Pro-Trump mob overruns Capitol, forcing evacuation
A chaotic and violent scene unfolded at the Capitol on Wednesday as supporters of President Trump swarmed the building to protest the Electoral College vote, forcing a lockdown and various confrontations with police.
Vice President Pence and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Senate president pro tempore, were escorted from the Senate chamber after a mob overpowered police and broke into the Capitol to protest as a joint session of Congress convened to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
The House and Senate were less than an hour into debating the first GOP objection to a state that Biden won — Arizona — when they were forced to abruptly recess as mostly maskless rioters crowded into the hallways around each chamber.
Lawmakers, staffers and reporters in each chamber were forced to shelter in place, told to hide under their seats and given gas masks. D.C. police confirmed that one unnamed woman was shot inside the Capitol and later died, but details were not immediately available.
The confrontation with rioters outside the House chamber resulted in broken glass on one of the center doors. Capitol Police officers inside the chamber drew their guns in anticipation of people trying to breach the door.
Capitol Police handcuffed at least some of the protesters outside the House chamber and in the Capitol Visitor Center. Some police officers were injured, including one who had to be carried by two colleagues and others who were pepper sprayed by protesters and needed to wash out their eyes.
Some rioters broke into the Senate chamber, with one getting up on the dais and yelling “Trump won that election.”
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said the full District of Columbia National Guard, representing 1,100 troops, would be deployed to help the city government respond to the protests. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) had previously asked for about 340 Guardsmen to support D.C. police.
The governors of Virginia and Maryland also sent state troopers and members of the National Guard to provide assistance.
More than a dozen people have been arrested, D.C. police said Wednesday evening. Shortly before a 6 p.m. curfew established by Bowser, the House sergeant-at-arms informed lawmakers that the Capitol had been cleared.
Trump, under growing pressure from lawmakers and former White House officials to condemn the erupting violence, tweeted around 4:15 p.m. to tell his supporters to “go home” though he continued to praise them and repeat his false claims of election fraud.
“Go home. We love you, you’re very special,” Trump said in a video posted to Twitter. “I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.”
Trump had tweeted earlier Wednesday afternoon urging supporters to “stay peaceful” and support law enforcement without expressly condemning those using force to enter the Capitol building. The president tweeted again 35 minutes later to urge “no violence” and emphasizing the need to respect police.
Trump’s initial remarks drew pushback from several allies, who urged him to more forcefully condemn the chaotic scene, after Trump spoke earlier in the day seeking to rally supporters to protest the electoral count.
“Mr. President @realDonaldTrump the men & women of law enforcement are under assault. It is crucial you help restore order by sending resources to assist the police and ask those doing this to stand down,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted.
“Condemn this now, @realDonaldTrump – you are the only one they will listen to. For our country!” tweeted former White House communications director Alyssa Farah.
“The President’s tweet is not enough. He can stop this now and needs to do exactly that. Tell these folks to go home,” tweeted former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) also issued a joint statement urging Trump to tell the rioters to leave the Capitol.
Pence, who earlier in the day told Congress he did not believe he has the “unilateral authority” to reverse the election results despite demands from Trump, called on rioters to immediately leave the Capitol building.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now. Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building,” Pence tweeted.
Lawmakers in both parties called for the prosecution of rioters who broke into the Capitol and interrupted proceedings. Rioters also flipped over tables and pulled photos off the walls in Pelosi’s office, which is located just off the Capitol Rotunda situated between the two chambers.
“Those who made this attack on our government need to be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Their actions are repugnant to democracy,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump. Graham also tweeted that he “could not agree more with President-elect Biden’s” call for peace.
“Time to retake the Capitol, end the violence, & stop the madness,” Graham wrote.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted shortly after 3:30 p.m. EST that the National Guard and other law enforcement would respond to the escalating situation. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced that he would deploy members of the state’s National Guard and 200 state troopers to respond to the rioting.
Lawmakers, staff and reporters were evacuated from the Capitol as scores of people forcefully entered the building, overwhelming the Capitol Police.
Police had extra officers on duty on Wednesday in anticipation of potentially violent protests, but still lost control of the situation as the mob pushed its way into the building.
Those in the House chamber were given gas masks amid reports that police may use tear gas in an effort to clear the area outside the chamber. Images shared by reporters inside the chamber showed doors to the room barricaded and several law enforcement officers with guns drawn.
“This is because of you!” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) yelled out to Republicans as staff began shutting the doors leading to the House chamber.
“This is madness,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told NBC’s Lester Holt by phone while declining to reveal his location, citing safety concerns. He said Republicans “should be ashamed” by the unfolding scene.
On the Senate side, senators, staff and roughly a dozen reporters were locked in the upper chamber as chaos erupted outside the doors. Senators were instructed to stay in their seats, after many were first spotted milling about and chatting on their phones.
Security staff at one point told staff to get toward the back of the chamber and instructed senators to stay away from the doors.
Amid confusion about what was happening, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) stood up to tell her colleagues that shots had reportedly been fired.
“I hope these guys wake up to the damage that they’re doing,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said of lawmakers objecting to the election results when asked about the session resuming again.
Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), another Republican who has opposed efforts to overturn the election, cast blame on Trump for the unfolding scene.
“This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection,” he told a reporter.
Several lawmakers tweeted that they were sheltering in place in their offices as the scene unfolded. Police earlier had evacuated several buildings including the Library of Congress’s Madison Building across from the Capitol and the Cannon House office building.
Police issued a warning to Capitol Hill staffers, urging those in the Cannon House building to “take visitors, escape hoods, and Go Kits” and report to a tunnel connected to a nearby building.
Members of both parties are vowing to continue with the Electoral College proceedings as soon as the Capitol is cleared by law enforcement.
“We sure hope so. We’ll say whatever it takes, these thugs are not running us off,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told reporters.
— Jordain Carney, Juliegrace Brufke and Scott Wong contributed.
Updated at 6:08 p.m.
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