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LIVE: Trump Supporters Storm U.S. Capitol; Congress Evacuates, Electoral Vote Stalled

(Jan. 6) Pro-Trump protesters surged into the U.S. Capitol amid an extraordinary attempt by a group of House and Senate Republicans to object to the Electoral College results, disrupting a process that historically had been a quadrennial post-election formality.

Supporters of President Donald Trump and his baseless claims that he lost the November election because of fraud marched into the rotunda of the Capitol building as the House and Senate were debating the objections.

The House and Senate were temporarily recessed and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the joint session of Congress, was whisked away from the House floor. Security officials were preparing to evacuate lawmakers. Doors to the House and Senate chambers were locked.

The chaotic scene unfolded as the House and Senate were debating an objection to Arizona’s electoral vote count by a group of Trump allies in an attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election, an effort that is destined to fail.

The objection, the first of three expected to come from lawmakers in both chambers, are certain to be rejected by Democrats along with a number of GOP lawmakers. But the action hardened the bitter partisanship in Congress and exposed deep rifts in the Republican Party under Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decried the attempts by some of his GOP colleagues to cast doubt on the validity of the election won by Democrat Joe Biden, warning it would put democracy in the U.S. into a “death spiral.”

“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our Republic forever.”

Objections to Electoral College counts have been raised before, but never have such efforts gained as much partisan momentum or been embraced by the occupant of the Oval Office. Trump has refused to concede the election, making baseless claims of voter fraud.

McConnell, who has been cautious in dealing with Trump over the past four years, said the president’s arguments have included “sweeping conspiracy theories” and that while he has supported Trump’s right to court challenges they were rejected by courts including those overseen by “all-star judges” who Trump nominated.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is presiding over the joint session, also defied the president, saying in a letter to Congress that he has no power to intervene.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence said in the letter.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, speaking in the Senate after McConnell, said the outcome of the proceedings was clear and that the effort by Republicans to reverse the election was an embarrassment to them, their part and the country.

He said they risk damaging “our great and grand democracy.” The peaceful transfer of power in the U.S., he said, is extolled by second-graders “but not by some here.”

Congress is ultimately expected to certify the outcome that gave Biden 306 electoral votes, followed by his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Trump has encouraged the objections and the protests, calling McConnell and others the “Surrender Caucus” and repeating baseless claims that the election was rigged.

He has also egged on his supporters at a protest in Washington just before Congress convened. In front of more than a thousand people gathered at a park south of the White House Wednesday Trump said he wouldn’t concede his loss in the election, which he claims without evidence was tainted by vote fraud.

“We will never give up, we will never concede,” he told the crowd. “We won this election. We won it in a landslide.”

Later, he urged his supporters to stay peaceful and respect the police. But he also excoriated Pence for not trying to block the electoral count.

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