U.S. Capitol Police put the Capitol into an hourslong lockdown after pro-Trump rioters forced their way into Congress, forcing lawmakers to shelter in place and halting debate over the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. A woman who was shot during the unrest has died, D.C. police said.
Vice President Mike Pence presided over the U.S. Senate as it reconvened after a violent mob earlier halted the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.
Hundreds of people echoing Mr. Trump’s false claims that Democrats stole the 2020 election had gathered Wednesday ahead of last-ditch effort from his congressional allies to contest the results in Congress. Those demonstrations turned violent, with rioters barging their way past police and into the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to shelter under desks and the evacuation of congressional leaders to nearby Fort McNair, a U.S. law-enforcement official said.
With rioters roaming freely in the Capitol, police closed the doors to the House and Senate chambers, using furniture to barricade the doors in the House. Several police officers drew their weapons, distributing gas masks and instructing lawmakers to put them on and stay on the floor until they could be safely evacuated. A woman who was shot during the unrest in the Capitol has died, D.C. police said.
The scenes, playing out in real time across the nation on cable television, represented a stunning coda to Mr. Trump’s presidency as Congress assembled to certify his opponent’s win. Washington sees frequent political demonstrations and skirmishes. But scenes of rioters confronting police on the Capitol steps, scaling the sides of the iconic building and sitting in lawmakers’ chairs prompted outrage among Washington lawmakers and officials.
Pro-Trump Protesters Breach the Capitol
“There is nothing patriotic about what is occurring on Capitol Hill,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted. “This is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy.”
The descent into anarchy came as Mr. Trump has tried, unsuccessfully, for two months to persuade state officials and courts to reverse his loss to Mr. Biden. The efforts in Congress were on track to fail as well, with Republican Senate leaders joining Democrats in saying they would reject challenges to state electors. Throwing out any states’ results would require a majority in both the Senate and the House.
Speaking on Wednesday morning to supporters before the demonstrators had entered the Capitol complex, Mr. Trump urged them to keep up the fight against the election results and march to the Capitol.
“We have to have peace, so go home. We love you. You’re very special,” Mr. Trump said of the rioters.
Twitter Inc. later removed the tweet, saying it believed the tweet could contribute to, rather than diminish, the risks of further violence and locked Mr. Trump’s Twitter account for 12 hours..
In his own remarks Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Biden called on Mr. Trump to tell the rioters to stand down. “This is not dissent. This is disorder. It’s chaos. Borders on sedition and it must end now.”
Usually the process of counting the electoral votes in Congress two weeks before the inauguration is little more than a perfunctory ceremony, lasting less than half an hour. But coming into the day, scores of Republicans in the House and 13 in the Senate were expected to object to counting at least three states’ tallies: Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Pence opened the joint session, in which states are counted alphabetically. When he got to Arizona, several GOP lawmakers from the House and Senate objected, as expected. Lawmakers then moved to debate the matter in their separate chambers and vote.
As the joint session began, Mr. Pence issued a letter ruling out any effort by him to intervene on Mr. Trump’s behalf, defying repeated requests from Mr. Trump to throw out the results of the election. After the letter was released, Mr. Trump tweeted that Mr. Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”
Moments later, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said any move to overturn the results would cause a “death spiral” for democracy. He said that there was no evidence of fraud “anywhere near the massive scale that would have tipped this entire election.”
Leaders of the effort to contest the election results cast their actions as a way to ensure the legitimacy of the 2020 results, rather than diminish them. Some Republican lawmakers who didn’t sign onto contesting the results have faced crowds of constituents criticizing them.
As debate began in the Senate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) addressed fellow Republican senators who were planning to vote against their colleagues’ objections. Mr. Cruz has pushed for an emergency 10-day commission to study the allegations of voter fraud. No evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election has emerged.
“I understand your concerns but I urge you to pause and think, what does it say to the nearly half the country that believes this election was rigged if we vote not even to consider the claims of illegality and fraud in this election?” Mr. Cruz said.
But the process—already a fraught battle that lawmakers had expected to last late into the night—was quickly interrupted.
Capitol Police initially ordered occupants of several buildings on Capitol Hill to evacuate. As the mob entered the Capitol building itself, the Congress was forced into recess as the police evacuated top lawmakers and attempted to lock down the building. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D., Calif.) said she planned to resume the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory Wednesday night as soon as it was safe to do so.
Officials said 1,100 D.C. National Guard troops were activated and headed to the D.C. armory, more than tripling the number of troops already sent. It wasn’t known how they will be deployed or whether they will go to the Capitol, a Department of Defense official said. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is sending Secret Service and other agents to the Capitol to assist law enforcement manage the situation.
Some lawmakers questioned how rioters were able to enter the Capitol, and whether the police were sufficiently staffed.
“I think they didn’t plan enough,” said Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D., Texas) of the Capitol Police. “There should have been an overwhelming display of force.”
The chaos at the hands of the pro-Trump rioters inflamed criticism of Mr. Trump and Republicans who challenged the results Wednesday. Several Democrats said Mr. Trump should be impeached for the second time.
“It’s completely unacceptable what the Republicans are doing, undermining people’s faith in our democracy, like it’s actually being stolen, which it’s not,” said Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D., Calif.). “I think Donald Trump probably should be brought up on treason for something like this.”
As they rushed away from the Senate, parliamentary staff grabbed hold of the boxes containing the Electoral College certificates. Relocated to an undisclosed secure location, evacuated lawmakers said a prayer, several kneeling or with heads bowed.
Republicans who led the effort to contest the election results also condemned the rioting, which prompted the city of Washington to institute a curfew beginning at 6 p.m. Congress will still need to finish ratifying the results of the election, with some lawmakers pushing for the House and Senate to resume the process as soon as possible.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) was ready to go back Wednesday night to finish the job.
“Whatever it takes. These thugs are not running us off,” he said.
—Alex Leary and Aruna Viswanatha contributed to this article.