Barr blasts Trump for orchestrating mob, calls it 'betrayal of his office'

Key Points
  • Former Attorney General William Barr called President Donald Trump's actions a "betrayal of his office and supporters."
  • Barr, who ran the Department of Justice, was one of Trump's most loyal defenders in the president's Cabinet.
  • He left the Trump administration in December.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a signing ceremony for an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on November 26, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Former Attorney General William Barr has called President Donald Trump's actions a "betrayal of his office and supporters" after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

In a statement obtained by NBC News on Thursday, Barr said Trump was responsible for "orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress," calling his former boss' actions "inexcusable."

The Associated Press first reported the news.

Barr, who ran the Department of Justice, was one of Trump's most loyal defenders in the president's Cabinet. He left the Trump administration last month after publicly breaking with the president over election fraud claims.

In early December, Barr said the Department of Justice had not found any evidence of widespread voter or election fraud that would result in overturning Democrat Joe Biden's victory.

Watch a timeline of the U.S. Capitol siege that rocked America

Barr's condemnation comes a day after the rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing Congress to recess from the joint session that was scheduled to formally announce Biden's victory in November's election.

Biden's victory was confirmed by Congress in the early hours of Thursday after the Capitol had been secured from the rioting Trump supporters.

The pandemonium at the U.S. Capitol resulted in the deaths of four people. Sixty-eight people were arrested last night, only one of whom was actually from D.C., according to Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee. Of those arrests, 41 occurred on Capitol grounds.

More than 50 U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. police officers sustained injuries during the attack on the Capitol, wrote Steven Sund, chief of U.S. Capitol Police. Sund described Wednesday's events as "criminal riotous behavior."

"The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.," Sund said. Rioters attacked police with metal pipes, chemical irritants and other weapons, he said.

The FBI asked the public on Thursday to help identify people who took part in the riots.

A man shouts as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, January 6, 2021.
Leah Millis | Reuters

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen vowed Thursday that the Justice Department would ensure "those responsible for this attack on our Government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law."

Some participants in the riots will be charged today, Rosen said.

"Our criminal prosecutors have been working throughout the evening with special agents and investigators from the U.S. Capitol Police, FBI, ATF, Metropolitan Police Department and the public to gather the evidence, identify perpetrators, and charge federal crimes where warranted," Rosen said.

In a statement Thursday, Department of Homeland Security's acting secretary, Chad Wolf, called the events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol "tragic and sickening."

"Any appearance of inciting violence by an elected official goes against who we are as Americans. Every American is guaranteed the right to peacefully protest, but once those protests become violent, we should enforce our laws and bring those responsible to justice—regardless of political motivations," Wolf wrote.

In a tweet Wednesday, Wolf wrote that those who engaged in the rioting should be held accountable.

Trump withdrew Wolf's nomination Thursday to head Homeland Security just hours after he had urged the president to "strongly condemn the violence."

Earlier Wednesday, the Department of Justice sent hundreds of federal law enforcement officers and agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service to help quell protests.

Fmr. Def. Sec. Panetta says it's the most disturbing day of his life to see Capitol under siege