Politics

Riot on Capitol Hill ‘consequence of the last 4 years,' former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says

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Key Points
  • Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel characterized the riot on Capitol Hill as “shameful” and an “embarrassment.”
  •  A pro-Trump mob stormed the halls of Congress as lawmakers prepared to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
  • Hagel said that while he didn’t see Vice President Pence initiating the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office, he didn’t think Pence could have predicted the events that transpired on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
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Former U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel on the rioting and bloodshed in Washington, D.C.

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel characterized the riot on Capitol Hill as "shameful" and an "embarrassment" in an interview on CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith" on Wednesday evening.

"I've talked to friends, and people all over the world today and they're all stunned," said Hagel, who served as defense secretary from 2013 to 2015. "I've talked to my Nebraska friends and I've talked to friends all over this country — the same thing, stunned. They can't believe this is happening in this country."

"President Trump keeps inciting people, and that's very dangerous because you could have bloodshed," Hagel said during an interview on Monday.

Hagel's prediction became a reality when a pro-Trump mob stormed the halls of Congress as lawmakers prepared to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Hagel told host Shepard Smith that the riot was a culmination of Trump's tenure in office. 

"It didn't just start last week or the week before, this is a consequence of the last four years," Hagel said. "When we have a leader of a nation who continues to define institutions, like the media, as enemies of the people, what do you think will be a conclusion?"

Hagel wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for a peaceful transfer of power with 10 former defense chiefs. He explained to Smith that he felt compelled to sign on because of Trump's "loose, dangerous talk about the Insurrection Act" and ordering military martial law to conduct new elections. 

Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary from July 2011 to February 2013, also signed the op-ed. During a Wednesday afternoon interview, he told Smith that he believed Trump was acting "irresponsibly" by not acting immediately when crowds began storming Congress.  

"I can think of no greater failure by a commander-in-chief than to allow this kind of disturbance to continue and not stop it," said Panetta. "That's the responsibility of the president of the United States."

William Cohen, former defense secretary under President Clinton, was another co-author of the op-ed and spoke to Smith Wednesday afternoon. He explained why he thought Trump should step down.

"It is time for him to step down, to step away," Cohen said. "You're no longer our president. You haven't been president, you have been stoking this kind of violent action for four years now at every one of your rallies." 

Hagel told Smith that while he didn't see Pence initiating the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, he didn't think Pence could have predicted the events that transpired on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. 

"Could Pence have envisioned what just has happened in this country the last 12 hours?" asked Hagel. "Can he condone it if it gets worse, if a president continues to incite this kind of violence and continues to behave in erratic dangerous ways?"