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Pence affirms Biden as winner, formalizing electoral count after day of riots at Capitol; Trump prepares for exit

Ledyard King, Maureen Groppe, Nicholas Wu, Bart Jansen, Courtney Subramanian and Joey Garrison, USA TODAY
·59 min read
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Vice President Mike Pence confirmed early Thursday that Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump, officially ending the 2020 presidential race that Trump has refused to concede and after a violent day at the U.S. Capitol.

Pence officially declared Biden the winner at 3:41 a.m. EST. Not long after, Trump released a statement through a White House social media account, acknowledging Biden's win, a first. "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's statement said.

The conclusion capped unprecedented hours of chaos and rare violence in the halls of Congress after a mob stormed the Capitol to disrupt what is normally a largely symbolic proceeding to formalize the presidential results.

Pence had been whisked away to safety and lawmakers evacuated the House and Senate chambers when the security perimeter was breached Wednesday afternoon. People waving Trump flags were seen knocking down police barriers around the Capitol and walking through halls normally reserved for lawmakers and tourists.

What happened in D.C.?: How a Trump mob stormed the Capitol forcing Washington into lockdown

Lawmakers donned gas masks and broke furniture to make clubs to defend themselves. A female protester was shot and killed by Capitol police. Three other people died after suffering medical emergencies. More than 50 were arrested.

The rioting came shortly after Trump called Pence a coward for announcing he would not violate the rules to try to prevent Congress from accepting all of Biden’s electoral votes.

Trump had falsely asserted that Pence, in his constitutional role as president of the Senate, could change the votes.

In a rare break with Trump, Pence said he was bound by his oath of office to follow the law in performing a role that is “largely ceremonial.”

Riot updates: 4 dead, 52 arrested, 14 police officers injured after pro-Trump rioters breach US Capitol

Pence, however, said he welcomed the objections that lawmakers were allowed to make.

Both chambers were in the process of debating a challenge to Arizona’s electoral votes when the Capitol went into lockdown.

Returning hours later under the heightened protection of law enforcement officers from multiple agencies – some in tactical gear and carrying automatic weapons – both the House and Senate voted to accept Arizona’s results. Six GOP senators and 121 GOP House members backed the rejected complaint.

Lawmakers also easily dismissed a challenge to Pennsylvania’s votes.

Challenges from some House Republicans to other states’ votes were rejected because they lacked the required support from at least one senator.

'A direct attack on democracy': World leaders react with shock, sadness after Trump supporters riot at US Capitol

Even before protesters’ assault on the Capitol – which injured multiple police officers and left a wake of broken windows, bullet marks in walls, floors slippery from deployed fire extinguishers, ransacked or vandalized offices and other damage - Republicans had been bitterly divided over whether to contest the state-certified results that showed Biden got 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

Federal and state courts dismissed Trump's claims of voter fraud more than 60 times.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., argued democracy would enter a "death spiral" if lawmakers refused to accept the results.

Biden, speaking in Delaware, said actions by the mob bordered on sedition. He urged Trump to address the nation and demand that his supporters end the violence.

Trump accounts locked: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram lock President Trump's accounts for 24 hours after posts with policy 'violations'

The turmoil began shortly after Trump held a rally on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in which he continued to assert that the Nov. 3 election had been stolen.

The president said that he would "never concede," cited conspiracy theories about the election and then encouraged supporters to march on the Capitol, roughly 2 miles away. Trump later urged rioters to “go home” but did so while repeating baseless claims of election fraud.

– Maureen Groppe

'It would damage our republic forever': McConnell rebukes attempt to overturn election

Trump says there will be an ‘orderly transition’ of power after day of violence

With his options for overturning the Nov. 3 election exhausted and the nation reeling from an eruption of violence at the U.S. Capitol, President Donald Trump early Thursday acknowledged he will depart the White House on Jan. 20 and said there would be an “orderly transition” of power.

“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election,” Trump said in a statement released by a White House official on social media, “nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th."

The acknowledgment followed an unprecedented series of developments in Washington that culminated in a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol as lawmakers began counting Electoral College votes and formalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Trump had framed the process as a last stand in his bid to overturn the results of the election, even though his supporters had little power to carry out his desires.

The short statement came minutes after Vice President Mike Pence declared on the House floor that Biden defeated Trump, ending the race the president has still refused to concede. In the statement, Trump falsely claimed that the facts were on his side.

“I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted,” Trump said, adding that the outcome in Congress represented “the end” of his first term.

The statement arrived hours after the National Guard was deployed to bring order to a Capitol overrun with supporters. Local authorities said four people died during the rioting, including one who was shot by police and three others who suffered medical emergencies, and 52 were arrested.

The statement also followed a day in which Trump openly feuded with Pence over his role in the counting of electoral votes, and Pence fired back at his boss with a public letter critical of the president’s demands. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned of a “death spiral” of democracy if Trump continued to insist on undermining trust in a voting system that brought him to power four years earlier.

– John Fritze and David Jackson

House joins Senate in rejecting objection to Pennsylania electoral votes

The House joined the Senate in overwhelmingly rejecting a Republican-led objection to Joe Biden’s 20 Electoral College votes in Pennsylvania, effectively ending the GOP’s quixotic mission to prevent the Democratic president-elect from winning the presidency.

The House vote was 282-138 with 64 Republicans joining all 218 Democrats in blocking the objection.

The early Thursday vote, announced at 3:12 a.m. EST, followed two hours of debate where those objecting to Biden’s win repeated baseless allegations of widespread election fraud: ballots illegally cast, voting machines that were tampered with, or Democratic governors who had no authority to expand mail-in voting last year.

“When states fail to do their job, we’re the last line of defense,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a freshman who voted for the Pennsylvania objection. “Congress is here for this exact situation. We’re here to be the fail-safe when states refuse to protect the people’s vote.”

Democrats countered that the GOP efforts were not only a waste of time since Pennsylvania – and every other state – has certified the results that gave Biden a 306-232 electoral college win, but that conspiracies of widespread voter fraud Republicans keep spreading contribute to civil unrest such as the riots at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

“Rather than pitting Americans against Americans as we are here, we should be working to ensure rapid distribution of (COVID) vaccines and adequate relief to American who are struggling because of this horrific pandemic,” Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Susan Wild said. “But we’re not doing that. Instead, we have witnessed a stunning assault on our democracy itself. This challenge is not an act of patriotism.”

It wouldn’t have mattered even if Republicans had succeeded in removing any state from the ceremonial tabulation. Under the 12th Amendment of the Constitution, the role of Congress is to count the electoral votes certified by states, not intervene in elections.

– Ledyard King and Joey Garrison

Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi preside over a Joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 Electoral College results.
Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi preside over a Joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 Electoral College results.

Tempers flare among lawmakers as debate over electoral votes goes into morning hours

An already tense day marked by riots and vandalism at the U.S. Capitol ended up with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordering the House floor to be cleared as lawmakers sniped at each other early Thursday morning.

Tempers flared about 2 a.m. EST as Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb accused Republicans of spreading “lies” about election fraud during a floor speech.

“Enough has been done here today already, to try to strip this Congress of its dignity. And these objectors don't need to do any more,” Lamb said. “We know that that attack today, it didn't materialize out of nowhere, it was inspired by lies, the same lies that you're hearing in this room tonight, and the members who are repeating those lies should be ashamed of themselves. Their constituents should be ashamed of them.”

Shortly after, GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia attempted to strike the line where Lamb accused Republicans of spreading lies.

“When the gentleman said that there were lies on this floor here today, looking over in this direction, I asked that those words be taken down,” Griffith said.

However, Pelosi said the congressman was too late to strike the remarks and asked Lamb to continue with his remarks. But as the congressman began speaking, Griffith began yelling back at the Pennsylvania Democrat.

“The truth hurts,” Lamb said. “It hurts. It hurts them. It hurts this country. It hurts all of us.”

As the two were verbally sparring, other members in the chamber could be heard yelling, prompting Pelosi to bang the gavel and call for order in the House.

– Ledyard King and Rebecca Morin

President-elect Joe Biden is pictured speaking at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden is pictured speaking at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.

Senate rejects GOP objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes

The Senate quickly nixed the Republican objection to Pennsylvania's electoral votes – with no debate over the substance – after it was raised by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Vice President Mike Pence moved quickly to trigger the roll call, with the final tally at 92 against and 7 in support. Those in support were Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Rick Scott of Florida.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he did not expect any more Senate votes in the process. But senators had to return to the House for a joint session to count the rest of the states' slates.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

Democrats: This is not a ‘banana republic’

As Republicans tried to prevent the counting of Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, Colorado Femocrat Joe Neguse tried to remind them that there’s little President Donald Trump’s voters can do now that the states have certified Biden’s Nov. 3 victory.

The election’s over, he said, and the largely ceremonial act of announcing the results cannot be hijacked by opponents who don’t like the result.

“Under our Constituion, Congress does not choose the president. The American people do,” he said. “And they have chosen in resounding numbers as every member of this body understands.”

Referring to the riots that temporarily closed the Capitol as Trump supporters vandalized offices and smashed windows, Neguse said the constant accusations of voter fraud, hurled without evidence, have contributed to the politically charged atmosphere.

“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic, not our democratic republic,” he said.

– Ledyard King

House Republican begins Pennsylvania debate: the will of the people is ‘being subverted’

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., kicked off the House’s consideration of a GOP-backed objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

He argued the state’s Democratic secretary of state and Supreme Court abused its power by allowing drop boxes in the November election, requiring no matching signatures in absentee ballots and extending the deadline to return ballots.

He said the power to create those laws rests in the state legislature.

“The will of the people is absolutely being subverted by the deliberate and willful actions of individuals defying their oath, the law and the Constitution,” Perry said.

Multiple courts have rejected such claims and upheld Pennsylvania’s election results.

– Joey Garrison

Republicans force debate on objection to Pennsylvania's electoral votes

Shortly after midnight, Republicans forced a second debate over the 20 Electoral College votes from Pennsylvania.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., objected to his home state’s certificate, and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., signed on – triggering separate debates and votes in the House and Senate over that slate.

Perry asserted without evidence that there were “multiple constitutional infractions” involved in Pennsylvania’s election. He did not elaborate.

Vice President Mike Pence said the House and Senate would withdraw from the joint session and debate the objection.

Hawley’s spokesperson said he would yield his debate time to speed up the process. But it’s not clear if that will happen in the House. As with the tussle over Arizona, the Pennsylvania objection will almost certainly be defeated.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

GOP objections of Michigan, Nevada votes fizzle

An effort by House Republicans to object to the awarding of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes and Nevada’s six electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden failed when no home-state senators signed on.

No surprise there since the senators representing those two states are all Democrats.

Georgia freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Michigan) and Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks (Nevada) lodged their objections based on concerns that claims of voting irregularities were not properly investigated.

Both states have already certified their results and court rulings have rejected claims by the Trump campaign of widespread voter fraud.

– Ledyard King

House Republicans’ objection of Georgia’s electoral votes fails, lacking support from a senator

No Republican senators signed on to a GOP-backed House objection of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, defeating the effort to reject the state’s votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., raised to object to Georgia’s electoral votes. He said 74 Republican colleagues signed on as well, arguing the election in Georgia was “faulty and fraudulent.”

But he said Republican senators who previously agreed to support the objection withdrew their names following the riot on the Capitol.

“Prior to the actions and events of today we did, but following the events of today, it appears some senators have withdrawn their objection," he said.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who was likely to object to Georgia’s results, said she had backed off her threat following the afternoon’s violence.

“I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these votes,” Loeffler said.

– Joey Garrison

House defeats objection of Arizona’s electoral votes

The House voted 303-121 Wednesday night to reject a GOP objection to Arizona’s 11 electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden hours after rioters supporting President Donald Trump violently stormed the Capitol building.

The objection, which required support from both chambers to pass, failed earlier in the Republican-controlled Senate by a 93-6 vote.

Eighty two Republicans joined Democrats in voting to reject the objection.

Lawmakers will now return to a joint session of Congress, which is tasked with counting the Electoral College votes that confirms Biden’s 306-232 electoral victory.

“What some are doing in this House and Senate today will not change the outcome of the election, which is the clear and insurmountable victory of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.

House members and senators broke into separate two-hour sessions after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., objected to Arizona’s electoral vote. The session was delayed when rioters entered the Capitol.

It’s unclear how many other states that Trump has contested will receive objections after some Republican senators dropped support following the day’s violence.

Among those who supported the Arizona objection was Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, arguing that Biden’s win should be thrown out in Arizona due to “compelling and irrefutable” proof that more than 1 million undocumented immigrants voted for the Democratic nominee. Numerous courts found no evidence of widespread fraud.

Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego refuted the claims, saying GOP objectors were blindly following the conspiratorial and self-serving whims of Trump.

“You are better than this,” he said, imploring Republicans to change their minds. “Save your souls … Preserve this democracy.”

Republican Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, also broke with Republican colleagues to vote against the objection.

“And that vote may well sign my political death warrant,” he said. “But so be it. I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States – and I will not bend its words into contortions for political expediency and then claim I am honoring that oath.”

– Joey Garrison and Ledyard King

DC Police: 4 deaths surrounding protests, 1 shot by police

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said four people died around the Capitol grounds during rioting Wednesday, including one woman who was shot by police and three people who suffered medical emergencies.

A mob broke into the Capitol building while Congress was counting votes from the Electoral College. As protesters attempted to gain access to the House chamber, they were confronted by plainclothes Capitol police officers.

“One Capitol police officer discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female,” Contee said. She was transported to a hospital, but died, he said. She has not been publicly identified as officials contact her next of kin.

Metro police will investigate the shooting, as is customary in any shooting involving an officer from any agency in the district, Contee said.

Three others – one adult woman and two adult men – appeared to suffer separate medical emergencies and died “around Capitol grounds,” Contee said.

“Any loss of life in the district is tragic,” he said.

Police recovered two pipe bombs, one at the Democratic National Committee and one at the Republican National Committee, Contee said. A cooler found in a vehicle on Capitol grounds held a long gun and Molotov cocktails, he said.

– Bart Jansen

52 arrests in riots at US Capitol

Washington, D.C. officials announced more arrests were made following Wednesday's storming of the Capitol by rioters as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser extended a districtwide state of emergency through Inauguration Day.

Bowser said Wednesday's events were "an unprecedented attack on our U.S. democracy," laying the blame at President Donald Trump's feet and saying he needed to be held responsible.

Calling the riot "shocking and shameful," D.C. acting Police Chief Robert Contee said the police made 52 arrests Wednesday, of which four arrests were weapons-related. Police found two pipe bombs and recovered six firearms, he said.

Fourteen Metro police officers were injured as rioters confronted police outside the Capitol and forced their way into the building. One officer was pulled into a crowd and is hospitalized, Contee said. One suffered significant facial injuries from a projectile and is also hospitalized, he said.

“These officers should be commended for their work,” Contee said. “They fought hard.”

– Nicholas Wu

Senate rejects objection to Arizona’s vote for Biden

The Senate voted 93-6 Wednesday to reject an objection to Arizona’s 11 Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, after earlier rioting unified senators of both parties to confirm the legitimacy of his 2020 election victory against President Donald Trump.

The House must still vote on the Arizona objection, but any objection must be approved by both chambers in order to be accepted. After the House vote, lawmakers will return to a joint session of Congress and continue counting the Electoral College votes in alphabetical order by state.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, raised his objection about Arizona with Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., in an effort to create a commission to audit election results during the next 10 days.

But Arizona and all other states have already certified and lawsuits challenging those results have been uniformly rejected in scores of federal courts. The Justice Department found no widespread voter fraud.

The six supporters of the objection were Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. The vacant seat was held by former GOP Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, whose term ended earlier this week and who lost his Senate runoff race to Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Rioting at the Capitol on Wednesday prompted senators of both parties to slam mob violence and reinforce Biden’s victory. Several of the more than dozen Republican senators who raised objection abandoned their complaints. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., said she dropped her objection because of the lawlessness and siege of the Capitol.

But Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said Congress was the place to lawfully and peacefully raise questions about the election. Hawley said violence is never tolerated, but an investigation was still needed into election irregularities in states such as Pennsylvania.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said there is bipartisan agreement across his state that “our election was fair, secure and lawful.”

“There is simply no evidence to justify the outrageous claims of widespread voter fraud or election irregularities suggested by those seeking to overturn the election,” Casey said.

– Bart Jansen

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks in the House chamber after they reconvened for arguments over the objection of certifying Arizona’s Electoral College votes in November’s election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks in the House chamber after they reconvened for arguments over the objection of certifying Arizona’s Electoral College votes in November’s election.

Rep. Elise Stefanik stands by objection to votes in several states

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., maintained her objection to Electoral College votes in several states, despite some Republican colleagues now saying they will no longer object following the riot that overtook the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.

“Tens of millions of Americans are concerned that the 2020 election featured unconstitutional overreach by unelected state officials and judges, ignoring state election laws,” she said on the House floor. “We can and we should peacefully and respectfully, discuss these concerns.”

Stefanik claimed there were issues in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan, where she condemned rulings by judges and secretaries of states on voting verification.

“I believe that the most precious foundation and the covenant of our republic is the right to vote, and the faith in the sanctity of our nation's free and fair elections, and we must work together in this house to rebuild that faith, so that our relief elections are free, fair, secure and safe,” she said.

– Rebecca Morin

Romney: GOP lawmakers who object ‘complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy’

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, delivered a biting rebuke to President Donald Trump and his GOP allies, saying his Republican colleagues who refused to drop their objections to Biden’s win will be judged harshly by history.

“We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride,” Romney said of Trump, “and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months.”

Romney said the attack on the Capitol was “an insurrection incited by the president” and added: “Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy … That will be their legacy.”

Romney said instead of pandering to Trump supporters who believe his false claims, lawmakers should tell them the truth. “That’s the burden, that’s the duty, of leadership,” he said. “And the truth is that President-elect Biden won the election. President Trump lost.”

Republicans who insisted on pursuing their objections were doing it to further their own personal ambitions.

“What’s the weight of personal acclaim compared to the weight of conscience?” he asked.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

McCarthy calls mob attack on US Capitol ‘the worst of America’

The top Republican in the House slammed a pro-Trump mob’s assault on the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, saying “we saw the worst of America this afternoon.”

Despite his scorching criticism, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., a close ally of President Donald Trump, did not call out the president for encouraging supporters at a morning rally near the White House to march to the Capitol.

Trump wanted his followers to show their support of dozens of Republican lawmakers challenging President-elect Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 victory over Trump that every state already certified. Their attack on the Capitol building forced lawmakers to suspend their largely ceremonial tabulation of the electoral votes and flee for their safety.

“No one wins when this building and what it stands for are destroyed,” McCarthy said, while praising the efforts of law enforcement agencies to protect members of Congress and their aides. “Let’s show the country the mob did not win.”

– Ledyard King

Former President Jimmy Carter says he's 'troubled' by violence at Capitol

Former President Jimmy Carter released a statement Wednesday night saying he was “troubled by the violence at the U.S. Capitol today.”

“This is a national tragedy and is not who we are as a nation,” he said. “Having observed elections in troubled democracies worldwide, I know that we the people can unite to walk back from this precipice to peacefully uphold the laws of our nation, and we must.”

“We join our fellow citizens in praying for a peaceful resolution so our nation can heal and complete the transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries,” the statement concludes.

– Savannah Behrmann

Lawmakers seem to abandon objections after riots

After rioters stormed the Capitol Wednesday, Republican senators who had planned to object to the electoral votes in some states seemed to abandon their efforts.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who was likely to object to Georgia’s results, said she had backed off her threat following the afternoon’s violence.

“I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these votes,” said Loeffler, who also lost her runoff election Wednesday to Democrat Raphael Warnock.

And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who had planned to object to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, said he would speak about what he saw as deficiencies in Pennsylvania’s votes during the debate over Arizona’s session “in lieu of speaking about it later.”

Other lawmakers who had previously signed on to the effort to object said they would vote to count the electoral votes after the day’s events.

“We will not let today’s violence deter Congress from certifying the election. We must restore confidence in our electoral process,” said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who’d previously been part of a group of senators opposing the counting of electoral votes.

And Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., told reporters the days events changed the situation “drastically.”

“Whatever point you made before that should suffice. Get this ugly day behind us,” he said.

– Nicholas Wu

Hoyer: ‘Our words and our actions have had consequences’

Democratic Majority House Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called Wednesday’s violence at the U.S. Capitol a “sad day” and a “wrenching day” in America.

“It is a day in which our words and our actions have had consequences of a very, very negative nature,” he said. “We ought to watch our words and think what it may mean to some.”

He called it “one of the greatest challenges of this democracy in its 244-year history,” adding, “We need to all work together to tame and reduce the anger and, yes, the hate that some stoke.”

Hoyer said he brought with him the remarks he was planning to say before rioters stormed the capitol around 2:15 pm. EST. He said lawmakers who planned to object to electoral votes would not accomplish their goal but simply “further the dangerous divisions.”

“This was written before this capitol was assaulted, before this democracy was put aside by thousands, encouraged by the commander in chief.”

– Joey Garrison

Pelosi: ‘We will not be diverted from our duty’

Hours after rioters stormed the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers Wednesday night the violence that damaged the ornate building and forced them to seek refuge that their job of counting the Electoral College votes certifying Joe Biden’s win as president would not be deterred.

“We will not be diverted from our duty,” the California Democrat said from the speaker’s dais. “And we will respect our responsibility to the Constitution and to the American people.”

After she spoke, the House resumed debate on the objection brought by several GOP lawmakers who claim Biden should not be awarded Arizona’s electoral votes due to election irregularities. The challenge is not expected to go anywhere amid a largely ceremonial tabulation of electoral votes.

Rioters not only broke doors and shattered glass but also vandalized Pelosi’s own office as they marched on the Capitol at the urging of President Donald Trump to protest the count. But Biden’s victory has already been affirmed by states who certified their results and courts have dismissed Trump’s lawsuits alleging widespread fraud.

“To those who engage in the gleeful desecration of this temple of democracy, justice will be done,” she said.

– Ledyard King

GOP Sen. Roger Marshall objects to Arizona results, without offering evidence

Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican who was sworn in for his first term earlier this week, did not back off his objection to counting Arizona’s votes, although he provided no evidence of fraud and no reason the state’s results should be rejected.

“I rise in hopes of improving the integrity of the ballot,” he said.

He claimed that in several states, the authority of legislatures were “usurped by governors, secretaries of state and activist courts.” He did not mention that the Trump campaign’s numerous lawsuits seeking to challenge the election results were thrown out by judges across the country, including Trump’s own conservative appointees.

Some critics have pointed out that several of the GOP objectors – including Marshall – won victories in the very election they are now claiming was fraudulent.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

Loeffler withdraws objection to Biden victory

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., said Wednesday she would abandon her objections to the counting of Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden after the rioting at the Capitol.

“I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these voters,” said Loeffler, who lost her runoff election Tuesday to the Democrat Raphael Warnock. “The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect: the sanctity of the American democratic process.”

She said there were last-minute changes to election rules and “serious irregularities." But she said those were no excuse for the violence of the mob that swarmed and occupied the Capitol.

“There is no excuse for the events that took place in these chambers today,” said Loeffler, who received applause as she finished speaking. “I pray that America never suffers such a dark day again.”

– Bart Jansen

Lankford: Biden will be president

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., whose speech challenging Arizona’s election results was interrupted by rioting at the Capitol, resumed speaking by acknowledging President-elect Joe Biden won the White House.

“We are headed tonight toward the certification of Joe Biden to be the president of the United States,” Lankford said.

He said Oklahomans want answers about election security and greater transparency from government. But he said Congress debates even when members seriously disagree with each other, rather than achieve their goals through violence.

“Why in God’s name would someone think attacking law enforcement and occupying the United States Capitol is the best way to show that you’re right,” Lankford said. “Rioters and thugs don’t run the Capitol. We’re the United States of America.”

He gestured around the room at people with whom he often disagrees.

“We talk it out and we honor each other, even in our disagreements,” Lankford said. “That person and that person and that person is not my enemy, that is my fellow American.”

– Bart Jansen

Sen. Chuck Schumer: Capitol riots will 'live forever in infamy'

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the chamber, said Wednesday's riots in the U.S. Capitol would “live forever in infamy” along with other watershed events in American history.

“This will be a stain on our country, not so easily washed away,” Schumer said. He called the attack on the Capitol “the final terrible, indelible legacy of the 45th president of the United States.”

He said the riot at the Capitol “did not happen spontaneously” but at the instigation of President Donald Trump.

“This temple to democracy was desecrated, it’s windows smashed, our offices vandalized,” said Schumer. The violence will be Trump’s “ever-lasting shame.”

– Deirdre Shesgreen

Pence calls it a 'dark day' in Capitol as count resumes

Calling it “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” Vice President Mike Pence returned to the Senate chamber following riots that left one dead, and forced lawmakers to flee for their safety.

"We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms. We grieve the loss of life in these hallowed halls as well as those injured in our Capitol today," Pence said.

Pence is presiding over a joint session of Congress to finalize the Electoral College count affirming Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 win over President Donald Trump.

“As we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy,” he said.

He wrapped up by saying: "Let's get back to work."

And the senators in the chamber applauded.

– Ledyard King

McConnell says Congress will count votes despite 'failed insurrection'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to continue the counting of electoral votes Wednesday evening, hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

Saying Congress had faced a "failed insurrection," McConnell said "The United States and the United States Congress have faced greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today."

"They tried to obstruct our democracy. They failed," he said.

"We will certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress," he said.

-Nicholas Wu

Congress resumes electoral count following deadly riot

After a tumultuous afternoon of riots and mayhem, a subdued but resolute Congress Wednesday night resumed its state-by-state count of the electoral votes that will reaffirm President-elect Joe Biden’s decisive victory Nov. 3 over President Donald Trump.

Lawmakers in the House and the Senate had already begun debating the results of Arizona (which went for Biden) when protesters breached the Capitol Building around 2 p.m., smashing windows, rifling through desks and vandalizing offices. One woman died during the melee.

The debate on the voting results - which sparked the violence from pro-Trump supporters – forced the immediate suspension of the count, a largely ceremonial tabulation Congress conducts every four years.

Trump for weeks has baselessly claimed widespread voter fraud in the November election and exhorted his followers at a morning rally near the White House to march to Capitol Hill to support Republican lawmakers who are objecting to the election results in as many as six states, including Arizona.

Debate resumed around 8 p.m. and congressional leaders say they plan to finish their count over the next several hours rather than recess until Thursday morning.

Trump has no path to overturn the outcome, a conclusion that even his most loyal allies are starting to publicly acknowledge.

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. But that hasn’t stopped dozens of GOP lawmakers from saying they would object to Wednesday’s tabulation.

Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, however, said she would withdraw her objection after seeing the riots.

"What we have seen today is unlawful and unacceptable,” she said on her Facebook page. “I have decided I will vote to uphold the Electoral College results and I encourage Donald Trump to condemn and put an end to this madness."

– Ledyard King

Vice President Mike Pence presides over a joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 Electoral College results on January 6, 2021.
Vice President Mike Pence presides over a joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 Electoral College results on January 6, 2021.

Obama: 'History will rightly remember today's violence'

President Barack Obama released a statement following the violence at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, saying “History will rightly remember today’s violence” that was “incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of a great dishonor and shame for our country.”

He continued that “we would be kidding ourselves” if this came as a surprise as the Republican party and its “accompanying ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth” that Trump lost the election.

"Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments. Now we’re seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo.”

He called on GOP leaders to make a clear choice to “choose America” and that he is “heartened to see many members of the President’s party speak up forcefully today.”

“We need more leaders like these – right now and in the days, weeks, and months ahead as President-Elect Biden works to restore a common purpose to our politics,” Obama said.

– Savannah Behrmann

Bush calls riots 'sickening'

Former President George W. Bush called rioting in the U.S. Capitol "sickening" and said he was "appalled" at the behavior of "some political leaders," but did not mention anyone by name, including President Donald Trump.

In a Wednesday statement, Bush said he and former first lady Laura Bush are “watching the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our Nation’s government in disbelief and dismay.”

He called it a “sickening and heartbreaking sight,” and that “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.”

Without mentioning Trump, whose supporters stormed the Capitol, Bush took on lawmakers, saying he is "appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement.”

“The violent assault on the Capitol – and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress – was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes,” the statement reads, continuing that “it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law.”

Bush concluded: “To those who are disappointed in the results of the election: Our country is more important than the politics of the moment. Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety.”

– Savannah Behrmann

Sen. Rand Paul predicts objections will be over after Arizona objection is voted down

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who had previously said he would not oppose the counting of electoral votes, told reporters at the Capitol he thought the process would be over after the Arizona objection was voted down tonight.

The remaining objections would be debated within the remaining time for the Arizona objections and voted down.

After that, "I don't think there's going to be another objection. I think it's over at that point," he told reporters.

"I'm hoping this isn't a four hour thing. I think it's maybe a one hour thing," he said.

The other Republican senators who were likely to make objections on Wednesday, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and Josh Hawley, have not commented on their plans.

– Nicholas Wu

Congress to reconvene Wednesday night to continue Electoral College count after riot at Capitol

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a joint session of Congress will reconvene Wednesday night to count the Electoral College votes confirming President-elect Joe Biden's win after rioters rushed the U.S. Capitol and brought proceedings to a standstill earlier in the day.

In a letter to House members, Pelosi called the violence from supporters of President Donald Trump at the Capitol "a shameful assault" on American democracy that was "anointed at the highest level of government."

"It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden," she said, adding that she's consulted with House Democratic leaders, the Justice Department and Vice President Mike Pence. "We have decided we should proceed tonight at the Capitol once it is cleared for use."

– Joey Garrison and Deirdre Shesgreen

California congresswoman told husband where her will was before Wednesday joint session

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., during a phone interview on MSNBC from an undisclosed location on Capitol grounds, said she called her husband Tuesday night to tell him where she had her will and testament in case something happened to her Wednesday when Congress was set to count electoral votes.

"It's a sad day in America when you are coming in to do your job and have to think about things like that,” she said.

When asked why she anticipated riots or violence, Sanchez said she had a “premonition.” She added that “there has been enough nasty rhetoric, inflammatory rhetoric,” by President Donald Trump and others to “encourage this mob-like behavior.”

“I just wanted to be prepared. I wanted to have a plan,” she said. “Having to barricade yourself into a room, and put furniture up against the door and grab whatever objects are handy that can be used as a weapon, you know when you are going into work, it’s unfathomable to me that would be something that, again, that would happen on a Wednesday work day.”

– Rebecca Morin

Woman shot inside US Capitol has died

The woman shot inside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon has died, according to Alaina Gertz, a spokeswoman for the Washington D.C. police department.

Videos of the incident circulating on social media show the woman fall to the ground following a loud bang inside the building. Onlookers screamed for help while she bled on the ground shortly after 3 p.m. EST.

One witness, who identified himself as Thomas from New Jersey, said after storming into the chambers, police yelled for the mob to get back. He said the woman “didn't heed the call” as they rushed to the chamber windows. "Then they shot her in the neck,” Thomas said.

Hospitals in the area declined to give details about anyone transported to their emergency rooms Wednesday evening.

– Brett Murphy

Capitol secure, Sergeant at Arms tells staff, lawmakers

Hours after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol as electoral votes were counted, the House Sergeant at Arms told staff, lawmakers, and reporters inside a secure location in the Capitol that the building was secure. The room broke into applause, according to reporters present.

Washington, D.C.'s curfew is set to go into effect at 6 p.m. EST, and the National Guard has been deployed.

– Nicholas Wu

Trump urges rioters to 'go home' and repeats false claims of election fraud

Hours after a pro-Trump mob violently stormed the U.S. Capitol, President Donald Trump urged rioters at the Capitol to "go home" but repeated baseless claims of election fraud in a minute-long video posted to Twitter.

"I know your pain, I know your hurt," Trump said. "But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order."

Trump tweeted the message at 4:17 p.m. EST, hours after rioters broke a barrier and entered the Capitol.

In the message, Trump again falsely claimed the election was "stolen" from him.

Twitter flagged the president's video, noting the "claim of election fraud is disputed," which prevents any Twitter users from replying to or retweeting the message.

His comments came after both Democrats and Republicans called on him to intervene in the chaos on the Hill, where armed protesters stormed both chambers of Congress and one woman was shot.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump encouraged supporters at a rally near the White House to march to Capitol Hill, where the House and Senate convened in a joint session to count the electoral votes to formally declare Joe Biden's victory.

Trump called the rioters "special people," and that he and his supporters loved them.

– Courtney Subramanian and David Jackson

Biden calls Capitol riot ‘insurrection,’ urges Trump to ‘end siege’

President-elect Joe Biden called the rioting Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol “insurrection” and “chaos,” and he told President Donald Trump to go on national television to urge his supporters to end their siege.

“What we’re seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s disorder, it’s chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end, now,” Biden said from The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. “I call on this mob to pull back now and allow the work of democracy to go forward.”

Biden called on Trump to go on national television to urge his supporters “to demand an end to this siege.”

“It’s not protest, it’s insurrection,” said Biden, a former 36-year senator and former vice president who presided over the Electoral College count in 2017 that seated Trump.

He said the rioting with smashed windows and rummaging through Senate desks didn’t reflect a true America. Rioters swarmed the Capitol, storming the House and Senate chambers on the second floor of the building with shouts and flags. At least one rioter entered the Senate chamber and shouted from the dais: “Trump won the election.”

“At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times, an assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself; an assault on the people’s representatives, the Capitol Hill police, sworn to protect them; the public servants who work at the heart of our republic; an assault on the rule of law like few times we’ve ever seen it,” Biden said.

After Biden left the stage, he returned to voice confidence in his inauguration.

“I am not concerned about my safety, security or the inauguration,” Biden said. “The American people are going to stand up now. Enough is enough is enough.”

– Bart Jansen

Some House Democrats suggest impeaching Trump again

After his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, several Democratic House members endorsed the idea of again impeaching President Donald Trump.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., tweeted Wednesday afternoon she is “drawing up Articles of Impeachment.”

She said Trump “should be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate” and that “We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.”

Freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., also called on Trump to be impeached for inciting violence.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., tweeted that Trump “should immediately be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate as soon as Congress reconvenes.”

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., who is the assistant House speaker, said Trump "must be removed from office and prevented from further endangering our country and our people"

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., asked about impeachment, said it was unlikely in the amount of time left in Trump's presidency.

"I don't think that's going to happen in a short timeframe, and frankly that does nothing to help the situation," she said.

Trump was impeached in late 2019 in the House after Democrats said he pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival, and then-candidate, Joe Biden. He was later acquitted by the Senate.

– Savannah Behrmann

Senate staffers secured electoral votes as rioters closed in

When lawmakers were ushered out of the House and Senate chambers on Wednesday, evading a pro-Trump mob that made its way into the U.S. Capitol, staff members made sure to grab the boxes holding the Electoral College certificates the lawmakers were in the middle of counting Wednesday.

Capitol Police walked around the Senate chamber, ordering everyone to stand away from the doors as rioters entered the Capitol. And then when the call to evacuate went out, the boxes of electoral votes were taken away too.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., later told CBSN the ballots were taken away so certification could continue in a "secure Capitol location."

She told reporters Wednesday afternoon lawmakers had to return to finish their count.

"Our country is hurting. Our democracy is being tested right now," she said, so lawmakers had to officially declare the victor today and "move forward."

– Nicholas Wu

Pence to mob storming Capitol: 'Immediately leave the building'

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

Pro-Trump rioters roam under the Capitol Rotunda after invading the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.
Pro-Trump rioters roam under the Capitol Rotunda after invading the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.

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

Protesters gesture to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, near the Ohio Clock. At center is Doug Jensen of Des Moines, Iowa who was later arrested and charged, the Des Moines Register reported.
Protesters gesture to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, near the Ohio Clock. At center is Doug Jensen of Des Moines, Iowa who was later arrested and charged, the Des Moines Register reported.

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

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Congress electoral count: Pence declares Biden the next president