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Confronting an unprecedented mob attack on the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, some Republicans tried to pull their party — and the nation — back from the brink of chaos. But they had only tepid support from President Trump, who had inspired and encouraged the riot, and from some of their own leaders, who seemed frozen by the spectacle of an armed band roaming the Capitol corridors and occupying the chambers and offices.
The rioters were protesting congressional certification of the Electoral College vote, a process that will seal President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The shocking act came after Trump repeated discredited lies at a Washington rally earlier in the day that the election was rigged against him and stolen by Democrats. At least one person was shot and reportedly seriously injured during the chaos.
As Capitol police finally began clearing the building late in the afternoon, Trump issued a one-minute videotaped statement directed at the rioters that began by expressing sympathy for their “pain” and “hurt” before launching into a litany of his own grievances about “an election that was stolen from us.”
“But you have to go home now,” Trump said. “We have to have peace.”
“We love you. You’re very special,” he added. “I know how you feel.”
Trump struck the same tone later Wednesday evening. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Both the tweet and the video were deleted by Twitter.
Other Republicans denounced the riot. “There is nothing patriotic about what is occurring on Capitol Hill,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on Twitter. “This is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CBS News that he condemns the violence, calling it “un-American.”
“This is not the First Amendment,” he said. “This has to stop and this has to stop now.”
Top Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who angered the president when he refused to go along with his election fraud allegations, took aim at U.S. lawmakers planning to object to the electors, tweeting that they should resign.
“Anyone elected to the House or Senate who is challenging the results of the Presidential election in Congress are part of this attempted coup inspired by the President and they should resign. This is an insurrection,” he wrote.
The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate convened at 1 p.m. ET to count the votes, alphabetically, from each state. While the certification is normally a formality, Trump has pushed lawmakers to challenge it, claiming that election fraud robbed him of victory. Both Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, objected to the slate from Arizona, and both houses had begun debating the challenge before the lawmakers were told to seek shelter.
Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the proceedings in the Senate, was taken to a secure location by the U.S. Secret Service out of fears for his safety. Trump had repeatedly taunted him during his speech, daring him to side with the Republicans in the House and Senate who were trying to take the election away from Biden.
Pence later tweeted that the attack on the Capitol would not be tolerated.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now. Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building.”
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