New York: The U.S. Congress formally certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November 3 general election this week after its session was interrupted for hours by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters who breached security barriers and stormed the Capitol building in Washington.
Late on Wednesday houses of Congress resumed their work on certifying Biden’s Electoral College win, with debate stretching into the early hours of Thursday.
After debate, the Senate and the House of Representatives rejected two objections to the tally and certified the final Electoral College vote with Biden receiving 306 votes and Trump 232 votes. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the proceedings, in declaring the final vote totals behind Biden’s victory, said this “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the person’s elected president and vice president of the United States.”
In a statement released just after the certification was finalized, Trump at long last acknowledged his election loss. He said that even though he disagrees with the outcome, “there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”
“I have always said we would continue our … fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
The certification of Biden and Vice President-elected Kamala Harris was interrupted suddenly when Trump loyalists objecting to Biden’s victory forced their way into the building.
A woman who was shot inside the Capitol was killed, one of four people who died in the mayhem, officials say. President Trump expressed support for the mob even as he urged them to leave the Capitol building. The president-elect denounced what he called was the “insurrection”.
US Vice-President Pence started the resumed session on Wednesday evening, in which lawmakers counted and confirmed electoral votes, saying it had been a “dark day in the history of the United States Capitol”.
The rampage came as two Democrats won Senate seats in elections in the state of Georgia, which shifted the balance of Congress to their party’s effective political control, aiding the passage of Biden’s agenda after he is inaugurated on 20 January.
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said the woman shot by police was part of a group of individuals that forced entry into the House room, which was still in session. They were confronted by plainclothes officers, and an officer pulled out a weapon and fired it.
The woman was taken to hospital and proclaimed dead. She has not been officially named, but local media identified her as San Diego-area US Air Force veteran and Trump supporter Ashli Babbit.
Officials said the three other deaths included one woman and two men, but details of how they died have not been made public. At least 14 members of the police were injured during the unrest.
Protesters surged up the Capitol steps at about 14:15 local time (19:15 GMT), shoving past barricades and officers in riot gear to penetrate the building.
The action was targeting the joint session of Congress being held to certify Mr Biden’s election victory on 3 November. The invasion sent members of Congress scrambling for cover under their seats as tear gas was fired.
Satellite image of the Capitol showing where mob entered at the east entrance
The mob – some of whom wore body armour – used chemical irritants to attack police, according to Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee.
They shouted and waved pro-Trump and US flags as they roamed the halls, demanding the results of the presidential election be overturned.
Several thousand National Guard troops, FBI agents and US Secret Service were deployed to help overwhelmed Capitol police.
Two pipe bombs were recovered, one from the Democratic National Committee offices, not far from the Capitol, and one from the nearby Republican National Committee headquarters.
The occupation of the Capitol lasted more than three hours before the building was secured by law enforcement. But there was little sign the protesters were heeding Trump’s call to go home, despite a citywide curfew declared by the city mayor.
So far, more than 52 people have been arrested – 47 of them for curfew violations