President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged swarms of his supporters rioting in and around the U.S. Capitol to "go home now," while continuing to falsely insist that his reelection was stolen.
He also suggested later in the day that the invasion of the Capitol by his supporters was a natural consequence of his victory being "stripped away." Officials have found no evidence of widespread fraud and dozens of lawsuits aimed at flipping the results have failed in court.
Twitter locked Trump's account Wednesday evening following the two tweets, which were no longer visible on his account, saying they constituted severe violations of the company's policies. Twitter added it would lock Trump's account for 12 hours once he removes the tweets in question and would consider a permanent suspension of his account upon further violations.
The president's earlier remarks in a brief video on Twitter came after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle publicly urged him to speak out with force against the chaos caused by his base. The pro-Trump mob stormed the building, derailing Congress' legal duty to confirm the election results — traditionally a brief, pro forma ceremony.
Nearly 40 seconds of the one-minute video, however, showed Trump offering sympathy for the rioters.
"I know your pain, I know you're hurt," Trump said. "But you have to go home now, we have to have peace. We have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order."
In another tweet sent later Wednesday, Trump appeared to justify the mob's actions.
"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long," he wrote. "Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"
The president's messages followed a lockdown at the Capitol building, where a joint session of Congress was underway to count the Electoral College ballots and confirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
Shortly after Congress began the proceedings, presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, throngs of pro-Trump protesters migrated to the Capitol. The process came to an abrupt halt soon after; Pence and other officials were quickly evacuated.
"We don't want anybody hurt," Trump said in his video statement. Reports of injuries have already emerged, including at least one person who was shot and killed inside the Capitol, according to NBC News.
"It's a very tough period of time," he said. "But we can't play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace," he said.
"So go home. 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."
Several officials, including Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, begged Trump to flatly condemn his supporters' unprecedented actions.
Less than an hour before the video's release, Biden spoke in person to reporters and unequivocally condemned the riots, demanding that Trump do the same on national television.
"I call on President Trump to go on national television now, to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege," Biden said.
Trump earlier in the day, at a rally outside the White House, angrily lashed out at a wide array of his perceived political enemies, including "weak Republicans" who refused to aid in his efforts to overturn the election.
He repeatedly pressured Pence to reject key electoral votes during the joint session of Congress in order to hand Trump reelection.
The vice president rejected those demands, initially provoking a furious tweet from Trump claiming Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done." Experts say Pence's role in the process is ceremonial and he has no legal right to reject any votes.
Critics were quick to accuse Trump of stoking anger among the protesters who were already surrounding the Capitol at the time the message was sent.