A violent mob derailed the typically routine process of Congress certifying the presidential election results on Wednesday, with the House of Representatives and Senate abruptly recessing after President Donald Trump’s supporters clashed with police and forced their way into the U.S. Capitol.
Both legislative chambers were evacuated amid the chaos of pro-Trump rioters who pushed past barricades and eventually on to the House and Senate floors, in a chaotic scene. An armed standoff took place at the entrance to the House chamber, with Capitol Police officers aiming their weapons at rioters, who shattered glass panels on the door.
Photos and videos showed rioters hanging off the balcony in the Senate chamber, and trespassing in the offices of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
It was not clear late Wednesday afternoon when lawmakers would return to their legislative session to certify the election results.
“We have stopped the coup attempt and will be returning to the Capitol today to finish the business of the people,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) wrote on Twitter. “We will never back down, we will return.”
Many of the rioters storming the Capitol were carrying Trump flags, video posted on Twitter showed. Crowds had gathered on the National Mall earlier on Wednesday to rally in support of Trump, who has refused to concede the election and had encouraged demonstrators to march on the Capitol.
Trump was silent as the mob sieged the Capitol, even as lawmakers from his own party urged him to tell his supporters to stand down.
“Call it off Mr. President. We need you to call it off,” U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said on CNN, urging Trump to use his Twitter account to tell the rioters that he supports the transition of power and to “please go home.”
President-elect Joe Biden, speaking shortly after 4 p.m., called for the mob to disperse, and for Trump to make a national appearance to quell the violence.
“The words of a president matter,” Biden said. “At their best, they can inspire. At their worst, can incite.
Trump released a video message shortly after Biden’s remarks, telling people to “go home” but maintaining his unsubstantiated claim that the election was “fraudulent.”
“We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time,” Trump said in the video. “There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election. But we can’t play into the hands of these people.”
The D.C. National Guard was activated, with law enforcement officers from Virginia and Maryland called in to provide backup. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Twitter that Trump had ordered in the Guard along with “other protective services.”
According to pool reports, Vice President Mike Pence was rushed out of the Senate chamber, where he had been presiding over the certification. Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the chamber’s president pro tempore, also was escorted out with Pence.
As they rushed away, Senate parliamentary staff grabbed hold of the boxes containing the Electoral College certificates.
The violent demonstration unfolded as lawmakers had gathered to tally the Electoral College votes, the final formality in certifying Joe Biden’s presidential win.
Leading those efforts in the Senate was Missouri’s Josh Hawley, who has argued Pennsylvania’s 2019 law expanding mail-in voting in the state, passed by a GOP-controlled Legislature, violated the state’s Constitution and thus its electoral votes should be discarded.
Several Missouri Republicans — even those who supported the efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election — tweeted out condemnation.
“Peaceful protesting is acceptable,” tweeted Rep.Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo. “Violence, lawlessness and attacks on law enforcement are absolutely not.”
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was one of only two Missouri Republican members of Congress to speak against Hawley’s efforts, tweeted, “The events unfolding at the Capitol are shameful. There is no justification for violence and destruction. It has to stop now. This is not who we are as a nation.”
From our Francis Chung, Sen. Josh Hawley greeting protesters in the east side of the Capitol before riots began. pic.twitter.com/I8DjBCDuoP
— Manuel Quinones (@ManuelQ) January 6, 2021
Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner, who opposed the efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, tweeted “violent riots we are seeing right now are despicable and have no place in our nation. The President needs to take decisive action immediately to stop this seditious behavior.”
Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver tweeted that he was “currently locked down in a safe and secure location. The country that I am seeing on television is unrecognizable to me.”
Expressing her disbelief, Democratic Rep. Cori Bush tweeted, “I can’t believe domestic terrorists are roaming around inside the Capitol.”
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who is backing the effort to block Biden’s win, described the riots as a “third world coup.”
“The violent rioting on Capitol Hill is appalling and must stop,” she said.
After remaining quiet for most of the day, Hawley released a statement Wednesday afternoon thanking law enforcement and saying, “the violence must end, those who attacked police and broke the law must be prosecuted, and Congress must get back to work and finish its job.”
Before the violence, Hawley also sent out a fundraising email promoting his role in the efforts to overturn the election.
The House and Senate convened briefly to begin tallying votes, and the first objection was filed to Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. The two chambers began debate over that objection, which was raised by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and 60 colleagues, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
That debate was upended as the protesters approached the building. As Capitol Police closed the doors to lock down the House floor, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) shouted to Republicans, “This is because of you,” according to pool reports.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6 p.m. citywide curfew until 6 a.m. Thursday.