Trump ignored a script and went 'off the cuff' to tell Jan. 6 rioters 'We love you'

As the violence at the U.S. Capitol dragged on Jan. 6, 2021, aides pleaded with former President Donald Trump to call for the attack to stop and wrote up a short script for the president to read in an effort to quell the rioting. Trump didn’t read it.

“I urge all of my supporters to do exactly as 99.9% of them have already been doing – express their passions and opinions PEACEFULLY,” that script read, according to evidence presented at a Thursday hearing of the House committee investigating the attack. “My supporters have a right to have their voices heard, but make no mistake – NO ONE should be using violence or threats of violence to express themselves.

“Especially at the US Capitol,” the script said. “Let’s respect our institutions. Let’s all do better. I am asking you to leave the Capitol Hill region now and go home in a peaceful way.”

Instead, Trump spoke in his own words, sympathizing with the mob, repeating lies about the election being stolen, and telling supporters that he loved them. He did ask rioters to go home, after which many did leave the U.S. Capitol.

Raw video shows President Donald Trump asking rioters to leave the Capitol during a public hearing before the House select committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol held on July 21, 2022.

“I know your pain,” he said. "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 for our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.

“It’s a very tough period of time,” Trump said. “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,” he said. “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.”

The Jan. 6 committee shared a copy of the original script that had a stamp reading: “president has seen.” The committee also showed raw video, showing that it took Trump two takes to say his speech.

Nicholas Luna, a former personal assistant to Trump, told the committee that Trump did not follow the script, and he did not know why. “To my knowledge, it was off the cuff,” Luna said in recorded testimony.  

Eric Herschmann, a lawyer in the White House at the time, said there was no discussion after he recorded the video about recording a second one.

“When he finished his video, I think everyone was like, ‘Day’s over,’” Herschmann told the committee. “People were pretty drained.”