US President Donald Trump says 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.
His personal 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.
Trump added, “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!”
Trump had encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol to protest lawmakers’ actions, expressed empathy for the mob, which violently forced its way inside, clashed with police and forced lawmakers into hiding.
“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.
Twitter later locked his account for the first time as it demanded he remove the tweets and threatened “permanent suspension”.
Trump’s response to the violence underscored his monthslong obsession with trying to overturn the results of the election, spending the final days of his presidency angrily stewing and lashing out at Republicans for perceived disloyalty.
Trump spent much of this today 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 Vice President Mike Pence, who said he would not overturn the will of voters in the congressional electoral count.
Pence defies Trump, affirms Biden win
Pence defied the President tonight (early Thursday morning US time) as he affirmed President-elect 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 today acknowledged he did not have the power to unilaterally throw out electoral college votes as Trump and some of his attorneys had wrongly insisted.
Pence, as the session came to an end, said the count “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration” of Biden’s victory, but offered no words of congratulations to the incoming Administration. It capped an extraordinary day of chaos, violence and division after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, sending lawmakers into hiding and delaying the proceeding.
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 acknowledged that reality in a lengthy statement today laying out his conclusion that a Vice-President cannot claim “unilateral authority” to reject states’ electoral votes.
“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 wrote in a letter to members of Congress that was released shortly before he gavelled in the joint session of Congress. Not long after, the angry mob swarmed the Capitol, overwhelmed police and halted the process that had been under way.
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 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!”
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.
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.
While Pence’s allies had made clear that he intended to defy Trump and hew to the Constitution, the Vice-President’s move was nonetheless a significant departure for a man who has spent the past four years defending the President at every turn and carefully avoiding his ire.
Pence is eyeing his own run for President is 2024, and the episode could damage his prospects, especially if Trump — or supporters who were wrongly convinced Pence had the power to change the outcome — maintain a grudge. Even out of office, Trump is expected to remain the de facto leader of the Republican Party and a political kingmaker for years to come.
Trump spent much today consumed with anger over Pence’s action, even as violent protesters swarmed the US Capitol, forcing lawmakers into hiding and grinding the proceedings to a halt, according to a White House official who spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
Pence was ushered out of the Senate chamber to a secure location as protesters breached the building. Pence never left the Capitol, according to his chief spokesman, and was in “regular contact” with House and Senate leadership, Capitol Police, and the departments of defence and justice throughout the ordeal.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol must stop and it must stop now,” Pence later tweeted. “Anyone involved must respect law enforcement officers and immediately leave the building.”
After the House and Senate reconvened hours later, Pence reopened the proceedings and returned to the task of opening the certificates of electoral votes from each state and presenting them to the appointed “tellers” from the House and Senate in alphabetical order.
After hours of roll calls and debate, he announced the contests’ winners — Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris — formalising his and Trump’s defeat.