Congress formally certified Joe Biden as the next president of the United States on Thursday, dealing a severe blow to Donald Trump, whose supporters stormed the Capitol hours earlier, unleashing scenes of unprecedented chaos at the headquarters of American democracy.
Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives successfully rejected Republican efforts to deny Biden the electoral votes necessary to win, prompting loud applause when the certification was announced.
The assertion of Biden’s 306-232 victory over Trump in November essentially closes the door on the incomparable and profound. controversial effort by Trump and his loyalists to reverse the results of the 2020 elections.
The president immediately issued a statement promising an “orderly transition,” but suggested he would remain on the front lines of politics, amid speculation that he could run again in 2024.
“Although I totally disagree with the outcome of the elections and the facts confirm me, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20,” he said.
“I have always said that we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the best first term in presidential history, it is just the beginning of our fight to make America great again! “
The certification came hours after a mob stormed the United States Capitol and sent lawmakers to fight for safety. They were able to return hours later, shocked but determined to complete the task.
Spurred on in an extraordinary city-wide rally by an aggrieved Trump, a flag-waving mob had knocked down barricades outside the Capitol and stormed in, razing offices and generally solemn legislative floors.
Security forces fired tear gas in a four-hour operation to clear the Capitol. Police said a woman, allegedly a Trump supporter from Southern California, was shot and killed and that three other people died in the area in circumstances that were unclear.
A Trump supporter in jeans and a baseball cap was photographed leaning one leg on the desk of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi as the crowd rose into the stands prepared for Biden’s inauguration.
Another held a banner that read: “We the people will bring DC to its knees / We have the power.”
Biden called the violence an “insurrection” and demanded that Trump immediately go on national television to tell the rioters to stand down.
“Our democracy is under unprecedented assault,” Biden said in his home state of Delaware.
“This is not dissent. It is disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end now. “
Shortly after, Trump released a video in which he asked the mob to leave, but repeated his baseless claims of voter fraud.
“We have to have peace. So go home. We love you, you are very special, “he said.
In a significant new crackdown, social media companies pulled the video over allegations that it compounded the violence and Twitter temporarily suspended its account, warning the tweet-loving mogul of a permanent ban if it doesn’t abide by civic integrity rules. .
– Democracy “death spiral” –
The chaos on Capitol Hill came a day after Biden enjoyed another triumph, and his Democrats were projected to win two Senate seats in the runoff in Georgia, giving the party full control of Congress and dramatically increasing the vote. Biden’s ability to pass legislation, starting with the new Covid. 19 relief.
Historians said it was the first time the Capitol had been taken since 1814, when the British burned it down during the War of 1812.
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For more than two centuries, the joint session of Congress has been a silent ceremonial event that formally certifies the winner of the election.
But Trump urged members of his Republican Party to dispute the result.
Congress rejected the challenges to Biden’s victory in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Efforts were made to challenge the counts in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin, but after mob violence, Senate Republicans withdrew objections to Biden’s victories there, eliminating any need for debate.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, closely aligned with Trump during his presidency, had tried to avoid challenges. He noted that the election results were not even close, and that dozens of courts had dismissed lawsuits alleging wrongdoing.
“If this election were annulled by mere accusations from the losing side, our democracy would spiral into death,” McConnell said.
But Senator Josh Hawley, who has taken the lead in the effort and is seen as a future Republican presidential hopeful, insisted on moving forward even after the mob attack.
“Violence is not the way change is achieved,” said the 41-year-old senator, insisting that he wanted to offer “legal process” to Trump supporters to evaluate his baseless claims of fraud.
– “Eternal shame” –
Sen. Mitt Romney, one of Trump’s staunchest critics in the Republican Party, said emphatically that the best way to respect voters “is to tell them the truth.”
“Those who continue to support this dangerous tactic,” Romney said, “will forever be seen as complicit in an unprecedented attack on our democracy.”
With the Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives, there was never any chance that Congress would overturn Biden’s victory.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who will become Majority Leader after Tuesday’s election victories, described the violence as an attempted coup and said it would be remembered in US history much like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. .
“This mafia was largely the work of President Trump, incited by his words, his lies,” Schumer said, adding that Trump would endure “eternal shame.”
Former President Barack Obama called the violence “a time of great disgrace and shame for our nation.”
“But we would be fooling ourselves if we took it as a total surprise,” Obama said, adding that he was “prompted” by Trump, “who has continued to lie baselessly about the outcome of a legal election.”
Former President George W. Bush also did not limit himself to saying: “This is how electoral results are disputed in a banana republic, not in our democratic republic.”
– Called to remove Trump –
Trump only has two weeks left in office, but, with little on his public agenda for weeks and multiple reports that he is losing control of reality, several news reports said his cabinet was whispering about his impeachment for unfitness. for office under Amendment 25 of the Constitution.
“President Trump’s willingness to incite violence and social unrest to overturn the election results by force clearly meets this standard,” wrote all the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence. .
In an angry and rambling speech to the White House before the violence, Trump urged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill and demanded that Pence, who ceremonially led the session, step in to reverse his loss.
The vice president refused, and it was ultimately Pence who appeared before the joint session of Congress who announced his defeat and that of Trump to Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris.
Thousands of Trump supporters have flocked to Washington at his urging in recent days, with downtown businesses boarded out of fear of violence and Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a curfew Wednesday night.