For weeks, US President Trump has been talking about election fraud and inciting his supporters more and more. After a rally in Washington there are chaotic scenes. Republican supporters forcefully invade the Capitol. The outrage is great – in both political camps.
US President Donald Trump is likely to have chosen the time of the appearance in front of his supporters on Wednesday. Shortly before noon, the Republican took the stage not far from the White House. Just over an hour later, Congress is due to meet in the nearby Capitol to confirm Trump’s electoral defeat against Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential election. It is the last formal hurdle before Biden’s swearing-in in two weeks, as the de-elected incumbent knows too – who is resisting his defeat with increasing despair.
Trump encourages his supporters to pull up in front of the Capitol. There, representatives and senators are supposed to certify the results from the states at a joint meeting, which clearly see Biden as the winner. “We will go there and I will be with you,” shouts Trump, even if he apparently means the latter symbolically, because he will then return to the White House. “We will not allow them to silence your voices,” shouts Trump. “We will never give up.”
Afterwards, the conflict over the election result of November 3, which Trump has been fueling for weeks, escalates completely. Hardcore Republican supporters are compared by critics to a cult, for them his word is law. The demonstrators are not satisfied with peaceful protest in front of the building that houses both chambers of the US Parliament. First there are clashes with the Capitol Police. Then protesters overcome barricades and penetrate the heavily secured building.
Woman wounded dies
At that point in time, senators and MPs withdrew from the joint session to their respective chambers. The reason: Trump’s most loyal supporters among the representatives of the people have presented Trump’s objection to the result in the state of Arizona because of the unsubstantiated fraud allegations, now it must be debated and voted separately. Several such appeals should follow later in the day. But then the meetings have to be interrupted because of the escalating violence, MPs and senators have to be brought to safety.
The police in the capital announced that after the storming of the Capitol, a woman was shot in the building under unexplained circumstances and that she later died. The mayor of the capital, Muriel Bowser, imposed a night curfew from 6 p.m. because of the violence and called on police forces from surrounding states to reinforce them. The National Guard is mobilized.
Some demonstrators make no secret of their willingness to use violence – on the contrary. “It’s a shame that we didn’t burn down the whole building,” one of them told a dpa reporter. Another Trump supporter says the Capitol was stormed “to hang the traitors”. Another said with a view to the intrusion into the parliament building: “Of course this is not what we want, but it is what has to happen now.”
Trump conjured up this unprecedented incident, now he is trying on Twitter to at least end the violence. He asks to help the police. “You are really on the side of our country. Stay peaceful!” He writes. In another tweet, the current president wrote: “I ask everyone at the US Capitol to stay peaceful. No violence!”
Twitter and Facebook block Trump on their platforms
What Trump doesn’t do: condemn the attack. And he takes a lot of time for the appeal to his thousands of supporters who are encircling the parliament building or even storming past security officers to disperse. “I know how you are feeling, but go home,” said Trump in a video he shared on Twitter in the late afternoon. Then he praises the demonstrators: “We love you, you are very special.” And he claims again that the election was “stolen”. Later, Facebook and Twitter block Trump for several hours.
Even Trump’s former communications director Alyssa Farah writes on his Twitter address, it sounds almost pleading: “Condemn this now, @realDonaldTrump – you are the only one you will listen to. For our country!” In a memorable tweet, Farah added later: “I am one of you,” she wrote to the address of Trump supporters. “I campaigned for Trump and voted for him. But you have to listen to me: the election was not stolen. We lost.”
In an address to his compatriots, Biden emphasizes that “storming the Capitol” is not a protest. He speaks of an “unprecedented attack” on democracy. The storming of Congress also caused indignation and bewilderment among MPs and senators across all parties. Republican MP Adam Kinziger writes on Twitter: “This is an attempted coup.” His Democratic colleague Katherine Clark says: “This is an attack on America.”
Close Trump confidante Ted Cruz leads the group of senators who do not want to recognize the election results. He also writes: “Those who storm the Capitol must stop now.” Anyone who practices violence is damaging the cause. Senator Lindsey Graham, who is usually staunchly by Trump’s side, says, “This is a national embarrassment.”
Pence goes to Trump on the dance floor
This “embarrassment” was preceded by a month-long game of Trump with fire. Long before the election, he did not want to commit himself to whether he would accept the result. He also refused to promise a peaceful transfer of power should he lose. From his point of view, he made it clear on Wednesday afternoon at his appearance, he is the winner. One of his crude arguments is shortened like this: Because he got millions more votes than in his victory in 2016, he couldn’t have lost. From his point of view, there is only one reason that Biden had even more votes: fraud.
In recent weeks, however, it must have become increasingly clear to Trump that his chances are dwindling – even allies such as the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, recognized Biden’s election victory. Dozens of lawsuits from the Trump camp have been thrown out, including from judges Trump appointed and the Supreme Court.
Trump put his last hope in Vice President Mike Pence, who is also President of the Senate and chaired the joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Hardly anyone has been more loyal to Trump in recent years than Pence, who has so far liked to begin his sentences with the words “Thanks to your leadership, Mr. President”. Trump has now openly called on Pence to reject the votes of “fraudulently” selected voters – and thus overturn Biden’s victory in the final meters.
Immediately before the start of the congressional session, however, Pence made it clear in a statement that he had no authority to do so under the constitution. Trump then wrote on Twitter: “Mike Pence did not have the courage to do what should be done to protect our country and our constitution.”
“You tried to disrupt our democracy”
Only in the early evening did the police manage to drive the Trump supporters out of the Capitol. After hours of interruption, the senators and members of parliament come together again – visibly shaken, but also determined not to let themselves get down. “You tried to disrupt our democracy. You failed,” says Senate Majority Leader McConnell.
Some of the senators also find clear words for Trump’s role in the matter. Democrat Dick Durbin says: “This mob was inspired by a president who cannot accept defeat.” And his Republican colleague Mitt Romney, an internal party critic of the president, said, “What happened here today was a riot started by the President of the United States.” Romney, once his party’s presidential candidate himself, speaks of the “injured pride of an egoist” and adds: “The truth is that President-elect Biden won the election. President Trump lost.”