The US Congress certifies Biden the victory hours after the heavy assault on Capitol Hill
By Patricia Zengerle, Jonathan Landay, and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hours after hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a harrowing assault on American democracy, a shaken Congress officially confirmed Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory Thursday.
Immediately thereafter, the White House released a statement from Trump pledging an “orderly transition” when Biden took office on Jan. 20, despite reiterating his false claim that he won the November election. On Wednesday, the Republican president apparently encouraged supporters to rave about the Capitol.
Congress resumed its work and, late in the evening, after the chaotic scenes on Capitol Hill, confirmed the victory of Biden’s electoral college. After debate until the wee hours of Thursday morning, the Senate and House of Representatives rejected two objections to the record and upheld the final vote in the electoral college, with Biden receiving 306 votes and Trump receiving 232 votes.
Vice President Mike Pence, in declaring the final number of votes, said it was “a sufficient statement by the elected Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States”.
Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will take office alongside Biden.
The outcome of the certification process had never been questioned, but was interrupted by rioters who pushed past metal security barriers, broke windows and climbed walls to fight their way into the Capitol.
According to police, four people died during the chaos – one from gunshot wounds and three from medical emergencies – and 52 people were arrested.
Some besieged the Chamber of the House while the legislature was inside, knocking on its doors, forcing the certification debate to be suspended. Security officers piled furniture against the chamber’s door and drew their pistols before helping lawmakers and others escape.
The attack on the Capitol was the culmination of months of divisive and escalating rhetoric surrounding the November 3 election, with Trump repeatedly making false claims that the vote had been rigged and urging his followers to help him overcome his loss.
After being certified by Congress on Thursday, he issued a statement through White House Advisor Dan Scavino in which he said:
“Even if I do not agree with the election result at all and the facts confirm me, there will still be an orderly transition on January 20th.”
Wednesday’s chaos came after Trump – who refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost before the elections – approached thousands of supporters near the White House and told them to march on the Capitol, to express their anger at lawmakers.
He urged supporters to pressure their elected officials to reject the results and urged them to “fight”.
Some prominent Republicans in Congress put the blame for the violence of the day right on his shoulders.
“There is no question that the president created the mob, the president instigated the mob, the president brought up the mob. He lit the flame,” said Liz Cheney, Chair of the House Republican Conference, on Twitter.
Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell, who had been silent for a long time while Trump tried to overturn the election result, called the invasion a “failed insurrection” and described those who stormed the Capitol as “awkward.”
TRUMP SLAMS PENCE
Trump had tried to get Pence and other Republicans to do whatever they could to block the confirmation of the election – the final step before Biden took office – despite lacking the constitutional authority to do so.
After Pence made it clear he would not comply with Trump’s requests, the president ripped off his longtime ally on Twitter while the Senate, chaired by the vice president, was besieged.
The shock of the attack seemed to soften the determination of some Republicans who had backed Trump’s efforts to convince Americans of his unfounded allegations of fraud. Several Republican senators who had announced they would object to the election changed their minds when they returned to the chamber.
Two objections – against the votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania – were firmly rejected in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Senator Lindsey Graham (NYSE :), one of Trump’s most staunch allies in Congress, turned down efforts by his Republicans to object to the election results in hopes of setting up a commission to investigate Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud.
“All I can say is count myself. Enough is enough,” said Graham on the floor of the Senate. “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are legally elected to become President and Vice President of the United States on January 20th.”
In a hastily arranged speech in Delaware Wednesday, Biden said the rioters’ activities “border on riot”.
At the White House, several aides resigned in protest of the attack on the Capitol, including Matt Pottinger, deputy national security advisor, and Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to Melania Trump and former White House press secretary, resigned from sources and media reports.
A source familiar with the situation said there had been discussions among some cabinet members and Trump allies about invoking the 25th amendment, which would allow a majority in the cabinet to declare Trump incapable of performing his duties, which Pence makes acting president. A second source, familiar with the effort, doubted Trump would only have two more weeks in office.
Election officials from both parties and independent observers said there was no significant fraud in November in which Biden won 7 million more votes than Trump.
Wednesday’s violence on Capitol Hill sparked baffled reactions from world leaders.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the events in Congress “a shame” and said in a tweet that the United States stands for democracy around the world and that this is “crucial” now that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.