WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Hours after hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a harrowing assault on American democracy, a shaken Congress on Thursday formally certified Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
Immediately afterward, the White House released a statement from Trump in which he pledged an “orderly transition” when Biden is sworn into office on Jan. 20, although he repeated his false claim that he won the November election. On Wednesday, the Republican president had seemingly encouraged his followers to swarm the Capitol.
Congress resumed its work certifying Biden’s Electoral College win late in the evening after the chaotic scenes on Capitol Hill. After a debate stretching into the early hours of Thursday, the Senate and the House of Representatives rejected two objections to the tally and certified the final Electoral College vote with Biden receiving 306 votes and Trump 232 votes.
Vice President Mike Pence, in declaring the final vote totals, said this “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons elected president and vice president of the United States.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take office alongside Biden.
The outcome of the certification proceedings had never been in doubt, but was interrupted by rioters who forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the Capitol.
Police said four people died during the chaos – one from gunshot wounds and three from medical emergencies – and 52 people were arrested.
Some besieged the House chamber while lawmakers were inside, banging on its doors and forcing suspension of the certification debate. Security officers piled furniture against the chamber’s door and drew their pistols before helping lawmakers and others escape.
The assault on the Capitol was the culmination of months of divisive and escalating rhetoric around the Nov. 3 election, with Trump repeatedly making false claims that the vote was rigged and urging his supporters to help him overturn his loss
Following Thursday’s certification by Congress, he issued a statement via White House aide Dan Scavino, saying:
“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.”
Wednesday’s chaos unfolded after Trump – who before the election refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost – addressed thousands of supporters near the White House and told them to march on the Capitol to express their anger at lawmakers.
He told supporters to pressure their elected officials to reject the results, urging them “to fight.”
Some prominent Republicans in Congress put the blame for the day’s violence squarely on his shoulders.
“There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney said on Twitter.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who had long remained silent while Trump sought to overturn the election result, called the invasion a “failed insurrection” and referred to those who had stormed the Capitol as “unhinged.”
US:Talk of Booting Trump Out Before Jan. 20
(CNN) After violent pro-Trump protesters stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, a growing number of Republican leaders and Cabinet officials told CNN that they believe Donald Trump should be removed from office before January 20. Four of them called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked, and two others said the President should be impeached.
“He has to be impeached and removed,” said one current Republican elected official.
A former senior official said the President’s actions were egregious enough to remove him even with such a short time left in his tenure.
By impeaching and removing Trump, even at this late stage of his term, the Senate could subsequently vote to disqualify Trump from ever holding federal office again. #
On the other hand, invoking the 25th Amendment would require Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to vote to remove Trump from office due to his inability to “discharge the powers and duties of his office” — an unprecedented step.
Some Cabinet members are holding preliminary discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment, a well-placed GOP source told CNN.
The discussions are ongoing but it’s unclear if there will be enough Cabinet members to result in Trump’s removal. The conversations have reached Capitol Hill where some senators have been made aware of the discussions, the source said.
Within minutes of protestors breaching the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, Republicans were revisiting the idea of removing Trump from office, a choice that nearly all of them passed on making a year ago during last year’s impeachment trial.
The forceful denunciations of Trump are also unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush, who has kept a low profile, released a strongly-worded rebuke Wednesday evening calling the “insurrection” at the Capitol a “sickening and heartbreaking sight.” While not mentioning Trump by name, Bush said he was “appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement.”
Mitt Romney, the Utah senator who was the only Republican to vote to convict the President on an article of impeachment last year, went further, calling the President a “selfish man” who “deliberately misinformed his supporters” about the election. Romney also called the attack on the Capitol an “insurrection” and blamed Trump, saying he “stirred [supporters] to action this very morning.”
Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the House leadership, echoed Romney’s anger and frustration at Trump. “There is no question that the President formed the mob. The President incited mob, the President addressed the mob,” said Cheney on Fox News. “He lit the flame.”
And Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, an otherwise staunch ally of Trump’s, was unsparing. “It’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence,” Cotton said.
Other Republicans on Capitol Hill were furious as well with the President.
“The President needs to call it off,” Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “Call it off! It’s over. The election is over.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois dismissed Trump’s Wednesday afternoon tweet asking rioters at the Capitol to “remain peaceful.”
“That’s cowardice,” Kinzinger told Tapper. “He needs to stand up and say, I lost the election, let the count go ahead.”
But as Trump seems unlikely to make those concessions, two longtime Republican activists and allies of the White House said the President must go.
“Pence should move against him on the 25th Amendment,” said one.
“They need to invoke the 25th Amendment immediately,” said the other.