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CHAOS AT THE CAPITOL
Congress finalized President-elect Joe Biden’s victory early this morning, after a dramatic day in which a mob of pro-Trump rioters violently broke into the Capitol and disrupted the proceedings.
Moments after Vice President Mike Pence affirmed that Biden had won the 2020 election and would be sworn in later this month, President Donald Trump issued a statement committing to a peaceful transfer of power for the first time.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” he said.
Those words — milquetoast as they were — marked a far cry from President Trump’s rhetoric as Wednesday began, when he spoke before a group of his supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., and encouraged them to reject the results of the 2020 election.
“We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more,” he told them, just hours before many of those assembled walked to the Capitol at his encouragement and stormed into the building.
The mob arrived as lawmakers were meeting to formally ratify Trump’s election loss to Biden, in a quadrennial joint session that has long been a hallmark of the peaceful transfer of power in America. The two chambers of Congress had split off to consider an objection to Arizona’s electoral votes that was triggered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and spurred on by Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud.
A debate over the objection was suddenly halted as Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol, barging through barriers and facing relatively little pushback from police officers. Soon, lawmakers — donning gas masks — were evacuated to secure locations as the rioters broke windows and vandalized the building.
Within minutes, one Trump supporter was sitting in the very chair in the Senate chamber that Vice President Pence had previously been presiding from. Another was seated in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. It was an alarming scene with little precedent in centuries of American elections.
The members of the mob would remain at the Capitol for hours, as Vice President Pence and members of Congress hid throughout the building, until being cleared away by police. In that time, the chaos turned deadly as one woman was shot and killed by police officers. Three others at the Capitol died in “medical emergencies,” according to D.C. police.
Just 52 arrests were made throughout the day; tear gas was deployed in the Capitol rotunda at one point, around the same time that explosive devices were found on the building’s hallowed grounds and at the Democratic and Republican national party offices.
According to the New York Times, President Trump “was pleased by what he was seeing on TV at the Capitol” and “initially rebuffed requests to mobilize the National Guard” in response to his violent supporters. About 1,750 National Guard troops were eventually deployed; according to CNN, it was Vice President Pence who eventually authorized the guardsmen. (Trump had been raging against Pence all day, aware that his once-loyal VP would buck his wishes and affirm Biden’s victory instead of illegally blocking it.)
Even as Biden went before television cameras and harshly condemned the “assault on the citadel of liberty,” Trump remained relatively quiet, issuing a handful of tweets encouraging protesters to remain peaceful — while also telling them in one that he loved them. Deeming his messages as further inciting violence, Twitter and Facebook took the extraordinary step of suspending him from their platforms for the first time.
By the time — late into the night — that the Capitol had been finally been deemed safe and lawmakers returned to continue debating the Arizona objection, Trump’s political fortunes had faced a stark turnaround.
There was significantly less of an appetite to challenge the election results: Several senators who had previously announced plans to back the Arizona objection reversed course and accepted Biden’s victory. The objection failed in both chambers, as would a later objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes brought by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA).
The objections to the Arizona and Pennsylvania votes were defeated 93-6 and 92-7, respectively, in the Senate; in the House, they were shot down 303-121 and 282-138 while receiving support from more than half of the chamber’s Republican members.
“What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) declared as the debating raged on.
“Enough is enough,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, virtually divorcing from the president on live television after growing to be one of his closest allies over the past four years.
Democrats began calling for Trump to be impeached for a second time.
Meanwhile, at the White House, Trump was facing a possible insurrection of his own, as the future of his final two weeks in office were suddenly thrown into doubt. According to the Washington Post, “an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment,” which would remove Trump from office and install Pence as acting president.
Such a move — never before taken since it was added to the Constitution in 1965 — would require support from Pence and a majority of Cabinet members. According to CBS News, “there have been discussions among Cabinet members regarding potentially invoking the 25th Amendment,” although it is unclear how advanced they are.
As of this writing, seven administration officials have resigned in response to the riots and Trump’s response to them, including: Mick Mulvaney, the special envoy to Northern Ireland and the president’s former chief of staff; Stephanie Grisham, First Lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and the president’s former press secretary; Matt Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser; Sarah Matthews, the deputy press secretary; and Rickie Niceta, the social secretary.
“I just can’t do it,” Mulvaney told CNBC this morning, predicting that other resignations would follow. “I can’t stay.”
THE DAY IN PHOTOS
Jon Ossoff was declared the winner in the regular Senate runoff in Georgia on Wednesday, handing control of the Senate to the Democrats for the next two years. NBC News
The United States reported 3,865 deaths from coronavirus on Wednesday, making it the deadliest day of the pandemic so far. CNN
President-elect Joe Biden has selected former Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, a federal judge, to be his Attorney General. New York Times
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled. According to the White House, he “will work from early in the morning until late in the evening” and “will make many calls and have many meetings” today.
Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.
President-elect Joe Biden will introduce his nominee for Attorney General and his picks for other key Justice Department posts during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, at 1:30 p.m.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will meet with transition advisers.
The House, Senate, and Supreme Court are not in session.
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