By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Former President Donald Trump in March called the crowd that had gathered for his speech before the deadly US Capitol insurrection “loving” in an exclusive audio recording obtained by CNN.
“I think it was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken before. It went from that point — which is almost at the White house — to beyond the Washington monument. It was — and wide. And it was a loving crowd, too, by the way,” Trump said in the audio recording taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker during an interview for their new book, “I Alone Can Fix It.”
“There was a lot of love. I’ve heard that from everybody. Many, many people have told me that was a loving crowd,” the former President added.
Trump’s comments underscore the vast GOP effort to downplay the Capitol riot. In the months since January 6, the former President and Republican lawmakers in both chambers have offered false accounts of the attack that conflict with reams of video evidence, criminal charges filed against participants and law enforcement officials’ testimony.
In May, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would’ve created an independent commission to investigate the deadly attack, and earlier Wednesday, House Republicans balked at participating in the House committee that’s looking into the insurrection.
In the March interview audio that aired Wednesday evening, Trump also claimed that he had wanted the crowd to “show” but not “go in” the Capitol.
In reality, however, it was only after pleading from aides and congressional allies inside the besieged building on January 6 that Trump released a video urging the rioters to “go home,” while still fanning their baseless grievances about a stolen election.
“We love you,” Trump said in the video. “You’re very special.” Later, he seemed to justify the actions in a tweet, writing, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away.”
Before the January 6 attack, according to excerpts of the book previously reported by CNN, the top US military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, was so shaken that Trump and his allies might attempt a coup or take other dangerous or illegal measures after the November election that the general and other top officials informally planned different ways to stop Trump.
The book, which was released on Tuesday, chronicles Trump’s final year as president, with a behind-the-scenes look at how senior administration officials and Trump’s inner circle navigated his increasingly unhinged behavior after he lost the election. The authors interviewed Trump for more than two hours.
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