FACT FOCUS: Trump's misleading claims about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump said during his debate with President Joe Biden last week that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol involved a “relatively small” group of people who were “in many cases ushered in by the police.”

But that’s not what happened. Thousands of his supporters were outside the Capitol that day and hundreds broke in, many of them beating and injuring law enforcement officers in brutal hand-to-hand combat as the officers tried to stop them from storming through windows and doors. There is ample video evidence of the violence, and more than 1,400 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot.

Many of those who broke into the Capitol were echoing Trump’s false claims of election fraud, and some menacingly called out the names of lawmakers — particularly then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to try to object to Biden’s legitimate win. The rioters interrupted the certification of Biden’s victory, but lawmakers who had evacuated both chambers returned that night to finish.

Trump, now the presumptive GOP nominee to challenge Biden, has not only continued to mislead voters about what happened that day but has also heaped praise on the rioters, calling them “hostages” and promising to pardon them if he is elected. A look at some of his false claims:


CLAIM: At the debate, Trump was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper what he would say to any voters “who believe that you have violated your constitutional oath through your actions, inaction on January 6, 2021, and worry that you’ll do it again?” Trump simply replied: “Well, I didn’t say that to anybody. I said peacefully and patriotically.”

THE FACTS: In a speech on the White House Ellipse the morning of Jan. 6 to thousands of supporters, Trump did tell the crowd to march “peacefully and patriotically” to the Capitol. But he also used far more incendiary language when speaking off the cuff in other parts of the speech, such as telling the crowd: “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump did not address Tapper’s question about his inaction as his supporters broke into the building and injured police. More than three hours elapsed between the time his supporters violently breached the Capitol perimeter and Trump’s first effort to get the rioters to disperse. He released a video message at 4:17 p.m. that day in which he asked his supporters to go home but reassured them, “We love you, you’re very special.”

Some rioters facing criminal charges have said in court they believed they had been following Trump’s instructions on Jan. 6. And evidence shown during trials illustrates that far-right extremists were galvanized by a Trump tweet inviting his supporters to a “wild” protest on Jan. 6. “He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!” wrote one Oath Keepers member who was convicted of seditious conspiracy.


CLAIM: Trump said at the debate: “They talk about a relatively small number of people that went to the Capitol. And in many cases were ushered in by the police.” The next day, Trump said at a rally: “So many of these people were told to go in, right? The police: ‘Go in, go in, go in.’”

THE FACTS: More than 100 Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers were injured, some severely, as they tried to keep the rioters from breaking into the Capitol. In some cases police retreated or stepped aside as they were overwhelmed by the violent, advancing mob, but there is no evidence that any rioter was “ushered” into the building.

In an internal memo last year, U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said that the allegation that “our officers helped the rioters and acted as ‘tour guides’” is “outrageous and false.” Manger said police were completely overwhelmed and outnumbered, and in many cases resorted to de-escalation tactics to try to persuade rioters to leave the building.

The Capitol Police said in a statement this week that “under extreme circumstances, our officers performed their duties to the best of their ability to protect the members of Congress. With the assistance of multiple law enforcement agencies and the National Guard, which more than doubled the number of officers on site, it took several hours to secure the U.S. Capitol. At the end of the day, because of our officers’ dedication, nobody who they were charged with protecting was hurt and the legislative process continued.”


CLAIM: Trump said he offered 10,000 National Guard troops to Pelosi and “she now admits that she turned it down.” Referring to a video Pelosi’s daughter took that day, Trump claimed that Pelosi said, “I take full responsibility for January 6.”

THE FACTS: Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed that he offered National Guard troops to the Capitol and that his offer was rejected. He has previously said he signed an order for 20,000 troops to go to the Capitol.

While Trump was involved in discussions in the days prior to Jan. 6 about whether the National Guard would be called ahead of the joint session, he issued no such order or formal request before or during the rioting, and the guard’s arrival was delayed for hours as Pentagon officials deliberated over how to proceed.

In a 2022 interview with the Democratic-led House committee that investigated the attack, Christopher Miller, the acting Defense secretary at that time, confirmed that there was no order from the president.

The Capitol Police Board makes the decision on whether to call National Guard troops to the Capitol, and two members of that board — the House Sergeant at Arms and the Senate Sergeant at Arms — decided through informal discussions not to call the guard ahead of the joint session that was eventually interrupted by Trump’s supporters, despite a request from the Capitol Police. The House Sergeant at Arms reports to the Speaker of the House, who was then Pelosi, and the Senate Sergeant at Arms reported to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But Pelosi’s office has said she was never informed of the request.

The board eventually requested the guard’s assistance after the rioting was underway, and Pelosi and McConnell called the Pentagon and begged for military assistance. Pence, who was in a secure location inside the building, also called the Pentagon to demand reinforcements.

In a video recently released by House Republicans, Pelosi is seen in the back of a car on Jan. 6 and talking to an aide. In the raw video recorded by her daughter, Pelosi is angrily asking her aide why the National Guard wasn’t at the Capitol when the rioting started. “Why weren’t the National Guard there to begin with?” she asks.

“We did not have any accountability for what was going on there and we should have, this is ridiculous,” Pelosi says, while her aide responds that security officials thought they had sufficient resources. “They clearly didn’t know and I take responsibility for not having them just prepare for more,” Pelosi says in the video.

There is no mention of a request from Trump, and Pelosi never said that she took “full responsibility for Jan. 6.”

In a statement, Pelosi spokesman Ian Krager said Trump’s repeated comments about Pelosi are revisionist history.

“Numerous independent fact-checkers have confirmed again and again that Speaker Pelosi did not plan her own assassination on January 6th,” Krager said. “The Speaker of the House is not in charge of the security of the Capitol Complex — on January 6th or any other day of the week.”


CLAIM: Trump said to Biden during the debate, “What they’ve done to some people that are so innocent, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, what you have done, how you’ve destroyed the lives of so many people.”

THE FACTS: Echoing Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, rioters at the Capitol engaged in hand-to-hand combat with police and a slew of rioters were carrying weapons, including firearms, knives, brass knuckle gloves, a pitchfork, a hatchet, a sledgehammer and a bow. They also used makeshift weapons, including flagpoles, a table leg, hockey stick and crutch, to attack officers. Police officers were bruised and bloodied, some dragged into the crowd and beaten. One officer was crushed in a doorframe and another suffered a heart attack after a rioter pressed a stun gun against his neck and repeatedly shocked him. One rioter has been charged with climbing scaffolding and firing a gun in the air during the melee.

The rioters broke through windows and doors, ransacking the Capitol and briefly occupying the Senate chamber. Senators had evacuated minutes earlier. They also tried to break into the House chamber, breaking glass windows and beating on the doors. But police held them off with guns drawn.

About 900 of the rioters have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds of them receiving a term of imprisonment ranging from a few days to 22 years. Hundreds of people who went into the Capitol but did not attack police or damage the building were charged only with misdemeanors.


Associated Press writers Barbara Whitaker, Alanna Durkin Richer, Melissa Goldin and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.


Find AP Fact Checks here: https://apnews.com/APFactCheck

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