WASHINGTON (AP): A violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and forced lawmakers into hiding, in a stunning attempt to overturn America’s presidential election, undercut the nation’s democracy and keep Democrat Joe Biden from replacing Trump in the White House.
The nation’s elected representatives scrambled to crouch under desks and don gas marks, while police futilely tried to barricade the building, one of the most jarring scenes ever to unfold in a seat of American political power. A woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol, and Washington’s mayor instituted an evening curfew in an attempt to contain the violence.
The rioters were egged on by Trump, who has spent weeks falsely attacking the integrity of the election and had urged his supporters to descend on Washington to protest Congress’ formal approval of Biden’s victory. Some Republican lawmakers were in the midst of raising objections to the results on his behalf when the proceedings were abruptly halted by the mob.
Together, the protests and the GOP election objections amounted to an almost unthinkable challenge to American democracy and exposed the depths of the divisions that have coursed through the country during Trump’s four years in office. Though the efforts to block Biden from being sworn in on Jan.
20 were sure to fail, the support Trump has received for his efforts to overturn the election results have badly strained the nation’s democratic guardrails.
Congress reconvened in the evening, senators decrying the protests that defaced the Capitol and vowing to finish confirming the Electoral College vote for Biden’s election, even if it took all night.Vice President Mike Pence, reopening the Senate, directly addressed the demonstrators: “You did not win.”Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the “failed insurrection” underscored lawmakers’ duty to confirm the vote. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would show the world “what America is made of” by finishing the count.
The president gave his supporters a boost into action Wednesday morning at a rally outside the White House, where he urged them to march to the Capitol. He spent much of the afternoon in his private dining room off the Oval Office watching scenes of the violence on television.
At the urging of his staff, he reluctantly issued a pair of tweets and a taped video telling his supporters it was time to “go home in peace” — yet he still said he backed their cause.Hours later, Twitter for the first time time locked Trump’s account, demanded that he remove tweets excusing violence and threatened “permanent suspension.”
A somber President-elect Biden, two weeks away from being inaugurated, said American democracy was “under unprecedented assault, ” a sentiment echoed by many in Congress, including some Republicans. Former President George W. Bush said he watched the events in “disbelief and dismay.”The domed Capitol building has for centuries been the scene of protests and occasional violence.
But Wednesday’s events were particularly astounding both because they unfolded at least initially with the implicit blessing of the president and because of the underlying goal of overturning the results of a free and fair presidential election.