President Trump should have toned down his fiery speech calling on protesters to “fight like hell” last week in Washington, D.C., before rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol, according to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
But, speaking as members of the House of Representatives debated impeaching the president, he said it was wrong to single out an individual for the mayhem that engulfed the Capitol Building.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner reflecting on his four years in government, the former neurosurgeon called on all politicians of all stripes to moderate their tone at a time when agitators were intent on disrupting peaceful protests.
“I think it was potentially something that could have been tempered down,” he said of Trump’s speech. “When you saw in the audience some of the elements that looked somewhat violent, you might want to temper what you have to say.”
Trump used a “stop the steal” protest last week to repeat claims, rejected by the courts and denied by the Justice Department, that November’s election was stolen from him. And he called on supporters to march on the Capitol to ensure that Republicans in Congress did not certify the Electoral College vote.
Thousands of people streamed up Pennsylvania Avenue to lay siege to the Capitol Building, and five people died in the mayhem.
Carson condemned the violence and said it was clear that a hard core was intent on attacking the Capitol before Trump spoke, rather like the violent elements who sparked trouble at racial justice protests during the summer.
“There’s a lot of evidence that they were planning this before the day of the attack and brought appropriate weapons to carry out what could have been very devastating,” he said.
“Everyone has been so critical of the Capitol Police, but, for the numbers that they had, I think they saved a lot of people.”
“I’m not sure that we can say that all this was all one person’s fault.”
Carson is one of the last surviving members of Trump’s original Cabinet. He is planning to set up a think tank (the American Cornerstone Institute) when he leaves office but said he has no plans to run for the White House again.
He said it was vital that the country united after the events of the past week.
“The United States of America is an amazing place in that the things we’ve accomplished are phenomenal when we work together,” he said. “But a house divided against itself shall not stand.”
“It won’t be Russia or China or Iran. It will be us that destroys this if we don’t learn.”