In an Oval Office speech released Wednesday night, President Donald Trump condemned the violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday as well as the censorship that has followed.
Trump's address, which lasted for about five minutes, came one week after hundreds of fringe Trump supporters stormed the Capitol as Congress was counting the electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election. The first group to break through the barricades at the Capitol did so while the president was still speaking at the Ellipse near the White House.
Arguing that the president's speech incited the violence, which left five people dead, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for a second time Wednesday.
Those who died include an unarmed woman who was shot by Capitol police, three others who reportedly died from health emergencies, and Capitol police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died on Jan. 7 after he suffered injuries while responding to the breach. Another Capitol police officer who responded to the riot died by suicide on Saturday. It's unknown whether the riot and aftermath contributed to his decision to take his own life.
The impeachment vote came one day after the House passed a resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and declare the president unfit for office, a move that he declined to make.
When all the votes were counted, 232 members of the House of Representatives supported the impeachment effort while 197 members voted against it.
"The incursion of the U.S. Capitol struck at the very heart of our republic," Trump said in the speech that was posted to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook by using the White House account. "It angered and appalled millions of Americans across the political spectrum."
"I want to be very clear: I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week," Trump added. "Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement. Making America Great Again has always been about defending the rule of law, supporting the men and women of law enforcement and upholding our nation's most sacred traditions and values."
"Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement or our great American flag. No true supporter of mine could ever threaten or harass their fellow Americans," he continued.
"If you do any of these things, you are not supporting our movement, you are attacking it and you are attacking our country. We cannot tolerate it."
After lamenting the increase in political violence over the last year, Trump stressed that "it must stop." According to the president, "There is never a justification for violence, no excuses, no exceptions. America is a nation of laws."
Trump vowed that the perpetrators of the violence at the Capitol would be "brought to justice" before urging "everyone who has ever believed in our agenda to be thinking of ways to ease tensions, calm tempers and help to promote peace in our country."
Addressing the possibility of additional protests, the president acknowledged that Americans have a "First Amendment right" to demonstrate peacefully while emphasizing that "there must be no violence, no lawbreaking and no vandalism of any kind." He thanked "the hundreds of millions of incredible American citizens who have responded to this moment with calm, moderation and grace," adding, "We will get through this challenge just like we always do."
Additionally, Trump spoke about the "unprecedented assault on free speech we have seen in recent days." The president himself has been shut out of his Facebook account at least until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week and has been permanently banned from Twitter following the attack on the Capitol.
The social media platform Parler, an alternative to Twitter, has been shut down by Apple, Google and Amazon based on the claim that it served as a breeding ground for extremism ahead of the violence at the Capitol.
"The efforts to censor, cancel and blacklist our fellow citizens are wrong and they are dangerous," he asserted. "What is needed now is for us to listen to one another, not to silence one another. All of us can choose, by our actions, to rise above the rancor and find common ground and shared purpose."
As his speech concluded, the president called on Americans to unite in "delivering the miracle vaccines, defeating the pandemic, rebuilding the economy, protecting our national security and upholding the rule of law." He finished by "calling on all Americans to overcome the passions of the moment and join together as one American people," adding, "Let us choose to move forward united for the good of our families, our communities and our country."