In the early hours of Thursday morning, the US Congress certified the victory of the president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.
The certification came less than a day after Trump supporters gathered in Washington, DC, at the president’s behest, for a rally in which the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called for “trial by combat”. The mob later violently stormed the Capitol building, delaying certification for a few hours and sending members of Congress and their staff to shelter in place. Capitol police said they were wholly unprepared, and the national guard – which DC, not being a state, cannot deploy on its own – was reportedly held off at first on Trump’s instruction.
Some senators who had been preparing to object to the election results, including Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who lost her seat in a run-off election the night before, withdrew their objection after the domestic terror attack on the Capitol. Members of both chambers objected to the electoral college results in Arizona and Pennsylvania; those objections were voted down. Members of the House of Representatives also objected to results from Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin, but those objections did not go to a vote as no Republican in the Senate joined in (an objection must be taken up by at least one member of both chambers for it to be debated and come to a vote).
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Most Republicans in the House voted to overturn the results, but only six Republican senators did, evidently undaunted by Republican senator Mitt Romney’s warning that “those who continue to support [Trump’s] dangerous gambit… will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy”. The six included Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri; earlier in the day, the latter was photographed putting up a fist in solidarity with Trump’s supporters.
Other Republican senators appeared to try to put distance between themselves and the day’s event. “Enough is enough,” said Lindsey Graham, admitting that Biden and Harris won the election, which was called two months ago.
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Several White House joined Graham in his condemnation. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff, resigned as special envoy to Northern Ireland. “I can’t do it. I can’t stay,” Mulvaney told CNBC, with two weeks left of Trump’s term. The deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger also resigned.
There were some calls to impeach the president or to invoke the 25th amendment, under which the vice-president, Mike Pence, with a majority of Trump’s cabinet officials, could seize power. Those calls have as yet gone unanswered.
The Washington, DC mayor Muriel Bowser extended the public emergency until 21 January – the day after Biden’s inauguration.
DC residents, in addition to the certification, resignations and a public emergency, woke up to news that police had made just 52 arrests on Wednesday. By comparison, from 30 May and 2 June 2020, 427 people were arrested for “unrest-related” activities during the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and state-backed violence against black people. On 1 June alone, 289 people were arrested, more than five times the number arrested the day the Capitol was stormed.