Overnight Defense: Capitol overrun by pro-Trump rioters | Entire DC National Guard activated | 38-year-old soldier dies of COVID-19

Overnight Defense: Capitol overrun by pro-Trump rioters | Entire DC National Guard activated | 38-year-old soldier dies of COVID-19
© Julia Nikhinson

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: It’s been a dark day for the United States.

Violent pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol Wednesday as lawmakers were meeting to certify President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE’s win in the November elections.

The breach, which the U.S. Capitol Historical Society told CNN is the first of its kind since the 1814 British attack on the building during the War of 1812, forced lawmakers to stop counting Electoral College votes and shelter in undisclosed locations.

Among the wild scenes that played out on Wednesday, Capitol Police officers inside the House chamber drew their guns in anticipation of rioters trying to breach the door after a glass window was shattered.

Some of the mob broke into the Senate chamber, with one getting up on the dais and yelling, “Trump won that election.”

At least one person was shot in a confrontation and later died.

Shortly before a 6 p.m. curfew established by D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in DC orders school and child care staffers, student athletes to be vaccinated with no testing option Biden to GOP governors planning vaccine mandate lawsuits: 'Have at it' MORE (D), the House sergeant-at-arms informed lawmakers that the Capitol had been cleared.

More than a dozen people have been arrested, D.C. police said Wednesday evening. 

Guard called in: After an afternoon of confusion about whether the National Guard would be called in to help control the situation, the Pentagon confirmed it approved a request to mobilize the D.C. National Guard — all 1,100 members of it.

“We have fully activated the D.C. National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation,” acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“We are prepared to provide additional support as necessary and appropriate as requested by local authorities,” he added. “Our people are sworn to defend the constitution and our democratic form of government and they will act accordingly.”

Miller also said he and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyWoodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly Thompson says he hopes Jan 6. committee can complete work by 'early spring' MORE have spoken with House and Senate leadership in both parties, as well as Vice President Pence, who was at the Capitol to preside over the proceedings when the rioters breached the building.

The governors of Virginia and Maryland are also sending members of their National Guards, as well as state police troopers, into D.C. to help respond to the violence and chaos.

HASC chairman weighs in: In a statement on Wednesday evening, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithStumbling plutonium pit project reveals DOE's uphill climb of nuclear modernization Congress should control its appetite for legacy programs when increasing defense budget House panel advances 8B defense bill MORE (D-Wash.) said he spoke with Milley and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyTwo-star general at Fort Hood cleared after internal investigation Vice News promotes Micheal Learmonth to editor-in-chief Trump appointee endorses Christine Wormuth as Army secretary MORE and that Pentagon leadership was working with the D.C. government, Justice Department and Capitol Police “to restore order to the Capitol and allow Members of Congress to safely certify the election results, as is our constitutional obligation.”

“The assault by pro-Trump extremists on the United States Capitol is a criminal act aimed at ending our democracy as we know it. The Capitol campus must be cleared of these extremists as soon and as safely as possible,” Smith said.

"President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE and his enablers are directly responsible for the despicable acts at our nation's Capitol that we all have witnessed today,” he added. “The president incited and encourage[d] this riot. He has lied repeatedly, as have his enablers in Congress and elsewhere about this election. They do not believe in democracy. They believe in retaining power by any means necessary. All Americans who believe in the rule of law and our Constitution must clearly and unambiguously hold these people accountable for their actions.”

Vote counting will continue: Despite the extraordinary violence and chaos that struck the Capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers in both parties and both chambers said Congress will continue the work of certifying Biden's presidential victory later in the evening. 

"I have faced violent hatred before," House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a tweet. "I was not deterred then, and I will not be deterred now. Tonight, Congress will continue the business of certifying the electoral college votes."

In the upper chamber, Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Memo: Biden beats Trump again — this time in the Senate The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Republicans unveil bill to ban federal funding of critical race theory MORE (R-N.D.) said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China MORE (R-Ky.) is also telling senators to expect the process to continue Wednesday night. 

"We're going to finish tonight. Everyone is committed to staying whatever it takes to get our job done," said Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Biden, Xi talk climate at UN forum Election reform in the states is not all doom and gloom Manchin presses Interior nominee on leasing program review MORE (D-W.Va.).

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power MORE (D-Calif.) later confirmed the decision, describing what happened at the Capitol as "a shameful assault" on democracy, but one that could not "deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden."

"To that end, 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," she said.

IN OTHER NEWS … ACTIVE-DUTY SOLDIER DIES OF COVID-19: Even as U.S. democracy is under assault, the COVID-19 pandemic rages.

The Army announced Wednesday morning that a 38-year-old active-duty soldier in Virginia died of the disease.

Sgt. 1st Class Lisa Maria Soto, originally from Florence, S.C., died early Saturday at a civilian hospital in Hopewell, Va., from complications related to COVID-19, Fort Lee spokesperson Jefferson Wolfe said in a statement Wednesday.

Soto is the Army’s second active-duty death and third active-duty death across military branches. Taking into account reserve forces, she is the military’s 15th death overall during the pandemic.

Latest stats: Overall, the Pentagon has reported 173,077 coronavirus cases as of Wednesday, according to a chart the department maintains on its website. That’s up from about 126,000 cases a month ago and from about 90,000 cases at the same point in November.

The total cases reported Wednesday include 111,581 in the military, 32,366 among civilians, 18,165 among dependents and 10,965 among contractors.

Among military cases, 959 service members have been hospitalized over the course of the pandemic and 73,515 have recovered.

In addition to the 15 military deaths, there have been 129 civilian deaths, nine dependent deaths and 44 contractor deaths, according to the Pentagon data.


The Atlantic Council will host an event on women’s gains in Afghanistan, featuring U.S.  ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues Kelley Currie and Afghan ambassador to the U.S. Roya Rahmani, at 1 p.m. https://bit.ly/3hPDLu3


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