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Congress reconvenes to certify Biden’s victory just hours after pro-Trump rioters storm US Capitol

Congress and Vice President Pence resume proceedings after day of chaos

Griffin Connolly
Washington
Thursday 07 January 2021 01:55 GMT
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Congress calls surprise recess as protesters storm Capitol building

The US House and Senate are back in session at the Capitol to certify the 2020 election results after an hours-long security crisis that saw hundreds of pro-Trump rioters overpower police to storm the building and interrupt official proceedings.

“The violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured, and the people's work continues,” Vice President Mike Pence said as he gaveled the Senate back into session.

Lawmakers will pick up where they left off around 2pm Wednesday afternoon by resuming consideration of a motion co-signed by dozens of Republican lawmakers to block the Electoral College votes in Arizona.

Read more: Follow live updates on the riots at the US Capitol

Arizona is one of five states whose election results Republicans have planned to challenge to wipe away President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and keep Donald Trump in power for four more years.

The cadre of Trump loyalists has cited widespread “election fraud” but has never once provided evidence that such fraud existed, with state and federal courts dismissing case after case over the last several weeks.

Each chamber needs a majority of members to vote in favour of the objections to throw out the results. At the beginning of the day, 24 GOP senators (less than a quarter of the chamber) and roughly 150 House Republicans (out of 435 total House members) had pledged to support the objections, leaving the objections far short of a majority. It is unclear whether the riot at the Capitol, which Democrats and even many Republicans have blamed on Mr Trump for inciting, has changed any Republicans’ minds about how they will vote.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterised the mayhem in Washington on Wednesday as a “time of great sadness” as she notified her colleagues that they would be summoned back to the Capitol to complete the American people’s business.

“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,” the speaker wrote in a Dear Colleague letter on Wednesday evening.

Mr Pence will continue presiding over the joint session when each chamber completes debating and voting on Congressman Paul Gosar and Senator Ted Cruz’ objection to Arizona’s electoral tally.

Mr Pence has defied Mr Trump’s pleas to block the electoral results and keep him in power.

Earlier on Wednesday, the president made a final desperate plea to his vice president to block the certification of Mr Biden’s victory.

“States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval,” the president tweeted, repeating his false assertions of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

“All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Mr Trump wrote.

The scene at the Capitol earlier on Wednesday felt like something out of a movie or video game as throngs of protesters descended on an overwhelmed US Capitol Police force, shattered windows, and stormed through the halls and both chambers of Congress.

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 romped through the House and Senate chambers for a time.

They stole podiums and congressional leaders’ mail. One rioter even left a menacing note on the speaker’s desk: “We will not back down,” he wrote in red Sharpie in all capital letters on a manilla folder.

Calls have surged on Capitol Hill for Mr Trump to removed from office over his involvement in the riots.

At a “Save America March” on the Ellipse just south of the White House early on Wednesday afternoon, the president encouraged thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol, telling them to be “strong.”

“We will never give up,” Mr Trump said to roars of applause. “We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that’s what this is all about.”

The president remained defiant throughout the day, refusing to concede the election. He also did not outright condemn the pro-Trump rioters he himself had encouraged to gather at the Capitol. In a video posted to Twitter that has since been taken down by the social media platform, Mr Trump told the rioters he “loves” them, although he urged them to “go home.”

“You have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order,” he said.

It wasn’t just Democrats on Capitol Hill who were incensed with the president for his inflammatory rhetoric that fueled Wednesday’s violence.

While no Republican lawmakers have so far issued public statements about removing Mr Trump from office, several have explicitly denounced him 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.

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