WASHINGTON - The violent and deadly pro-Trump riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 marked a dark day in America.
What started as a congressional and democratic exercise in the peaceful transfer of power with a joint session of Congress counting certified Electoral College votes from the states, devolved into death, destruction and chaos when a violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, breaking windows, ransacking lawmakers’ offices and clashing with police.
Most Democrats, and many Republicans, put the blame squarely on Trump after hundreds of protesters bearing Trump flags and clothing broke into the Capitol on Wednesday and caused destruction and mass evacuations. The president had urged the supporters to protest as Congress was counting the electoral votes that confirmed Biden’s win. Here is a look at how the chaos unfolded.
Vice President Mike Pence, in a statement issued before he was to begin presiding over a joint session of Congress to count electoral votes, said, "It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not."
In the letter to Congress, Pence said he does not believe he has the "unilateral authority" to decide which electoral votes should be counted as Congress met in a joint session Wednesday to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.
"The presidency belongs to the American people, and to them alone," Pence wrote in the three-page letter.
"Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design. As a study of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its framers, I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority," Pence said in the letter.
After Pence’s letter was released Wednesday, Trump criticized the vice president, claiming that Pence did not have "the courage to do what should have been done."
"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!," Trump wrote on Twitter.
President Trump spoke to a group of supporters at an organized rally outside of the White House on the ellipse, where several thousand protestors cheered Trump and his false claims of widespread election fraud.
"We will not let them silence your voices," Trump told the protesters. "We will stop the steal."
President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
During the rally, Trump told supporters he will "never concede" the election as Republican lawmakers began challenging the Electoral College votes.
"We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol," Trump said.
Trump put pressure on Pence to toss electors from battleground states that voted for Biden.
"I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so," Trump said. "Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election."
Lawmakers began to debate Republican challenges to the counting of Arizona’s electoral votes.
Arizona was the first of several states facing objections from the GOP as the joint session of Congress, presided over by Pence, took an alphabetical reading of the certified election results from each state.
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, a Republican, rose to object to the typically routine acceptance of his state’s certified Electoral College votes.
FOX 5 DC reported that protestors started approaching the U.S. Capitol building and began their attempt to storm the premises just hours after the Trump rally near the White House.
It was reported that the U.S. Capitol Police were evacuating some congressional office buildings due to "police activity" as thousands of Trump’s supporters gathered outside the Capitol and began to instigate skirmishes with police, breaking down barriers set up to protect the area.
Photos and videos showed rioters scaling walls, breaking down fences, tearing down scaffolding and continuing to overwhelm authorities.
Pro-Trump supporters broke through metal barricades at the back of the Capitol building, and were "running past security guards and breaking fences while chanting ‘USA! USA!,’" according to the Washington Post.
FOX 5 DC reported that rioters had gotten into the U.S. Capitol building by 2 p.m.
The mob of Trump’s supporters tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps and were met by officers in riot gear. Some tried to push past the officers who held shields.
Officers could be seen firing pepper spray into the crowd to keep the pro-Trump rioters back. Some in the crowd were shouting "traitors" as officers tried to quell the riot.
But the rioters broke through the police line and began beating on the doors and shattering the glass, breaching the Capitol’s defenses.
Both chambers of Congress abruptly recessed as they were debating the count of the Electoral College votes that gave Joe Biden the presidency.
There was confusion in the House chamber as the Capitol doors were locked and debate was suspended. A representative from the U.S. Capitol Police spoke from a lectern on the dais and told lawmakers to remain calm, and that more information would be available soon.
An announcement was played inside the Capitol as lawmakers were meeting and expected to vote to affirm Biden's victory. Due to an "external security threat," no one could enter or exit the Capitol complex, the recording said.
Stunning photos and videos captured the chaos inside the nation’s Capitol: security officials with guns drawn on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, pro-Trump rioters fighting with police in the Capitol Rotunda, a mob of the president’s supporters smashing windows and streaming into the building where the nation's leaders had gathered to count votes sealing Biden's victory.
The mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser ordered a curfew in the nation’s capital beginning at 6 p.m. ET.
Protesters interact with Capitol Police inside the U.S. Capitol Building.
Pro-Trump rioters were inside the nation’s Capitol wreaking havoc and clashing with police when members of Congress inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks after tear gas was dispersed in the Capitol Rotunda.
Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
Lawmakers were interrupted, evacuated and asked to lock themselves in their offices as hundreds of rioters continued to pour into the building.
Rioters entered the offices of lawmakers, including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
One image showed a pro-Trump rioter bearing an American flag putting his feet up in Pelosi’s office.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A protester sits in the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. Pro-Trump
Other images showed the destructive aftermath of ransacked offices. Among the wreckage were battered doors, broken furniture, damaged items and littered trash.
A supporter of US President Donald Trump sits at a desk after invading the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. - Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electora
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suite of offices were among those trashed, with rioters breaking several items including a mirror and Pelosi’s nameplate.
It was reported that one person was shot by U.S. Capitol Police. The condition of the person was unclear.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A Capitol police officer looks out of a broken window as protesters gather on the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstratio
Meanwhile, President Trump released a recorded video on social media, which has since been deleted due to Twitter policy violations.
Trump opened his video saying, "I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now." He went on to call the violent mob of his supporters "very special."
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany stated on Twitter that the National Guard was on the way along with other federal protective services under Trump's direction, but it was not clear that Trump himself gave the order.
A statement by Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller read, "Chairman Milley and I just spoke separately with the Vice President and with Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer and Representative Hoyer about the situation at the U.S. Capitol. We have fully activated the D.C. National Guard to assist federal and local law enforcement as they work to peacefully address the situation. We are prepared to provide additional support as necessary and appropriate as requested by local authorities. Our people are sworn to defend the constitution and our democratic form of government and they will act accordingly."
It was reported that at least one explosive device had been found near the U.S. Capitol. Law enforcement officials said the device was no longer a threat Wednesday afternoon.
The Pentagon said about 1,100 D.C. National Guard members were being mobilized to help support law enforcement as violent supporters of President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol.
President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation to demand an end to the "siege" underway at the U.S. Capitol building, where the mob of Trump supporters clashed with police and marched through the building.
"The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, it can incite," Biden said from his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.
"To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices, and to threaten the safety of duly elected officials is not protest. It is insurrection. The world is watching — and like so many other Americans, I am shocked and saddened that our nation, so long a beacon of light, hope and democracy, has come to such a dark moment," Biden said.
Biden strongly condemned the violence and called for it to stop."This is not dissent, it’s disorder. It’s chaos," Biden said. "I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to move forward.
The Washington, D.C. police chief said that at least five weapons had been recovered and at least 13 people had been arrested amid the pro-Trump riot.
Security forces respond with tear gas after President Donald Trump's supporters breached the US Capitol security. (Photo by Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Trump’s earlier video was deleted from social media platforms for violating their policies.
"This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video. We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence," Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of Integrity wrote on Twitter.
Police used tear gas and percussion grenades to begin clearing pro-Trump rioters from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol ahead of a 6 p.m. curfew in Washington D.C.
WASHINGTON D.C., USA - JANUARY 6: Security forces respond with tear gas after the US President Donald Trumps supporters breached the US Capitol security in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol a
District officials declared the Capitol "secure" nearly four hours after the pro-Trump mob disrupted the electoral count and stormed the building.
A curfew went into effect in D.C. at 6 p.m. ET. Groups of Trump supporters remained on the streets in defiance.
Meanwhile, Trump tweeted in reference to the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, saying that events like this 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."
He added, "Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"
Officials reported that one woman died after being shot at the U.S. Capitol as scores of supporters of Trump stormed the building.
The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department said it was taking the lead on the shooting investigation. Police did not immediately provide details about the circumstances of the shooting.
Twitter announced that it had locked the president’s account for 12 hours and warned that further violations of its policies by Trump could lead to a permanent suspension of his account.
"Our public interest policy -- which has guided our enforcement action in this area for years -- ends where we believe the risk of harm is higher and/or more severe," the company tweeted from their @TwitterSafety account.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Congress would resume its proceedings of the Electoral College certification once the U.S. Capitol was deemed clear and safe.
Pelosi said she made the decision Wednesday in consultation with the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the vice president.
Stephanie Grisham, first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff, and White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews both resigned in the wake of the pro-Trump riots in the U.S. Capitol.
Grisham previously served as the White House press secretary before making way for current White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in April.
Grisham was one of Trump’s longest-serving aides, having joined the campaign in 2015. She never held a press briefing as White House press secretary.
Grisham said in a statement that it was an "honor" to serve the country in the White House and be part of the first lady’s "mission" to help children. She made no reference to the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday as Congress counted states’ electoral votes, damaging property and violently clashing with police.
Seventeen members of Congress signed a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging him to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove President Donald Trump from office in the wake of the violent riot by the president’s supporters inside the Capitol.
Democratic members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. David Cicilline, congressman for Rhode Island’s 1st District, as well as California Rep. Ted Lieu, signed a letter to Pence asking him to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would temporarily transfer power to Pence until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office on Jan. 20.
Hours after the riots, Congress reconvened, and the Senate resumed debating the Republican challenges against Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.
The counting resumed about six hours after rioters scaled the walls of the U.S. Capitol.
Republican representatives and 13 GOP senators had planned to object Wednesday to the electoral votes of six battleground states that backed President-elect Biden.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Congress that it "will not be deterred" in confirming the results of the presidential election.
"The United States Senate will not be intimidated," McConnell said. "We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation."
McConnell added that while the storming of the nation’s capitol by pro-Trump rioters temporarily halted the process of counting the Electoral College votes, the Senate would move forward to certify Biden’s victory.
"We have fulfilled this solemn duty every four years for more than two centuries," McConnell said. "Under all manor of threats, even during an ongoing armed rebellion and a civil war, the clockwork of our democracy has carried on. The United States and the United States Congress has faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today."
"We’ve never been deterred before and we will not be deterred today," McConnell exclaimed.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed the shock expressed by Pence, McConnell and other lawmakers at the day’s events, saying that out of the short list of days in American history that will be remembered as days that will "live in infamy," Wednesday’s violent riot inside the U.S. Capitol "will live forever in infamy."
The events that transpired prompted some Republicans to reconsider their decision to object to the certification of Electoral College votes that went to Biden.
Several GOP lawmakers changed their minds and announced that they would no longer support efforts to object to the Electoral College and challenge the election results, following the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Wednesday evening, GOP Sens. Loeffler, Daines and Braun shifted their position, saying they would not object to Biden electors after the pro-Trump storming of the U.S. Capitol.
"I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes. However, the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors," Loeffler said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that members of the state’s National Guard were being sent to Washington, D.C. to help "the peaceful transition of presidential power."
Cuomo, a Democrat, said 1,000 troops would be sent for up to two weeks, at the request of U.S. National Guard officials.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley made remarks, saying that he would go forward with his objection to the Electoral College results in Pennsylvania.
The Missouri senator said he did not support violence but said the Senate should go forward with a legal process that included his objections.
Officials said that 30 people were arrested Wednesday evening after being found on the streets of D.C. after the 6 p.m. curfew went into effect.
The Senate overwhelmingly voted down the Republican objection to challenge to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona.
The objection to the results in Arizona -- spearheaded by Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Ted Cruz -- was rejected 93-6 on Wednesday night. All votes in favor of the objection came from Republicans.
The Associated Press reported that four people had died as supporters of Trump violently occupied the U.S. Capitol.
Washington, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said the dead on Wednesday included a woman who was shot by the U.S. Capitol Police, as well as three others who died in "medical emergencies."
Police said both law enforcement and Trump supporters deployed chemical irritants during the hours long occupation of the Capitol building before it was cleared Wednesday evening by law enforcement.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation released a statement announcing that it is seeking information that would assist agents in identifying and prosecuting anyone involved in the violent riots.
"If you have witnessed unlawful violent actions, we urge you to submit any information, photos, or videos that could be relevant at fbi.gov/USCapitol," the FBI wrote. "The FBI is accepting tips and digital media depicting rioting and violence in the U.S. Capitol Building and surrounding area in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021."
The U.S. Congress certified President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 election win in the early morning hours Thursday during the resumed joint session.
After Congress certified Biden’s victory, a statement from the president was issued on Twitter via Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino.
Trump’s statement read: "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. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. 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 Associated Press contributed to this story. This story was reported from Los Angeles.