CNB News – Congress on early Thursday morning formally affirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory after a mob supporting President Trump violently broke into the Capitol the day before.
The extraordinary attack on the symbolic epicenter of the U.S.’s democracy left the building in tatters, at least one rioter dead and lawmakers in both parties shell-shocked by the unprecedented threat to their safety in a building previously thought to be virtually impenetrable.
Shortly before 4 a.m., after lawmakers formally tabulated each state’s Electoral College votes, Vice President Pence announced before a joint session of Congress that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris had won 306 votes over Trump’s 232.
“There is no question that the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican. “He lit the flame.”
The vote to certify the president-elect’s victory in the Electoral College, the final step before his inauguration on Jan. 20, is largely a matter of course, but party leaders in both chambers decided that delaying it, even briefly, would deliver the message that the mob had won.
Instead, they raced to finalize their votes accepting the state tallies, hoping it would send a very different signal to the stunned country: The nation’s democratic institutions remain strong even under direct attack.
“We must and we will show to the country — and indeed to the world — that we will not be diverted from our duty, that we will respect our responsibility to the Constitution and to the American people,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said while presiding over the House floor.
“The United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said as he reconvened the upper chamber Wednesday night.
The day’s proceedings were extraordinary even before the arrival of the violent mob, as more than 100 of Trump’s closest allies in both chambers had vowed to challenge the election results in as many as six battleground states where they claimed, without evidence, that fraud had been rampant.
The House and Senate were less than an hour into separately debating the first GOP objection to a state that Biden won — Arizona — when the rioters breached nearby office buildings and eventually the Capitol itself.
Both chambers went into recess for more than 5 1/2 hours as law enforcement struggled to contain the chaos unfolding inside the Capitol. The mobs breached the Senate chamber, broke the glass of one of the center doors leading into the House chamber and vandalized Pelosi’s office nearby.
Terror and chaos reigned at the Capitol as lawmakers, staff and reporters in the House and Senate chambers were told to hide under their seats, given gas masks and eventually evacuated.
One of the rioters who broke into the Senate chamber sat in the chair on the dais reserved for the presiding officer while yelling in support of Trump. Another swung from the base of the visitor’s gallery, while a third was seen with his feet propped up on a desk in Pelosi’s office.
In the House chamber, police officers drew guns and improvised by placing heavy furniture against the central door to prevent the mob from making its way inside, where lawmakers, staff and journalists were scrambling for cover.
D.C. police confirmed that one unnamed woman was shot inside the Capitol and later died. Three other people — a woman and two men — died after apparently suffering “separate medical emergencies” near the Capitol grounds.
Numerous Capitol Police officers were also injured.