Four dead after Donald Trump’s supporters storm US Capitol
Congress reconvenes after chaotic scenes to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory
Four people have died after supporters of outgoing US president Donald Trump invaded the US Capitol in an extraordinary attack on the heart of American democracy as Joe Biden’s election victory was to be confirmed.
Both Houses of Congress reconvened shortly after 8pm US time (1am Irish time) after a day of chaos in the capital.
Less than two weeks before Mr Trump leaves the White House, the final days of his presidency descended into violence and insurrection as protesters stormed the Capitol in a violent display of loyalty to the president.
In surreal scenes, the carnage predicted by Mr Trump four years ago erupted in the very spot where he delivered his inauguration speech.
Thousands of flag-waving supporters broke through police barriers, mounted the inauguration stands erected for Mr Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, and smashed windows in the historic building.
They then entered the domed edifice, moving room by room, and marching through the historic Rotunda, some holding confederate flags.
Members of Congress were ordered to shelter in place as Capitol police engaged in a shoot-out in at least one of the two chambers. Washington DC police chief Robert Contee said the dead included a woman who was shot by US Capitol Police, as well as three others who died in “medical emergencies”.
Shortly after 8pm last, the Senate reconvened for the electoral college count with vice-president Mike Pence in the chair. The House of Representatives opened proceedings an hour later.
Both chambers resumed debating objections to the November 3rd election result ahead of the certification of Mr Biden’s victory - a process they had just begun when the Capitol went into lockdown.
But in a sign of the impact the dramatic events of the day have had on the political temperature, Republican senators who had pledged to challenge the electoral college vote scaled back their efforts.
The debate, which had been expected to take hours, was instead curtailed. Several Republican senators reversed their decision to object to the election vote.
In the end only six senators - as opposed to 14 - objected to Arizona’s vote, and a debate on other states was scrapped. These included high-profile figures like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who had led the charge against the election result, in deference to Mr Trump, though Mr Hawley later objected to the Pennsylvania result.
“The United States senate will not be intimated,” said senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. “We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation… We will certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election.”
The 435-member House of Representatives also moved quickly to debate and vote on the electoral college results, though more than 120 Republicans objected to the results in Arizona.
An objection to Pennsylvania was also lodged, triggering a debate and vote in both houses. However, the Congress was expected to officially certify Mr Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice-president.
Despite Wednesday being a significant day in the process that will see Mr Biden become president, the scenes in the Capitol opened up fresh questions about Mr Trump’s fitness for office.
Dozens of Democratic members of Congress called on Mr Pence to invoke the 25th amendment - the clause in the constitution that allows the removal of a president from office.
Mr Pence was said to have been centrally involved in calling-in extra law enforcement to deal with the chaos at the Capitol throughout Wednesday, remaining in a secure location with the other members of Congress as the building went into lockdown.
Washington was under curfew throughout the night, and forces from the neighbouring states of Maryland and Virginia and DC’s entire National Guard were mobilised, along with the FBI. The city’s mayor extended the emergency until January 21st - the day after Mr Biden’s inauguration.
Wednesday afternoon’s riots began after crowds of Trump supporters moved from an earlier protest near the White House on the National Mall. Mr Trump spoke for more than an hour at what he dubbed the ‘Save America’ rally, raging against “weak Republicans” who refused to support his calls for Mr Biden’s election victory to be overturned, and making false claims of voter fraud.
“We will never give up, we will never concede… we will not take it anymore,” he declared to cheers from thousands of supporters, many of whom who had driven for days from across America to attend the rally.
Following calls from incoming Mr Biden and others for Mr Trump to address the nation, the president released a video in which he encouraged his supporters to leave the capitol building while the standoff was ongoing.
But he repeated his baseless claims that the presidential election was rigged, telling the rioters he loved them.
“I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election.. but you have to go home,” he said.
Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trummp deleted a Twitter post in which she described the rioters as “American Patriots” as she urged calm.
Twitter for the first time banned Mr Trump for 12 hours and removed some of his tweets, as the president remained at the White House last night.
At least two members of the White House staff resigned, and there was speculation that others could follow.