On Jan. 6, Trump’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows was surprised to hear Trump tell his supporters that he would accompany them to the Capitol that day.
“After this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you,” Trump said from the “Stop the Steal” rally stage. “We’re going to walk down, we’re going to walk down.”
As soon as Trump got off the stage, a little after 1 p.m., Meadows pulled him aside to tell him that the White House team couldn’t “organize” such an excursion for the president. Trump replied: “I didn’t mean it literally.”
This detail comes from a new excerpt for Michael Wolff’s forthcoming tell-all, which chronicles the final days of the Trump administration. There are other notable tidbits, but this one jumps out because it’s probably the clearest example of how Trump’s tossed-off comments brought about disastrous consequences. As with many such comments, Trump had ad-libbed this part of the speech; there was no line about walking in its original text, Wolff reports.
Trump’s reassurance that he would march alongside his supporters to the Capitol undoubtedly encouraged them to do it, and renewed their rage and righteous feeling, which shortly thereafter led to insurrection and death. And of course Trump never intended to go at all. As Wolff puts it: “Trump didn’t walk anywhere.”
The former president’s response to the Capitol attack—which he reported watched on television—consisted mostly of “puzzlement,” according to Wolff. Trump is said to have openly wondered “who these people were with their low-rent ‘trailer camp’ bearing and their ‘get-ups.’” Wolff said Trump also referred to the group of insurrectionists as “the great unwashed”—reminders of Trump’s profound disdain for the poor.
“Reminding” is unfortunately as deep as Wolff’s books seem to go on Trump, which—based on the many excerpts I’ve read by now—are far too credulous for me. Anyone who does anything to temper Trump’s recklessness comes out looking mildly heroic. In this case, it’s Meadows, whose only apparent qualm about Trump’s promise to march to the Capitol was that it would be impossible to organize.