A wave of violent supporters of President Trump breached the U.S. Capitol as Congress was meeting to certify the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, an apocalyptic scene that sent shockwaves around the country and around the globe.
Trump had been calling on supporters in recent days to descend upon Washington to protest the pro forma counting of Electoral College votes, as a group of 12 Republican senators and 140+ members of the House Republican caucus – including Fifth District Congressman Bob Good and Sixth District Congressman Ben Cline – promised to raise objections to the count.
What is still unfolding as this report is being produced is not a protest; it’s an attempted coup.
“Just had to evacuate my office because of a bomb reported outside, while the President’s anarchists are trying to force their way into the Capitol. I heard what sounds like multiple gunshots,” Second District Democrat Elaine Luria wrote on her Twitter page.
“The President has tried to burn down our country, but he won’t succeed. Those members of Congress who have supported this anarchy do not deserve to represent their fellow Americans,” Luria said.
President-elect Joe Biden forcefully called upon Trump, in a short address to the nation from his transition office in Wilmington, Del., to denounce the violence being waged in his name, and Trump later, in his own mealy-mouthed way, did so, using the short taped message to reinforce that the election had been “stolen from us, everyone knows it, especially the other side.”
“But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order,” Trump said in the video message, which was flagged by Twitter because of its claims of election fraud.
Biden, just to reset where we are, won the election by more than 7 million votes, four and a half percentage points, with a 306-232 margin in the Electoral College.
Trump’s legal team has filed more than 60 suits challenging election results in several states. The legal recourse having been exhausted, he tried to lean on the chief election official in Georgia, which Biden won by a relatively narrow 11,000+-vote margin, to “find” votes that could push the president over the top there, in a phone call over the weekend that was leaked to the Washington Post.
Today’s mob violence is a sadly predictable last spasm from the cult of personality that propped up the would-be autocrat Trump – from the ragtag foot soldiers storming the gates to the enablers in public office, from Cline to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the dozens of others in league.
“At this hour, our democracy is under an unprecedented assault unlike anything we have seen in modern times,” Biden said today. “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are. What we’re seeing are 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.”
Congress was placed on lockdown as pool reports indicated that there was an armed showdown between Capitol Police and protestors at the entrance to the House chambers, and broadcast images showed a protestor pillaging the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Members were advised to shelter in place, and at this point, there appear to be no injuries among members, staff or members of the media.
“I was in the House Chamber as violent, far right protestors tried to break down the doors. Thank you to the Capitol Police for keeping us safe and evacuating staff, reporters, and members of Congress to safety,” Seventh District Democrat Abigail Spanberger said via her Twitter page.
“I’m safe. Evil always raises hell before it is cast out. We will pass this test. Democracy will prevail,” Fourth District Democrat Donald McEachin said via Twitter.
“Thanks for your concern — I am safe and sheltering in place with other senators. Please join me in praying for our country, and for our fellow Americans to do the right thing,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said on Twitter.
“My staff and I are safe right now – following the instructions of Capitol Police and praying for the safety of Capitol workers, members of the press, and all here in Washington today. This violence must end now,” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine said on Twitter.
“This is a dark and scary moment for our country, but these violent criminals attempting to overthrow our government will not win,” Eighth District Democrat Don Beyer said on Twitter.
“No more BS tweets, no more lies, no more dog whistles, no more half-hearted mealy-mouthed statements that the violent insurrectionists know he doesn’t mean, and no more incitements to violence. Donald Trump needs to make this stop. Now,” Beyer said.
Cline, who had announced on Tuesday that he would formally object today to the Electoral College vote, condemned the violence in a statement.
“While people have a right to peaceably protest, those who breached the Capitol and assaulted Capitol Police officers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Violence is never the answer, and I condemn their actions in the strongest possible terms,” Cline said via Twitter.
Fifth District Congressman Bob Good, who had also signaled that he would raise an objection during today’s certification session, also issued a statement, but stopped short of condemning, barely even acknowledging, the violence.
“Peaceful assembly, protesting & petitioning our government to express our grievances is fundamental to our constitutional republic,” Good said via Twitter. “We are also a nation established on the rule of law and we must never resort to violence. I call on everyone to express their views peacefully and to respect our Capitol and courageous law enforcement officers working nobly to keep us all safe. I am thankful that my staff and I are safe and my prayer is for the safety of everyone today.”
Ninth District Republican Morgan Griffith, who last month joined Cline in signing on to a court brief backing a Trump election challenge that was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, was a bit more forceful.
“The Capitol is the place where Americans debate issues peacefully and according to our rules and Constitution. It should not be subject to break-ins and violence. Its occupiers must leave and face justice, and the business of the people must continue,” Griffith said via Twitter.
First District Republican Rob Wittman: “This is absolutely unacceptable. This is not how we conduct the Nation’s business. Please allow us to get the work of the people completed.”
Tenth District Democrat Jennifer Wexton: “The President has been encouraging these domestic terrorists since before the election. He could have stopped them at any moment, but instead he whipped them into a frenzy and sicced them on the Capitol. The Cabinet must remove him today or the House must impeach.”
Eleventh District Democrat Gerry Connolly: “What has Trump wrought? The Capitol stormed. House and Senate chambers evacuated. Gas masks issued. Counting of electoral ballots disrupted. Democracy at the edge. Enough, America. Enough.”
Third District Congressman Bobby Scott: “My staff and I are safe.”
Story by Chris Graham