What happened in Washington DC yesterday? A timeline of insurrection

Pro-Trump rioters hold Capitol under siege as president falsely insists election ‘stolen’ from them

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 06 January 2021 22:27 EST
Trump supporters clash with police on Capitol steps

A far-right insurrection attempt – incited by president Donald Trump, organised on right-wing social media networks and propelled by conspiracies and false claims of voter fraud – has rocked the US Capitol, forced elected officials to seek shelter and sought to undermine millions of Americans’ votes in the 2020 presidential election. At least four people are dead.

On 6 January, a joint session of Congress convened in Washington DC to formally count the Electoral College votes and certify Joe Biden’s election. Lawmakers were forced into recess and ordered to shelter in place and evacuate, as pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol and broke into chambers and offices.

The president has insisted to his supporters that the election was stolen from them, despite no meaningful evidence from his campaign or own administration and election officials across the US. The president and his legal team have relied instead on conspiracy theories amplified by right-wing news networks and unchecked on social media networks.

Follow live: Four people killed in Capitol riots

Here is a timeline of events from 6 January.

10am, Rudy Giuliani tells a pro-Trump rally crowd in Washington DC that he is “willing to stake [his] reputation” on election fraud.

“And if we're wrong, we will be made fools of,” he says. “But if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let's have trial by combat.”

Trump urges Pence to ‘do the right thing’ and overturn election result

Noon, The president joins the rally, announcing that he wants his vice president Mike Pence – who presides over the joint session of Congress performing the formal count of the Electoral College results – to do “the right thing."

Trump and his allies have pushed for the vice president to reject electoral results, effectively overturning already-certified votes and invalidating millions of Americans’ votes. The president says Pence is “gonna have to come through for us.”

“What takes courage is to do nothing, and then we're stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot,” the president says. "Mike Pence, I hope you're gonna stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you're not, I'm going to be very disappointed in you, I will tell you right now. I'm not hearing good stories.”

He adds: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard today.”

1pm, After facing pressure from the president and his allies to reject election results, the vice president issues a statement to members of Congress moments before the session started.

“It is my considered judgment than my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrained me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

He told lawmakers that Some believe that as vice president, I should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally. Others believe that electoral votes should never be challenged in a Joint Session of Congress," he told lawmakers in his letter. "After a careful study of our Constitution, our laws, and our history, I believe neither view is correct.”

Congress calls surprise recess as protesters storm Capitol building

2pm, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell objects to attempts to reject the results of the election, warning measures to do so “will damage our republic forever.”

“We're debating a step that has never been taken in American history –whether Congress should overrule the voters and overturn a presidential election,” he says

2.15pm, Capitol police alert congressional staff that “no entry or exit is permitted” at all Capitol buildings “due to an external security threat.”

2.20pm, House and Senate are in recess.

2.24pm, The president posts to Twitter: “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. USA demands the truth!”

2.30pm, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser issues a 12-hour citywide curfew beginning at 6pm.

At the Capitol, law enforcement tell House lawmakers to wear gas masks, as doors to the chambers are barricaded. Rioters break glass gallery doors, and members and staff on the floor are evacuated. Members in the upper gallery area shelter in place and under chairs.

Police fire tear gas in the rotunda, and Capitol police draw guns at the doors of the House chamber. Shots are fired.

A woman is shot inside the Capitol.

Moment pro-Trump rioters storm Senate chamber

3.13pm, Trump tells supporters “no violence”:“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!

3.16pm, Republican Congressman Paul Gosar, whose objection to Arizona’s electoral college votes initiated debate on Wednesday, tells supporters “let’s not get carried away.”

“I said let’s do an audit,” he says on Twitter. “I don’t want anyone hurt.”

Read more: Can Trump be removed from office immediately if Pence uses 25th amendment?

3.35pm, Pence announces on Twitter: “The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now. Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building.”

3.36pm, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announces that the National Guard has been mobilised. 

4pm, In remarks from Delaware, the president-elect urges the president to “fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”

“It’s not a protest – it’s insurrection,” he says. “The world’s watching. I am genuinely shocked and sad that our nation, so long the beacon of light and hope for democracy, has come to such a dark moment.”

4.15pm, Capitol police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigate a suspicious item near the Republican National Committee headquarters building on First Street.

Biden demands Trump make national address to end Capitol siege

4.17, Moments after the president-elect’s remarks, Trump posts a pre-taped message to his social media, falsely insisting that the election was “stolen” from his supporters and that he won “in a landslide” before telling rioters to “go home now.”

“We have to have peace, we have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order,” he says. “This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people.”

5.30pm, Rioters occupy Capitol offices.

6pm, Washington DC police announce that the woman who was shot among rioters inside the Capitol has died.

7pm, Twitter removes three of the president’s posts for “repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy.” His account is locked for 12 hours.

Mike Pence returns to the Senate; he did not leave the Capitol during the course of the riots.

7.30pm, Law enforcement officers escort lawmakers into their respective chambers.

‘Violence never wins’: Pence condemns Capitol riot

8pm, Mike Pence reconvenes the Senate. Following his opening remarks, he says: “Let’s get back to work.”

“We will not be kept out of this chamber by mobs, thugs or threats,” says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Through war and chaos at home and abroad, “the clockwork of our Democracy has carried on,” he adds. “They tried to disrupt Democracy – they failed. They failed.”

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says rioters should be “provided no leniency” and face prosecution.

“This president bears a great deal of the blame,” he says. “This mob was in good part president Trump’s doing, incited by his words, his lies.”

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