WASHINGTON - The U.S. Congress certified Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the November presidential election, completing its constitutional duty early Thursday after being forced to evacuate the Capitol when a mob of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump swarmed the building.
Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the interrupted session, announced the official Electoral College tally of 306 for Biden and Trump’s 232.
Trump spent the past two months repeatedly and baselessly claiming he was the winner and urging his supporters to fight result, including in multiple statements Wednesday.
As soon as Congress certified Biden’s win, Trump pledged an orderly transition of power on January 20, “even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election.”
“I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted,” Trump said. “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
The statement was released by Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino. Both Facebook and Twitter suspended Trump’s accounts on Wednesday for violations linked to posts he made about the riots.
U.S. Capitol Police and federal, state and local law enforcement cleared the Trump supporters from the Capitol grounds, securing the chambers for Senate and House members to return around 9 p.m. Local authorities also imposed a 6pm to 6am curfew to clear Washington DC city streets.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced after the hours of chaos that legislators would reconvene to continue the work of certifying the Electoral College vote that determines the next president.
“Today, a shameful assault was made on our democracy,” Pelosi said. “It was anointed at the highest level of government. It cannot, however, deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden,” she said.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the “failed insurrection” underscored lawmakers’ duty to finish the vote certification.
Pence urged the Senate to "get back to work” and begin debating the Republican challenge to Biden’s presidential election victory.
"You did not win. Violence never wins," Pence said as the Senate resumed its vote count.
However, several Republican senators who had planned to object to the congressional certification said they would no longer do so. They cited the violent mob action during which Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said four people died, including one woman authorities shot dead and three people who died in “medical emergencies.”
As the Senate picked up action, Senators Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Braun of Indiana and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia all said they no longer planned to object to Biden’s win.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Paul Gosar went ahead with their objection to the results from the state of Arizona, a move that was supported by most House Republicans, but overall met a resounding defeat. The same happened to an objection to the results from Pennsylvania supported by Republican Senator Josh Hawley and Congressman Scott Perry.
The assault on the Capitol came about two hours after Pence told lawmakers in a letter he would not attempt to block congressional certification of Biden's victory, even though Trump repeatedly implored him to stop Biden’s path to the White House.
Trump, in an early Wednesday Twitter comment and later at a rally with several thousand supporters near the White House, called on Pence to show “extreme courage” to block Biden’s victory.
However, when Pence balked, Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”