Today, January 6, 2021, Congress, in a joint session at the Capitol, was scheduled to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and clear the last procedural hurdle in place for the peaceful transfer of power. A coalition of sorts, formed by both Senate and House Republicans, was set to object to Biden’s Electoral College win, which saw him secure 306 Electoral votes, far more than the 270 needed to win the White House. As the day began, the expected objections were forthcoming. With Arizona’s Electoral votes set to be awarded, newsfeed from inside the proceedings showed Representative Paul Gosar from Arizona’s Fourth Congressional District lodge his objection to the “counting of the Electoral Ballots from Arizona.” At this point, having already been recognized by Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States and the man legally responsible for presiding over the proceedings as President of the Senate, Gosar was asked by Pence “is the objection in writing and signed by a Senator?” Gosar replied, “yes, it is.” He was then echoed by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas “it is.”
With an audible reaction from the crowd followed by applause from those who agreed with the move, an objection had been, for all intents and purposes, registered. What was then expected to transpire as the day went on was a series of objections, retirements of both houses to their chambers to debate, rejection of the objections to the Electoral College votes, and the votes’ ultimate approval. Instead of witnessing Congress confirm Joe Biden’s victory, Americans were shocked to discover that President Trump supporters had brought violence and chaos to the halls of Congress. Trump voters engaged in what former President George W. Bush, a Republican, has called, in a statement released to the media, “mayhem at the seat of our Nation’s government. . .” To what Mr. Bush refers are scenes of protest, violence, and illegal entry by malcontents of the election’s results into the halls of one of our Nation’s most sacred buildings. Actions by protesters included overwhelming Capitol Hill, clashing with law enforcement officials on the Capitol, and attempted break-ins to the House Chamber.
While these actions were taking place, President Trump, as he always appears to be, was active on Twitter. After the attacks on the Capitol building, President Trump went as far as to tweet, “[t]hese 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. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever.”
Shortly after that, Twitter released a statement, in a series of tweets, stating it had removed three of the President’s tweets and locked his account for 12 hours. Not only was this action taken, but Twitter threatened further action by asserting that “[f]uture violations of Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account.” Yet, this was hardly the President’s first encouragement to protesters in the day. In statements to what was called the “Save America March” earlier in the day, the President stated, “we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give–the Democrats are hopeless; they’re never voting for anything, not even one vote–but we’re going to try and give our Republicans–the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help–we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our Country.”
In stark contrast, the President-Elect, Joe Biden, condemned the violent mob that Trump had called “great patriots.” He demonstrated real leadership and encouraged Trump “to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the constitution and demand an end to this siege.” Biden stated that “at this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times.” He described the violent attacks on Congress as “an assault in the citadel of liberty,” and he insisted that the scenes at the Capitol were brought on by extremists acting in chaos and bordering on sedition. The President-Elect implored “the mob” to “allow the work of democracy to go forward.” Calling attention to the importance of the office he will assume in two weeks, Biden reminded listeners of the power of words, especially when spoken by the President of the United States of America.
While at the time of the writing of this article at approximately 7 p.m. EST, there are many facts still to be gleaned from today’s events. Here’s some of what we do know:
- Violence has occurred in the Capitol that has left at least one dead.
- As a result of widespread protests, District of Columbia’s Mayor, Muriel Bowser, called for a citywide curfew beginning at 6 p.m. EST Wednesday, January 6, 2021. The curfew will be in effect until 6 a.m. EST Thursday, January 7, 2021.
- The joint session stopped, and Congress members were forced to shelter in secure locations, as NPR reported.
- Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller released a statement (which incredibly confirmed discussions with the Vice President, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Senator Schumer, and Representative Hoyer but not President of the United States Donald J. Trump) confirming that the D.C. National Guard had been fully activated to assist with the scenes of violence and protest in the Capitol.
- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has vowed to attempt to complete the process tonight after consultation with, among others, Congressional leaders, the Pentagon, and the Justice Department.
As Americans welcome the dawn of 2021, they witnessed a historic moment of violence and insurrection. The President of the United States of America spread a conspiracy that the 2020 election was rigged, and he warned his supporters “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not gonna have a country anymore.” Trump peddled this violent language despite the fact that courts across the country have dismissed his claims due to his inability to provide evidence, and his own Justice Department and the FBI has stated that the election was one of the most secure in history. Many progressive Americans condemned his conspiracies as treason, but conservatives dismissed progressive fears as an overreaction to Trump’s candid tweeting style. Yet, words are powerful weapons. Trump asked his supporters to fight and fight they did. After this process is completed and all the facts about what happened in the Capitol today come to light, President Trump, the Republican Party, and the nation have to grapple with what this kind of day means for our American Democracy. As a nation, we need to accept the results of the election, reform our political system so all people are represented, and we must condemn people trying to use violence to undermine democracy. If our leaders do not act boldly to condemn insurrection, we could find that 2021 mirrors 1861.
“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. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever.” – President Donald Trump
The video (left) provides footage of the violent attacks on the Capitol by Trump supporters trying to overturn the results of a democratic election.
Christopher Becker is a civil litigator practicing in New York. Christopher graduated from the University of Alabama’s School of Law in 2016. There, he was a Senior Editor of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review.