January 15th, 2021

Trump backers flood D.C., clash with Capitol police as Biden certification begins

By James McCarten, The Canadian Press on January 6, 2021.

Trump supporters walk past the dome of the Capitol Building in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Andrew Harnik

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Protesters loyal to President Donald Trump clashed with police Wednesday on Capitol Hill as lawmakers began the tension-filled, arduous process of certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

Video posted to Twitter showed some of the thousands of Trump loyalists who have crowded into the national capital trying to breach barricades while dozens of Capitol police officers struggled to hold them back.

As the tumult erupted, Congress began certifying the results of November’s presidential election, a process several House and Senate members have promised to oppose.

Tensions on the Hill erupted shortly after the president himself spent more than an hour airing familiar grievances before a crowd of thousands outside the White House, a sea of Trump banners and American flags snapping in a bitter January wind.

“We will never concede,” Trump bellowed to lusty cheers. “We will never give up.”

What is normally a staid exercise in constitutional process began Wednesday with Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz formally objecting to the electors from their states.

That triggered a maximum two hours of separate debate in the two chambers of Congress, a process that’s expected to repeat itself each time a member registers an objection.

In his refusal to acknowledge defeat, Trump has ratcheted up the pressure on Vice-President Mike Pence, who is presiding over today’s certification process, even though he has no real power to derail it.

Pence said as much Wednesday, even as Trump was outside urging his vice-president to “do the right thing.”

Several Republican lawmakers are expected to object to Biden’s win, citing phoney allegations of election fraud – a futile exercise that will ultimately do little beyond delaying the inevitable.

Adding to the tension is the shifting political landscape in Georgia, where Democrat Raphael Warnock was elected the state’s first Black senator and Jon Ossoff appears poised to unseat Republican Sen. David Perdue.

Two Democratic victories in Tuesday’s run-off elections would wrest control of the Senate away from the Republicans and provide a clearer path for Biden’s presidential agenda.

All of that is fuelling fears of violence in D.C., where Trump supporters clashed Tuesday night with police and members of the National Guard are on hand to help maintain order.

On Capitol Hill, all eyes will be on Pence – a loyal Trump lieutenant who finds himself caught between his devotion to the president and his obligations under the U.S. constitution.

Experts insist Pence’s role is strictly ceremonial and that he doesn’t have the power to reject electoral college votes.

Trump seems to disagree.

“If Vice-President Mike Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday – a message Twitter promptly stamped with its now-familiar “disputed” flag.

He followed that up with a direct appeal: “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021.

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