US Congress accepts Electoral College result; clears way for Biden to become president

Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) reads the final certification of Electoral College votes cast in November's presidential election during a joint session of Congress after working through the night, at the Capitol in Washington, DC, USA , 7 January 2021. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

Democrat Joe Biden was cleared to be sworn in as US president on 20 January when Vice President Mike Pence declared that Congress had confirmed the Electoral College tally of states’ results that showed Biden the winner of the 3 November contest against incumbent President Donald Trump.

Late on Wednesday houses of Congress resumed their work on certifying Biden’s Electoral College win, with debate stretching into the early hours of Thursday. After debate, the House and Senate rejected two objections to the tally and certified the final Electoral College vote with Biden receiving 306 votes and Trump 232 votes.

The outcome had never been in doubt, but had been interrupted by rioters – spurred on by Trump – who forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the Capitol.

Trump supporters storm US Capitol, delaying election certification

The US House of Representatives and Senate were forced to delay their proceedings to certify the November presidential election after armed protestors breached the Capitol building on Wednesday (6 January). The building is now on lockdown with politicians instructed to remain in their offices.

The bloody chaos inside the US Capitol came after the police force that protects the legislative complex was overrun by a mob of Trump supporters in what law enforcement officials called a catastrophic failure to prepare.

Trump summoned supporters to ‘wild’ protest, and told them to fight. They did

The chaos in the US Capitol unfolded after President Donald Trump spent weeks whipping up his supporters with false allegations of fraud in the 3 November election, culminating in a call to march to the building that represents US democracy.

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 of Representatives 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 siege of the Capitol, home to both the US Senate and the House of Representatives, represents one of the gravest security lapses in recent US history, current and former law enforcement officials said, turning one of the most recognizable symbols of American power into a locus of political violence.

While events such as a presidential inauguration involve detailed security plans by numerous security agencies, far less planning went into protecting the joint session of Congress that convened on Wednesday to ratify the results of the 2020 presidential election, the officials said. That lapse came despite glaring warning signs of potential violence by hardline supporters of Trump, who are inflamed by his baseless claims of a stolen election and hope to block the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

And security initially was handled almost entirely alone by the US Capitol Police, a 2,000-member force under the control of Congress and dedicated to protecting the 126-acre Capitol Grounds. For reasons that remained unclear as of early Thursday, other arms of the US federal government’s vast security apparatus did not arrive in force for hours as rioters besieged the seat of Congress. The Capitol is a short walk from where Trump in a speech railed against the election just before the riot began, calling the vote an “egregious assault on our democracy” and urging his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol” in a “Save America March.”

The counting of the electoral votes of the presidential election by Congress, normally a formality, was preceded by weeks of threats in social media that planned pro-Trump protests could descend into violence. Despite those rumblings of danger, the Capitol Police force did not request advance help to secure the building from other federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, according to one senior official. And National Guard reinforcements, summoned by the city’s mayor, were not mobilized until more than an hour after protesters had first breached the barricades.

In stark contrast, those agencies were aggressively deployed by the Trump administration during last summer’s police brutality protests in Washington and elsewhere in the United States.

Trump promises orderly transition

Trump said on Thursday there will be an orderly transition when Joe Biden takes office as president in less than two weeks, after Congress certified the Democrat’s victory in presidential election.

“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,” Trump said in a statement posted on Twitter by White House spokesman Dan Scavino. Trump has been suspended from Twitter and Facebook after tweeting to supporters who attacked the US Capitol.

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