LIVE: Armed riot police have been battling hard-right domestic terrorists who have invaded the US Capitol in a last violent bid to prevent Joe Biden’s democratic ascent to the presidency.
|► Breaking news: Georgia voters give Senate to the Democrats – Trump rioters try to take it back||► Noam Gidron & Peter A Hall: Populism erupts when people feel disconnected and disrespected||► John Hart: How Trump’s last stand will play out in Congress|
This morning, President Donald Trump incited thousands of his loyalist supporters to march on the US Capitol as the Senate and House gathered in a joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Through the day, those protesters stormed the US Capitol in a violent confrontation that left one woman shot dead – as Trump expressed his gratitude to them.
But this evening, in the staunchest expression of political unity in four long years, House and Senate Democrats and Republicans emerged from they’re secured location to vow to continue their democratic work to certify the new President and Vice President.
In a letter to colleagues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced leaders of Congress had decided to resume the joint session tonight to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win once the Capitol is “cleared for use.”
“In consultation with Leader Hoyer and Whip Clyburn and after calls to the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the Vice President, we have decided we should proceed tonight at the Capitol once it is cleared for use. Leader Hoyer will be sending out more guidance later today,” she said.
Some Republicans lawmakers who this morning had been planning to stall the certification of the new President have announced that, after all they’ve seen, they vote in favour of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
12:24pm NZT: A woman who was shot inside US Capitol during riots Wednesday afternoon was pronounced dead at an area hospital, a spokesperson with the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department confirmed to CNN. “Yes, the adult female that was shot inside of the Capitol was pronounced at an area hospital,” said spokesperson Dustin Sternbeck. “Additional details will be forthcoming as this remains an active MPD investigation.”
11.57am NZT: A curfew in being imposed on the streets of Washington DC, coming into effect in three minutes’ time at 6pm Eastern Standard Time. Hundreds of protesters remain defiantly on the streets, promising to heighten their action as darkness deepens.
11.45am NZT: New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has joined other world leaders and ministers in expressing the Government’s dismay at today’s assault on democracy. “We regret unfolding events in Washington DC,” she said. “Our thoughts are with the American people. Violence has no place in thwarting democracy. We look forward to the peaceful transition of the political administration, which is the hallmark of democracy. Kia tau ngā manaakitanga.”
11.41am NZT: Police in Washington confirm they have seized five guns and arrested at least 13 during a violent Capitol protest, as former President George W Bush says he and his wife Laura have watched he emerging mayhem in DC with dismay. He condemns political leaders who have incited the violence.
11:00am NZT: The entire DC National Guard is being deployed to the Capitol and other points around Washington after a request from the Mayor. Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement the 1100-strong Guard had already been mobilised in response to calls from Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington.
Hundreds of pro-Trump protesters have stormed Congress and invaded the Senate, even occupying the dais. Police officers have drawn firearms in the House, and one person is reported to have been shot.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller made the call as protesters breached the Capitol. “We have fully activated the D.C. National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation,” Miller said.
“We are prepared to provide additional support as necessary and appropriate as requested by local authorities. Our people are sworn to defend the Constitution and our democratic form of government, and they will act accordingly.”
Meanwhile, Muriel Bowser has called on everyone on the Capitol grounds to evacuate, urging some to “go back to their state” while instating a 6pm curfew and a perimeter around DC streets.
“What we’ve seen is unpatriotic, wrong and illegal … it is a breach of our very democracy so we will continue to work with our partners to get it under control.”
10.25am NZT: President Donald Trump, who this morning exhorted protesters to march on Congress to “stop the steal”, has just issued a recorded statement expressing his love for the protesters who have stormed the Capital. He has encouraged them to “go home” – but still repeated his false and incendiary claims that the election was stolen.
Twenty minutes earlier, President-elect Joe Biden spoke live from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, warning of an assault on the rule of law, and the very heart of liberty and democracy.
Biden said: “I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward.”
Tear gas is reportedly drifting down the corridors of the US Congress, which is in joint session to count and certify the Electoral College votes confirming Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President.
Biden said the certification of a the Electoral College vote was meant to be a sacred ritual; instead it had been usurped by violent thugs.
“Think what the rest of the world is looking at. For more than two -a-half-centuries, we the people have kept our eye on the common good. America is better than this.”
He asked that Trump, who is hunkered down in the White House, to speak out to the nation: “At the best the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite. I call on President Trump now, to go on national television to fulfil his oath … and demand an end to this siege.”
Lawmakers, including congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, are reported to have been moved to “a safe place”.
Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over the joint session until the House had to be evacuated; earlier he had stood up to President Donald Trump’s calls for him to disregard the Electoral College vote.
“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.”
– Mike Pence
Trump incited his Vice President to flout the constitution. “All Mike Pence has to do is send [the electoral votes] back to the States, AND WE WIN,” Trump tweeted. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
In a final rebuff for Trump, his own righthand man refused. “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,” Pence wrote, in a letter to Congress last night.
Now, The US Capitol is on lockdown during a tense situation with demonstrators outside the building, according to Capitol police officers. Police drew their weapons on the floor of the House to control the protests, as politicians and journalists were evacuated.
The unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy comes as the Democratic Party of is confirmed, at 10.30am NZT, to have taken control of the Senate with wins in both Senate elections in Georgia.
Pastor Raphael Warnock is projected to win one seat. Fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff leads narrowly in the other. If they both win, Biden will have a much better chance of pushing through his legislative agenda, the BBC reports.
Some Republicans were seeking to overturn the results in a number of states, in today’s joint session of Congress. Instead, the count is being overturned by armed protesters.
Trump had addressed the protesters, and urged them to march on the Capitol. “I’ll never concede,” he told a crowd of supporters on the Ellipse just south of the White House. “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical Democrats.
“We will never give up. We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s death involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”Trump has repeatedly alleging election fraud without providing evidence. His personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has admitted in court that they have no evidence of fraud.
What happened overnight in Georgia?
Pastor Rephael Warnock is set to become the first black senator for the state of Georgia – a slavery state in the US Civil War – and only the 11th black senator in US history.
He serves as the reverend of the Atlanta church where assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr grew up and preached.
Claiming victory, he paid tribute to his mother, Verlene, who as a teenager worked as a farm labourer, the BBC reports.
“The other day – because this is America – the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” he said.
If both Democrats win, the Senate will be evenly split 50-50, allowing incoming Democratic Vice-President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote. The Democrats also narrowly control the House of Representatives.
Ossoff has also claimed victory in his race against Republican Senator David Perdue, but that race is even tighter. At 33, Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member for 40 years.
A Democrat has not won a Senate race in Georgia in 20 years but the party has been boosted by Biden’s presidential election win over Trump there. Biden’s margin of victory was about 12,000 votes among five million cast.
What is happening in Washington?
On Wednesday, more political drama will unfold in Washington DC as lawmakers gather in a special joint session to ratify the results of November’s presidential election.
The typically procedural affair – which will affirm Biden’s victory – has become unusually contentious, with about a dozen Republican senators vowing to challenge the results.
The group, led by Senator Ted Cruz, wants a 10-day delay to audit unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. The move is all but certain to fail as most senators are expected to endorse the results that have already been certified by US states, the BBC reports.
Vice-President Mike Pence is set to preside over the session in his role as president of the Senate.
He has come under pressure this week from Trump to reject the certification, but the vice-president told Trump at their weekly lunch on Tuesday that he had no power in Congress to block Biden’s win, according to the New York Times. Trump said the report was “fake news”.
Biden is due to be inaugurated as president on January 20. He won 306 votes to Trump’s 232 in the US electoral college, which confirms the president.
Biden won at least seven million more votes than the President.