‘I’m Trying To Get Joe Biden On The Phone’: Man Threatens To Blow Up US Capitol Hill

First responders arrive on the scene to investigate a report of an explosive device in a pickup truck near the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill, August 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. McNamee/Getty Images/AFP
First responders arrive on the scene to investigate a report of an explosive device in a pickup truck near the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill, August 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. McNamee/Getty Images/AFP

 

Several buildings on Capitol Hill were evacuated in a bomb scare Thursday, as police negotiated with a man in a pickup truck threatening to detonate explosives near the site — targeted months ago in a deadly insurrection.

Much of the complex was cordoned off as police and FBI agents investigated the truck — which was driven onto the sidewalk near the Capitol building and Library of Congress — for possible explosives.

“This is an active bomb threat investigation,” the US Capitol Police said on its Twitter feed.

A man appearing to be the suspect took to Facebook Live to stream a series of threats — and asking to speak to President Joe Biden.

READ ALSO: Key Quotes From Biden’s Afghanistan Speech

“I’m trying to get Joe Biden on the phone. I’m parked up here on the sidewalk right beside all this pretty stuff,” said the man, identified on the Facebook page as Ray Roseberry.

“I’m telling you, them snipers come in, they start shooting this window out, this bomb’s going off,” he said.

Police said the suspect man drove the pickup truck onto the sidewalk before making his threats.

“The driver of the truck told the responding officer on the scene that he had a bomb and what appeared, the officer said, appeared to be a detonator in the man’s hand,” Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger told reporters.

An evacuation of nearby buildings was ordered, and law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in negotiations with the man.

“We are in communication with the suspect,” Manger told reporters.

“We’re trying to get as much information as we can to find a way to peacefully resolve this,” the police chief added, while declining to identify the suspect or provide details about him.

“We don’t know what his motives are,” Manger added.

While it remained unclear whether the vehicle contains actual explosives, the Library of Congress’s main buildings were evacuated amid the scare, as was the nearby US Supreme Court and at least one of the three House office buildings.

The nearby Republican National Committee headquarters was also reportedly evacuated and the Washington Metro’s Capitol Hill subway station closed as a precaution.

A White House official said staff in the executive mansion where monitoring the situation and receiving updates from law enforcement.

‘Growing risk’

Both the Senate and House of Representatives are currently on recess, but some lawmakers have remained in Washington and staffers are working in the complex.

“My staff and our building near the vehicle have been safely evacuated but please keep the Capitol Police, FBI, and (Washington police) in your prayers as they address this serious threat,” congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi tweeted.

While congressman Dean Phillips said everyone in his office was safe, he noted that “once again, America is forced to confront the growing risk posed by domestic terrorists.”

Tensions have remained high on Capitol Hill more than seven months after the deadly January 6 insurrection, when supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol, fought with police, and sought to block certification of the presidential election.

In April a man rammed a car into barriers at the US Capitol, killing one Capitol Police officer before the attacker was shot and killed.

The January uprising prompted authorities to erect a ring of steel in the form of tall metal fencing and razor wire around the Capitol complex.

The fencing — one of the last physical reminders of the attack — only came down in July.

AFP

House Rests Trump Impeachment Case, Defense Begins Today

In this file photo taken on December 7, 2020 -ex-US President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony. PHOTO:AFP

 

House prosecutors wrapped up their impeachment case against Donald Trump on Thursday with an impassioned appeal to the Senate to convict the former president of inciting the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol and bar him from holding office again.

“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime (of) which he is overwhelmingly guilty,” said Democratic Representative Joe Neguse, one of the nine impeachment managers from the House of Representatives.

“Because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen — or worse, if we let it go unanswered — who’s to say it won’t happen again?”

READ ALSO: China Bans BBC World News In Row Over Xinjiang Reporting

The House impeachment managers rested their case after two days of arguments that included Trump’s own words and hours of graphic video from the assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters who were seeking to halt certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s November 3 election victory.

Trump’s lawyers will begin their defense on Friday, arguing that the former president cannot be held personally responsible for the storming of Congress.

They have also argued that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is now out of office, although the Senate rejected that argument earlier this week.

Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, reminded the 100 senators who are sitting as jurors of their oath to render “impartial justice.”

“Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country,” Raskin said, noting that Trump stood by doing nothing for two hours as his supporters rampaged through Congress.

“Why did President Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned about it?” Raskin asked. “As our constitutional commander in chief, why did he do nothing to send help?”

Earlier, Biden said the video evidence against his 74-year-old predecessor presented at the Senate trial may change “some minds.”

But despite what even some Republicans have said was a strong prosecution case, Trump retains an unshakeable grip on the party, making conviction highly unlikely.

It would take a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats.

 

– ‘Future of democracy’  –

The mayhem on January 6 erupted after Trump held a large rally near the White House, insisting falsely, as he had done since losing to Biden in November, that he was cheated.

Instructed by Trump to march on Congress, where lawmakers were at that moment certifying Biden’s election, the crowd smashed through police lines, then went on a rampage.

The chaos left five people dead, including one woman shot after she invaded the Capitol and one policeman killed by the crowd.

Video footage played by impeachment managers showed the mob hunting down opponents of Trump, as well as senior figures, including then vice president Mike Pence, having to flee to safety.

The defense will stress that Trump did not expressly tell his supporters to commit violence, but Raskin pointed out that the Republican president had been stoking anger and encouraging extremism since Election Day — and even before.

“This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring out of thin air,” Raskin said. “This was not the first time Donald Trump had inflamed and incited a mob.”

Raskin said it was imperative the Senate convict Trump and bar him from running for the White House again in 2024.

“Is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he’s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?” Raskin asked.

“Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?”

Raskin also dismissed claims by Trump’s lawyers that the president did not incite the riot but was just exercising his free speech rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Calling this a “smokescreen,” Raskin said that “nobody can incite a riot.”

“First Amendment doesn’t protect it,” he said. “Nobody in America would be protected by the First Amendment if they did all the things that Donald Trump did.”

 

– Republicans stand by Trump –

Biden said he did not watch any of the trial live but had seen news coverage of Wednesday’s wrenching video footage.

“My guess is some minds may be changed,” Biden told reporters in the White House.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden, who has been trying to stop the trial from overshadowing his push for a huge economic stimulus package and the fight against Covid-19, was not intending to predict the outcome.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said video footage shown by House managers on Wednesday was “powerful,” but “how that influences final decisions remains to be seen.”

Other Republican senators have clearly already made up their minds and do not intend to break with Trump, who has threatened to derail their careers.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida insisted the Senate cannot try a former president.

“What happened on Jan. 6 — I said it the moment it started — was unpatriotic, un-American, treasonous, a crime, unacceptable,” he said.

“The fundamental question for me, and I don’t know about for everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t believe that it is,” said Rubio.

AFP

Biden Inauguration: Worries As Homeland Security Chief Quits

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 05, 2020 Acting Homeland Security Security Chad Wolf, announces measures against online sexual exploitation during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington,DC.  (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

US Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced his resignation unexpectedly Monday as worries rose over more violence during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.

Wolf’s departure as head of the body in charge of security for the January 20 event came five days after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol, hoping to prevent Biden from replacing him.

The Homeland Security Department oversees several law enforcement bodies including the Secret Service, the point agency for security for the White House and the US president.

Wolf, who said he was stepping down for procedural reasons, named Pete Gaynor, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to replace him.

But the move did not end questions over whether the US capital city would be adequately secure over the coming week.

An internal FBI document warned of the possibility that armed Trump supporters could hold protests in all 50 states between the coming weekend and January 20, according to US media.

The White House issued a statement saying that Trump had “declared that an emergency exists in the District of Columbia and ordered Federal assistance to supplement the District’s response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from the 59th Presidential Inauguration from January 11 to January 24, 2021.”

It said the order gave the Department of Homeland Security the authority to act “to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the District of Columbia.”

 

(FILES)Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, resigned January 11, 2021, amid rising worries over the possibility of more violence during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, a DHS official said. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP)

 

Meanwhile, federal and city officials continued to point fingers over who was responsible for the debacle at the Capitol last Wednesday, when the Congressional police force was overwhelmed by thousands of Trump supporters who succeeded in shutting down the legislature.

 More troops called up

The Pentagon said Monday it had authorized 15,000 National Guard troops to be deployed for Biden’s inauguration.

Already 6,200 troops are on the ground in Washington, and a total of 10,000 are planned by the coming weekend, said General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the Defense Department’s National Guard Bureau.

Another 5,000 could be deployed by the day of the inauguration, he said.

They will come equipped with riot gear and weapons, but so far they have not been authorized to arm themselves while on the streets of the US capital, he said.

Before he announced his departure, Wolf also ordered an acceleration of preparations by the Secret Service, citing “events of the past week and the evolving security landscape.”

Preparations for the event were moving quickly. A security fence has been built around the entire grounds of the Capitol, where Biden will take the oath of office as Trump’s successor.

‘Don’t come’

Still angry about last Wednesday’s violence, in which five people died, including a protester shot dead by police and a police officer who was attacked and died from his injuries, Washington mayor Muriel Bowser appealed to Biden backers to stay away from the capital on inauguration day.

Normally, hundreds of thousands of Americans — sometimes more than a million — flock to Washington for the quadrennial event.

“We are asking Americans not to come to Washington DC for the 59th presidential inauguration on January 20 and to instead participate virtually,” Bowser said.

Organizers said the Democratic president-elect would use the occasion to foster national unity, faced by a country deeply divided over politics and hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic.

He will be sworn in at the Capitol in front of the National Mall filled with flags rather than the usual hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Afterwards, he and three former US presidents — Trump won’t attend — will travel to Arlington National Cemetery, where thousands of US military war dead for veterans are buried, to lay a wreath.

But the preparations come as Democrats, accusing Trump of fomenting and applauding what they branded an “insurrection” and “coup” attempt last week, seek to force Trump from office prematurely.

That could further spark violence by Trump supporters, the FBI warned in a new internal advisory.

According to US media, the document says that far-right groups like the violent Boogaloo Boys are planning protests around the country timed to the inauguration.

One group, the FBI said, “warned that if Congress attempts to remove POTUS (Trump) via the 25th Amendment a huge uprising will occur,” ABC News reported.

World Leaders Condemn ‘Assault On Democracy’ At US Capitol

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. PHOTO: ALEX EDELMAN / AFP

 

World leaders and governments expressed shock and outrage at the storming of the US Capitol in Washington by supporters of President Donald Trump.

– Germany –

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday she was “furious and saddened” by the events and said Trump shared blame for the unrest.

“I deeply regret that President Trump has not conceded his defeat, since November and again yesterday,” she said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Trump supporters to “stop trampling on democracy.”

– Britain –

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Twitter condemned the “disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power”.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added in his own tweet: “The US rightly takes great pride in its democracy, and there can be no justification for these violent attempts to frustrate the lawful and proper transition of power.”

– Israel –

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “rampage at the Capitol yesterday was a disgraceful act and it must be vigorously condemned.”

“I have no doubt that… American democracy will prevail. It always has,” added Netanyahu, who has repeatedly called Trump Israel’s best-ever friend in the White House.

– European Union –

The EU’s foreign policy chief condemned an “assault on US democracy”.

“In the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege,” Josep Borrell tweeted.

Calling the action an “assault on US democracy, its institutions and the rule of law”, he added: “This is not America. The election results of 3 November must be fully respected.”

– France –

French President Emmanuel Macron said: “We will not give in to the violence of a few who want to question” democracy.

In a video posted on his official Twitter account, he added: “What happened today in Washington is not American”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also condemned “a serious attack on democracy”.

– Russia –

Russian officials pointed to the storming of the US Capitol as evidence of America’s decline, with Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the Russian upper house’s foreign affairs committee, saying it showed US democracy was “limping on both feet”.

“The celebration of democracy has ended. It has, unfortunately, hit rock bottom, and I say this without a hint of gloating,” Kosachyov said in a post on Facebook.

His counterpart in the lower house, Leonid Slutsky, said “the United States certainly cannot now impose electoral standards on other countries and claim to be the world’s ‘beacon of democracy’.”

– Poland –

Polish President Andrzej Duda, a close Trump ally who did not congratulate Biden on his victory until more than a month after the election, described the events as “an internal issue for the United States”.

“Poland believes in the power of American democracy,” he added on Twitter.

– Iran –

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the chaos unleashed on the US Capitol “shows above all how fragile and vulnerable Western democracy is”.

“We saw that unfortunately the ground is fertile for populism, despite the advances in science and industry,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast by state television. “I hope the whole world and the next occupants of the White House will learn from it.”

– Canada –

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour.”

– Australia –

Australian PM Scott Morrison condemned the “very distressing scenes” in the US.

“We condemn these acts of violence and look forward to a peaceful transfer of Government to the newly elected administration in the great American democratic tradition,” he tweeted.

– New Zealand –

Jacinda Ardern tweeted: “Democracy – the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob.”

The PM added her country’s thoughts were with everyone “devastated” by the events in Washington, adding: “what is happening is wrong.”

– NATO –

“Shocking scenes in Washington, DC,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg tweeted. “The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.”

– The Netherlands –

“Horrible images from Washington D.C. Dear @realDonaldTrump, recognise @JoeBiden as the next president today,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter.

The plain-speaking Rutte once during a visit to the White House in 2018 interrupted Trump with a loud “no” when Trump made an assertion about EU-US trade.

– Ireland –

Irish premier Micheal Martin, who has invited the Irish-American Biden to visit his ancestral homeland early in his presidency, tweeted his condemnation.

“The Irish people have a deep connection with the United States of America, built up over many generations. I know that many, like me, will be watching the scenes unfolding in Washington DC with great concern and dismay,” Martin said.

– India –

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Trump ally who has heaped praise on the outgoing US president in the past, said he was “distressed to see news about rioting and violence” in Washington.

“Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” the Hindu nationalist leader tweeted.

– Greece –

“Extremely troubled by the violence and horrible events taking place in Washington D.C. American democracy is resilient, deeply rooted and will overcome this crisis,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a tweet.

– Turkey –

“We are following with concern the internal developments happening in the US,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We call on all parties in the US to maintain restraint and prudence. We believe the US will overcome this internal political crisis in a mature manner.”

– Austria –

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a tweet that “this is an unacceptable assault on democracy. A peaceful and orderly transfer of power must be ensured.”

– Czech Republic –

“The looting and violence at the US Senate are not a good example for countries where democracy is fighting hard for a place in the sun,” Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said in a tweet. “Given the emotions sparked by the US presidential election, we could expect today’s session to be far from ordinary. Where were the police and the Senate bodyguards…?”

– Denmark –

“Extremism, violence, polarisation and violence is never the way forward. Terrible pictures from Washington. May democracy be brought back to working again,” Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Facebook.

– Spain –

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted that “Yesterday’s attack on the Capitol has only succeeded in reaffirming the principles we share. Spain will work with the United States for a more just world and the triumph of democracy over extremism.”

– Slovenia –

Slovenia’s right-wing Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who backed Trump and who has yet to congratulate Biden on his victory, tweeted: “All should be very troubled by the violence taking place in Washington D.C.”

“We hope American democracy is resilient, deeply rooted and will overcome this crisis. Democracy presupposes peaceful protest, but violence and death threats —from Left or Right— are ALWAYS wrong.”

– Fiji –

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama — who led a coup in 2006 and was accused of assaulting an opposition lawmaker in 2019 — added his condemnation.

“The violent scenes we saw in Washington today are an affront to democracies around the globe. True and genuine democracy is a precious treasure that no nation should ever take for granted,” he tweeted.

AFP

China Goes Online To Mock ‘Beautiful Sight’ Of US Capitol Chaos

Police detain a person as supporters of US President Donald Trump protest outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.  ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP

 

China’s internet erupted in mirth at America’s troubled democracy after supporters of President Donald Trump broke into the US Capitol, comparing the chaos to the Hong Kong anti-government protests of 2019.

On Thursday morning, state media tabloid Global Times tweeted side-by-side photo comparisons of Hong Kong protesters occupying the city’s Legislative Council Complex in July 2019 with Wednesday’s Washington riots.

The latter saw hardcore Trump fans invade the US Capitol to protest the election defeat, taking selfies, scuffling with security and ransacking parts of the building.

READ ALSO: Facebook And Twitter Block Trump’s Account For Breaking Rules

“@SpeakerPelosi once referred to the Hong Kong riots as ‘a beautiful sight to behold’,” the Global Times said in the tweet, referring to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s June 2019 comment about Hong Kong’s mass pro-democracy demonstrations, which were mostly peaceful at that time.

“It remains yet to be seen whether she will say the same about the recent developments in Capitol Hill.”

China’s Communist Youth League also described the unrest as a “beautiful sight” on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

The hashtag “Trump supporters storm US Capitol” pinballed across Weibo on Thursday, racking up 230 million views, as users compared the global support for Hong Kong’s protesters with the outpouring of condemnation for the pro-Trump mob.

“At present, all European countries’ leaders have shown double standards and condemned it (Washington rioting),” read one Weibo comment which gained over 5,000 likes.

“I don’t know what kind of double-standard reports will be carried by Hong Kong or Taiwan media this time.”

“What happened in the Hong Kong Legislative Council last year is being repeated in the US Capitol,” wrote another user in a comment with over 4,500 likes.

Damage is seen inside the US Capitol building early on January 7, 2020 in Washington, DC, after supporters of US President Donald Trump breeched security and entered the building during a session of Congress. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

While the tactics were similar, there are stark differences in the causes and motivations of the two legislature stormings.

Hong Kong protesters broke into their legislature to demand full democracy and halt an unpopular bill that was being pushed through by the city’s unelected leadership.

The semi-autonomous Chinese city is not a democracy, the cause of years of popular protests.

China has since responded with a crackdown, imposing a harsh security law on the restless city, arresting scores of critics and smothering dissent.

In contrast, those storming the US Capitol were trying to overturn the results of what has been declared a free and fair presidential election.

US President-elect Joe Biden said the US rioters were undermining democracy by trying to overturn Trump’s defeat in November’s election.

AFP

Facebook And Twitter Block Trump’s Account For Breaking Rules

In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with President Trump's Twitter page shown in the background on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with President Trump’s Twitter page shown in the background on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

Facebook barred US President Donald Trump from posting Wednesday over messages it said were promoting violence as his supporters stormed the US Capitol — following a similar stand taken by Twitter.

The sanctions came after the president took to social media to issue a series of false claims — including in a short video — about the election he lost to Joe Biden having been stolen from him.

READ ALSO: Woman Shot Dead In US Capitol Was A Veteran And Trump Supporter

“We made the decision that on balance these posts contribute to, rather than diminish, the risk of ongoing violence,” Facebook said.

The California-based social media giant said it was handing Trump “a 24-hour feature block” preventing him from posting.

Twitter blocked Trump earlier on Wednesday and threatened a permanent ban for breaking its own rules with his false claims about the election.

AFP

Trump Tells Supporters To ‘Stay Peaceful’ As Protesters Storm Capitol

In this file photo taken on December 8, 2020 US President Donald Trump arrives for the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington, DC. Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP.

 

US President Donald Trump called for “peaceful” protests on Wednesday after his supporters stormed the Capitol following a rally during which he urged Congress to reject Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.

“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” Trump said on Twitter more than an hour after protesters breached a security cordon.

“They are truly on the side of our Country,” Trump said. “Stay peaceful!”

The president tweeted again more than half an hour later as stunning scenes played out at the Capitol, with his supporters swarming the building and lawmakers going into lockdown.

 

Protesters gather outside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S.  Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP

 

“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful,” Trump said. “No violence!

“Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order -– respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue,” he said. “Thank you!”

READ ALSO: Mob Storms US Capitol As Trump Is Accused Of ‘Coup’

The House of Representatives and Senate went into recess as protesters disrupted a session called to certify the Electoral College votes from the November 3 presidential election.

Speaking at the rally before his supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump accused fellow Republicans who have refused to endorse his baseless claims of election fraud as “weak.”

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump said. “You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

AFP

Mob Storms US Capitol As Trump Is Accused Of ‘Coup’

Protesters gather outside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP

 

Donald Trump’s supporters on Wednesday stormed a session of Congress held to certify Joe Biden’s win, as a desperate last-minute bid by the president to overturn his election loss sparked chaos and accusations of a “coup” attempt.

Hours after an extraordinary rally by Trump challenging his defeat, his flag-waving backers broke down barricades outside the Capitol and swarmed inside, with the special session going into an emergency recess as protesters entered the chambers.

The chaos at the Capitol, which was put under lockdown, came one day after Biden enjoyed a new triumph as his Democratic Party looked set to win two Senate runoff seats, handing full control of Congress.

Police fired tear gas as they struggled to remove a sea of protesters who took aim, at Trump’s urging, at what for more than two centuries had been a quiet, ceremonial session to confirm the election’s winner.

“The President of the United States is inciting a coup. We will not be intimidated. We will not be deterred,” tweeted Democratic Representative Karen Bass.

Representative Val Demings likewise denounced the storming of the Capitol as evidence of “a coup in progress” — in words echoed by half a dozen lawmakers.

Representative Elaine Luria said she had to evacuate because of a report of a pipe bomb and said she believed she heard gunshots.

“I don’t recognize our country today and the members of Congress who have supported this anarchy do not deserve to represent their fellow Americans,” she said.

– ‘Damage our republic forever’ –
Biden is certain to become president, with Democrats already controlling the House of Representatives, but more than 140 Republican House members and a dozen Republican senators have sided with Trump in challenging the results even though no evidence of fraud has been proven in court.

Republican Senate leader Senator Mitch McConnell, for four years a staunch backer of Trump, denounced the challenge in an impassioned address, noting that the results of the November 3 vote were not even close.

“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken. If we overrule them, it will damage our republic forever,” said McConnell, who is set to lose his position of majority leader after Democrats’ Senate wins.

“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” said McConnell, who also accused Democrats of not accepting Trump’s surprise 2016 victory.

Senator Chuck Schumer voiced alarm moments before protesters entered the Capitol, saying: “An element of the Republican Party believes their political viability hinges on the endorsement of an attempted coup.”

– ‘We will never concede’ –
As scenes of chaos spread, Trump took to Twitter to call on his supporters to be peaceful and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a 6 pm curfew in the city.

But in his rally near the White House, Trump urged them to head to the Capitol.

Rambling angrily, the president warned “weak” Republicans not to certify Biden’s victory and put direct pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, who ceremonially presided over the session.

READ ALSO: Washington Orders 6:00 Pm Curfew As Trump Backers Storm Capitol

“We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump told the cheering crowd, few wearing masks despite a spike in Covid cases.

“I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do,” Trump said, describing the US election as less honest than those of “Third World countries.”

As Trump was still speaking and Congress opened the session, Pence — dutifully loyal to Trump over four years and quiet since the election — said he would not intervene.

“The Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence said in a statement.

Thousands of Trump supporters had headed to Washington at his urging in recent days, with downtown businesses boarding up in fear of violence.

“I can’t say I respect our election process anymore,” said Gail Shaw, 76, who drove down from New Jersey. “We will take our nation back.”

Biden won more than seven million votes more than Trump in the November 3 election and leads him 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines elections.

Trump has repeatedly alleged without no evidence that there was vote-rigging but his team has not been able to prove a single case in court.

– New mandate for Democrats –
The session of Congress comes one day after voters went to the polls in Georgia and appear to have handed a pair of stunning victories to the Democratic Senate candidates over Republican incumbents.

A Democratic sweep would result in a 50-50 split in the Senate with Democrats holding the tie-breaking vote in Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden is due to be sworn in on January 20 and control of the Senate would give his Democrats the levers of power in the executive branch and both chambers of Congress and allow him to push through his legislative agenda.

“After the past four years, after the election, and after today’s election certification proceedings on the Hill, it’s time to turn the page,” Biden said in a statement.

“The American people demand action and they want unity. I am more optimistic than I ever have been that we can deliver both,” he said.

In Georgia, Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, the pastor at the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King once preached, was projected to defeat Republican Kelly Loeffler, a 50-year-old businesswoman appointed to the Senate in December 2019.

Warnock, 51, would be just the third African-American to win a Senate seat from the South.

In the other Georgia race, Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old video producer, claimed victory on Wednesday over Republican David Perdue.

AFP