WASHINGTON ― As his former White House chief strategist took one step closer to jail with a House vote Thursday holding him in criminal contempt for defying a subpoena to appear before the select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot, former President Donald Trump embraced that Jan. 6 attack even more closely.
“The insurrection took place on November 3, Election Day. January 6 was the Protest!” Trump said in an emailed statement released by his fundraising group, just above a “Donate to save America” link.
A U.S. Capitol Police officer died just hours after being beaten by Trump’s mob. Four others took their own lives in the days and weeks to follow, while 140 law enforcement officers were injured in the melee.
Trump’s new statement quickly found its way into floor debate on the resolution to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to provide documents and testimony to the Jan. 6 panel.
“No, Mr. Trump. I’m sorry. That’s what we call an election in America,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). “We know an insurrection when we see one, because we lived through one.”
And Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee’s vice chair, pointed out that Trump, who spent hours watching the violence unfold on television from the White House until he finally issued a statement telling his followers to go home, was now openly supporting what they did.
“Today, Madame Speaker, the former president suggested that the violence was justified,” she said, urging her Republican colleagues to take what Trump did seriously. “There’s a moment when politics must stop if we want to protect and defend our institutions. A violent assault on the Capitol to stop a constitutional process of counting electoral votes is that moment.”
In the end, though, only seven other Republicans voted with her and Illinois’s Adam Kinzinger, the two GOP members of the select committee. All the others voted with House Republican leaders, who are backing Trump’s efforts to thwart the congressional investigation.
Neither Trump’s office nor Bannon responded to HuffPost requests for comment.
Bannon had spent the weeks prior to Jan. 6 spreading Trump’s lies that the Nov. 3 election had been “stolen,” and on his Jan. 5 radio show, he promised his listeners that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
The House resolution directs the Department of Justice to present Bannon’s refusal to comply with the subpoena to a grand jury. If he is charged and convicted, he could spend as long as a year in jail.
Trump became the first president in 232 years of U.S. elections to refuse to turn over power peacefully to his successor.
He spent weeks attacking the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 contest he lost, starting his lies in the predawn hours of Nov. 4 that he had really won in a “landslide” and that his victory was being “stolen” from him. Those falsehoods continued through a long string of failed lawsuits challenging the results in a handful of states.
Trump and some of his advisers even discussed using the U.S. military by invoking the Insurrection Act or declaring martial law to retain power despite having lost the election, including by seizing voting machines and ordering “re-votes” in states narrowly won by President Joe Biden.
But military leaders had earlier made it clear they would not involve themselves in the political process, so after the Electoral College finally voted on Dec. 14, making Biden’s win official, Trump instead turned to a last-ditch scheme to pressure his own vice president to cancel the ballots of millions of voters in several states Biden had won and declaring Trump the winner during the pro forma congressional certification of the election results on Jan. 6.
Trump asked his followers to come to Washington that day and then told the tens of thousands who showed up to march on the Capitol to intimidate Vice President Mike Pence into doing what Trump wanted.
The mob of supporters he incited attempted to do just that by storming the building. They even chanted “Hang Mike Pence” after Pence refused to comply with Trump’s demands.
After the House impeached Trump for inciting the attack, all but seven Senate Republicans, led by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, chose not to convict him, thereby letting Trump continue his political career even as faces several investigations into his postelection actions.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.