Fact Check

Did Trump Tell Supporters to Storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021?

On the attack's third anniversary, here's a look at the former president's speech to supporters in the moments they breached Capitol security.

Published Jan 6, 2024

Updated Jan 8, 2024
 ( Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
Claim:
In a speech on Jan. 6, 2021, Donald Trump told supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol to delay the constitutional process that would affirm Joe Biden’s presidency.
What's True

Trump did tell supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, to gather at the U.S. Capitol and try to convince members of Congress to delay the constitutional process that would affirm Biden's presidency.

What's False

Trump did not explicitly tell people to "storm" or "breach" or "break into" the Capitol.

What's Undetermined

It was a subjective call on whether Trump's use of phrases "you have to show strength", "we fight like hell" and "demand that Congress do the right thing" were meant to condone violence and crimes among right-wing extremists without explicitly encouraging it.

Jan. 6, 2024, marks three years since supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to block Congress from certifying results of the 2020 presidential election.

In the hours before the attack, Trump gathered supporters in a park near the White House for a roughly 70-minute speech that continued his months-long campaign to stir doubt in America's electoral process and convince people to reject President Joe Biden's victory.

That speech in Ellipse Park has been heavily scrutinized by members of Congress, federal prosecutors, state officials — and so on. (As of this writing, Trump faces federal criminal charges in relation to the Capitol attack — he's pleaded not guilty — and officials in Colorado and Maine have ruled him ineligible from political office, citing the U.S. Constitution's "insurrection clause." Trump has appealed Colorado's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was unknown when the nation's high court would rule on the matter.)

Whether Trump instigated the violence at the Capitol, or used the speech at Ellipse Park to direct his supporters to storm the federal building, was central to those cases. Here's a recording of his remarks, courtesy of C-SPAN, as well as a transcript by Factba.se, a database of Trump's statements.

At one point, according to additional video footage by Bloomberg and the transcript, he said:

After this, we're going to walk down — and I'll be there with you — we're going to walk down, we're going to walk down — anyone you want, but I think right here — we're going to walk down to the Capitol, and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you'll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing, and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated — lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard today.

Then, later in the speech he said:

I said something's wrong here, something is really wrong. [...] And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. [...]

The best is yet to come. We're going to, we're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue — I love Pennsylvania Avenue — and we're going to the Capitol. And we're going to try and give — the Democrats are hopeless, they never vote for anything, not even one vote — but we're going to try to give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don't need any of our help; we're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.

In short, the president called on supporters to "peacefully and patriotically" march or walk to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to urge members of the senate to defy the Electoral College vote in a constitutionally mandated procedure to affirm Biden's win, without using the words "storm" or "breach" or "break into" the federal building.

Put another way, the president encouraged supporters to descend on the Capitol grounds and "cheer" on senators who would break laws governing U.S. elections, but he did not explicitly tell people to commit crimes themselves.

Furthermore, it was a subjective call on whether the phrases "you have to show strength", "we fight like hell" and "demand that Congress do the right thing" were actually messages condoning crimes and violence among extremists, without outright encouraging it. Such a rhetorical strategy is known to scholars of white nationalist and extremist groups, including the Proud Boys.

In sum, while Trump did not say the words "storm" or "break into" the White House, Trump indeed told supporters to gather at the U.S. Capitol and try to convince members of Congress to delay the constitutional process that would affirm Biden's presidency. For those reasons, and the ones outlined above, we rate this claim a "Mixture."

In the end, as The Associated Press reported, the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, resulted in hundreds of arrests, including more than 450 prison sentences, and has been linked to nine deaths.

Updates

Jan. 8, 2024: This report was updated to highlight an additional passage from his speech that includes the phrase, "We fight like hell."

Jessica Lee is Snopes' Senior Assignments Editor with expertise in investigative storytelling, media literacy advocacy and digital audience engagement.