People who interacted with Trump on Wednesday said they found him in a fragile and volatile state. He spent the afternoon and evening cocooned at the White House and listening only to a small coterie of loyal aides — including Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, personnel director Johnny McEntee and policy adviser Stephen Miller. Many of his top confidants — Meadows, son-in-law Jared Kushner and first lady Melania Trump, among others — were publicly silent.
“He’s got a bunker mentality now, he really does,” the close adviser said.
As rioters broke through police barricades and occupied the Capitol, paralyzing the business of Congress, aides said Trump resisted entreaties from some of his advisers to condemn the marauders and refused to be reasoned with.
“He kept saying: ‘The vast majority of them are peaceful. What about the riots this summer? What about the other side? No one cared when they were rioting. My people are peaceful. My people aren’t thugs,’ ” an administration official said. “He didn’t want to condemn his people.”
“He was a total monster today,” this official added, describing the president’s handling of Wednesday’s coup attempt as less defensible than his equivocal response to the deadly white supremacist rally in 2017 in Charlottesville.
Some aides were mortified that Trump was so slow, and resistant, to telling his supporters to vacate the Capitol, and believed he did irreparable damage to his presidency and legacy.