Trump defended sending supporters to the Capitol on January 6, saying he wanted them to go up to it but not inside

Former President Donald Trump defended whipping up his supporters ahead of the January 6 riot, arguing that he never wanted anybody to actually go inside the Capitol.

Trump told amassed supporters that day that he wanted them to "fight" for him, claiming falsely that he election had been stolen.

The justification came in an audio interview released Wednesday which Trump gave to Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

Its contents informed their new book "I Alone Can Fix It", an account of Trump's tumultuous final months in power. The discussion took place on March 31 at Trump's resort in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Leonnig and Rucker played the audio for the first time in a Wednesday appearance on CNN with host Anderson Cooper.

—Carol Leonnig (@CarolLeonnig) July 22, 2021

In the interview Leonnig questioned Trump about his actions on January 6, when he delivered a fiery speech to supporters, groundlessly claiming that the presidential election had been stolen from him.

"If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore," he said, and exhorted them to march to the Capitol.

Shortly afterwards thousands of supporters were engaged in violent clashes with police and broke through police lines to breach the Capitol. The violence halted a proceeding to certify Joe Biden's victory as president as lawmakers were evacuated to safety. 

In the interview, Trump claimed his supporters went further than he wanted, though he also claimed they were less violent that commonly perceived.

"I would have said to them that you will show — not to go in," Trump claimed, adding: "I mean, personally what I wanted is what they wanted."

Trump went on to claim that the demonstrators were let in by police.

"I mean in all fairness, the Capitol Police were ushering people in," he said.

"The Capitol police were very friendly. You know, they were hugging and kissing. You don't see that but there's plenty of tape on that."

This is partly true — six officers in February were suspended after video footage showed them guiding rioters into the Capitol when police lines had been overwhelmed.

The interaction between police and rioters also involved violent clashes. More than 150 police officers were injured on January 6, sustaining serious head wounds, smashed ribs and cracked spinal discs.

Rioters used flagpoles, bear spray and batons to attack officers. A police officer was initially reported to have died as a result of his injuries, but a medical examiner in April concluded he had died of natural causes. 

Trump in the interview described the protesters as a "loving crowd."

In his speech, Trump had told the crowd he would go with them to the Capitol. Instead he returned to the White House, where he watched the chaos unfold on television.

He was banned from Twitter and Facebook for posts that day which the networks said incited futher violence.

Trump impeached on the charge of inciting the riot, but ultimately acquitted after the Senate did not reach the two-thirds majority required for conviction. 

Trump's comments underline a months-long campaign by some Republicans to whitewash the violence on January 6.