UPDATE, 11:44 AM PT: Donald Trump urged protesters at the Capitol to “stay peaceful,” but he did not instruct them to disperse from the complex, where his supporters have breached the barricades and have been wandering through some of the halls near House and Senate chambers.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Trump tweeted.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump, speaking to a rally at the Ellipse, urged his backers to march to the Capitol as a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes. Protesters breached barricades, forcing a lockdown through the complex. Vice President Mike Pence, who is presiding, reportedly has been evacuated.
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Capitol Police had prepared for the expected demonstrators but were overwhelmed by the protesters.
The situation in the Capitol was bedlam. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) wrote on Twitter, “We’ve been given gas masks on the House floor. Tear gas has been used in the Rotunda.” Members of Congress were being told the shelter in place.
UPDATE, 11:20 AM PT: The Senate and House recessed as pro-Donald Trump demonstrators breached security barricades and have been trying to get into the Capitol, where lawmakers have been counting the Electoral College votes.
CNN’s Manu Raju reported that protesters reached areas just off the Senate floor, having made their way up the steps on the west side of the Capitol, which is usually off limits. Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the proceedings, was taken off the floor.
“It is a scary scene, plain and simple. It is a scary scene,” said CNN’s John King. “There is a clear line between activism and anarchy.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a curfew for the District of Columbia starting at 6 PM ET on Wednesday.
UPDATE, 11:00 AM PT: As both chambers of Congress met to count electoral votes, there was unrest outside the Capitol as supporters of Donald Trump attempted to break through police barricades.
Lawmakers also reported that the Cannon office building was being evacuated, with people being urged to go into tunnels below the structure. CNN’s Manu Raju said that they had been told by Capitol Police that the buildings were in lockdown.
Trump supporters are trying to break past police lines at the Capitol building.pic.twitter.com/kzLo2vWyfq
— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) January 6, 2021
“I’m sheltering in place in my office. The building next door has been evacuated. I can’t believe I have to write this,” wrote Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI).
On CBS News, correspondent Kris Van Cleve said that “you are seeing some folks show up in combat helmets in what appears to be body armor.
.@krisvancleave reports from the pro-Trump protests in the streets of Washington, D.C., where some supporters appear to be wearing combat helmets, body armor and empty holsters https://t.co/wTKxzqAo9U pic.twitter.com/P8GkPulBiC
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 6, 2021
Earlier, Trump, speaking to thousands gathered at the Ellipse, urged his supporters to head to the Capitol afterward, and he even suggested that he would go with them.
UPDATE, 10:46 AM PT: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back vigorously on lawmakers objecting to Joe Biden’s victory, characterizing it as an attempt to overturn the will of the voters.
“We’ve been debating a step that has never been taken in American history, whether Congress should overrule the voters and overturn a presidential election,’ McConnell said, his clearest rebuke yet of President Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud.
“The election, actually, was not unusually close. The Electoral College margin is almost identical to what it was in 2016.” He warned that if the election were “overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”
“Congress has a limited role; we cannot simply declare ourselves the National Board of Elections on steroids.”
PREVIOUSLY: A joint session of Congress gathered to count the Electoral College vote on Wednesday, in what was expected to be raucous proceedings with dozens of Republican lawmakers planning to challenge the results and President Donald Trump seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.
The objections to Biden’s victory started quickly, when Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) objected to the electoral results in Arizona, and some of their Republican colleagues broke into applause. That triggered a process in which the Senate and the House will withdraw to their respective chambers, even though Trump’s allies do not have enough votes to block Biden’s 306-232 victory.
“That was an awkward moment to seeing a standing ovation to questioning democracy,” Chuck Todd said on MSNBC. Some 140 House Republicans and 16 Senators are said to have signed on to efforts to challenge the results.
On Fox News, Chris Wallace said that “we’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Usually this is the point when everybody comes together, losing hurts, but they sit there and say for the greater good of the country and in keeping with our democracy and our constitution, we’re going to recognize that the person who got the most electoral votes won the election,” he said. “And the fact that that’s not going to happen today is kind of sad.”
Much of the focus was on Vice President Mike Pence, who is presiding over the proceedings. Although it has been ceremonial role, Trump has tried to pressure Pence to reject the results, even though he does not have the authority to do so. Pence largely went by script, leaving objections to the congressional lawmakers.
The plans to object to the Electoral College victory have created sharp divisions among Republican lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was expected to deliver a speech on the Senate floor, outlining why he thinks that the effort to block the electoral vote was futile and even damaging.
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