- Aug 2, 2020
CNN-At this time yesterday, it was already shaping up to be a busy news day: Two Georgia Democrats were poised to flip the Senate with imminent runoff wins. Congress was getting ready to confirm the results of the Electoral College amid objections by several Republican members. Coronavirus deaths in the US were rocketing to a new all-time high. Then, around midday, a violent mob of Trump supporters, egged on by the President himself, breached the US Capitol, sending politicians into hiding and sparking hours of chaos, violence and insurrection on what is sure to go down as one of the darkest days in American political history.
What happened: Washington was already planning for pro-Trump groups to protest yesterday’s Electoral College count. But in the early afternoon, some protesters began tussling with police. About 90 minutes later, they were inside the Capitol, and Capitol police say they were overwhelmed by the crowd. Others inside the building, including Congressional staff, legislators and Vice President Mike Pence, were evacuated or told to seek shelter. Images show rioters with Confederate flags and Trump paraphernalia ransacking offices and parading about the Senate floor. One woman died after being shot on Capitol grounds, and three other people died following medical emergencies during the riot. The Capitol was finally cleared at 5:40 p.m. ET, and all in all, 52 people were arrested. Elsewhere across the nation, smaller but similar scenes unfolded, including in front of Georgia’s capitol building and the governor’s mansion in Washington state.
The President’s response: It took President Trump hours to respond to the domestic terrorism. In tweets and a video message, the President offered only lukewarm admonition and repeated some of the baseless claims that motivated the protests in the first place. “We love you," he said to rioters in the video. "You're very special." The video and some of his tweets were taken down by Twitter and Facebook in what the companies said was an attempt to prevent more violence. Both platforms temporarily locked Trump's accounts.
Electoral College affirmation: After abandoning the proceedings as rioters forced their way inside the Capitol, House and Senate members reconvened last night and, just a few hours ago, finally affirmed Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. Several GOP senators who’d planned to object changed their minds because of the day’s events. The process was understandably tense. Two House members nearly came to blows during a debate over Pennsylvania’s election results, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a staunch supporter of Trump, vigorously defended certifying the electoral votes. Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence had voiced their belief in the legitimacy of Biden’s victory and rejected Trump’s claims of voter fraud.
Political response: In addition to expressing obvious horror and anger, a growing number of Republican leaders and Cabinet officials have told CNN they believe Trump should be removed from office before Biden’s January 20 inauguration, even if it means invoking the 25th Amendment or disqualifying him from ever holding office again. Several White House staffers have resigned, including Trump's deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger and Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump, and more are reportedly considering resignation. Former military officials who served under Trump, including his first defense secretary, James Mattis, strongly condemned Trump’s actions and the actions of others they say have interfered with a peaceful transfer of power. Even industry leaders have weighed in. The National Association of Manufacturers, one of the most influential business groups in the US, called on Pence to consider working to remove Trump from office. All four living former US Presidents decried the Capitol breach.
World response: US allies and adversaries looked on in shock and revulsion at yesterday’s events. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the "disgraceful scenes in US Congress.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas compared the violence to the Nazis burning the Reichstag parliament building in 1933, saying, “The enemies of democracy will rejoice at these inconceivable images.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Trump a "sick person" who had disgraced his country. Top diplomats and leaders in Iceland, France, Austria, Poland, Ecuador, Colombia and Scotland, among others, reminded the US of its role as a global model of democracy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been notably silent so far.
What happens next: The US Secret Service is significantly ramping up coverage and bringing more agents to the White House in the wake of the scenes of domestic terror. Trump, meanwhile, issued a statement pledging an “orderly” transition on January 20 -- but not without baselessly reiterating that he still thinks the election was stolen from him. The President’s ongoing refusal to accept reality has led to concern, both within the White House and beyond, over what Trump may do -- and how his supporters, rivals and, indeed, the world will respond -- in his final two weeks in office.