WASHINGTON — A violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and forced lawmakers into hiding, in a stunning attempt to overturn America’s presidential election, undercut the nation’s democracy and keep Democrat Joe Biden from replacing Trump in the White House.
The nation’s elected representatives scrambled to crouch under desks and don gas masks, while police futilely tried to barricade the building, one of the most jarring scenes ever to unfold in a seat of American political power. A woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol, and Washington’s mayor instituted an evening curfew in an attempt to contain the violence.
The rioters were egged on by Trump, who has spent weeks falsely attacking the integrity of the election and had urged his supporters to descend on Washington to protest Congress’ formal approval of Biden’s victory. Some Republican lawmakers were in the midst of raising objections to the results on his behalf when the proceedings were abruptly halted by the mob.
Together, the protests and the GOP election objections amounted to an almost unthinkable challenge to American democracy and exposed the depths of the divisions that have coursed through the country during Trump’s four years in office. Though the efforts to block Biden from being sworn in on Jan. 20 were sure to fail, the support Trump has received for his efforts to overturn the election results have badly strained the nation’s democratic guardrails.
Congress reconvened in the evening, lawmakers decrying the protests that defaced the Capitol and vowing to finish confirming the Electoral College vote for Biden’s election, even if it took all night.
Before dawn Thursday, lawmakers completed their work, confirming Biden won the presidential election.
Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the joint session, announced the tally, 306-232.
Trump, who had steadfastly refused to concede the election, said in a statement immediately after the vote there “will be an orderly transition" of power on inauguration day.
“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 an aide.
Pence had reopened the Senate after the harrowing day and directly addressed the demonstrators: “You did not win.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the “failed insurrection” underscored lawmakers’ duty to finish the count. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would show the world “what America is made of" with the outcome.
The president gave his supporters a boost into action Wednesday morning at a rally outside the White House, where he urged them to march to the Capitol. He spent much of the afternoon in his private dining room off the Oval Office watching scenes of the violence on television. At the urging of his staff, he reluctantly issued a pair of tweets and a taped video telling his supporters it was time to “go home in peace” — yet he still said he backed their cause.
Hours later, Twitter for the first time time locked Trump’s account, demanded that he remove tweets excusing violence and threatened “permanent suspension.”
A somber President-elect Biden, two weeks away from being inaugurated, said American democracy was “under unprecedented assault, ” a sentiment echoed by many in Congress, including some Republicans. Former President George W. Bush said he watched the events in “disbelief and dismay.”
The domed Capitol building has for centuries been the scene of protests and occasional violence. But Wednesday’s events were particularly astounding both because they unfolded at least initially with the implicit blessing of the president and because of the underlying goal of overturning the results of a free and fair presidential election.
Tensions were already running high when lawmakers gathered early Wednesday afternoon for the constitutionally mandated counting of the Electoral College results, in which Biden defeated Trump, 306-232. Despite pleas from McConnell, more than 150 GOP lawmakers planned to support objections to some of the results, though lacking evidence of fraud or wrongdoing in the election.
Trump spent the lead-up to the proceedings publicly hectoring Pence, who had a largely ceremonial role, to aid the effort to throw out the results. He tweeted: “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
But Pence, in a statement shortly before presiding, defied Trump, saying he could not claim “unilateral authority” to reject the electoral votes that make Biden president.
In the aftermath, several Republicans announced they would drop their objections to the election, including Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who lost her bid for reelection Tuesday.
Earlier, protesters had fought past police and breached the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they marched through the halls, many without masks during the COVID-19 crisis. Lawmakers were told to duck under their seats for cover and put on gas masks after tear gas was used in the Capitol Rotunda. Some House lawmakers tweeted they were sheltering in place in their offices.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., told reporters he was in the House chamber when rioters began storming it. Security officers “made us all get down, you could see that they were fending off some sort of assault."
He said they had a piece of furniture up against the door. "And they had guns pulled,” Peters said. Glass panes to a House door were shattered.
The woman who was killed was part of a crowd that was breaking down the doors to a barricaded room where armed officers stood on the other side, police said. She was shot in the chest by Capitol Police and taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. City police said three other people died from medical emergencies during the long protest on and around the Capitol grounds.
Staff members grabbed boxes of Electoral College votes as the evacuation took place. Otherwise, said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the ballots likely would have been destroyed by the protesters.
The mob’s storming of Congress prompted outrage, mostly from Democrats but from Republicans as well, as lawmakers accused Trump of fomenting the violence with his relentless falsehoods about election fraud.
“Count me out,” said Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Enough is enough.”
Several suggested that Trump be prosecuted for a crime or even removed under the Constitution's 25th Amendment, which seemed unlikely two weeks from when his term expires.
“I think Donald Trump probably should be brought up on treason for something like this,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., told reporters. “This is how a coup is started. And this is how democracy dies.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who’s at times clashed with Trump, issued a statement saying, “Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the President’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Despite Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud, election officials and his own former attorney general have said there were no problems on a scale that would change the outcome. All the states have certified their results as fair and accurate, by Republican and Democratic officials alike.
Punctuating their resolve, both the House and Senate soundly rejected an objection to election results from Arizona, which had been raised by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and another from Pennsylvania brought by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa. Still, most House Republicans supported the objections. Other objections to results from Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin fizzled.
The Pentagon said about 1,100 District of Columbia National Guard members were being mobilized to help support law enforcement at the Capitol. More than a dozen people were arrested.
As darkness fell, law enforcement officers worked their way toward the protesters, using percussion grenades to clear the area around the Capitol. Big clouds of tear gas were visible. Police in full riot gear moved down the steps, clashing with demonstrators.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Kevin Freking, Alan Fram, Matthew Daly, Ben Fox and Ashraf Khalil in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.
CASA GRANDE — A woman led Casa Grande Police officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents on a chase through Casa Grande that reached speeds between 80 and 90 mph on Dec. 28.
According to Casa Grande Police reports, Denise M. Gonzalez, 27, was arrested on suspicion of endangerment, unlawful flight from a law enforcement vehicle and reckless driving. She may face future charges from the U.S. Border Patrol.
At 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 28, a black Nissan XTerra failed to yield at an immigration checkpoint near North Komelik Village on the Tohono O’odham Nation, about 30 miles south of Casa Grande, Border Patrol Public Affairs Specialist John Mennell stated in an email. An agent stationed north of the checkpoint tried to stop the vehicle but the driver of the SUV ignored the agent’s lights and sirens and proceeded north toward Casa Grande. The agent stopped the pursuit of the vehicle and notified Casa Grande Police of the suspect vehicle.
At 8:08 p.m., a Casa Grande Police officer noticed a woman in a white jacket, later identified as Gonzalez, gassing up a black Nissan XTerra at the Fastrip on North Pinal Avenue. As the officer turned around to enter the gas station, the woman darted into the vehicle. The officer notified dispatch that he had found a vehicle matching the description provided by Border Patrol.
The first officer applied lights and sirens when Gonzalez started her vehicle and pulled away from the gas pumps. She allegedly exited the gas station onto Cottonwood Lane.
A second officer joined the chase as Gonzalez allegedly started to drive east on Cottonwood Lane, reaching speeds of around 80 to 90 mph. Officers noted that traffic on Cottonwood Lane at that time was light to medium. Gonzalez also allegedly traveled through several intersections at high speed and ran a red light at Cottonwood Lane and Peart Road.
She allegedly continued to drive east over the Interstate 10 overpass, running a stop sign at Cottonwood Lane and Hacienda Road and reaching speeds between 75 and 90 mph.
When she reached Overfield Road, Gonzalez allegedly slowed and made a right turn onto Overfield. When she made the turn, she allegedly crossed the double yellow line and started driving south in the northbound lane. A motorist in the northbound lane had to pull off the road in order to avoid being hit by Gonzalez’s vehicle. After the near miss, Gonzalez allegedly pulled into the southbound lane and continued to drive at a high rate of speed.
She then allegedly turned right onto Florence Boulevard and lost control of the vehicle. The Casa Grande Police officer reported seeing the vehicle spin in a circle and come to a stop on the south side of Florence Boulevard facing east. Gonzalez then started driving east on Florence Boulevard and turned back on to Overfield Road, driving north. The officer noted speeds at this point in the chase were around 90 mph. Gonzalez allegedly made a U-turn, nearly striking one officer’s patrol vehicle.
As Gonzalez and the officers drove south on Overfield Road, the lead officer noticed another patrol vehicle parked on the east side of the road with its lights on. As Gonzalez’s vehicle passed the patrol vehicle, the officer following her saw tire deflation devices emerge from under her vehicle. The officer was able to avoid the devices but a second officer following him was not. The driver’s-side tires on the second officer’s patrol vehicle were flattened by the devices and the patrol vehicle had to be towed back to the police station.
The first officer continued to pursue Gonzalez’s vehicle and reported to dispatch that at least one of the black SUV’s tires appeared to be flat because sparks were coming from one wheel.
The officer who placed the tire deflation devices later reported that the devices had punctured both tires on the driver’s side of Gonzalez’s vehicle.
Gonzalez allegedly made a right turn back onto Florence Boulevard, slowly driving west in the eastbound lanes before moving back into the westbound lanes and picking up speed. The officer reported the vehicle was able to get up to about 70 mph and was shedding pieces of tire.
As the pursuit started to get closer to the center of town, traffic became heavier and the officer called off the pursuit around Henness Road when Gonzalez allegedly started weaving through traffic. The officer turned off his lights and sirens but continued to follow the black SUV at a distance.
A Border Patrol agent who had also been participating in the chase continued to follow Gonzalez’s vehicle and then canceled his pursuit near Trekell Road. He also continued to follow the black SUV and reported that the vehicle had stopped in the westbound lanes near Cameron Avenue and that four people had bailed out of the vehicle.
The Casa Grande Police officer who had been following at distance arrived to see the XTerra parked in the westbound lanes with the doors open and a woman he had previously identified as the driver fleeing toward Casa Grande City Hall.
The officer drove to the west side of City Hall, parked and pursued the driver on foot. He also noticed two men north fleeing from the scene and notified dispatch. The officer was able to catch up to and place the driver, Gonzalez, in handcuffs.
Another officer was able to catch the two men fleeing north and the Border Patrol agent caught another man who was seen fleeing from the area. The Border Patrol agent confirmed that the XTerra and Gonzalez were the same vehicle and driver that had fled from the checkpoint earlier in the evening.
As she was standing next to the Casa Grande officer’s patrol vehicle, Gonzalez allegedly gave the officer a false name and Social Security number. She also allegedly told the officer that she wanted to stop but someone was holding a gun to her head and that she feared for the safety of her family because “they” knew where she lived. She also allegedly told the officer that the people who were threatening her and her family were following her and wouldn’t have let her stop. She allegedly said that someone in the vehicle had told her to drive the wrong way.
She also allegedly admitted to fleeing from the Border Patrol checkpoint.
Gonzalez and the other occupants of the vehicle, as well as the XTerra, were turned over to Border Patrol. Border Patrol later returned Gonzalez to Casa Grande Police to be arrested on suspicion of the unlawful flight, endangerment and reckless driving charges.
PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court late Tuesday threw out the last remaining legal challenge in state courts to the choice of voters here of Joe Biden for president.
Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said only those people who are “qualified electors’’ have the right to sue to overturn a vote. But he said Pinal County resident Staci Burk had not been registered to vote in the 2020 race, meaning she lacked legal standing to file suit in the first place.
Brutinel, writing for himself and three other justices who reviewed the case, acknowledged that Burk contends that her registration was improperly canceled.
The justices did not rule on that nor dispute her argument. But Brutinel said it doesn’t matter.
“She admits that she was well aware before the election that she would not be able to vote in the general election,’’ the chief justice wrote. “There is nothing before the court to indicate that (Burk) timely contacted the appropriate authorities to correct any problems with her voter registration.’’
In her claim, Burk alleged widespread fraud and improper tallying by voting machines. She also claims that someone had flown a batch of ballots into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, some of which Burk said were taken to the Maricopa County ballot tabulation center.
Burk never got a hearing on her claims after her case was tossed last month by Pinal County Superior Court Judge Kevin White who also concluded she had no legal right to sue.
White also found — and the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed — that Burk, who represented herself, waited too long to file suit.
Brutinel said the deadline to challenge the formal canvass of the election as Dec. 7. And while she did file legal papers that day, the chief justice said it was not a properly verified complaint.
Burke stated in a text message to a PinalCentral reporter Wednesday that she plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While Tuesday’s ruling wraps up all the election cases in state, there are technically two other cases that originated here which remain on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
One by Kelli Ward, who chairs the Arizona Republican Party, contends judges here did not give her enough time to examine ballots to prove her claim of election irregularities. In that case, the judge cited deadlines for completing the state process and concluded that a random sample that was examined showed there were not enough errors to overturn the fact that Biden defeated Trump.
Only thing is, the justices have given the defendants in that case — the 11 electors pledged to Biden — until Jan. 14 to respond. That is eight days after Congress convenes to review the electoral votes and formally declare the winner of the race.
The second involves Ward and the other 10 would-be Republican electors who allege a series of problems in how the election was conducted, including fraud and “statistical improbability’’ that Biden could have won the race here. But a response to that is not due until Jan. 28, more than a week after the presidential inauguration.