.

“Congress has certified the results,” he said. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

Jan. 12. Trump reads a statement about the violence from a teleprompter during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Millions of our citizens watched on Wednesday as a mob stormed the Capitol and trashed the halls of government,” he said. “As I have consistently said throughout my administration, we believe in respecting America's history and traditions, not tearing them down. We believe in the rule of law, not in violence or rioting.”

He later added that “now is the time for our nation to heal, and it's time for peace and for calm.”

Jan. 19. During his farewell address, he again spoke about the Capitol from prepared remarks.

“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated. Now more than ever, we must unify around our shared values and rise above the partisan rancor, and forge our common destiny.”
D.C. Police body-camera footage shows Marine veteran and retired NYPD officer Thomas Webster scream profanities and attack officers during the Jan. 6 riot. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Late March. During an interview with The Post’s Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, Trump describes the events of the day.

“It was a loving crowd, too, by the way,” he said of the crowd at his speech, many of whom then walked to the Capitol. He described the subsequent actions as “too bad.”

“They were ushered in by the police,” he then claimed. “I mean, in all fairness — the Capitol Police were ushering people in. The Capitol Police were very friendly. You know, they were hugging and kissing.”

“Personally,” he later added, “what I wanted is what they wanted. They showed up just to show support” for his false claims about election fraud.

July 7. At a news conference at his private club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump announced a long-shot lawsuit targeting social media companies for banning him from their platforms. A reporter asked about the Capitol riot.

“That whole event, unfortunate event just went through Congress and a report was issued and my name wasn’t even mentioned,” Trump said, referring to a bipartisan Senate report in which his name was mentioned but which avoided looking directly at Trump’s role. “And I appreciate that. I was surprised frankly because I would have assumed that they would have come up with their typically biased, at least on the Democrat side, statement. The report came out as you saw it two weeks ago. My name wasn’t even mentioned, that was an unfortunate event.

“I say though, however, people are being treated unbelievably unfairly,” he continued. “When you look at people in prison and nothing happens to antifa and they burned down cities and killed people. There were no guns in the Capitol except for the gun that shot Ashli Babbitt. And nobody knows who that [man was]. If that were the opposite way, that man would be all over, he would be the most well-known and I believe I can say man, because I believe I know exactly who it is. But he would be the most well known person in this country, in the world. But the person that shot Ashli Babbitt right through the head, just boom. There was no reason for that.”

Babbitt was shot in the shoulder as she tried to enter an area of the Capitol used to evacuate lawmakers.

The Post obtained video showing the chaotic moment before 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot as rioters rushed toward the Speaker's Lobby. (Joyce Lee/The Washington Post)

July 11. Trump addresses the events of Jan. 6 during an interview with Fox News's Maria Bartiromo.

“You had over a million people there, which the press doesn’t like to report at all, because it shows too much — too much activity, too much — too much spirit and faith and love,” Trump said, although the reason the media doesn’t report that there were 1 million people at the rally is because there were not 1 million people at the rally.

“There was such love at that rally,” Trump continued. “You had over a million people there. They were there for one reason, the rigged election. They felt the election was rigged. That's why they were there. And they were peaceful people. These were great people. The crowd was unbelievable. And I mentioned the word love. The love — the love in the air, I have never seen anything like it.”

Later, he again lamented the death of Babbitt.

“Who is the person that shot an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman, a military woman, right in the head?” Trump asked. (Babbitt was shot in the shoulder.) “And there’s no repercussions.”

“You have people with no guns that walked down. And, frankly, the doors were open,” he said at another point, adding that it was “also a lovefest between the police, the Capitol Police, and the people that walked down to the Capitol.”

Those who had been arrested, Trump said, were “military people, and they’re police officers, and they’re construction workers. And they’re tremendous, in many cases, tremendous people, tremendous people.”

He expressed disappointment that so many of these tremendous people were “currently incarcerated,” which, he said, was “not right” — a somewhat different message than when in January he told the rioters, “You will pay.”