Washington: The US Congress was working through the night to certify Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election after a harrowing day in Washington that saw a mob of Trump supporters storm the Capitol building in an insurrection that resulted in four deaths.
The violence prompted senior Republicans to launch their most fierce attacks on President Donald Trump since his election four years ago, accusing him of inciting violence by promoting false claims of widespread election fraud.
The disturbing scenes in Washington intensified Republican infighting following the loss of the party's Senate majority and raised fears about how an increasingly isolated and irate Trump will behave during his final fortnight in office.
Demonstrators swarm the US Capitol building during a protest in Washington, D.C. Credit:Bloomberg
One woman died after entering the Capitol and being shot by law enforcement during a stunning breach of the supposedly fortified complex. She was identified as 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, a California native and Air Force veteran. Three other people died in medical emergencies, according to a statement by the Washington Metropolitan Police.
Members of the House of Representatives and Senate were evacuated from their chambers and Vice-President Mike Pence was escorted to a secure undisclosed location.
Multiple US media outlets have reported that members of Trump's cabinet have discussed invoking the 25th amendment of the US constitution to remove Trump from office and appoint Pence to serve out the final two weeks of his term.
Following the assault on the Capitol, several Republican senators abandoned their plans to challenge the election results in key swing states. But some, including Texas senator Ted Cruz and Missouri senator Josh Hawley, continued to demand a 10-day audit of the results and formally objected to the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, who on Wednesday (AEDT) lost her seat to Democrat Raphael Warnock in a run-off election, was among those who backed out of challenging the election results.
The Capitol was overrun by the mob just as Democrat Jon Ossoff was declared the victor in the final Georgia Senate race, ensuring that Biden's party would regain control of both houses, removing Republican blocks to the new presidential agenda.
Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by US Capitol Police officers. Credit:AP
Republican senator Mitt Romney said: "What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States."
Liz Cheney, one of the most senior Republicans in the House of Representatives, said: "There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame."
Republican senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's closest allies, suggested he had finally abandoned the President by saying: "Count me out. Enough is enough. I've tried to be helpful."
Republican senator Richard Burr said: "The President bears responsibility for today's events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point."
His colleague Tom Cotton said: "It’s past time for the President to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence."
Shortly before the rioters entered the Capitol, Trump addressed supporters outside the White House where he repeated his baseless claims of systemic election fraud and urged Pence to intervene to stop Biden from becoming president.
"We will never give up, we will never concede," he said. "You don’t concede when there’s theft involved."
In a video message following the storming of the Capitol, Trump urged his supporters to "go home" and refrain from violence but continued to claim the election had been stolen from him.
Trump initially refused requests to send in the National Guard to restore order, according to a New York Times report citing a person with knowledge of the events. It required intervention from White House counsel Pat Cipollone, among other officials, according to the source. About 1750 National Guard troops from the District of Columbia and Virginia were eventually deployed, a National Guard spokesman said.
The President then prompted Twitter to block his account for 12 hours for tweeting: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long." Facebook also banned Trump from posting on its platforms for 24 hours for breaches of its terms.
Order was restored to the Capitol complex after National Guard troops intervened, allowing the House and Senate to return to the business of certifying Biden's victory.
President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated as the 46th US president on January 20, described the violence as an "unprecedented assault" on American democracy.
"This is not dissent," he said in a speech. "It is disorder. It borders on sedition and it must end now."
Democratic congressman Tim Ryan, who chairs the House committee that funds the Capitol Police, said heads would roll over the security breach.
"I think it’s pretty clear that there’s going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon because this is an embarrassment," he said.
with The New York Times
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