Supporters of President Trump stormed the Capitol yesterday.Win Mcnamee/Getty Images
A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. Members of Congress — after fleeing for their safety — voted to confirm Biden’s victory.
Donald Trump has been attacking American democracy for much of his time as president.
He has told repeated lies about voter fraud, undermining people’s confidence in elections. He has defied parts of the Constitution. He has spent his final weeks in office pressuring other government officials to overturn the result of an election he lost. He has occasionally encouraged his supporters to commit violence.
Yesterday, hundreds of those supporters decided to take Trump literally.
They fought their way through armed police, smashed windows and stormed the U.S. Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. They then spent several hours inside the building, vandalizing offices and the House floor. They injured at least 14 law enforcement officers. Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress and others fled for their safety.
In the end, the rioters — and Trump — will fail in their effort to keep him in power. At about 3:45 a.m., Congress did confirm Biden’s victory. Thirteen days from now, he will take the oath of office and become president of the United States.
But a physical assault on the nation’s seat of government is no small thing. And it was not a onetime event. It was a logical extension of the message that Trump has long been telling his supporters — that American democracy is a fraud, that his opponents are traitors and that his allies need to fight back.
“We’re seeing more and more citizens expressing openness to violence, as more and more partisan leaders engage in the kinds of dehumanizing rhetoric that paves the way for taking violent action.”
Lee Drutman, a political scientist, told me almost three months ago.
Trump, speaking to the protesters at a rally hours before they burst into the Capitol, referred to his political opponents as “bad people” and “the enemy of the people.” He described his allies as “warriors” and encouraged them to stop “fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back.”
“We’re going to have to fight much harder.”
At the same rally, Rudy Giuliani said that Trump’s opponents should go to jail and added,
“We’re coming for you, and we’re going to have a good time doing it.”
And Donald Trump Jr., addressing congressional Republicans who planned to split from his father, said
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long."
After the violence, Trump himself wrote on social media,
Trump’s efforts are failing in large part because a significant number of Republicans have refused to go along with him. But many other high-level Republicans have echoed and encouraged him. Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and dozens of other members of Congress have fanned voters’ anger by promoting Trump’s lies about the election. (Here’s a list of Congress members who did so yesterday.) They have joined his attempts to undermine the American system of government.
“This is what you’ve gotten, guys,”
Senator Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican, yelled as the rioters breached the Capitol yesterday.
He was addressing his colleagues who have supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the election.
Shortly afterward, uniformed police officers evacuated senators and reporters from the chamber to the basement, before rushing them through underground tunnels to a secure location in a Senate office building. There, Romney saw Jonathan Martin, a Times reporter, and called for Jonathan to come over and talk. In 15 years of covering him, Jonathan said he had never seen Romney so alarmed.
“This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection,”
THE SCENE, IN PHOTOS
Trump loyalists and the police clashed outside the Capitol.Leah Millis/Reuters
Capitol Police trying to prevent pro-Trump extremists from entering the House chamber.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
President Trump spoke to his supporters, directing them toward the Capitol.Pete Marovich for The New York Times
Police officers in riot gear after security was breached at the Capitol.Joseph Prezioso/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Members of Congress ran for cover as pro-Trump extemists tried to break into the House chamber.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
A crowd gathered on the west front of the Capitol.Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Senator Josh Hawley gestured to Trump supporters outside the Capitol.Francis Chung/E&E News and Politico, via Associated Press