Joe Biden’s election as the next president of the United States was formally certified by Congress early Thursday morning, just hours after a Trumpist mob invaded the Capitol demanding that the results of the election were tossed out in favor of their demagogic leader.
The violent insurrection—which left four dead—backfired on the Hill, where some of Trump’s lingering support dissipated amid the tear gas.
The Senate was first to reject the bid to block President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Arizona late Wednesday after several shocked Republican lawmakers abandoned their effort to challenge the election results.
The 93-6 vote in favor of certifying Biden’s win in the state came after Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who lost her re-election bid to Democrat Raphael Warnock on Tuesday, backtracked on her vow to object.
“The events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification,” she said. “The violence, the lawlessness, and the siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand in direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect.”
In the early hours of Thursday, the House followed suit, eventually rejecting efforts to block the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, but not before a physical confrontation on the floor when Republicans objected to the strong words of Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA).
“We know that that attack today, it didn’t materialize out of nowhere. It was inspired by lies—the same lies that you’re hearing in this room tonight,” he said. “The members who are repeating those lies should be ashamed of themselves, their constituents should be ashamed of them.”
Republicans replied that they were proud to be raising questions over the legitimacy of the election. Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Colin Allred (D-TX) were reportedly among those in a scrum that developed in the aisle, yelling “Sit down!”—“No, you sit down!”
The deputy sergeant at arms was spotted wading into the action as congressmen cleared the benches and joined the throng while Nancy Pelosi called for order from the dais. The sergeant at arms is responsible for restoring order on the floor using the ceremonial silver and ebony mace if members become unruly; the deputy was not required to use it, and the confrontation ended without a physical altercation.
Soon after, the House voted to reject the final objection to Biden’s win in the state of Pennsylvania by 282-138. More than 100 Republican House members—nearly two-thirds of the party’s representatives—still sided with Trump over the claims of electoral fraud, which incited a day of violence in D.C. despite the lack of any evidence to support the allegations.
Among them was Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who doubled down after the riot, claiming—with no evidence—that the Trump supporters breaching the Capitol “has all the hallmarks of antifa provocation.”
At around 3.45 a.m. Vice President Pence declared the session to be over and Biden's victory was formally certified.
Minutes later, Trump finally accepted that he would be leaving the White House within days. His spokesman tweeted a brief, and bitter statement: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”
The words marked the end of one of the darkest episodes in modern American politics. Congress had been in the middle of certifying the votes for Biden when the Capitol went into lockdown and lawmakers were evacuated amid gunfire, broken windows, and bouts of tear gas.
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) had just begun explaining his intention to object to Arizona’s vote on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon when things took an ominous turn. The Oklahoma senator abruptly stopped speaking after being informed protesters were “in the building,” and he was ushered out along with other lawmakers.
Hours later, Lankford returned to the same podium. But his message was different: “We are heading tonight,” he said, “to the certification of Joe Biden being the next president of the United States.”
What unfolded in between those speeches was one of the most shocking events in U.S. history: A mob of violent, far-right extremists overtook the U.S. Capitol, unleashing violence, vandalism, and terror on lawmakers, staff, police, and reporters as they demanded the overturning of the 2020 election results and the violation of the will of the American people.
The bright blue Senate floor, a space where a select few public servants chosen by the people are permitted to tread, had been filled with screaming rioters. They had pushed past Capitol Police, screening equipment, and physical barriers to take selfies at the dais, rifle through desk drawers, and hang Trump flags from the rafters. Some screamed into the chamber, demanding to know where the legislators, and the VP, had gone.
The lawmakers had largely been shuttled away to safety. But over in the U.S. House, a small group of lawmakers were trapped in the chamber as an armed mob fought its way in. They helped staffers put on gas masks, comforted those who were panicking, and attempted to defuse the situation. Some even prayed.
Before it was over, the chaos and violence had claimed four lives—one woman was shot in the chest by Capitol Police—and injured dozens more. Congress’ certification of the Electoral College results was delayed for hours, as the nation and the world watched. By the time senators spoke again later that night, it was as if they had reconvened after a terrorist attack, proudly vowing to press ahead with their business and a vote many, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), called the most important of their careers.
Longtime supporters of the president, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), were suddenly blunt in rejecting his delusional crusade to overturn the election. “All I can say is count me out,” said Graham, who earlier in the day praised President-elect Joe Biden’s statement on the violence. “Enough is enough. I’ve tried to be helpful.”
And Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another solid Trump supporter, said from the floor that “the vote today is literally to overturn elections,” and called it “the opposite of what states’ rights Republicans have always advocated for.”
Some of the Republicans who have occasionally criticized Trump over the last four years—but defended him when it mattered most—decided Wednesday was the night to slam him in front of a national audience. Retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who acquitted Trump in his 2020 Ukraine impeachment trial, called him a “demagogue” from the floor.
Of course, many who saw the light after the shattered glass and violence did little to push back on the president’s persistent disinformation campaign as it catalyzed Wednesday’s attack. Instead, some placated the president, others demurred, or simply said nothing at all.
After hours of speculation as to whether GOP senators would move forward with their objections after the violence, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) provided an answer: that doing so was, in fact, more important than ever.
Speaking from the floor on Wednesday night, Hawley—a leader of the effort to fight Biden’s 2020 election win—again cast the Senate’s perfunctory role of ratifying the election as a serious venue for litigating the election results, a fiction that had animated the mobs.
“For those who have concerns about the integrity of the election, this is the appropriate, lawful place where those objections and concerns should be heard,” said Hawley. Revealingly, the Missouri senator delivered his speech directly to the camera—not addressing his colleagues, as is custom—while the chamber was totally silent during and after his remarks.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), speaking after Hawley on the GOP side, delivered a stinging rebuke to the Missouri senator and others seeking to invalidate the election and validate Trump and his base.
“We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride,” said Romney, the only Republican who voted to impeach Trump last year. “For any who remain insistent on an audit to satisfy the many people who believe the election is stolen… the best way we can show respect for voters who are upset is by telling them the truth!”
With that, the chamber broke out in applause. And when senators voted minutes later, Hawley’s effort with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to object had lost nearly half the support it had on Wednesday morning. Just six of the 13 GOP senators who had initially supported the objection ended up voting for it—Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Hawley, and Cruz.