The US Capitol Police and several other law enforcement agencies have cleared the Capitol of pro-Trump rioters who stormed the building earlier on Wednesday, paving the way for Congress to continue certifying the 2020 election results.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that process will continue Wednesday night.
“Today, a shameful assault was made on our democracy. It was anointed at the highest level of government. It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden,” Ms wrote in a letter to her Democratic colleagues on Wednesday.
“To that end, in consultation with [Democratic leaders] and after calls to the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the Vice President, we have decided we should proceed tonight at the Capitol once it is cleared for use.”
Members of the new Congress are eager to finish the job of officially tallying the Electoral College vote after hundreds — possibly thousands — of rioters interrupted what was already a high-drama joint session on Wednesday where roughly 150 Republicans were challenging the electoral results in in five states.
At least one woman was shot and killed and several USCP officers were injured amid the chaos as rioters breached the Capitol building.
Tear gas was deployed to disperse rioters who burst into various offices in the Capitol — including Ms Pelosi’s — and took over the House and Senate chambers for a time.
Congressional leaders and Vice President Mike Pence have not announced exactly how the certification will continue, but rank and file members are eager to make quick work of the task before them.
“We're going to go back and do our business,” West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III told reporters on Wednesday.
“Whatever it takes. These thugs are not running us off.”
Other Democrats echoed Mr Manchin’s resolve to finish the certification process on Wednesday.
“[I’m] still safe and it appears things are clearing out. We plan to go back into session today to certify the vote so President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris can take office,” tweeted Congressman Mike Thompson.
“This is a tragic and dark day for our great country. The acts of rioters who stormed the Capitol will not be tolerated,” the California Democrats wrote.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted that he is “eager to get back to proceedings as soon as possible. Tonight, I hope.”
The Rhode Island Democrat is not alone in those hopes, he indicated.
“Day of infamy ought to end with us doing our jobs. Many colleagues eager to get back on Floor asap,” Mr Whitehouse wrote.
Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol has also spurred questions on Capitol Hill about how to handle a defiant and deranged Mr Trump in the final days of his administration, with several Democrats calling for the lame-duck president’s removal.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is drawing up articles of impeachment against him, a move that at least six other House Democrats have signaled they would support.
Mr Trump, who has just 14 days left in office, has been accused of inciting the riotous mob that stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday and pushed past police officers on their way into the Senate and House chambers.
“We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfil our oath,” Ms Omar wrote in a tweet announcing that she was crafting impeachment articles.
While no Republican lawmakers had issued any public statements by 6:30pm on Wednesday about removing Mr Trump from office, several had denounced Mr Trump for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-highest ranking House Republican, placed the blame for Wednesday’s mayhem squarely on the outgoing president’s shoulders.
“We just had a violent mob assault the US Capitol. ... No question the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame,” Ms Cheney said.
Senator Mitt Romney went a step further, saying that the Republicans who support Mr Trump’s bid to throw out the Electoral College results are equally complicit in perpetrating the insurrection staged on Wednesday at the Capitol.
“What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States. Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy. They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy,” the Utah Republican said.
The president remained defiant throughout the day on Wednesday, refusing to concede the election. He also did not outright condemn the throngs of pro-Trump rioters gathered at the Capitol, telling him he “loves” them but urging them to “go home.”
Several hours after he spoke before a crowd of supporters close to the National Mall, saying that “we will never concede — it doesn't happen,” he posted a video message in which he urged people to leave the buildings they had then occupied, and to and respect law enforcement officers.
“You have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order,” he said.
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