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Following Capitol attack, Trump insists he bears no responsibility

The House is likely to vote on Trump's impeachment tomorrow. He has an incentive to be on his best behavior, but Trump literally can't help himself.
Image: President Trump Departs White House For Border Visit
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on Jan. 12, 2021.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

It was 10 months ago tomorrow when NBC's Kristen Welker asked Donald Trump whether he accepted any responsibility for the administration's strained response to the coronavirus outbreak. "No, I don't take responsibility at all," the Republican replied.

This morning, Trump was asked similar questions about the attack on the U.S. Capitol that he helped inspire. Once again, he's refusing to take responsibility at all.

Asked by reporters on Tuesday about whether he held any "personal responsibility" over the tragedy that beset the Capitol last week, Trump replied, "If you read my speech, and many people have done it and I've seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television, it's been analyzed and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate.... Everybody to a 'T' thought it was totally appropriate."

It's the "perfect call" defense all over again: just read the transcript and you'll agree with "everybody" that Trump is as pure as the driven snow.

Reality, however, tells a very different story. The New York Times published a relatively detailed review of Trump's remarks, and the Republican's role in inciting violence seems quite obvious. It's why so many GOP officials have condemned Trump's role in the attack -- including a handful of Republican members of Congress who've gone so far as to say he should resign. They obviously didn't see his remarks as "totally appropriate."

What's more, the Washington Post reported late last week that Trump's own legal advisers "expressed increasing concern Friday about possible criminal liability in the wake of Wednesday's melee." The article added that Trump "has been told by attorneys that he could face legal jeopardy for inciting a mob."

Obviously, Trump's lawyers wouldn't be concerned about his criminal liability if "everybody to a 'T' thought it was totally appropriate."

But as part of the same Q&A, the Republican went on to say, "This impeachment is causing tremendous anger. And you're doing it, and it's really a terrible thing that they're doing. For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it's causing tremendous danger to our country, and it's causing tremendous anger. I want no violence."

This is, of course, how organized crime figures talk about their enemies: Trump doesn't want to see violence, but Democrats are responsible for creating "tremendous danger" and "tremendous anger." He didn't literally say, "It's a nice country you have here; it'd be a shame if something happened to it," but the subtext wasn't subtle.

The basic details are as head-spinning as they seem:

  1. Trump incites violence.
  2. Lawmakers prepare to impeach Trump for inciting violence.
  3. Trump says Democrats will be responsible for inciting violence by holding him accountable for inciting violence.

But let's not lose sight of the timing: lawmakers are likely to vote on Trump's impeachment tomorrow. Common sense suggests he has every incentive to be on his best behavior today, giving wavering members an excuse to see him as a responsible figure who need not be removed from office prematurely.

And yet, here we are, with a fresh reminder that Trump literally can't help himself.