Americans and people around the world yesterday watched a mob gather around the U.S. Capitol, many of whom broke into the building itself, reaching as far as the Senate chamber. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle laid the blame on President Donald Trump, saying he instigated or incited what has been called an insurrection, an act of terrorism, and that he failed to promptly disavow it or attempt to stop it.
One lawmaker compared yesterday, Jan. 6, 2021, to Dec. 7, 1941 as a “Day of Infamy” for this country.
In a speech at the White House that took place at about the time the Electoral votes were to be tallied in the Capitol, Mr. Trump said the group – which he indicated would include himself but ultimately did not – would “walk” to the Capitol and take the country back. He told the mob, “You will never take back our country with weakness.”
The mob action that followed required the House of Representatives and Senate to evacuate their chambers. After they were safely back in chambers, Senators decried the mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol building, which they said was a “safe” and “sacred” place.
On Dec. 14, 2020, the people elected by the voters of each state to serve as Electors met in their respective states and cast their votes for President and Vice President.
They submitted their votes, signed and certified, to the President of the Senate, who is the also Vice President of the United States. It was widely known that Joe Biden received 306 Electoral votes and Donald Trump, 232.
Congress met yesterday, Jan. 6, in accord with the Twelfth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Amendment provides in part that the “the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the [Electoral] votes shall then be counted;–The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; …”
Here, there was no dispute that the Electors of each state had submitted their lists of votes and that they had been certified. Under the Twelfth Amendment, the person with the most votes for President, “shall” be the President.
Congress passed a law in 1887 after several Southern states certified two different slates of electors who voted for different candidates. As part of a compromise to resolve that situation, a deal was struck to declare a certain person as President and in exchange to end Reconstruction in the South.
Under the 1887 law, any member of the House of Representatives may object to an individual state’s electoral tally. If the objection is joined in by a Senator, the House and the Senate shall each debate the objection and then vote to reject or sustain the objection. If both the House and the Senate vote to sustain the objection, then the electoral votes of the State objected to will not be counted. If both the House and the Senate do not sustain the objection, the objection fails.
A federal statute may not modify a provision of the U.S. Constitution. If there is a conflict between the Constitution and a federal statute, the Constitution controls.
Leading up to Congress’s Jan. 6 meeting, Mr. Trump had pressed Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to recognize the Electoral votes from some states that voted for Mr. Biden.
Mr. Trump continued to make unsupported claims that there was fraud in the Nov. 3 election, claims that were rejected by many courts, by the U.S. Attorney General, and by the many officials who oversaw the elections in the states, including many Republicans, and who conducted recounts and investigations of Mr. Trump’s claims which they found to lack merit. Many Republicans in the House, joined by 13 Republican Senators, had said they intended to object to Electors from several states that had voted for Mr. Biden.
Days before Congress convened on Jan. 6, Mr. Pence said he did not think he had power under the Constitution to unilaterally change the outcome of the election. On Jan. 6, shortly before he convened the proceedings to tally the Electoral votes, Mr. Pence published a three-page letter he had written to members of Congress, rejecting Mr. Trump’s demands.
He said, “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in an opening speech on Jan. 6, asked his colleagues not to damage democracy by objecting to the votes. “Voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken – they’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever,” he said.
The tally of the Electoral votes had reached only to Arizona when the first objection was made to counting Arizona’s Electoral votes; the objection, raised in the House of Representatives was joined by a Senator – a requirement for an objection to be debated.
Trump Mob Invades the Capitol Building
At about that point, at approximately 2 p.m. Eastern time, a mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol building, rampaging their way to the second-floor legislative chambers. One of them even sat in the Senate President’s seat. One woman was fatally shot in the building.
The mob action forced the evacuation of members of the House and the Senate; they were shepherded to an undisclosed location.
Mr. Trump, who had encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol building, took several hours to tell his supporters it was time to go home. In the same breath he continued to say the election was stolen, again without presenting evidence. Mr. Trump’s Twitter account and other social media accounts were suspended so that he could not continue to incite the crowd.
After the Riot, the Vote-Tallying Continues
After they had been escorted back to their chambers by armed guards last night, Senators resumed their tally of the Electors’ votes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) said, “Today, a shameful assault was made on our democracy. It was anointed at the highest level of government. It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden.”
Mr. Pence formally reopened the Senate saying, “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. This is still the people’s house.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the rioters had tried to disrupt democracy. “They failed,” he said.
Lawmakers in both chambers resumed their consideration of the challenge to the 11 Electoral votes in Arizona.
Several Senators of each party urged those who objected or planned to object to the vote tally to abandon that path and declare Joe Biden and Kamala Harris president and vice-president.
In the Senate, Republican Mitt Romney of Utah said, “We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning. … What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States.”
Referring to those who still believe Mr. Trump won the election, he said the best way to show respect for them is to tell them the truth, that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won and Donald Trump lost the election. He said he believed the people who continued to pursue the “dangerous gambit” of objecting to the results of this election “will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy.”
Another Utah Congressman, Republican Representative John Curtis, R-Utah, via Twitter set the blame on the current president: “My anger continues to grow over today’s desecration of the United States Capitol, our nation’s home. What happened was an act of domestic terrorism inspired and encouraged by our president.”
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, a Trump loyalist until almost the end, finally said to his colleagues, “Count me out” of the objectors.
“Trump and I, we’ve had a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way. Oh my God, I hate it. … All I can say, is count me out, enough is enough.”
Speaking to Mr. Pence, whose job it was to tally the Electoral College votes, Mr. Graham said, “Vice President Pence, what they’re [the objectors] asking you to do you won’t do, because you can’t. … Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected and will become the President and the Vice President of the United States on January 20.”
Democrat Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey noted that, even before Election Day in November, Mr. Trump had been saying that if he lost, that would be proof that the election was rigged.
He said, “It’s unprecedented that he’s [Mr. Trump] fanning the flames of conspiracy to create a smokescreen in this nation to cover what he’s trying to do, which is to undermine our democratic principles.”
In his attempt to undermine those principles, Mr. Booker said, Mr. Trump is “being aided and abetted by good Americans who are falling prey, who are choosing Trump over truth, who are surrendering to the passion of lies as opposed to standing up and speaking truth to power.”
He drew a parallel between Jan. 6, 2021, and the only other time the U.S. Capitol had been under siege, during the War of 1812.
“The parallel between the two is they were both waving flags to a sole sovereign, to an individual, surrendering democratic principle to the cultic personality. One was a monarch in England and the other, with all the flags I saw all over the Capitol, including in the hallways and in this room, to a single person named Donald Trump.”
Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, also spoke of the desecration of the “sacred” U.S. Capitol at the invitation of the sitting president.
“This temple to democracy was defiled by thugs who roamed the halls. … Did this mob spring spontaneously from America? No. This mob was invited to come to Washington on this day by this president for one reason: because he knew the electoral college was going to be counted this day.
“He wanted this mob to disrupt the Constitutional process which we are a part of. This mob was inspired by a president who cannot accept defeat.
“Let me close by saying this: The vote we’re going to have here is a clear choice of whether we are going to feed the beast of ignorance or if we are going to lie to the American people. We saw that beast here today roaming these halls, and we won’t welcome it back.”
Biden Finally Declared Winner
After two hours of debate, the Senate rejected the objection to the votes cast by the Arizona Electors by a vote of 93 to 6. The House members voted similarly against the objection, 303 to 121. By the time the House voted, it was about midnight Eastern time.
After the vote on Arizona’s electoral votes, Mr. Pence continued to read the Electoral vote tallies. Members of the House objected to the Electoral votes cast by Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, but each of those objections failed when no Senator joined them.
An objection to Pennsylvania’s electors, however, was joined in by Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), which triggered the House and the Senate to each consider Pennsylvania’s electoral vote.
In the Senate, arguments had been already made about Pennsylvania when the Senate was considering the Electoral votes certified by Arizona, so Senators did not debate the issue further.
In his remarks, Sen. Hawley said that he was challenging Pennsylvania’s Electoral votes because the Constitution of Pennsylvania did not allow for mail-in ballots except in certain situations. He did not claim there was any fraud. The Pennsylvania courts approved using mail-in ballots and the counting of mail-in ballots, although the time in which they had to be received was in dispute.
The Senate voted 92 to 7 to reject the objection to Pennsylvania’s Electoral votes. The House debated for the allotted two hours before rejecting the objection by a 282 to 138 vote.
The reading of the Electoral vote tallies then continued, with Mr. Biden receiving 306 electoral votes and Mr. Trump 232. Mr. Pence announced the vote tally at about 3:45 a.m., Eastern time.
Democrats and some outside groups began calling Wednesday for Mr. Trump to be either quickly impeached by Congress or removed from office via the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.