Supporters of United States (U.S.) President Donald Trump yesterday breached the Capitol Building in Washington DC.
They disrupted a joint session by the U.S. Congress to ratify the 2020 election results won by former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrat Party.
Biden won the election by 306 to 232 in the state-by-state Electoral College and by more than seven million ballots in the national popular vote, but Trump falsely claims there was widespread fraud and that he was the victor.
The Capitol Building houses the U.S. Congress and is the seat of the legislative branch of the American government.
The breach brought to a standstill the U.S. Congress’ debates. Vice President Mike Pence, who presided in the Senate and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who chaired in the House, were evacuated from their respective chambers at the first hint of the breach for their own safety.
Trump supporters, according to reports, tore through four layers of security fencing and attempted to occupy the building. In the process, they confronted federal police in an attempt to overrun them.
The protesters, waving the blue Trump flags, banging on the doors of the House Chamber and yelling outside, made their way inside as senators were ferried out from the room.
There were reports of gunshots outside the House as an armed standoff took place at the doors of the chamber.
“We’ve been given gas masks on the House floor. Tear gas has been used in the Rotunda,” wrote Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly on twitter.
The protesters filled the rotunda, which sets below the dome of the Capitol and is filled with paintings depicting important scenes in the founding of the nation. They also were seen marching through Statuary Hall, the room off the House chamber that is filled with statues of the nation’s founders and used for special ceremonies.
In the crypt of the Capitol, originally billed for George Washington’s burial, police and protesters clashed, fighting it out.
In a tweet that came after they had breached the building, Trump urged his supporters to stay peaceful. Police in the U.S. Capitol responded with drawn guns and tear gas.
At a rally earlier that morning, the President had encouraged them to march on the Capitol, where lawmakers were certifying the Electoral College vote.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our country. Stay peaceful!,” the President wrote. But he did not tell them to leave.
Pence had before the invasion rejected Trump’s demand that the results of the presidential election be upturned.
The vice president issued a statement shortly before he began presiding over the joint session of Congress in his constitutional role as President of the Senate.
Pence said he concluded, after “a careful study of the Constitution,” that he doesn’t have the sole power to accept or reject electoral votes. Instead, he said, his role is “ministerial.”
“When disputes concerning a presidential election arise, under Federal law, it is the people’s representatives who review the evidence and resolve disputes through a democratic process,” he wrote.
“As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its Framers, I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority.”
But, Trump lambasted his deputy, saying: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution, giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
Majority leader kicks
Also, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who helped give Trump some of the biggest accomplishments of his presidency, including deep tax cuts and confirmation of conservative judicial nominees, said: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” The voters, courts and states “have all spoken,” McConnell said on the Senate. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever,” he added.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called the challenges “an attempted coup” and said, “The Congress does not determine the outcome of an election. The people do.”
The U.S. Constitution, he said, does not give Pence the power to unilaterally overturn the results of the election, but he was pressured to do so by Trump.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he said in the statement.
The Electoral College results were presented alphabetically, starting with Alabama. Republicans raised their first objection to results from Arizona, with possible objections to follow for Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Republican lawmakers cheered and Democrats groaned when the Arizona objection was brought.
Senator Ted Cruz, seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, led at least 11 other Republican senators, alongside a majority of the 211 Republicans in the House, in objecting to Electoral College results being formally approved by Congress. State and federal reviews have debunked Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud even as increasingly desperate legal efforts by his campaign and allies on the right to overturn the election have failed in numerous courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Biden calls for caution
Biden on Wednesday called for an end to the chaos at Capitol.
“The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America. Do not represent who we are. What we’re seeing are a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition, and it must end now. I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward,” Biden said, speaking from Wilmington, Delaware.
“At this hour, our democracy’s under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times. An assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself. An assault on the people’s representatives and the Capitol Hill police sworn to protect them, and the public servants who work at the heart of our republic,” Biden said.
Amid the breach of the Capitol Building, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, tweeted, calling it a “coup attempt.”
Following the breach, Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser in a tweeted statement imposed a curfew from 6:00 p.m. ET. He said it would remain in effect until 6:00 a.m. today.
“During the hours of the curfew, no person, other than persons designated by the Mayor, shall walk, bike, run, loiter, stand, or motor by car or other modes of transport” within the district, the statement said
The Capitol Police, thereafter, asked for additional law enforcement for assistance, including federal authorities.
The source said there were several suspicious devices outside the Capitol Building.
A separate law enforcement source said the DC Metropolitan Police Department sent more resources to assist the Capitol Police, including CDU platoons or Civil Disturbance Units.
Democrats retook Senate control after the Georgia runoffs
With Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock winning their Senate runoffs in Georgia, Democrats look set to control both chambers of Congress and the presidency for the first time in a decade.
They are on course to wield power during a period of extraordinary health and economic challenges facing the nation.
Cases are still spiking and the economy is displaying severe signs of strain. Yesterday morning, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York noted the growing toll of the pandemic on average Americans in a statement hailing the pair of victories.
“Senate Democrats know America is hurting – help is on the way,” Schumer said, adding the party can deliver “bold change”. He stands to be the new majority leader in a chamber that’s evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.
It’s a razor-thin majority for Democrats and most legislation needs 60 votes to pass the Senate. But Congressional Democratic leaders have already signalled they could use a legislative manoeuvre known as budget reconciliation to approve more generous economic relief for individuals and strengthen Obamacare.
Among the measures that could make the cut in another emergency spending package are $2,000 stimulus checks, which President Donald Trump belatedly called for in the waning days of his term. Biden has pledged that the federal payments would be sent to Americans immediately if Democrats clinched victories in Georgia.
“Their election will put an end to the block in Washington – that $2,000 stimulus check – that money would go out the door immediately, to help people who are in real trouble,” he said at a Democratic rally.