Home » 187 minutes that tell us everything we need to know about Trump

187 minutes that tell us everything we need to know about Trump

Over the next short months as we approach the start of early voting for the 2024 presidential election, Americans will be deluged by a cascade of spurious narratives from Donald Trump and the Republicans who support him. Already, voters in swing states are being exposed to deceptively edited film clips mocking Biden as suffering from dementia or suggesting that the churning U.S. economy is actually disastrous. He’ll associate Biden with a nonexistent “invasion” of undocumented immigrants supposedly rampaging through our suburbs and transforming our cities into gray and grainy-lensed hellish war zones. 

None of these things are true, of course, but they’re not intended to be true. They’re intended to inflame, to create a false narrative and (above all) to preempt anyone from making a clear-eyed comparison between this country under President Biden’s oversight versus that of Trump. They’re designed to recast Trump—despite his glaring felony convictions, unbalanced, violence-stoking utterances, and abysmal record of botching the response to the COVID-19 pandemic—as someone possessing the requisite character needed to effectively lead this nation, while distracting and muddying peoples’ memories about things Trump actually did while in office.

But Trump already provided Americans with a singular and indelible impression for Americans to  recall everything they need to know about his presidency. He displayed it over a period lasting exactly 187 minutes on Jan. 6, 2021, while Americans watched its result play out in living color across their TV screens.

While the U.S. Capitol and the Congress fell under a deadly and unprecedented mob assault that day from thousands of his supporters, some armed with pistols and rifles, some wielding clubs, rebar, baseball bats, tasers, flagpoles and pepper spray, Trump sat for three hours in the Oval Office, watching the events unfold on Fox News, and did … nothing.

It was a nauseating dereliction of responsibility unparalleled in American history. Everyone in the nation saw its consequences, whether they wanted to or not. And while multiple courts are now occupied with the question of what Trump did to bring that day about, Trump doubtlessly would like Americans to forget all about what he didn’t do. They shouldn’t.

As reported in 2022 by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan for Reuters, “Donald Trump sat for hours watching the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol unfold on live TV, ignoring pleas by his children and other close advisers to urge his supporters to stop the violence, witnesses told a congressional hearing on Thursday.”

Three hours is a long time. Picture yourself plopped in front of the TV set, watching the very seat of our government being ransacked, with police officers being clubbed and attacked with pepper spray. Your fellow Republicans, personal lawyers, and family members are screaming at you to do something about it. Instead, you wave them off and placidly sit and watch the mayhem happening a stone’s throw away, just up the mall. You don’t care who gets hurt, you don’t care who gets killed. You just sit and watch. For three hours and seven minutes.   

It’s not as if no one alerted him to the consequences of his complete inertia. As Zengerle and Cowan report, even his own son was well aware just how abysmal and damning his father’s behavior was that day:

“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Trump’s eldest son, Don Jr., appealed in a text message to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. “They will try to fuck his entire legacy on this if it gets worse.”

But Trump didn’t “condemn this shit ASAP” and, in fact, it did “get worse.” As Trump sat gleefully watching the mayhem he’d inspired unfold on his TV screen, his aides begged him to do something—anything—about it. It was perfectly within his power to call the secretary of Defense, the attorney general, or the head of Homeland Security. It was perfectly within his power to televise or tweet a message to all of his minions to desist, stop the attack, and go home. But for three long hours, well after the Capitol Security had been breached and well after terrified congressmen, senators, and their staff scrambled to escape from the onslaught of the mob, he made no effort to stop it. 

As Zengerle and Cowan reported:

Witnesses in the room were Matthew Pottinger, a deputy national security adviser under Trump, and Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary in his White House. Both resigned in the hours following the riot.

“If the president had wanted to make a statement and address the American people, he could have been on camera almost immediately,” Matthews testified. “If he had wanted to make an address from the Oval Office, we could have assembled the White House press corps within minutes.”

But Trump made no such statement—and in fact no effort whatsoever to call back his thugs. Instead, this was one of many scenes inside the U.S. Capitol as thugs roamed the hall, looking for House Speaker Pelosi, presumably to assault her.

According to The New York Times, five people involved in or defending against the attacks on the Capitol died within 36 hours of the assault. Four more police officers who responded to the attacks died by suicide over the next six months. And 140 police officers reported injuries sustained during the attacks, according to Department of Justice figures, a number which the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia said undercounts the total number of those injured. The mob caused property damage in the millions.

The New York Times described what occurred that day as “perhaps the most documented act of political violence in history.”


More of the damage as it happened:

But what may be even worse than all the carnage that occurred that day is the spectacle of a chief executive doing nothing to stop it not because he was incapable or incapacitated, but because he willingly chose not to.

As the Final Report from the House Select Committee investigating the attacks observed, Trump concluded his speech at the Ellipse at 1:10 PM. After the attack was well underway he agreed to send a tweet over an hour later, telling the rioters to support the police, and after initially refusing, agreed to tell the rioters to “stay peaceful.” Of course, that did nothing to stop the riot. As the Jan. 6 committee report notes, “Sarah Matthews, the White House Deputy Press Secretary, told the Select Committee that President Trump resisted using the word ‘peaceful,’ “ and Trump only added this phrase after he was urged to by his daughter Ivanka.

He did nothing to stop the attacks until 4:17 PM, when he told his supporters to go home, after emphasizing that his belief that the election was “stolen.” 

As the Jan. 6 committee concluded:

The 187 minutes between the end of President Trump’s speech and when he finally told the mob to leave the U.S. Capitol was a dereliction of duty. In the U.S. military, a service member is deemed to be “derelict in the performance of duties when that person willfully or negligently fails to perform that person’s duties or when that person performs them in a culpably inefficient manner.” 2 As Commander-in-Chief, President Trump had the power—more than any other American—to muster the U.S. Government’s resources and end the attack on the U.S. Capitol. He willfully remained idle even as others, including his own Vice President, acted.

President Trump could have called top officials at the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the F.B.I., the Capitol Police Department, or the DC Mayor’s Office to ensure that they quelled the violence. He made no such calls. 


In testimony before the Select Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley explained that President Trump did “[n]othing,” “[z]ero” to marshal the Government’s resources during the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

It’s possible—even likely—that many who now support Trump found nothing objectionable about that violence. They may be content with Trump’s decision to do nothing, because they view a violent mob wrecking our nation’s Capitol and threatening to kill elected representatives perfectly acceptable if it’s what Trump wanted, which by all appearances he did. They may even believe his baldfaced lies about the election being “stolen.”

But the 2024 election won’t be decided by those people; It will be decided by the great mass of voters who looked on, aghast, as the heart of our government was desecrated by a violent mob, while the one person charged with the responsibility to protect our country sat and did nothing to stop it. It was an act of conscious, willful, and callous disregard not only to the elected officials whose lives were put at risk that day, but to the voters—Republican and Democratic alike—who elected them to represent their lives and interests. That complete, utter contempt exposed the true character of Trump, and it should be clearly understood as what Americans are voting for—or hopefully against—this November.

Yes, Trump will certainly try to saturate the airwaves with scurrilous attacks on Biden between now and then. He may even find a receptive audience for his clearly stated plans to transform our government into a white supremacist laboratory and bottomless feeding trough for his billionaire and Christian nationalist backers. There will certainly be no shortage of stark differences for Americans to parse between these two candidates. But unlike President Biden, Trump has the distinction of having demonstrated to every single American—over an interminable, three hour stretch on Jan. 6, 2021—just how unfit he is to lead this nation.


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June 2024