US riots: ‘Journey just beginning’ – Donald Trump breaks Twitter silence; Capitol Police officer dies

KEY POINTS:
• Congress last night certified US President-elect Joe Biden’s victory after a violent throng of pro-Trump rioters spent hours running rampant through the Capitol.
• A police officer has died from events stemming from yesterday’s riots, CNN reports. This brings the death toll to five – one woman was shot dead during the riots and three others died after suffering “medical emergencies”.
• Donald Trump released a video on Friday afternoon denouncing the violence and defending his response.
• Biden has addressed the nation, saying the riots at Capitol Hill were “one of the darkest days in our history”.
• A growing list of lawmakers has called for Donald Trump’s removal, either by using the 25th amendment or through impeachment.
• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have directly appealed to Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump.
• Trump has suggested to aides he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency, the New York Times reports.
• Several members of the Trump administration have quit after yesterday’s events, including ex-Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
• Facebook and Instagram have banned Donald Trump indefinitely.
• Police have released photos of people they want to identify from yesterday’s riots, including a man in a horned furry hat.

A police officer has reportedly died following yesterday’s violent riots in Washington DC.

Sources have confirmed the death to CNN, although it has not yet been officially released. This brings the death toll to five – one woman was shot dead during the riots and three others died after suffering “medical emergencies”.

The news came as President Donald Trump broke his silence in the wake of the riots, posting a video on Twitter.

In the video, he says he is “outraged by the violence” at the Capitol, and defends his response to the situation.

“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem … I immediately deployed the national guard and the federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders.”

He said the protesters had “defiled the seat of American democracy”.

“To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country, and to those who broke the law, you will pay …

“My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth orderly and seamless transition of power.”

Trump signed off with: “To all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed but I also want you to know our incredible journey is only just beginning.”

Over 100 US lawmakers – almost exclusively Democrats – have called for Trump’s removal, either by using the 25th amendment or through impeachment.

They include Presumptive Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment.

“What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Schumer said in a statement today.

“This president should not hold office one day longer.

“If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.”

The New York Times is reporting that Trump has suggested to aides he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency.

Two people with knowledge of the discussions said that in “several” conversations since the election, Trump told advisers that he is considering giving himself a pardon.

It was not clear whether he had broached the topic since he incited his supporters to march on the Capitol.

Trump pledges ‘orderly transition’

CNN said the US faces “13 potentially perilous days before [Trump’s] departure”.

Trump said earlier there will be an “orderly transition on January 20th” after Congress certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, hours after he appeared to excuse the violent occupation of the US Capitol by his supporters.

Trump acknowledged defeat in the November election for the first time, after a day of chaos and destruction on Capitol Hill perpetrated in his name by supporters that halted business in Congress for more than six hours.

“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,” Trump said in a statement posted to Twitter by aides.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a one-minute media briefing late this morning (NZT) to address yesterday’s violence. “Those who violently besieged our capitol are the opposite of everything this administration stands for.”

She said the Trump administration was working towards an orderly transfer of power. McEnany took no questions from reporters.

Trump’s personal Twitter account was locked by the social media company for posting messages that appeared to justify the assault on the seat of the nation’s democracy.

“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,” Trump wrote in a message that was later deleted by Twitter.

He added, “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” In an earlier video he had praised the protesters as “special” people and said he understood their pain.

Amid widespread criticism of Capitol Police, who were unable to contain the rioters, media outlet Politico reports House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving will resign.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also called for Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to quit.

Biden addresses the nation

Joe Biden today described the riots at Capitol Hill as “one of the darkest days in our history”, calling it not a protest but “chaos”.

Speaking to the nation from the The Queen Theater in Wilmington at an event to announce the nominees to lead the Justice Department, the President-elect condemned the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol as “domestic terrorists.”

“It was not dissent. it was not disorder. It was not protest.

“Don’t call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists.”

He said the event was predictable, given Trump’s attacks on the hallmarks of democracy, such as his criticism of the free press.

Biden said one of his granddaughters, Finnegan, sent him a text yesterday comparing the level of security which guarded the Lincoln Memorial last summer, as demonstrators protested the police killing of George Floyd, with the level of security around the National Mall.

“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they would have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.

“We all know that’s true. And it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”

Pelosi to Pence: Remove Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for Mike Pence to remove Donald Trump from office.

Addressing media this morning (NZT), she said Trump incited yesterday’s riots and his ability to fuel violence was underestimated.

“The violence targeting Congress are [sic] horrors that will forever sting our nation’s history, instigated by the President of the United States.”

Pelosi said yesterday’s riots were seditious. “The people are sovereign and they hold the power to choose their leaders through the ballot. Reject this attempted coup on the part of President Trump.”

Pelosi said Republican congressmen who encouraged the mob and promoted conspiracy theories must be held accountable.

Pelosi told media she hopes an outcome on the President’s status would come today, but she has not given Pence a time limit.

She acknowledged the courageous efforts from Republican members of Congress who have spoken out.

First riot charges filed

Federal prosecutors have this morning filed the first criminal cases relating to the riots in Washington DC.

Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said “most of those cases” relate to unauthorised entry to the Capitol and the Capitol grounds, CNN reports.

Other cases involved firearms and theft of property.

“There was a large amount of pilfering at the Capitol. Materials were stolen from several offices,” Sherwin said.

Sherwin said federal and local investigators were searching social media for images and video of suspects engaged in unlawful activity.

The Department of Justice said it would consider bringing charges against anyone who played any role in the attack on the Capitol. When asked if that could include President Trump, Sherwin would not rule it out.

Trump staffers quit

Several members of the Trump administration have quit after yesterday’s events.

They include ex-Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao; deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger; White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews; Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s Chief of Staff; and White House social secretary Anna Cristina Niceta.

Locked out

Twitter locked Trump’s account yesterday for the first time as it demanded he remove the tweets and threatened “permanent suspension”.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced Trump will be blocked from using both Facebook and Instagram “for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” Twitter is yet to confirm if it will continue locking his accounts.

Zuckerberg says the ban is extended “indefinitely”, extending at least until Biden takes over as president.

Facebook and Instagram removed Trump’s video post yesterday, in which the President called for rioters to go home – but in which he also said “we love you”.

A day of violence

A violent throng of pro-Trump rioters spent hours yesterday running rampant through the Capitol. A woman was fatally shot, windows were smashed and the mob forced shaken lawmakers and aides to flee the building, shielded by Capitol Police.

Three people also died after suffering “medical events”.

The rampage began shortly after Trump repeated his unfounded claims of election fraud to thousands of rallying demonstrators he’d invited to Washington. Many then surged to the Capitol after he incited them to go there as lawmakers debated the electoral votes.

Trump spent much of yesterday watching the insurrection on television from his private dining room off the Oval Office.

But aside from sparing appeals for calm issued at the insistence of his staff, he was largely disengaged as the nation’s capital descended into unprecedented scenes of chaos as a mob of thousands tried to halt the peaceful transition of power.

Instead, a White House official said, most of Trump’s attention was consumed by his ire at Pence, who said he would not overturn the will of voters in the congressional electoral count.More than six hours after the violence erupted, lawmakers resumed their session.

Thirteen Republican senators and dozens of GOP representatives had planned to force debate and votes on perhaps six different states’ votes.

The assault on the Capitol made some Republicans squeamish about trying to overturn Biden’s win, and challenges were lodged only against Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both efforts lost overwhelmingly.

Biden defeated Trump by 306-232 electoral votes and will be inaugurated on January 20.

Pence defied the President last night as he affirmed Biden’s November victory, putting an end to Trump’s futile efforts to subvert American democracy and overturn the results of the election.

In a move that infuriated Trump and left his own political future far less certain, Pence acknowledged he did not have the power to unilaterally throw out electoral college votes as Trump and some of his attorneys had wrongly insisted.

Under normal circumstances, the vote-tallying procedure would be a mere formality — the final step in the complicated technical process of electing a new Administration. But after losing court case after court case and with no further options at hand, Trump and his allies had zeroed in on January 6 as their last-ditch chance to try to influence the outcome.

They spent days in a futile bid trying to convince Pence that the Vice-President had the power to reject electors from battleground states that voted for Biden, even though the Constitution makes clear the Vice-President’s role in the joint session is largely ceremonial, much like a master of ceremonies.

Pence’s move was an expected outcome, but one that carved a dramatic fissure between Trump and Pence, his once most loyal lieutenant. In a dramatic split screen, Pence released the statement just after he arrived at the Capitol yesterday to tally the votes and as the President was telling thousands of supporters gathered near the White House that Pence could overturn them if he wanted.

“If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election,” Trump wrongly told supporters, who later marched through Washington and stormed the Capitol. He repeatedly returned to Pence throughout his speech, voicing frustration as he tried to pressure the Vice-President to fall in line.

“Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, it’s a sad day for our country,” he said.

Trump, who has spent the past two months refusing to acknowledge his defeat, later tweeted his disapproval.

“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,” he wrote. “USA demands the truth!”

‘I’ve never seen Pence as angry as he was today’

Pence, too, was fuming.

“I’ve known Mike Pence forever,” Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma told Tulsa World. “I’ve never seen Pence as angry as he was today.”

“He said, ‘After all the things I’ve done for [Trump],”‘ Inhofe added.

Pence is eyeing his own run for president in 2024.

Despite claims by Trump and his allies, there was not widespread fraud in the election. This has been confirmed by a range of election officials and by William Barr, who stepped down as Trump’s Attorney-General last month. Neither Trump nor any of the lawmakers who objected to the count have presented credible evidence that would change the outcome.

– AP

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