Former US national security council member Fiona Hill said that US President Donald Trump was deliberately "trying to stage a coup" by inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol, which only failed because the military did not join in.
A mob of Trump's supporters violently stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday, just hours after the president urged them to "fight much harder" to overturn the election, reports the Business Insider.
Supporters broke police lines and entered the building through broken doors and windows before ransacking the offices of lawmakers and entering the House and Senate chambers.
Hill said a public intervention from all 10 living former defense secretaries this week had prevented armed forces from becoming involved in the coup attempt, so Trump had opted instead to incite his supporters.
"This could have turned into a full-blown coup had he had any of those key [military and security] institutions following him," Fiona Hill told the Daily Beast in an interview.
She added: "Just because it failed or didn't succeed doesn't mean it wasn't real."
Alarm had grown in defense circles that the president would attempt to involve the military after his former national security adviser Michael Flynn floated the idea of bringing in troops to "rerun" the election as the president continued to baselessly insist he had won the election.
"They prevented the military from being involved in any coup attempt. But instead, Trump tried to incite it himself," Hill said.
"Just because it failed or didn't succeed doesn't mean it wasn't real."
Multiple officials including Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger have also accused Trump of trying to launch a coup. Three European security officials this week also characterised Trump's actions as a coup attempt in conversations with Insider.
Two Cabinet secretaries, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and transportation secretary Elaine Chao resigned over the riot, along with multiple White House officials.
"There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me," said DeVos in a resignation letter to the president.
A federal prosecutor on Thursday said that President Trump was being investigated for possible incitement over the siege at the Capitol.