Ex–White House Communications Director Says Capitol Rioters Should Be Called Terrorists

A former top spokeswoman for Donald Trump's administration is directly blaming the president for his supporters' violent assault on the U.S. Capitol this week, and she says the rioters should be referred to as "terrorists."

"I made the decision to step down in December because I saw where this was heading, and I wasn't comfortable being a part of sharing this message to the public that the election results might go a different way," Alyssa Farah, 31, told Politico Magazine in an interview published Friday.

Farah, who had worked for the Trump administration since 2017, was the White House's director of strategic communications before her departure. She previously was a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense and Vice President Mike Pence.

She spoke to Politico after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol after they left a rally where the president falsely told them that the election could be overturned by Congress.

"[W]hat happened was unacceptable. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. And I certainly fault the protesters—frankly, we should call them terrorists, but I fundamentally fault our elected leadership who allowed these people to believe that their election was stolen from them," Farah said. "The president and certain advisors around him are directly responsible."

Trump's mass rally for his supporters on Wednesday was held before a congressional meeting to certify the presidential election, normally a ceremonial process. Trump encouraged the thousands who attended the rally to go to the Capitol and press for an override of results that have been certified in battleground states that went to President-elect Joe Biden.

Hundreds of protesters, many of them carrying Trump flags, broke through barricades and windows to get into the Capitol, forcing House and Senate members to pause in certifying the electoral votes. Lawmakers and Pence were whisked away to secret secure areas during the melee. As it was unfolding, Trump released a video urging his supporters to "go home" but also told them "we love you" and that they were "special."

Late Thursday evening—more than 24 hours after the riot, Trump released a video, taped at the White House, in which he condemned the demonstration as a "heinous attack" on the Capitol.

"America is and must always be a nation of law and order," he said.

Farah said she felt that the rhetoric leading up to Wednesday's riots had become dangerous. "Wednesday crossed a line in rhetoric," she said. "Telling people an election was stolen is crossing a line, because it's just not where the facts land. And we have a duty to be honest with the American public."

Trump lodged several legal challenges to the election and refused to concede until Thursday evening's video, in which he didn't mention Biden but said there would be a new administration. Farah said there was a point, soon after Election Day, where members of the administration acknowledged that Trump lost, despite his public objections.

"I know there were a number of people who conveyed that early on. But I do think that it took on a life of its own," she said. "And early on, I truly believe the president knew—when I was still in the White House in late November, he knew that he had lost. And it was something that was almost, like, tacitly acknowledged, like we're going to make this painful, but we know what happened. And then something turned. And I don't know if it was the wrong advisers getting to him with bad information or what."

But Farah said she's still proud of her time in the Trump administration.

"What you're going to find is that there are many, many people like myself who are tremendously proud of a number of policy accomplishments that we were able to get done under the Trump administration," she said. "I think there are plenty of people who already are criticizing me, and wanting to frame me as a turncoat or somebody trying to change my tone. And I'm not—I am proud of much of what we did."

The White House didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment on Farah's remarks.

Alyssa Farah
Then-White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah talks to Fox News outside the White House's West Wing on October 6, 2020. Chip Somodevilla/Getty