Congress certifies Biden’s 2020 election win after violent pro-Trump riot in Capitol
WASHINGTON - The pro-Trump rioters marched through the Capitol building, breaking windows, entering lawmakers' offices and violently clashing with police.
But the House and Senate, after a nearly four-hour lockdown, resumed their joint session, during which Congress resoundingly rejected challenges to Biden’s election wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania, voting to certify the states’ electoral votes.
The objection to the results in Arizona — spearheaded by Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Ted Cruz — was rejected 93-6 by the Senate and 121-303 by the House on Wednesday night.
All votes in favor of the objections came from Republicans, but after violent pro-Trump protesters mobbed the Capitol earlier Wednesday, a number of GOP senators who had planned to support the objections reversed course.
A person holds the certificate of votes from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania during a joint session of Congress after the session resumed following protests at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, early on January 7, 2021. ((Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Republicans raised the objections based on false claims pushed by Trump and others of issues with the vote in Arizona and Pennsylvania, which were repeatedly dismissed in courts and by state election officials.
Objections to the Electoral College votes in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin, which all went to Biden, were withdrawn by senators in the wake of the pro-Trump riot inside the U.S. Capitol.
Trump falsely claimed victory in several battleground states and repeatedly spread misinformation of voter fraud without evidence.
Though the Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin objections were thwarted, House Republicans and Sen. Josh Hawley objected to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, forcing both chambers to separate once again to debate the objection.
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After a short debate, the Senate voted down the objection.
A small group of House lawmakers came close to physically fighting early Thursday morning as the congressional count of electoral votes stretched into the wee hours and a Pennsylvania Democrat charged that Republicans had been telling "lies" about his state’s votes.
Rep. Morgan Griffiths, R-Va., objected after Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., said a breach of the Capitol by an angry mob earlier in the day was "inspired by lies, the same lies you are hearing in this room tonight."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot down the objection, but a few minutes later Republicans and Democrats streamed to the middle aisle, with around a dozen lawmakers getting close to each other and arguing. But the group quickly broke up when Pelosi called for order on the floor.
Inevitably, the House killed Republicans’ objections to Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden and both chambers went on to certify the final votes in the wee hours of the morning Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the building was locked down and police with guns drawn moved in as Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were evacuated to secure locations. The National Guard and state and federal police were called in for control, and the mayor of Washington imposed a rare evening curfew.
After nearly four hours, the Capitol was declared "secure" by officials.
As Congress resumed the electoral vote count, Pence said, "Violence never wins," as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decried the "failed insurrection."
"Let’s get back to work," Pence declared.
"The United States Senate will not be intimidated," McConnell said. "We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation."
McConnell added that while the storming of the nation’s capitol by pro-Trump rioters temporarily halted the process of counting the Electoral College votes, the Senate would move forward to certify Biden’s victory.
"We have fulfilled this solemn duty every four years for more than two centuries," McConnell said. "Under all manor of threats, even during an ongoing armed rebellion and a civil war, the clockwork of our democracy has carried on. The United States and the United States Congress has faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today."
"We’ve never been deterred before and we will not be deterred today," McConnell exclaimed.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed the shock expressed by Pence, McConnell and other lawmakers at the day’s events, saying that out of the short list of days in American history that will be remembered as days that will "live in infamy," Wednesday’s violent riot inside the U.S. Capitol "will live forever in infamy."
"This temple to democracy was desecrated," Schumer said. "The world saw elected American officials hurriedly ushered out because they were in harm’s way."
Schumer also shared condolences for a woman who was shot and killed inside the Capitol hours before Congress reconvened to count Electoral College votes.
"I understand that one woman was shot and tragically lost her life. We mourn her and feel for her friends and family," Schumer said.
In the aftermath of the violent riots, several Republicans announced they would drop their objections to the election.
Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn Tweeted Wednesday night that she would vote in favor of certifying the election results, stating Biden won the election.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who had intended to object to the certification of Biden’s win, denounced the violent pro-Trump riot, saying, "We are heading tonight to the certification of Joe Biden being the next president."
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who recently lost her seat after being defeated by her Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock in Tuesday's Senate runoff election in Georgia, said the pro-Trump riot had "forced" her "to reconsider."
She had originally planned to object the counting of the Electoral College, votes but reversed course after violence inside the U.S. Capitol.
"I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors," she said. "The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent."
"I pray that America will never suffer such a dark day again," she added.
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called for the Senate to certify Biden’s win without further delay.
Graham earlier said he "could not agree more" with President-elect Biden’s remarks on the chaos.
Graham declared "enough is enough." Explaining his disdain for the results of the 2020 election, Graham said he thought it was a uniquely bad idea to delay their certification.
"All I can say is, count me out, enough is enough," Graham said. "It is over," he declared before Congress.
Saying that he hoped and prayed that Joe Biden would lose the election, Graham reiterated that "he won."
"He’s the legitimate president of the United States," Graham said. "I cannot convince people, certain groups, by my words but I will tell you by my actions that maybe I above all others in this body need to say this: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected and will become the president and the vice president of the United States."
As the House reconvened, Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed shock over the riots that occurred earlier that day. She denounced the pro-Trump rioters and their attempt to halt the count of Electoral College votes.
"To those who strove to tear us from our responsibility, you have failed," Pelosi said, calling for unity.
"Let us pray that this instigation of violence will provide an epiphany for our country to heal," Pelosi said. "We know that we would be part of history in a positive way today every four years when we demonstrate again the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next, and despite the shameful actions of today, we still will do so."
Pelosi called on her colleagues to move forward to certify Biden’s victory despite the earlier violence and show the world what America is made of.
Before violent protesters descended on the U.S. Capitol, at least a dozen Senate Republicans and more than 100 House Republicans had been preparing to challenge the outcome of the ballots. But a series of reversals began when Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., reversed course after the chaos in a statement.
"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," Rodgers said.
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who originally supported Trump’s legal effort to contest the 2020 election results, said in a statement released Wednesday that the president "bears responsibility for today’s events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point."
"It is past time to accept the will of American voters and to allow our nation to move forward," Burr added. "Congress will uphold its constitutional duty and certify the results of the election."
Sen. Mitt Romney called the assault by pro-Trump rioters on the U.S. Capitol "heartbreaking," saying he was "shaken to the core."
He said to senators who still object to the Electoral College: "No congressional audit is ever going to convince these voters, particularly when the president will continue to say the election was stolen."
"The best way we can show respect to the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth," he said, prompting applause in the chamber.
"The truth is that President-elect Biden won the election. President Trump lost. I got that experience myself. It's no fun."He called on senators to affirm Biden's win.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 14th congressional district who has expressed support for the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, said Wednesday night that she "will still object to fraudulent electoral votes."
"Despicable violence committed by fringe agitators will not silence my voice or derail the Constitutional process that Congress must complete," Greene tweeted.
Paul Gosar, Arizona’s congressmen for the state’s 4th district, stood by his plans to object the Electoral College vote certification, saying he would proceed with his objections "on behalf of Arizona with @tedcruz and @RepAndyBiggsAZ."
Gosar falsely claimed that "leftist violence" was behind the storming of the U.S. Capitol by the pro-Trump mob.
"Leftist violence—or any violence— will not deter our mission for truth and transparency," Gosar tweeted.
One person was shot and killed and several officers were hurt amid the chaos instigated by the pro-Trump rioters. The official Electoral College ballots were rescued from the Senate floor as the mob stormed the building.
Devin O’ Malley, Pence’s press secretary, confirmed that the Vice President returned to the Senate at approximately 7:25 p.m. ET. "He never left the Capitol," O’Malley wrote on Twitter.
"@VP was in regular contact w/ House & Senate leadership, Cap Police, DOJ, & DoD to facilitate efforts to secure the Capitol & reconvene Congress. And now we will finish the People’s business," O’Malley added.
The district’s police chief said at least 30 people were arrested, and five firearms had been recovered during the protests.
Biden, two weeks away from being inaugurated, addressed the nation as the chaos unfolded and called for the restoration of "just simple decency."
"Let me be very clear: the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are," the president-elect said. "This is not dissent. It’s disorder. It's chaos. It borders on sedition and it must end now."
"The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, it can incite," Biden added while speaking from his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.
The president-elect called on Trump to "fulfill his oath to defend the constitution and demand an end to this siege."
Demonstrators fought with Capitol Police and then forced their way into the building, not long after a huge rally near the White House during which Trump egged them on to march to Capitol Hill.
"We will never give up," Trump told the crowd gathered at his noon rally.
Under growing pressure from allies to condemn the violence, Trump later released a video on Twitter asking protesters to leave the Capitol. But he called the protesters "very special," saying "we love you," and continued to repeat false claims of widespread voter fraud to explain his loss.
He later followed up with a tweet, that has since been removed, telling his supporters to "remember this day forever."
"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away," Trump wrote in the post, which was removed for violating the platform’s rules.
The chaotic protests halted Congress’ constitutionally mandated counting of the Electoral College results, in which Biden defeated Trump, 306-232. The protesters abruptly interrupted the congressional proceedings in an eerie scene that featured official warnings directing people to duck under their seats for cover and put on gas masks after tear gas was used in the Capitol Rotunda.
"This is un-American what is going on, and this has to stop," House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told FOX News' Bill Hemmer.
McConnell had tried to steer Congress away from Wednesday's formal protest of those results, and he said at the start of proceedings that Trump had clearly lost.
McConnell told Senators that overruling voters, courts and state certifications "would damage our republic forever."
"Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election, nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence," McConnell said.
"If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We'd never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years it would be a scramble for power at any cost," McConnell added.
Pence was closely watched as he stepped onto the dais to preside over the joint session in the House chamber.
Pence had a largely ceremonial role, opening the sealed envelopes from the states after they are carried in mahogany boxes used for the occasion, and reading the results aloud. But he was under growing pressure from Trump to overturn the will of the voters and tip the results in the president’s favor, despite having no legal power to affect the outcome.
"Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!" Trump tweeted earlier Wednesday.
But in a blow to Trump, Pence said just before the session that "the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not."
Despite Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud, election officials and his own former attorney general have said there were no problems on a scale that would change the outcome. All the states have certified their results as fair and accurate, by Republican and Democratic officials alike.
Arizona was the first of several states facing objections from the Republicans as Congress took an alphabetical reading of the election results. Then the chaos erupted.
Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes, and eight lawsuits challenging the results have failed. The state’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of an election challenge.
This story was reported from Los Angeles, Atlanta and Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.