With reference to the January 6th inquiry, one of my sons recently wrote me the following:
“My question has always been and remains, why didn’t Trump message the Capitol intruders to stop what they were doing and go home hours before he finally did and as almost his entire staff, family, and even some conservative news media icons were begging him to do hours earlier? According to some of these same witnesses (including Ivanka and his own Chief of Staff), Trump was watching as events unfolded on TV, yet didn’t tell the intruders to go home until almost three hours later. Was Trump secretly hoping they would be successful in stopping the certification process? Only he knows! Once Trump finally issued his “Go home in peace, we love you” announcement, everyone departed! Later on, Trump referred to the intrusion as an “Act of Love.” If true, that sounds to me like the statement of a lunatic!”
He makes a very valid point.
I do not attempt to justify Trump’s behavior, but I believe the following may help explain it:
Trump was absolutely convinced that he had been cheated out of a legitimate victory. He did not ask his followers to storm the Capitol. Instead, he asked them to march and demonstrate peacefully to protest the election’s outcome and perhaps persuade the Senate to stop the count (no chance of that). When rioting erupted, he was naturally inclined to support those who were demonstrating for him. Yes, he should have immediately demanded that they back off, but he probably felt that this would be perceived as a betrayal of his followers – those who loved him and whom he loved. He had to be persuaded by those close to him to issue his “go home” announcement.
In some way, this was a rerun of Nixon’s Watergate folly. I don’t believe that Nixon even knew about the Watergate break-in until after the fact. When informed, he instinctively decided to support those who had committed a felony on his behalf. This led to the destruction of his Presidency.
Loyalty to your more rabid (and sometimes criminal) supporters can lead to trouble.