Votes and violence
The upheaval of yesterdays events is over for the moment, but many of us are still processing the scale and depth of what occurred. While we gather additional insights, it’s helpful to review the facts as we know them thus far. Here is a brief summary of events as of late Thursday afternoon.
Yesterday, January 6th, Congress met in joint session to record and certify electoral college votes previously tallied and approved by each state. The process of certifying these validated state counts is a procedural step in the complete presidential election process that ends with the inauguration on January 20th.
Prior to yesterday’s convening, President Trump had raised questions about the validity of some of the state’s certifications, based on unfounded claims of voter fraud, and active support for this claim from several Republican Senators and Representatives had led them to plan objections to some state counts during the certification session. The President promoted these objections with the hope of convincing Congress to disqualify enough states to be able to reverse Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Trump had also requested the Vice-President, who oversees the congressional certification, to invalidate the counts from those several states (something the Vice-President does not legally have the authority to do).
Communications by Trump to his followers in recent weeks had also targeted the joint certification session, calling on supporters to gather in Washington D.C. on January 6th to “save our democracy” from voter fraud and a “stolen” election. Thwarted by Vice-President Pence’s refusal to comply with the request to block state certified counts, Trump met his followers near the capitol, urging them to “fight hard” to overturn Biden’s win. Encouraged and emboldened by the president’s remarks, crowds converged on the capitol building, breached the entrances, overwhelmed local police, and entered Congress as the certification process was under way.
For the next four hours, House and Senate members sheltered in place or were evacuated to secure rooms as protestors moved through the building, defacing offices and reportedly “looking for Pence” and other individuals who Trump supporters now considered their enemies. By dusk, four people had died, one of a gunshot wound and three of medical emergencies sparked by the unfurling events.
Despite the unprecedented and violent nature of the Capitol assault, no response or directive was forthcoming from the President or his administration during this time. As the hours passed, there were repeated and increasingly loud calls from current and past administration officials, as well as from President-elect Joe Biden, urging the president to address his supporters and direct them to leave the Capitol. Reports from within the White House during this time state that Trump appeared enthusiastic about the attack and resisted or delayed calling for the national guard, which could have supported the overwhelmed capitol police and brought order to the site more quickly. Shortly after 4:00 p.m., and under growing pressure, Trump issued a brief message that re-iterated false claims of election fraud. Voicing admiration for his supporters, who were still in the Capitol where the Vice-President and others were sequestered, protected by a few lone security staff, the President ended his message saying to the attackers: “go home, we love you.” Within an hour, with Vice-President Mike Pence speaking for the White House, the national guard was deployed to clear the area.
Determined not to be frustrated in carrying out their duties, Congress re-convened in the evening and, working until the early hours of Thursday, completed the certification process. Democratic Senators Heinrich and Lujan, as well as Representative Legere, all voiced their desire to resume the work of governing and complete the tasks as planned. While several Republicans did abandon their objections in response to the link that the recent Capitol attack had created between a false narrative of election fraud and armed insurrection, several Senators and over 100 Representatives were undeterred and raised objections to state certified counts for Pennsylvania. New Mexico Republican Representative Yvette Herrell was one of the objectors. These challenges were defeated and Congress adjourned having formally certified Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice-President of the United States.
The assault on the Capitol reverberated across the country as other, smaller disturbances at state government offices occurred in capitol cities. In Santa Fe, approximately 500 Trump supporters, some on horseback, arrived at the capitol building, which was quickly evacuated and closed. No one was injured.
As information about yesterday’s events is reviewed and debated, there has been growing alarm about the President’s role in encouraging the attack on the Capitol and the absence of leadership he displayed as events unfolded. Several key Republican leaders broke with the president late yesterday, including Vice-President Pence and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom had been strong Trump supporters previously. With mounting criticisms from high ranking political leaders in both parties, and several abrupt resignations from current administration officials during the past 24 hours, concern over the nation’s safety under President Trump’s final days in office has grown. The actions and gestures that play out over the coming days will continue to address these issues and will set the tone for the opening days of the new administration. In the meantime, the images of yesterday will remain vivid in our minds.
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