On January 6, hundreds of thousands of people gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to monitor the certification of the Electoral College votes by the Congress and to voice their displeasure against alleged fraud in the 2020 U.S. election.
As the two chambers of the Congress come together in a joint session to certify the presidential election, if at least one senator and one House representative challenge a state’s slate of electors, it would trigger a two-hour debate and vote in each chamber.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had previously asked Republican lawmakers not to challenge the election results. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was confident those who would challenge the Electoral College would be in the minority and would lose their challenge.
Arizona’s electors were the first to be challenged, by the state’s own Republican Congressman, Paul Gosar. His objection to election theft was applauded by a number of legislators, and then was joined by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz declared that American democracy was in crisis, and reminded his colleagues that if they voted against the objection, they would be telling nearly half of the country who believed the election was rigged: “Voter fraud doesn’t matter, it’s not real, and it shouldn’t be taken seriously.”
Regarding the perceived election theft, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) stated that 60 million Americans believed the election was stolen, yet the House did not hold a single investigation, or a single hearing, despite repeated calls for investigation from the Republican caucus and over 200 witness affidavits attesting to election fraud.
Pence declines to intervene
As Senate President, many legal scholars contended that Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to reject electors he deemed illegitimate. Before the joint Congressional session, President Trump tweeted: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
However, the Vice President released a statement before the joint session stating his role was merely “ceremonial” and declared that “vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to” the system of checks and balances between branches of the government designed by the framers of the Constitution.
In a tweet since removed by Twitter, President Trump responded: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify.”
Antifa provokes breach of Capitol
About two hours into the joint session, some protesters entered the Capitol and clashed with police, forcing the Congressional members to take shelter and suspend the certification process.
In the melee, a woman named Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed inside the Capitol by a man who looked like a Secret Service officer, according to witnesses. Subsequently, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6:00 p.m.
As mainstream media criticized Trump supporters for inciting a riot, videos released by people at the scene showed many people leading the incursion into the Capitol were familiar figures at prior Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots.
Witnesses also disputed the reporting that the crowd “breached” the Capitol; they claimed that the police actually opened the barriers to allow the crowd in.
Immediately following the clashes in Congress, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke out against the incursion, characterizing it as “insurrection.”
President Trump tweeted a short video that said: “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt, our election was stolen, we all know that. But you should go home, we don’t want to see anyone get hurt. We love you, you are special, you have seen what has happened, you have seen people being treated with evil. I know how you feel, but please go home, please go home in peace.” That video was also taken down by Twitter.
National Guard Activated
The Department of Defense activated the D.C. National Guard after the Capitol was breached. According to the Pentagon, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller was in contact with congressional leadership the entire time, and White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany was coordinating with the D.C. authorities.