Shortly before Trump supporters smashed their way into the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump whipped up a crowd of protesters in D.C., vowing to demolish any Republican who opposes him and pinning all hopes of overturning the election on a vice president who has no political power to do anything.
“You have to get your people to fight, and if they don’t fight we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight. We’re going to let you know who they are,” Trump said in a rambling speech to a large protest in D.C. held on Wednesday to coincide with Congress officially counting the Electoral College votes.
“It almost seems like they’re going out of their way to hurt all of us and to hurt our country,” he added about the elected officials.
But, as he was speaking, Vice President Mike Pence released a lengthy statement saying he could not, and would not, block President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes on Wednesday—essentially dooming Trump’s last fantasy-driven path to winning the presidency.
Later on Wednesday afternoon, some supporters migrated from the protest to the doors of the Capitol, where they smashed their way in through windows, overwhelmed police, and forced the building to go into lockdown.
Earlier, through a chorus of “bullshits” from the crowd of MAGA die-hards, Trump slammed the “pathetic” and “weak” Republican establishment, taking jabs at Sen. Mitt Romney, who said on Wednesday morning that Trump had “disgraced the office of the presidency” and essentially caused run-off losses in Georgia by insisting that the election was rigged.
He took shots at Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, whose state’s run-off results on Tuesday put Democrats within reach of a Senate majority.
Trump asked the crowd to vote Kemp “the hell out of office, please,” before claiming that Kemp’s approval ratings had “reached a record low” as one of the “dumbest governors in the country.”
Trump’s decision to twist the knife in further on the GOP came just moments before Congress was set to count the Electoral College votes from all 50 states and D.C. in the final step to certifying the next president.
At least 12 Republican senators have signaled their intention to object to their state’s votes, which will trigger hours of debate but is almost guaranteed to have no impact on the election result. Pence then certifies the result in a largely ceremonial act.
The objections are also seemingly for show. Electors officially cast their votes on Dec. 14, and Biden defeated Trump by 306-232 a month prior. Biden is now set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
“You will have a president... who was voted on by stupid people,” Trump said in a slam to 81 million Biden voters.
Although Pence has no power to flip the Electoral College votes, Trump has mounted an extraordinary campaign to scapegoat his VP for his loss, prompting some extreme right-wing Trumpists like Georgia lawyer L. Lin Wood to call for Pence to be charged with treason.
“Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn't that will be a sad day for our country, because you’re sworn to uphold our Constitution,” Trump said.
He once again baselessly insisted that Pence has the power to challenge the election result, stating that “one of the top constitutional lawyers in our country” told him his VP has “the absolute right to.”
“All that Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to re-certify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people,” Trump insisted, claiming he had just spoken to Pence.
In his statement, meanwhile, Pence declared he does not believe he has the “unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted.”
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence said.
Trump later responded on Twitter, writing that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution... USA demands the truth!”
Despite Trump’s incessant crusade, election officials have insisted there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Former Attorney General Bill Barr also concluded there were no misdeeds that could have changed the outcome of the election.
Trump’s mind, however, cannot be swayed. He called out Barr on Wednesday for “changing” and insisted Congress “show strength” by overthrowing the election results because they are “rigged.”
“You'll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump said.
As Trump concluded his hour-long speech, encouraging attendees to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” some of the president’s supporters were already stoking chaos on the Capitol lawn. A crowd breached barricades and crossed into the lawn while others began to throw objects and attempt to enter the building.