US Congress early yesterday confirmed former US vice president Joe Biden as the winner of November last year’s presidential election after a violent mob loyal to US President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in a stunning attempt to overturn the election, undercut the nation’s democracy and keep Trump in the White House.
US lawmakers were resolved to complete the Electoral College tally in a display to the nation, and the world, of their enduring commitment to uphold the will of the voters and the peaceful transfer of power.
They pushed through the night with tensions high and the nation’s capital on high alert.
Before dawn yesterday, lawmakers finished their work, confirming Biden won the election.
US Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the joint session, announced the tally, 306 to 232.
Trump, who had repeatedly refused to concede the election, said in a statement immediately after the vote that there would be a smooth transition of power on Jan. 20.
“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,” Trump said in a statement posted on Twitter by an aide.
The US Capitol was under siege on Wednesday as lawmakers scrambled under desks and donned gas masks, while police futilely tried to barricade the building, one of the most jarring scenes ever to unfold in a seat of US 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 Republican election objections amounted to an almost unthinkable challenge to US democracy, exposing the depths of the divisions that have coursed through the nation 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, with lawmakers 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.
Pence reopened the US Senate and directly addressed the demonstrators.
“You did not win,” he said.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said that the “failed insurrection” underscored lawmakers’ duty to finish the count.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said that Congress would show the world “what America is made of” with the outcome.
Trump gave his supporters a boost into action on 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 TV.
At the urging of his staff, he reluctantly issued a pair social media postings and a taped a video telling his supporters it was time to “go home in peace” — yet he still said that he backed their cause.
Hours later, Twitter for the first time locked Trump’s account, demanded that he remove postings excusing violence and threatened “permanent suspension.”
A somber Biden said that US democracy was “under unprecedented assault,” a sentiment echoed by many in Congress, including some Republicans.
Former US president George W. Bush said that 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 US president, and because of the underlying goal of overturning the results of a free and fair presidential election.
Trump spent the buildup to the proceedings hectoring Pence, who had a largely ceremonial role, to aid the effort to throw out the results.
“Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
However, Pence, in a statement shortly before presiding, defied Trump, saying that he could not claim “unilateral authority” to reject the electoral votes that make Biden president.
The woman who was killed was part of a crowd that was breaking down the doors to a barricaded room where armed officers stood on the other side, police said.
She was shot in the chest by Capitol Police and taken to hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Police said that three other people died from medical emergencies during the protest on and around the Capitol grounds.
The mob’s storming of Congress prompted outrage, mostly from Democrats, but also from Republicans, as lawmakers accused Trump of fomenting the violence with his relentless falsehoods about election fraud.
“Count me out,” former Trump ally US Senator Lindsey Graham said. “Enough is enough.”
“I think Donald Trump probably should be brought up on treason for something like this,” US Representative Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat, told reporters. “This is how a coup is started, and this is how democracy dies.”
US Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican who has at times clashed with Trump, issued a statement saying: “Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the president’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
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