Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle “need to be realistic” that President Donald Trump will not try to discourage violent protesters in the days leading to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“This President’s not going to do that,” said Panetta, who served as defense secretary from July 2011 to February 2013 under President Barack Obama. “It’s not in his nature to do something that would be important for the country. He’s thinking about himself. That will continue to consume him.”
At the Save America rally on Jan. 6, Trump told thousands of audience members on Capitol Hill that “we will never concede” and promoted a display of strength from his supporters. Minutes later, a mob of his supporters stormed the and terrorized Congress. Trump has since taken zero responsibility for the deadly riot and defended his speech.
“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said to a group of reporters Tuesday.
Trump’s comments come at a time of heightened alert for violence across the U.S. after the FBI warned of possible armed protests. In a Tuesday evening interview on “The News with Shepard Smith” Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of Homeland security during the Bush Administration, said he thinks there is a “real threat” for hostility at the country’s state capitals.
“I’m real worried about the next few weeks, Chertoff said. “I certainly think next week will be a moment when these groups feel emboldened to go and try to commit mayhem, not just attacking the Capitol, but attacking other locations as well.”
A State of Emergency was declared in Richmond, Virginia due to what authorities characterize as “credible threats” of protests leading up to Inauguration Day on January 20. The Virginia Capitol Police announced they are increasing security.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers activated his state’s National Guard to protect the state Capitol building and boarded up windows on the building’s ground-floor. Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted that, “The Michigan Capitol is not safe.” Chertoff said that he does not expect the threats to stop after Inauguration Day.
“We could have active shooters, we could have pipe bombs, but honestly, I think this is going to continue after January 20th,” Chertoff said. “I think these groups have been revved up to believe this is their moment.”
Panetta told host Shepard Smith that Trump will have to “face punishment” for “inciting that insurrection” last Wednesday. Trump is facing the charge of inciting insurrection and House Democrats are planning to vote Tuesday to demand Vice President Mike Pence use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Panetta said that if Pence does not implement the 25th Amendment, that there’s no other option but impeachment.
“That’s the bottom line, we cannot ignore what happened last Wednesday, and we have to send a clear message to this president and to future presidents that that kind of behavior will never be tolerated in our country,” Panetta said.