What the world is saying about the U.S. after the Capitol attack and Trump’s impeachment

More than a week after the breach of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Trump’s ardent supporters, world leaders are continuing to watch the troubled U.S. presidential transition from afar.

The political turmoil that followed the siege — including Trump’s banishment from major social media platforms and his second impeachment Wednesday, an unprecedented indictment that is likely to lead to a Senate trial after his departure — has continued to command global attention as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to assume office on Jan. 20.

With Biden’s inauguration just days away, world leaders have condemned the scenes at the Capitol and weighed in on the effects of Trump’s removal from several social media platforms, but few have addressed the impeachment directly.

Here’s what some world leaders and top officials have said about the chaos and its aftermath.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Mexican President

A week after Trump was banned from major social media platforms, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that he hopes to lead an international group that will stop social media companies from exercising too much power.

“I can tell you that at the first G-20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” López Obrador said Thursday. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.”

López Obrador, citing a policy of not commenting on other countries’ internal affairs, has offered few remarks on Trump’s impeachment and declined to condemn the U.S. Capitol siege, though he said he regrets the loss of life.

Boris Johnson

British prime minister

As impeachment proceedings against Trump gathered steam on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pressed by journalists on whether he regretted pursuing a closer relationship with the U.S. leader.

Johnson gave a noncommittal answer, suggesting only that it was important for a British leader to have the “best possible relationship” with their U.S. counterpart and that he had had an “excellent conversation very recently with President-elect Joe Biden.”

The remarks were a contrast to the sterner reaction by Johnson and others in his government after the storming of the Capitol. Johnson said Trump had been “completely wrong” to encourage the chaos that unfolded and described the scenes as “disgraceful.”

British Home Secretary Priti Patel, a key ally of Johnson, told the BBC that Trump’s comments had “directly led” to the storming of the Capitol.

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, also condemned the riot as “utterly horrifying” and called for “solidarity with those … on the side of democracy and the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power.”

‘Stop trampling democracy’

Angela Merkel

German chancellor

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Thursday in parliament that those who instigated the violence should be held accountable.

“This closing of ranks begins with holding those accountable who are responsible for such escalations. That includes the violent rioters and it also includes their instigators,” he said. “Those who agitate bear responsibility.”

Maas said the House’s impeachment of Trump was “an expression of the American need not to leave the damage to their democratic institutions without consequences.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also condemned the violence, and expressed the view that companies’ permanent suspension of Trump’s social media accounts was “problematic.”

“The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters, adding Merkel thinks decisions to curb it should be made through the legislature, not by the management of social media companies.

Earlier, Merkel denounced the mob violence at the Capitol. “Unfortunately, President Trump has not accepted his defeat since November, and also did not accept it yesterday. And of course this has created an atmosphere, which led to such incidents, violent incidents,” she said on the day of the siege.

Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition leader

Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader now living in Berlin after he was the target of an assassination attempt in Siberia last year, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he did not think Trump should be banned from Twitter, comparing it to censorship that activists like him see around the world.

“I think that the ban of Donald Trump on Twitter is an unacceptable act of censorship,” Navalny tweeted. “Don’t tell me he was banned for violating Twitter rules. I get death threats here every day for many years, and Twitter doesn’t ban anyone (not that I ask for it).”

“If you replace ‘Trump’ with 'Navalny’ in today’s discussion, you will get an 80% accurate Kremlin’s answer as to why my name can’t be mentioned on Russian TV and I shouldn’t be allowed to participate in any elections,” he said.

Josep Borrell

European Union foreign policy chief

In a blog post published Monday, the European Union’s top foreign policy official said the events on Capitol Hill reminded him of an attempted coup in a newly democratic Spain.

“It had a particular echo for me because I had to remember how, forty years ago, the young Spanish democracy had been threatened by an assault of the Congress of Deputies by a group of military police,” Josep Borrell wrote. “Fortunately, Spain was able to overcome this ordeal, starting since the best years of our modern history.”

Borrell, who serves as the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs, said some of the blame for what happened should fall on Trump. “If some people believe that an election was fraudulent, because their leader has been once and again telling them, they will behave accordingly,” he said.

Other European leaders have made similar remarks. “I believe in the strength of U.S. institutions and democracy. Peaceful transition of power is at the core,” E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Jan. 6, adding that Biden won the election.

Michael McCormack

Acting Australian prime minister

The acting leader of Australia, one of a handful of leaders to avoid direct criticism of Trump after the Capitol siege, equated the pro-Trump protests in Washington to the anti-police-brutality Black Lives Matter protests of the year before.

Michael McCormack told Australia’s ABC television on Monday that the events of last week were “unfortunate” and “similar to those race riots that we saw around the country last year.” He later doubled down on the comments after they caused criticism from human rights groups.

“It involves violence, it involves destruction of property, it involves deaths of people. And any violence of that form is condemned,” said McCormack, who has been temporarily serving as acting prime minister while Scott Morrison is on vacation.

Pope Francis

“I was astonished because [Americans] are people so disciplined in democracy,” Pope Francis told Italy’s Canale 5 news channel on Saturday, his first public comments on the events. “Thank God that this has burst into the open and is clear to see well, because like this you can put it right.

“Yes, this must be condemned, this movement, no matter who is involved in it,” he said.

Emmanuel Macron

French president

“What happened today in Washington, D.C., is not America, definitely,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an English-language video statement on Jan. 6. “We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy.”

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right group National Rally, said she was “extremely shocked” by scenes from the Capitol and said Trump “must condemn [the events] in the clearest terms.”

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli prime minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a key foreign ally for the Trump administration, said in a statement on Jan. 7 that the acts at the Capitol were “disgraceful.”

Israel analysts noted Netanyahu had waited longer than many other world leaders to criticize the storming of the Capitol. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, an electoral rival and former army general, tweeted a message the day before.

“This is proof that, before political rivalry, we must agree on the rules of the game: the maintenance of the rule of law, respect for democratic procedures and respectful discourse,” Gantz said in a video message.

‘An assault on democracy’

Stefan Lofven

Swedish prime minister

“This is an assault on democracy. President Trump and several members of Congress bear substantial responsibility for developments,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven tweeted on the day of the siege.

Justin Trudeau

Canadian prime minister

At a news conference on Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Trump for inciting the rioters at the Capitol.

“What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters, incited by the current president and other politicians,” he said. “As shocking, deeply disturbing and frankly saddening as that event remains — we have also seen this week that democracy is resilient in America, our closest ally and neighbor.”

As the events unfolded on Jan. 6, Trudeau said that he had been “following the situation minute by minute.”

Vladimir Putin

Russian president

The Russian leader has offered no public comment in response to the storming of the Capitol, but other members of his government have weighed in.

“The events in Washington show that the U.S. electoral process is archaic, does not meet modern standards and is prone to violations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the day after the riot, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

U.S. democracy is “obviously limping on both feet,” said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, and a member of the Putin-backing party United Russia. “America no longer charts the course and therefore has lost all right to set it. And even more to impose on others.”

Ali Khamenei

Iranian supreme leader

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, mocked the U.S. political system after the attack, suggesting in speeches and on Twitter that the chaos in Washington was retribution for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

“Have you seen the situation in the U. S.? This is their democracy and this is their election fiasco. Today, the U.S. & ‘American values’ are ridiculed even by their friends,” he said in a tweet on Friday.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the sentiment. “What happened in the United States showed how weak Western democracy is,” he said the day after the attacks in Washington.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said in a tweet the same day that Trump’s actions made him concerned about his control of U.S. nuclear weapons. “What’s disturbing is that the same man has the UNCHECKED authority to start a nuclear war; a security concern for the entire int’l community,” he wrote.

‘On the verge of a civil war’

Nicolás Maduro

Venezuelan president

Nicolás Maduro, a frequent target of U.S. ire under Trump, suggested Sunday the United States could be “on the verge of a civil war.”

“The United States is in a crisis,” the Venezuelan leader said in a speech. “Joe Biden’s term as president will start under the worst scenario, which includes hostile polarization, a split, animosity and confrontation.”

Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwean president

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa viewed the acts of insurrection as an opportunity to decry U.S. sanctions on his country.

“Last year, President Trump extended painful economic sanctions placed on Zimbabwe, citing concerns about Zimbabwe’s democracy,” the African leader wrote on Twitter on Jan. 7. “Yesterday’s events showed that the U.S. has no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy. These sanctions must end.”

Xi Jinping

Chinese president

Although Chinese President Xi Jinping has not commented directly on the Capitol assault, high-ranking Beijing officials have used the fray to argue a double standard between U.S. lawmakers’ response to the Capitol rioters and their characterization of protesters in Hong Kong.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Jan. 7 likened the Capitol mob to an incident in 2019, when pro-democracy demonstrators stormed Hong Kong’s parliament, smashing windows, spray-painting the walls and defacing portraits of lawmakers. “The US mainstream media had unanimously criticised violent Trump fans in [Washington], saying it’s a violent event and those protesters are mobs, extremists. … But what description did they use on the Hong Kong protest? ‘Beautiful sight.’ ”

Narendra Modi

Indian prime minister

On Jan. 6, as events were unfolding in the Capitol, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a close ally of Trump’s, expressed his dismay and rejected Trump’s efforts to contest the election.

“Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” he wrote in a tweet.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist government and lawmakers in his party have come under criticism over accusations that they incited vigilante mob violence against the country’s Muslim community.

This report has been updated.

Photo editing by Chloe Coleman. Video editing by Alexa Juliana Ard. Story editing by Benjamin Soloway. Copy editing by Mike Cirelli. Design by J.C. Reed.

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