Federal law states that every four years, after the general election, Congress shall meet in a joint session in order to certify the vote count of the Electoral College and officially name the incoming president. In typical years, this comes after the outgoing president has conceded the race, and is used as a photo-op for the president-elect and vice president-elect, as well as their supporters in Congress. This year, on the other hand, it comes after weeks of unproven voter fraud allegations from supporters of President Trump, claiming that the election was “stolen”.
After all voter fraud allegations were thrown out in court due to lack of evidence, over 100 Republican lawmakers announced that they would object to the Electoral College vote count during the joint session of Congress. It was clear that this would not be enough to overturn the election results, so President Trump asked Vice President Pence to overturn the election results himself, something which the Vice President has no authority to do. Pence published a statement this morning explaining that though he agrees with the President’s concerns about the election results, he cannot constitutionally overturn the results himself.
Prior to the beginning of the certification process in Congress, President Trump held a rally in Washington, DC, where he claimed that if Vice President Pence did the “right thing,” he would be given another term.
The certification process began at 1:00 pm today, and though the vote counts from Alabama and Alaska-both states that voted for President Trump-were accepted with no issue, the first challenge came with the announcement of the vote in Arizona. This prompted a separation of the House of Representatives and Senate to enter debate on the issue. Soon after, protesters outside the Capitol began to break through barriers and storm the steps of the Capitol building. As crowds began to gather on the steps, others forced their way into the building, some breaking windows and climbing through them to enter.
As rioters made their way through the building-many wearing Trump campaign memorabilia or carrying Confederate flags-lawmakers were sent into lockdown in their offices and instructed to wait until they were able to safely evacuate. Representatives were even given gas masks to protect themselves from tear gas that was deployed inside in an attempt to disperse rioters. One rioter, whose identity has not been released, was shot inside the Capitol and was brought to a local hospital where she has since passed away. Several law enforcement officers were also injured.
Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC set a curfew for the city of 6:00 pm, before asking for assistance of the National Guard and defense from neighboring states. After the curfew went into effect, law enforcement officers were able to secure the Capitol building, and Congress has resumed debate on the acceptance of Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. Members of Congress expect the certification to be finished tonight.