Congress Certifies Biden, Harris Victory Following Trump Supporters' Capitol Hill Siege

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Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, January 6, 2021.
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, January 6, 2021.Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

U.S. Congress has approved the Electoral College result, clearing the way for Joe Biden to be sworn in on January 20, 2021. 

Proceedings resumed several hours after the U.S. Capitol was put on lockdown on Wednesday due to pro-Trump protesters violently breaching the building, leading to clashes with law enforcement and leaving four dead.

U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., January 06, 2021. Credit: Drew Angerer - AFP

President Donald Trump responded to the news saying, "There will be an orderly transition" on January 20th.

“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. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. while this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again," Donald Trump said in a statement. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the violence at the Capitol on Thursday morning, saying American democracy has been a source of inspiration for Israel and the world spanning generations.

"For me, American democracy has always been a source of inspiration," Netanyahu said. 

"The violent rampage that took place today is the stark opposite of the values that Americans and Israelis uphold. The attack on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. was disgraceful, and we must condemn every such attack. I have no doubt that American democracy will prevail, as it has always done."

Joe Biden joined calls by multiple political leaders in the United States for protesters to leave, slamming it as an "assault on democracy."

A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump sits inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protests inside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021.Credit: SAUL LOEB - AFP

The events were still unfolding as the closely fought race for the crucial Georgia Senate seat opposing Democrat Jon Ossoff to Republican David Perdue was called in favor of the former, giving the Democrats congressional control and Biden greater freedom to enact policy.

Wall Street indices had hit record highs following the rumors of an Ossoff victory, which many observers equated with likely higher spending on infrastructure. The gains were wiped out by the events in Washington.

Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021.Credit: Samuel Corum - AFP

Protesters moved toward the U.S. Capitol in the early afternoon local time after outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump addressed thousands of supporters at a rally in Washington protesting the confirmation hearing.

“We will never give up, we will never concede,” Trump said. In the hours before his speech, ordinary citizens wearing pro-Trump shirts mixed with members of militia and extremist groups wearing body armor. They alternated between innocuous chants, cries of profanity, and threats of overthrowing a government led by Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and current Congressional leaders.

As the crowd started breaching security barriers, the Senate and the House, which were weighing objections to Biden's victory, abruptly and unexpectedly recessed.

An armed standoff at the door of the House floor was reported, and although pictures seemed to show that Capitol police had the situation under control, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed that shots had been fired. CNN later reported that a woman was shot in the chest, apparently by a law enforcement officer, and it was later confirmed she had been killed. Three further people died on Capitol Hill of medical emergencies and 52 people were arrested, D.C. police reported. Multiple police officers were also injured, and at least one had to be hospitalized.

Vice-President Pence, who earned himself a rebuke from the president himself earlier in the day after saying he would not oppose the Biden confirmation, was escorted out of the chamber. He said protesters who had stormed the capitol would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Both House speaker and Senate minority leader joined the call to ask protesters to leave the Capitol. When he returned to Congress later in the evening, he condemned the violence: "You did not win. Violence never wins."

'Reckless behavior'

After lawmakers resumed debate on the last-ditch effort to overturn the election results, it was not clear how late into the night the sessions would go.

Trump supporters storming Capitol Hill, January 6, 2021Credit: AP, AFP

The Senate rejected by a 93-6 vote Republican objections to the certification of Biden's victory in the battleground state of Arizona, ensuring their defeat. The House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, was still debating the Arizona objections, but a majority of both chambers would need to approve it.

Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who lost her re-election bid in one of two Georgia runoffs on Tuesday that secured Democratic control of the Senate, said she had planned to object to Biden's certification but had changed her mind after the events of the afternoon.

"I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors," she said.The U.S. House of Representatives rejected the move to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's victory in Arizona, a vote delayed by rioters earlier pushing their way into the U.S. Capitol.

The House of Representatives also voted 303-121 against the measure.

Contrasting stances

"This is not dissent, it's disorder, it's chaos. It borders on sedition" Joe Biden said in an address to the media after the protest spiralled out of control, "and it must end, now."

"At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite," Biden added, calling on Trump to go on national television and demand "an end to this siege."

Donald Trump had earlier urged his supporters to "stay peaceful" in two different tweets. "WE are the party of Law & Order," he wrote, a claim that became more and more difficult to argue as pictures piled in from inside the capitol of protesters confronting police forces.

Chuck Schumer tweeted in reply "It's a little late for that, dont you think?"

The president eventually released a video on Twitter, saying that "we have to have peace now," and calling on his supporters to "go home."

"We love you. You're very special," he added. 

Twitter later suspended the outgoing president's account for 12 hours, pending the removal of three tweets for "severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy".

Facebook later tweeted it would block Trump's page from posting for 24 hours due to two policy violations.

Many, but not all, Congress members were evacuated. Reporters from inside the House had been told to lie on the floor and take out gas masks by police. Journalists were also reporting that protesters had entered the Senate chamber - one took to the Senate dais and shouted "Trump won that election." 

Washington D.C. Mayor Bowser ordered a citywide curfew to come into effect at 6 P.M. local time (1 A.M. Israel time). Both Bowser and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the National Guard to come and clear protesters off Capitol Hill, a request that was originally denied by the Department of Defense. Trump himself later asked for the National Guard to be deployed, joining efforts by the governors of the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland.

The Secretary-General of NATO, as well as high-ranking officials across the world expressed concern for the United States, and for democracy itself. Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, took a different view, drawing a comparison with protests in Ukraine that toppled Russian-backed President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich in 2014.

"Quite Maidan-style pictures are coming from DC," he posted on Twitter. "Some of my friends ask whether someone will distribute crackers to the protesters to echo Victoria Nuland stunt," he said, citing a 2013 visit to Ukraine when then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland offered food to protesters.

Although there was no confirmation the events were linked, the central offices of both Republican and Democratic parties were evacuated, the New York Times reported. An explosive device was found at Republican Party headquarters and detonated. 

Armed militia also gathered outside Georgia's state Capitol. Senior staff and Secretary of State Raffensperger had to be escorted out to safety.

Weeks have passed since the states completed certifying that Biden, a Democrat, won the election by 306 Electoral College votes to Trump's 232, and Trump's extraordinary challenges to Biden's victory have floundered in courts across the country.

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