First lady ‘disappointed and disheartened’

Melania pays tribute to dead of Capitol attack but casts herself as victim

Melania Trump decries ‘unwarranted personal attacks’

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POLITICS PRESS GROUP

Melania Trump broke her silence on the attack on the Capitol on Monday – to issue a statement saying that she honored all those who died, including four supporters of her husband, who incited the mob to violent action. But she also used the opportunity to portray herself as a victim, saying the shocking and violent attack on one of the hearts of American democracy had led to “salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks and false misleading accusations” about her.

Donald Trump continues to refuse to admit the reality of his electoral defeat by Joe Biden, although he has conceded that he will leave office on 20 January.

The first lady published a statement on the White House website, under the title “Our Path Forward”.

“It has been inspiring,” she wrote, “to witness firsthand what the people of our great nation will do for one another, especially when we are at our most vulnerable.

“Most recently, my heart goes out to: Air Force Veteran, Ashli Babbitt, Benjamin Philips, Kevin Greeson, Roseanne Boyland, and Capitol Police Officers, Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood. I pray for their families comfort and strength during this difficult time.”

Sicknick died after confronting the pro-Trump rioters who attacked the Capitol and being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. Liebengood, who also defended the Capitol, reportedly killed himself. Whether his case is linked to the Capitol attack remains unclear.

Babbitt, whose social media use showed her to be a devoted conspiracy theorist, was shot and killed by a law enforcement officer as she and others sought to force entry into the inner sanctums of the Capitol. The others who died suffered medical emergencies, according to police.

Trump supporters were arrested, with charges including bringing guns and explosives to Washington, threatening to kill the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and roving the Capitol carrying plastic “zip-tie” handcuffs, suggesting plans to kidnap lawmakers. Chants of “hang Mike Pence” were heard, aimed at Trump’s vice-president. White nationalists and neo-Nazis were among the crowd, which was overwhelmingly white.

Trump had told the mob to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” in his attempt to overturn election defeat by Biden. He has since disowned those who rioted on his instruction, but refuses to admit defeat and faces calls for removal via the 25th amendment or impeachment.

The first lady said she was “disappointed and disheartened with what happened last week”.

But after resignations among senior aides reportedly appalled by her initial silence over the riot – which occurred while she was supervising a photo shoot – she added: “I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks and false misleading accusations on me – from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda.

“This time is solely about healing our country and its citizens. It should not be used for personal gain.”

In a passage which carried faint echoes of a condemnation of her husband by another high-profile American born in central Europe – Arnold Schwarzenegger – the Slovenia-born Trump said: “Our nation must heal in a civil manner. Make no mistake about it, I absolutely condemn the violence that has occurred on our nation’s Capitol. Violence is never acceptable.

“… I would like to call on the citizens of this country to take a moment, pause, and look at things from all perspectives.

“I implore people to stop the violence, never make assumptions based on the color of a person’s skin or use differing political ideologies as a basis for aggression and viciousness. We must listen to one another, focus on what unites us, and rise above what divides us.

“It is inspiring to see that so many have found a passion and enthusiasm in participating in an election, but we must not allow that passion to turn to violence.”

She also said it had been “the honor of my lifetime to serve as your first lady”.

That service has just a few days left to run. Though Donald Trump faces a second impeachment, he looks set to remain in office until inauguration day. He is, however, reported to be likely to leave Washington before then, taking his family with him.

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