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A GIANT HIT TO AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

After a day of chaos, Congress confirms Joe Biden as US president

An explosion is seen in front of the US Capitol building.
REUTERS/Leah Millis
Dystopian scenes.
  • Annabelle Timsit
By Annabelle Timsit

Geopolitics reporter

The US Congress certified Joe Biden as 46th president of the United States overnight, after a violent mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building and some Republican lawmakers tried to overturn Pennsylvania and Arizona’s electoral counts.

Neither of these efforts succeeded, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said, in disrupting the penultimate step of America’s months-long process of electing a new president. “They tried to disrupt our democracy,” he said. “They failed.”

In a chaotic scene yesterday (Jan. 6), supporters of US president Donald Trump clashed with police and overran the Capitol building in Washington, where at least one person, believed to be a female protester, was shot, and later died. Congress was in the process of certifying the results of the November election. This is typically a formality, but this year it devolved into partisan bickering because Trump claimed the election was “stolen.” After the Capitol was cleared, lawmakers returned to the certification vote, which ended around 4am US eastern time.

A few Republican senators, led by Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, voted not to certify two states’ electoral counts due to baseless allegations of fraud. But their rebellion was smaller than expected: while 11 senators said they would vote no, only six did for Arizona and seven for Pennsylvania.

The shock of living through what McConnell called an “attempted insurrection” played a part; Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, who also lost her reelection race yesterday, said that while she had “fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes…the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now, in good conscience, object.”

Meanwhile, after initially directing his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol” and later calling them “patriots,” Trump reversed course—to an extent—as the violence increased, eventually calling for “law and order” as the mob broke windows, breached the Senate chamber, and took over lawmakers’ offices.

In a statement today, issued through his press secretary’s Twitter account because his own had been suspended for 12 hours for violating Twitter’s rules against disrupting elections, Trump expressed lukewarm support for a peaceful transition of power, but stuck to his false claims of voter fraud:

Leaders and officials from around the world registered their shock or disappointment at the scene playing out in Washington and called for a peaceful transfer. It put the US in the unusual position of being on the receiving end of these kinds of calls, when it has more often doled them out to other countries.

With contributions from Marc Bain.

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