Vice President Mike Pence urged protesters to leave the Capitol after Trump supporters breached security perimeters and Pence and lawmakers had to be evacuated from House and Senate chambers.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now,” Pence tweeted. “Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building.”
Pence said that while every American has the right to protest peacefully, “this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Democrat leaders said that message needs to be sent by Pence’s boss.
“We are calling on President Trump to demand that all protestors leave the U.S. Capitol and Capitol Grounds immediately,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement.
Before the protesters entered the Capitol, Trump had called Pence a coward for saying he would not break the rules to try to block Congress from counting Trump’s loss.
Shortly after tweeting that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” Trump tweeted that everyone should “stay peaceful!”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a tweet the National Guard is on its way.
“At President @realDonaldTrump’s direction, the National Guard is on the way along with other federal protective services. We reiterate President Trump’s call against violence and to remain peaceful.”
– Maureen Groppe
Violence rare at Capitol, but occasionally deadly
Rioting Wednesday at the Capitol was violent and unusual with at least one protester entering the Senate chamber, but shootings decades ago have resulted in police killed and lawmakers wounded.
Two Capitol police officers – Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson – were killed July 24, 1998, by a gunman who made his way into the first floor of the building on the House side between the chamber and the crypt.
Chestnut and Gibson later lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda and a plaque was installed in their memory.
Five House lawmakers were shot and wounded March 1, 1954, by members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, which argued for the island’s independence.
The four nationalists shot indiscriminately from the gallery above the chamber’s floor and unfurled a Puerto Rican flag. All were apprehended. A bullet hole remains in a desk that is part of the House dais, a reminder of the attack.
A former Capitol police officer, William Kaiser, fired two shots at Sen. John Bricker, R-Ohio, on July 12, 1947 as he entered the subway tunnel linking the Capitol to Senate offices. But both shots missed and Bricker jumped aboard an electric subway car to escape.
– Bart Jansen
GOP lawmakers call for Trump to do more about rioters who stormed Capitol
Several GOP lawmakers have called on the president to do more as his supporters have breached the Capitol and forced a lockdown.
Texas Congressman Chip Roy called on Trump to get to “a microphone immediately and establish calm and order. Now. And work with Capitol Police to secure the Capitol.” He emphasized it as the “last thing you’ll do that matters as President.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called it a “national embarrassment.”
Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, among the states Trump has contested, called on Trump to end the insurrection at the Capitol, saying it’s the only way it will get resolved.
“The president has to call it off,” Gallagher said in an interview on MSNBC. “He’s the only one who can. Today is not going to change the outcome of the election. And that was the fundamental lie that the objectors told their supporters from the start
“And they told themselves they could have the debate and not have any cost,” he said. “This is the cost. This is the cost in real time.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called on Trump to “restore order by sending resources to assist the police and ask those doing this to stand down.”
– Savannah Behrmann
Harris ‘safe’ as US Capitol on lockdown
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is “safe” and in an undisclosed location, an aide said in a statement.
Harris was on Capitol Hill for the Electoral College vote count. The U.S. Capitol went on lockdown after a group of protesters breached the building. Shortly after the breach, Vice President Mike Pence and other members of Congress were evacuated.
– Rebecca Morin
Pelosi asks National Guard to clear and secure Capitol
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked for the National Guard to clear and secure the Capitol, according to a person familiar with the situation not authorized to speak on the record.
The decision to ask for the National Guard to intervene comes as protesters breached the Capitol during Wednesday’s counting of electoral votes. Police barricaded the doors of the House chamber and had their guns drawn, and there were reports of shots fired inside the buliding.
“This is a coup attempt,” tweeted Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Requests for additional assistance from the Washington, D.C. National Guard are being considered, according to a Defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly. The DC National Guard is under control of the Army Secretary. Defense officials are monitoring the security situation at the Capitol but do not expect to receive requests for active-duty troops, the official said. Police are better able than Guard soldiers to deal with the protesters who have stormed inside the Capitol building and have gathered on the steps outside, the official said.
—Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu and Tom Vanden Brook
Trump tweets for peace, moments after urging supporters to march on Capitol
As images of protesters storming the U.S. Capitol flashed on television screens across the country on Wednesday, President Donald Trump urged supporters to “stay peaceful.”
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country,” Trump posted on Twitter. “Stay peaceful!”
Trump’s tweet, however, came shortly after he encouraged thousands supporters to march from the White House to the Capitol. Trump has framed the normally routine process of counting Electoral College votes as test of loyalty to him and his baseless accusations of voter fraud.
Trump tweeted his call for peace just minutes after attacking Vice President Mike Pence for not having “the courage to do what should have been done.” But legal experts have noted that the process is limited to counting the electoral votes certified by the states.
—John Fritze and David Jackson
1 shot at US Capitol as rioters storm building
One person has been shot at the U.S. Capitol as dozens of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building and violently clashed with police.
That’s according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity amid a chaotic situation.
The exact circumstances surrounding the shooting were unclear. The person said the victim had been taken to a hospital. Their condition was not known.
The shooting came as dozens of Trump supporters breached security perimeters and entered the U.S. Capitol as Congress was meeting, expected to vote and affirm Joe Biden’s presidential win. Trump has riled up his supporters by falsely claiming widespread voter fraud to explain his loss.
— Michael Balsamo, Associated Press
Pence taken to secure location
The House and Senate recessed from their session to count state-certified Electoral College votes as protesters breached the Capitol and the building locked down. Vice President Mike Pence has been taken to an undisclosed, secure location, according to a source familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly.
A notice from Capitol Police sent to all Capitol staff warned them of an “internal security threat” and told them to shelter in their offices and stay away from windows. Lawmakers posted messages urging protesters to be peaceful, and reporters inside the Capitol shared videos of protesters wandering the halls of the Capitol looking for lawmakers to confront about the electoral votes.
In the House chamber, Capitol Police told lawmakers from the rostrum the chamber was in lockdown because the building was breached. Members were been urged not to leave, and top leaders were escorted out.
The Senate recessed as Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., was about to speak on an objection to Arizona’s electoral votes. Before he could begin, an aide walked up to the senator and told him “protesters are in the building.”
—Nicholas Wu and Kevin Johnson
McConnell blasts electoral vote objections, warns of ‘death spiral’ for democracy
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., delivered a stern warning to his congressional colleagues against attempting to overturn the 2020 election, saying democracy would enter a “death spiral” if Congress were to reject the counting of electoral votes.
“Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election,” he said, referring to President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud. McConnell said Trump had spread “sweeping conspiracy theories” about the election.
Referring to some Republicans’ stated support for objections as an act of protest, McConnell said he would not “pretend such a vote will be a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing.”
“I will vote to respect the people’s decision and defend our system of government as we know it,” he said.
– Nicholas Wu
Pence defies Trump in declaring he can’t change electoral results
Facing intense pressure from President Donald Trump to try to unilaterally change the Electoral College votes, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that only lawmakers can decide whether to accept the state-certified results.
Pence issued the statement shortly before he began presiding over a joint session of Congress in his constitutional role as president of the Senate.
Pence said he concluded, after “a careful study of the Constitution,” that he doesn’t have the sole power to accept or reject electoral votes. Instead, he said, his role is “ministerial.”
“When disputes concerning a presidential election arise, under Federal law, it is the people’s representatives who review the evidence and resolve disputes through a democratic process,” he wrote. “As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its Framers, I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority.”
Shortly before releasing the statement, Trump continued to exhort Pence to “come through for us” by sending the electoral votes “back to the states.”
Speaking at a rally of supporters, Trump said he had just spoken to Pence and told him “it doesn’t take courage” to object but it would take courage to do nothing.
– Maureen Groppe
Republicans object to accepting Arizona’s electoral votes
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., objected to counting the 11 electoral votes from Arizona won by Joe Biden.
Those results were the first to be challenged as lawmakers proceeded alphabetically through the states to receive each states’ certified results.
The House and Senate must now separately consider the objection with debate limited to a total two hours.
A majority of both chambers must support the objection for Arizona’s votes to be rejected.
– Maureen Groppe
Congress begins special session to count electoral votes
A joint session of Congress has begun the final steps of counting the Electoral College votes that will officially make Joe Biden the next president.
Last month, the Electoral College ratified Biden’s November victory. He got 306 electoral votes to President Donald Trump’s 232, based on results certified by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Constitution requires both chambers of Congress to meet before the Jan. 20 inauguration to receive those votes.
While the congressional count is usually a short, ceremonial event, Trump’s refusal to accept the results have prompted some GOP lawmakers to challenge them. Other Republicans have joined Democrats in denouncing the challenges as an unlawful attempt to overturn the will of the voters.
Amidst tightened security as protestors rally outside the Capitol, the votes will be tallied in alphabetical order by state. Arizona’s results are the first expected to draw a complaint.
Depending on the number of objections, that could extend the process into Thursday although the final result will not change. Objections must be backed by a majority of both the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate.
– Maureen Groppe
Trump again leans on Pence, says he will ‘never concede’
President Donald Trump repeated his litany of false claims about the election ahead of the special joint session of Congress to count Electoral College votes confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
“We will never give up, we will never concede,” Trump told supporters at a campaign-style protest rally near the White House.
Trump also continued to put pressure on Mike Pence, falsely claiming the vice president can simply reject Biden’s electoral votes. Pence lacks the legal authority for such a step, and has indicated he will not do so.
Pence “will uphold the Constitution and follow the statutory law,” chief of staff Marc Short said in a statement.
In his speech, Trump also blasted “weak Republicans” who have not gone along with his demands to reverse Biden’s victory, singling out Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
The president also seemed to acknowledge the defeats of Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia Senate run-offs held Tuesday. He said they “never had a chance” because of fixed voter machines, though state GOP officials said the election was fairly held.
Trump spoke during a protest at the Ellipse, a park just a few blocks south of the White House. The event resembled Trump’s campaign rallies, and the president talked about his actions in office while complaining about his election loss.
– David Jackson
Epic loyalty test for Pence
When Vice President Mike Pence climbs the rostrum Wednesday to preside over the counting of Electoral College votes, the former Indiana governor will be forced to stage one of the most awkward political performances in recent memory at a time when fealty to Donald Trump continues to be prized within the GOP.
While the outcome of the joint session of Congress is certain – President-elect Joe Biden’s win has been clear for weeks – how Pence navigates Trump’s demands that he does something to thwart the inevitable could have ramifications for his own future in politics, as well as broader implications for Republicans.
In the past, the routine process of counting states’ electoral votes ended with a vice president announcing a winner and offering congratulations. But in Trump’s Washington, a similar declaration will be viewed as a betrayal by a president who has espoused baseless allegations of election fraud to explain away his defeat.
If Pence raises Trump’s false claims of election irregularities in some way, it will underscore the president’s continued iron grip on the party. If he doesn’t, it could be read as a signal that the GOP – particularly after a rough election night for the party in Georgia on Tuesday – is beginning to inch toward a political world without Trump.
The president has steadily ramped up his pressure on Pence, telling a massive audience gathered outside the White House on Wednesday that he hopes “Mike is going to do the right thing.” Pence has reportedly told Trump he intends to fulfill his constitutional duty and noted — correctly — that he doesn’t have the power to overturn the election results.
For years, the maxim in Washington has been that prominent appearances by GOP officials have been performed for an audience of one: the president. But the Pence show on Capitol Hill will have many eyes, and this time the drama may have more to do with everyone not named Trump.
– John Fritze and Maureen Groppe
Why Loeffler can take part in the electoral count and Perdue can’t
As the dust settles in Georgia’s hotly contested Senate runoff races, Congress is also convening Wednesday for a joint session to count electoral votes and officially declare President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election.
The Associated Press projected Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock the winner over incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, but Loeffler is still able to take part in Wednesday’s Electoral College count.
She was appointed at the beginning of 2020 to fill a Senate term running through 2023, so her term will not end until Warnock takes office. The other Republican in the race, David Perdue, is not currently a senator because his term expired last Sunday.
The effort has no chance of thwarting the certification, though that has not stopped at least 140 Republicans in the House of Representatives and almost a GOP dozen senators, including Loeffler, from supporting it.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is also expected to take part in Wednesday’s proceedings, as her Senate term does not expire until she resigns to officially become vice president.
– Nicholas Wu and Matthew Brown
Congress to convene at 1 p.m. to count votes, affirm Biden’s win
Republicans plan one final stand during Wednesday’s largely ceremonial joint session of Congress to count the presidential electoral votes – the last official step recognizing Biden’s Nov. 3 decisive victory over Trump.
It’s a day that’s expected to be long on drama but ultimately short on substance because there’s no legal or official path for Republicans to overturn an election that’s already been certified.
But bipartisan opponents of the broad effort backed by dozens of GOP lawmakers and cheered on by Trump worry it could set a dangerous precedent for a country that’s been an international model for the peaceful transition of power.
Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, has denounced the “egregious ploy to reject electors,” saying it “may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic.”
Several GOP lawmakers plan to raise objections to the results of at least three and as many as six states Biden won – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The objections could center on a number of conspiracies that Trump himself has pushed: allegations of widespread voter fraud, late-arriving ballots for Biden, or that governors who expanded mail-in voting during a pandemic unconstitutionally went around their state legislatures to do so.
As GOP lawmakers prepare to spend hours laying out their objections, thousands of Trump allies are expected to gather outside the Capitol Building to voice their support for the largely symbolic move. Trump himself is expected to address his supporters near the White House and the National Guard has been activated to quell potential violence.
It won’t change the results.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia already have certified the results, giving Biden a 306-232 advantage and control of the White House come Jan. 20. Those state-by-state results will be announced as part of a roll call Wednesday in a session that will be presided over by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as president of the Senate.
“Congressmen and Senators have a stark choice,” said Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who plans to object to the results in all six states. “They can either vote to ratify or vote to reject voter fraud, illegal ballots and election theft. This is not a time to cower in fox holes.”
Republicans also are expected to push for a commission to look at election irregularities (similar to what Democrats called for in the aftermath of the Bush v. Gore election in 2000).
Official objections to each state could lead to as much as two hours of debate although congressional aides say that could drag out to three or four hours apiece due to the time needed to set up the debate in each chamber on each objection.
Typically, past sessions have wrapped up in an afternoon. But Wednesday’s session, which begins at 1 p.m., could drag on well beyond midnight.
Some Trump supporters falsely believe Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, can throw out electoral votes based on the objections of GOP lawmakers. But Pence lacks that legal authority, putting him in the awkward position of having to announce Biden’s electoral victory once the votes are counted.
Even if he could, the objections to consider not counting a particular state’s electoral votes have to be approved by both chambers and the Democratic-run House would never agree. In addition, Congress has never awarded a state’s electoral votes to a candidate whose victory was not certified.
In effect, Congress is expected to agree with the nearly 60 verdicts that state and federal courts have rendered: there was no widespread voter fraud and therefor no reason to keep Joe Biden from becoming the nation’s 46th president.
– Ledyard King