with Brent D. Griffiths
Goodnight and good morning. Barry C. Black, the Senate chaplain, had this to say to close out a tumultuous and shameful day in America: “These tragedies have reminded us that words matter, and that the power of life and death is in the tongue.” Thanks for waking up with us.
On the Hill
TRUMP FAR GONE: At roughly 3:45 a.m. following a shockingly violent day, Vice President Pence declared President-elect Joe Biden the winner of November’s presidential election after Congress certified the electoral college votes. The moment capped a nearly 21-hour joint congressional session interrupted by a pro-Trump mob that somehow stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn an election.
The stunning assault disrupted Republican objections to the electoral college tally. By the end of the night, the GOP had largely backed off its bid to challenge the election in a break with President Trump.
Trump incited the violence by telling supporters at a midday rally preceding the attack on the Capitol that he would “never concede” an election he baselessly claims was stolen from him. But shortly after Pence affirmed Biden’s electoral victory — and following some staff resignations and swirling talks of invoking the 25th Amendment to eject the president from the White House — Trump acknowledged defeat in a statement promising “an orderly transition on January 20th.”
- “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 20,” Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino tweeted on the president’s behalf after Twitter temporarily locked the president’s account.
‘Irregardless’: While some Republicans withdrew their objections to the electoral college count after the mob takeover of the Capitol resulting in four deaths, some Republican senators continued to support challenging the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both objections failed.
THE EIGHT: Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Rick Scott (Fla.), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) voted to support an objection to Arizona’s tally.
- Hawley and six other GOP senators also objected to Pennsylvania’s results: “Last year, Pennsylvania elected officials passed a whole new law that allows universal mail-in balloting,” Hawley said to his colleagues last night after the riot. “And did it irregardless of what the Pennsylvania Constitution says. And then when Pennsylvania and (its) citizens tried to go and be heard on the subject, before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, they were dismissed on grounds of procedure, timeliness in violation of that Supreme Court’s own precedent.”
- Fact check: “After the state decided last fall to allow ‘no excuse’ absentee ballots for this election, Pennsylvania Republicans attempted to change the state’s law so that processing could begin earlier and the number of days after the election that counties could receive ballots would be limited. However, they were unsuccessful, and the status quo remained,” per CNN.
- Hawley, who was the first to say he’d oppose Biden’s win, was panned for his involvement: “Sen. Josh Hawley has blood on his hands in Capitol coup attempt,” read the headline from the Kansas City Star editorial board.
- “I’m [expletive] disgusted,” a GOP campaign official told Power Up. “Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz [expletive] know better.”
- “These 12 Republicans have a lot of blood on their hands — they have a lot of explaining to do,” a senior GOP Senate staffer told Power Up, referring to the original group of objecting senators. “Politics are so ephemeral these days but something tells me that this is going to stick.”
A total of 147 House Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), also objected “when Pence read the tallies from Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, but those challenges died when no senators joined them,” according to our colleagues Rosalind Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis. Applause broke out on the floor after the objections failed due to a lack of Senate support.
Bringing down the House: A fight nearly broke out in the House in the early hours after Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) said a pro-Trump mob materialized from GOP lies.
Ctrl + Alt + Shift: When they reconvened after the attack, Democratic and Republican senators delivered forceful rebukes condemning Trump’s rhetoric and the effort to overturn Biden’s clear victory. Some of Trump’s most loyal allies, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), closed the book on continuing to entertain the president’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.
- “Trump and I, we had a hell of a journey,” Graham said on the Senate floor. “I hate it being this way. Oh my god I hate it … but today all I can say is count me out. Enough is enough. I tried to be helpful.”
- “We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told his colleagues to sustained applause after calling on them to show voters respect by telling them the truth. “What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.”
- Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered a rebuke of Trump and those continuing to rebel against Biden’s victory: “The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken,” McConnell said from the floor. “If we overrule them all, it would damage our republic forever. … If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again.”
For hours, the president did little to address or discourage the unprecedented riots.
- West Wing madness: “President Trump was decamped in the White House residence Wednesday night, raging about his perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment — an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on Jan. 20,” our colleagues Phil Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris and Ashley Parker report.
- ‘Total monster:’ “One administration official described Trump’s behavior Wednesday as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was ‘insane’ and ‘beyond the pale,’” they reported.
- Short sell: Trump was furious with Pence for what he viewed as betrayal for refusing to challenge the results in his ceremonial role presiding over the joint session. That anger extended toward Pence Chief of Staff “Marc Short. The president told aides he wanted to bar Short — who was with the vice president all day at the Capitol — from the White House grounds, according to an official with knowledge of the president’s remarks.”
- Per the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman: “Trump initially rebuffed and resisted requests to mobilize the National Guard, according to a person with knowledge of the vents. It required intervention from White House officials to get it done, according to the person with knowledge of the events.”
- CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported Trump was “borderline enthusiastic” about the unfolding events: “White House officials were shaken by Trump’s reaction to a mob of his supporters descending on the Capitol today. He was described to me as borderline enthusiastic because it meant the certification was being derailed. It has genuinely freaked people out.”
- From CBS News’s Margaret Brennan:
‘After all the things I’ve done for Trump’: Trump’s disdain towards Pence might “have alienated one of his most steadfast allies,” according to Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel.
- “I’ve known Mike Pence forever,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told Krehbiel Wednesday night. “I’ve never seen Pence as angry as he was today.”
- “I had a long conversation with him,” said Inhofe. “He said, ‘After all the things I’ve done for (Trump).’”
And world leaders expressed horror at the scene playing out in one of the world’s most powerful democracies: “One by one, officials around the globe responded with the sort of statements previously issued by the United States State Department when political violence consumed other countries,” the New York Times’s Katrin Bennhold and Steven Lee Myers report.
- “These pictures made me angry and sad,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said on Thursday. “I deeply regret that since November, President Trump has not accepted that he lost, and did not do so again yesterday.”
- “Even some of Mr. Trump’s most vocal admirers distanced themselves from the violence that unfolded. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the nationalist League party in Italy, wrote on Twitter, ‘Violence is never the solution, ever,’ while Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India called for an ‘orderly and peaceful transfer of power.’”
One woman was shot and later died from her injuries: “D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III said that as the rioters tried to gain access to the House Chamber after breaking into the U.S. Capitol building, a plain-clothed Capitol Police officer fired one shot, striking a woman. She was transported to a hospital where she was pronounced dead,” WUSA-9’s Nick Boykin reports.
- Contee said three others died due to “medical emergencies.’ “D.C. police officials also say two pipe bombs were recovered, one outside the Democratic National Committee and one outside the Republican National Committee. Police found a cooler from a vehicle that had a long gun and Molotov cocktail on Capitol grounds,” per the Associated Press.
Rioters used social media to help plan: “At 2:24 p.m., after Trump tweeted that Pence ‘didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,’ dozens of messages on Gab, a far-right social media site, called for those inside the Capitol building to hunt down the vice president. In videos uploaded to the channel, protesters could be heard chanting ‘Where is Pence?’” the New York Times’s Sheera Frenkel reports.
“I never thought they’d be scared of us,” said one man who stormed the building, per the Wall Street Journal’s Lindsay Wise, Catherine Lucey and Andrew Restuccia. “But they’re scared of us today.”
- The scene inside: “One senior GOP aide, who has an office not far from the Senate floor, said he took a steel rod and barricaded his door when the pro-Trump mob approached. For what seemed like 20 minutes, he said, rioters banged on his door, trying to break in,” Paul Kane writes in a gripping account of what it was like inside the Capitol.
A MASSIVE SECURITY FAILURE: “In a city on high alert, in a building with its own 1,700-member police department, people forced their way into the sanctums of American democracy with nothing more than flagpoles, riot shields and shoves,” Carol D. Leonnig, Aaron C. Davis, Dan Lamothe and David A. Fahrenthold report.
Capitol Police were simply overrun: “Very few people were arrested for the breach, one person said, because officers didn’t have enough backup to take the time to arrest and detain them.” The force was short some officers, because they had been infected with the coronavirus or exposed to someone with it.
- Members of Congress are furious: “I think it’s pretty clear that there are going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who chairs a committee overseeing the Capitol Police budget.
“You guys just need to go outside,” a Capitol Police officer said to a man in a green backpack, per the Times’s Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sabrina Tavernise and Emily Cochrane. Asked why the police were not forcing the mob out, the officer said, “We just got to let them do their thing for now.”
There are concerns they simply underestimated the threat: “Even as people poured into downtown Washington midmorning Wednesday, Capitol Police officials assured D.C. police leaders that they felt comfortable with their security setup, according to a senior District law enforcement official.”
- Both Pentagon and D.C. officials were concerned about a repeat of the clash in Lafayette Square last summer: “Capitol Police did have a plan, but apparently they assumed business as usual,” said one law enforcement official. “They didn’t expect Trump to incite them and that they would forcefully push their way in. Bottom line, there just wasn’t enough personnel to prevent a mob from pushing in.”
- Experts also say they made some tactical blunders: “Policing experts say they are taught to set up multiple lines of defense, starting far from the building they need to defend. In this case, however, it appeared that the police did not make a concerted effort to stop the intruders until they were on the Capital’s steps — where videos showed officers not wearing riot gear in shoving matches with rioters.”
A GLARING DOUBLE STANDARD: “For veteran social justice demonstrators, the images of men and women wearing red Trump 2020 hats and clutching American and Confederate flags walking through the Capitol largely unmolested came as shocking yet predictable evidence of their long-held suspicions that conservative, White protesters intent on violence would not be met with any of the strong-arm tactics that police brutality protesters faced,” Robert Klemko, Kimberly Kindy, Kim Bellware and Derek Hawkins report.
- DeRay Mckesson, a leading voice of the Black Lives Matter movement, said, “Black and Brown people have been shot and arrested for far less.”
At the White House
CAN’T TWEET THROUGH IT: “Twitter locked Trump out of his account for the first time, the most punitive step the social media giant has taken against the president,” Tony Romm, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Drew Harwell report.
- More details: The lockout, which will last for 12 hours, also included the removal of three tweets and a warning that Trump could be subject to a permanent suspension if he continues tweeting baseless conspiracy theories about the election and inciting violence.
Other bans soon followed: “Facebook followed, blocking the president’s account for the first time for 24 hours for what it said were two policy violations, although it didn’t threaten permanent suspension. It also said it was blocking his Facebook-owned Instagram account.”
In the media
PHOTOS OF A SURREAL DAY:
The mob quickly barreled its way into the Senate chamber: This led to a surreal moment where a well-known QAnon follower posed from the dais, Business Insider’s Rachel E. Greenspan reports.
Some members were trapped inside: Lawmakers on the House floor were evacuated. But many others were watching in galleries above and had nowhere to go for 20 minutes as rioters stormed surrounding hallways. Diving for cover, colleagues tried to comfort each other.
- “I got into [U.S. Army] ranger mode a little bit,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), an Army veteran, told the Denver Post. “I wasn’t going to leave the House floor until every member was gone, so I waited until we were able to get everybody out.”
Our house of government was ransacked: An invading mob had not breached the Capitol in this manner since the British burned the building in 1814 during the War of 1812. This time, windows were broken, benches smashed and offices turned over. One rioter left a threatening message for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
Outside the Beltway
HOW THE COUNTRY RESPONDED: “For vast segments of the population, even including some who have been devoted Trump supporters, the reaction was horror that the country has sunk to such a low place,” Jimmy Magahern, Jenna Johnson and Griff Witte report.
Here are some front-pages from around the country:
DEMS WILL RETAKE THE SENATE: “With almost all of the votes counted, Democrat Raphael Warnock was leading Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican appointed to the seat, by 1.6 percentage points, or over 73,000 votes. In the second contest, Democrat Jon Ossoff led by just under one percentage point, or nearly 36,000 votes, over David Perdue, a Republican whose Senate term expired on Sunday,” Michael Scherer reports.
There will be no recounts: “Both Warnock’s and Ossoff’s leads Wednesday were larger than the 0.5 percentage point threshold in Georgia that allows a candidate to request a recount. Their leads were expected to grow, given the location of the outstanding ballots, according to Edison Research, which projected the victories.”
- Republicans say Trump did them no favors: “Trump made us look crazier than Democrats are,” said one strategist involved in the races, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid backlash from Trump loyalists. “We did not make any new improvements in the suburbs. At some point you just get tapped out on the Trump base.”
GARLAND TO BE AG: “Biden plans to nominate federal judge Merrick B. Garland, a Democratic casualty of the bitter partisan divide in Washington, to be the next attorney general, tasked with restoring the Justice Department’s independence and credibility,” Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Ann E. Marimow report.