Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill today and clashed with police on the steps of the Capitol as dozens tried to force their way in during a vote to certify Joe Biden’s victory over the defeated Trump.
One reporter on scene estimated their size was at least one thousand.
Eyewitness video captured U.S. Capitol Police using pepper spray and batons to repel the attackers outside, leaving tear gas in the air and blood on the ground .
At least two office buildings housing the staff for the House and Senate were ordered to be evacuated.
Police were “going door to door yelling at people to evacuate” in the words of a Politico reporter, and staffers were reportedly being evacuated through underground tunnels.
Videos show protesters breaking through barriers and making their way towards the Capitol building.
Staffers working in the Cannon House Office Building and Madison Building, which houses the Library of Congress, have been told to evacuate due to the protests.
Mike Pence said today he will defy Donald Trump’s demand that he overturn the election, vowing he will heed to the constitution, adding ‘So Help Me God’ – in a letter sent at exactly the same time as the president threatened him at a wild rally in Washington D.C.
Trump told thousands of supporters just outside the White House that he wanted Pence to ‘come through’ for us and demanded that he reject electoral votes out of hand over that the president claims is ‘fraud.’
He threatened Pence saying ‘I’m not hearing good stories’ and telling him to have ‘courage’ to strike down swing states’ votes – a move which would defy the constitution.
But minutes before arriving on Capitol Hill to preside over the joint session of Congress to certify the election’s outcome, Pence bluntly told lawmakers that he would refuse to obey Trump’s orders.
Pence sent a letter to the 535 senators and representatives on Capitol Hill ahead of his presiding over the Joint Session that will certify Joe Biden’s victory.
In it, he outlined his belief in his role in the proceedings, which he notes is ‘ceremonial’ and adds that it doesn’t include the authority to ‘determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.’
Trump has tried to put the blame on Pence for his expected loss today but he also lacks support among the majority of senators in his own party, which dooms his efforts for a congressional overthrow of the results.
‘As a student of history who loves the constitution and reveres its Framers, I do not believe that the Founds of our country intended to invest the vice president with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority,’ Pence noted.
He added vice presidents in the past have conducted ‘the proceedings in an orderly manner even where the count resulted in the defeat of their party or their own candidacy.’
‘It is my considered judgement 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,’ he said.
He concluded his letter with a prayer to God: ‘When the Joint Session of Congress convenes today, I will do my duty to see to it that we open the certificates of electors of the several states, we hear objections raised by Senators and Representatives, and we count the votes of the Electoral College for President and Vice President in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws and history. So Help Me God.’
Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, objected to his state’s Electoral College votes going to Biden and Harris.
He confirmed that his objection had been signed on to by Sen. Ted Cruz.
Democrats in the chamber audibly groaned.
The move forced Pence to order the houses out of joint session.
This came after Trump excoriated ‘weak’ Republicans and demanded fealty from Pence to a rally crowd near the White House today where he demanded Pence and Congress overturn the election results that lead to his defeat.
Trump went after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell several times, including for not going along with his proposal to change communications laws.
‘I helped Mitch get elected,’ he said of the longtime incumbent.
‘And then all of a sudden you have something like this,’ he said, going after ‘weak Republicans’ and ‘pathetic Republicans’ – despite a top official in Georgia blaming him for the likely defeats of two Senate Republican incumbents.
He also called out Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) after her comment that failing to accept the electors certified by states would violate the Constitution.
‘The Liz Cheneys of the world, we’ve got to get rid of them,’ Trump said.
‘Brian Kemp – vote him the hell out of office please,’ Trump said of the Georgia governor.
He said Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger had ‘no clue’ what was going on, but then said ‘maybe’ he was with the other side – the Democrats.
‘I can’t believe this guy was a Republican,’ said Trump. ‘He loves recording telephone conversations,’ Trump said – mentioning a leaked call where Trump can be heard asking him to ‘find’ 11,780 votes to make him the winner.
‘People love that conversation, because it says what’s going on,’ Trump said.
Trump also complained about the Supreme Court, which failed to take up a Texas lawsuit he sought to join, and even his former attorney general Bill Barr, who said before leaving his post there wasn’t sufficient fraud to change the outcome.
‘I’m not happy with the Supreme Court. They look to rule against me. I picked three people. I fought like hell for one in particular,’ Trump inveighed.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., claimed there were 100,000 people there but images showed far fewer.
He bashed elected Republicans who have refused to go along with his father’s claims of fraud.
‘The people who did nothing to stop the steal — this gathering should send a message to them. This isn’t their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party. This is the Republican Party that will put America first,’ he said.
His girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, also spoke.