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How U.S. Officials Are Reacting To Pro-Trump Mob Attack On The U.S. Capitol

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

One day after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and two months after Election Day, President Trump is acknowledging he lost the presidential race.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.

CHANG: In a new video this evening, Trump condemned Wednesday's insurrection and said those who broke the law should pay. His comments come as Democrats and even some Republicans have called for Trump to be removed from office. Here to walk us through all of this now is White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Hey, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So, you know, up until this video, President Trump hasn't really said much since yesterday's events. What did this video say tonight exactly?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, as you note, he finally condemned the violence.

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TRUMP: The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, he also said that emotions were high because of, quote, "an intense election." But we got to note that Trump played a large part in igniting those emotions. I mean, for months, he's been saying that the election was stolen and encouraging people to gather to oppose Congress' vote count and to be wild.

CHANG: He also praised the law enforcement response, which, of course, has come under huge scrutiny.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. Trump claimed - you know, kind of claimed some credit, saying he, quote, "immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement." But it's actually unclear how quickly that really happened. A Defense Department official later said that the National Guard was authorized days ago, and it turns out that the Guard had only been authorized to work with police at intersections and metro stations. The Washington, D.C., mayor, Muriel Bowser, said that she asked for more help from the Guard as tension grows (ph) but that the White House was really late in responding.

CHANG: And, of course, President Trump seems to be, for the first time, walking back his repeated false statements that he won the presidential election.

ORDOÑEZ: Right. He acknowledged briefly in a statement on Twitter this morning that there would be a transition. But this is really the first time he's acknowledged out loud that he lost, and it may be the closest that we will hear to a concession. He echoed what the White House press secretary said earlier, that the administration is focused on a smooth transition of power.

CHANG: Well, Franco, why do you think Trump's language around the election seems to be shifting now?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, I mean, he's facing a tremendous amount of pressure and from all around. These are his last weeks in office, and lawmakers are calling for him to be removed. That, of course, would involve Vice President Pence and much of the Cabinet, and there's really no indication that will happen. But he's also facing pressure from inside the White House. One of President Trump's top national security officials, Matt Pottinger - he resigned yesterday after the violence. He played a big role in the president's China policy. Former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who was an envoy to Northern Ireland - he stepped down. And a member of his cabinet, Elaine Chao, transportation secretary - she resigned. Now, with less than two weeks left before Biden becomes president, you can make the argument that some of these things are symbolic. But the government still needs to run in this - you know, in the meantime.

CHANG: Exactly. Well, you were with President-elect Biden in Wilmington today. He had some pretty strong words about the president and about the violence yesterday. Tell us what he said.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, he called yesterday one of the darkest days in the history of the nation. And he made it very clear that he believes Trump incited the mob.

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JOE BIDEN: They weren't protesters. Don't dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists.

ORDOÑEZ: Then he launched into a list of what he saw as the most egregious acts by President Trump. He accused President Trump of acting like an autocrat, attacking the free press and also stacking the courts with friendly judges. And he said this - you know, the events yesterday made it more clear than ever that what needs to happen is something to protect the guardrails, and that's how he introduced the Department of Justice team that he's put together.

CHANG: That is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.