2021 storming of the United States Capitol

2021 storming of the United States Capitol
Part of the 2020–21 United States election protests and attempts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election
Clockwise from top: protesters gathering outside the Capitol; Donald Trump speaking to supporters at the "Save America" rally; a gallows that was erected by pro-Trump protesters outside the United States Capitol building; crowd is appearing to retreat from tear gas; tear gas being deployed outside the Capitol building; a crowd pressing in to the Capitol at the Eastern entrance
Date January 6, 2021 (2021-01-06)
Location
38°53′23.3″N 77°00′32.6″W / 38.889806°N 77.009056°W / 38.889806; -77.009056Coordinates: 38°53′23.3″N 77°00′32.6″W / 38.889806°N 77.009056°W / 38.889806; -77.009056
Caused by
Goals
Methods Rioting,[11] vandalism,[12] looting,[12] assault,[13] shootings,[14] arson,[15] tactics of terrorism[16] (intimidation,[17] intention to take hostages, kidnap and execute)[17]
Resulted in
Casualties and criminal charges
Death(s) 5[27]
Injuries
  • Unknown number of rioters injured, at least 5 rioters hospitalized[33]
  • 56 D.C. Metro Police officers injured[34]
  • 60 Capitol Police officers injured (15 hospitalized)[35]
Charged 200+ subject case files opened, including domestic terrorism, seditious conspiracy, and insurrection[36][37][38][39] (80+ charged, 34+ arrested, 140,000+ digital media tips received)[39]

The storming of the United States Capitol was a riot and violent attack against the 117th United States Congress at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. It was carried out by a mob of supporters of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, in an attempt to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.[2] The riot led to the evacuation and lockdown of the Capitol, and five deaths.

Called to action by Trump,[40] thousands[41] of his supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., on January 5 and 6 in support of his claim that the 2020 election had been "stolen" from him,[42] and to demand that Vice President Mike Pence and Congress reject President-elect Joe Biden's victory.[43][44][45] On the morning of January 6, at a "Save America" rally on the Ellipse, Rudy Giuliani called for "trial by combat";[46][47] Donald Trump Jr. threatened the president's opponents by saying "we're coming for you", having previously called for "total war";[48][49] and Trump repeated his false claims about election irregularities and told the crowd to "fight like hell".[50]:01:11:44 At the president's encouragement,[51] thousands of the crowd then walked to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress was beginning the Electoral College vote count to formalize Biden's victory.

Many of the crowd at the Capitol, some of whom had gathered earlier, breached police perimeters and stormed the building.[52][53] These rioters occupied, vandalized,[54][55] and looted[56] parts of the building for several hours.[57][58] Many became violent, assaulting Capitol Police officers and reporters, erecting a gallows on the Capitol grounds, and attempting to locate lawmakers to take hostage and harm. They chanted "Hang Mike Pence",[59] blaming him for not rejecting the Electoral College votes, although he lacked the constitutional authority to do so.[60] The rioters targeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–CA), [61][62] vandalizing and looting[63] her offices, as well as those of other members of Congress.[64]

Upon security being breached, Capitol Police evacuated the Senate and House of Representatives chambers. Several buildings in the Capitol complex were evacuated, and all were locked down.[65] Rioters occupied and ransacked the empty Senate chamber while federal law enforcement officers drew handguns to defend the evacuated House floor.[66][67] Improvised explosive devices were found near the Capitol grounds, as well as at offices of the Democratic National Committee, the Republican National Committee, and in a nearby vehicle.[68][69] Five people, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, died from the events, while dozens more were injured.[70]

Trump initially resisted sending the D.C. National Guard to quell the mob.[71] In a Twitter video, he called the rioters "very special" and told them to "go home in peace" while repeating his false election claims.[72][73] The Capitol was cleared of rioters by mid-evening,[74] and the counting of the electoral votes resumed and was completed in the early morning hours. Pence declared President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris victors and affirmed that they would assume office on January 20. Pressured by his administration, the threat of removal, and numerous resignations, Trump later committed to an orderly transition of power in a televised statement.[75][76]

The events were widely condemned by political leaders and organizations in the United States and internationally. Mitch McConnell (R–KY), Senate Majority Leader, called the storming of the Capitol a "failed insurrection" provoked by the president's "lies"[77] and said that the Senate "will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation".[78] Several social media and technology companies suspended or banned Trump's accounts from their platforms,[79][80] and many business organizations cut ties with him. A week after the riot, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for "incitement of insurrection", making him the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice.[81]

Opinion polls showed that a large majority of Americans disapproved of the storming of the Capitol and of Trump's actions leading up to and following it, although some Republicans supported the attack or did not blame Trump for it.[82][83][84][85] The FBI has opened more than 170 investigations into the events, and indicated that many more are likely to come.[86][87] Dozens of people present at the riot were later found to be listed in the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database, most as suspected white supremacists.[88] Members of the Oath Keepers anti-government paramilitary group were indicted on conspiracy charges for allegedly staging a planned mission in the Capitol.[89][90]

Terminology

The events have variously been described as treason,[91] insurrection, sedition, domestic terrorism,[92] an attempt by Trump to carry out a coup d'état[93][94] or self-coup,[95] and the biggest challenge to American democracy since the Civil War.[96] The term "Storm the Capitol" was mentioned 100,000 times in the 30 days preceding the events; many of these were in viral tweet threads which included details on how to enter the building.[1] The term storm has particular resonance in QAnon discourse; adherents have often referred to a coming storm in which the cabal which allegedly controls the U.S. will be destroyed.[1]

Background

President Donald Trump during a campaign rally in 2020

While there had been other instances of violence at the Capitol in the 19th and 20th centuries, historians called this event the most severe assault since the 1814 burning of Washington by the British Army during the War of 1812.[97][98][99]

The Associated Press attributed the extremism that fueled the 2021 riot to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. Widespread frustrations and acts of defiance towards the lockdown orders by individuals had allowed far-right groups such as white supremacists and the American militia movement to recruit more people, and also led to more rapid radicalizations through social media.[100]

On November 7 (4 days after Election Day), Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the 2020 United States presidential election, and defeated the incumbent Republican president Donald Trump.[101] Before, during, and after the counting of votes, Trump and other Republicans attempted to overturn the election, falsely claiming widespread voter fraud in five swing states that Biden won: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.[102]

Actions undertaken by Trump to try to overturn the results included filing at least 60 lawsuits, including two brought to the Supreme Court, that sought to nullify election certifications and void votes cast for Biden in each of the five states (all but one being defeated for lack of evidence or standing); mounting campaigns to pressure Republican-controlled state legislatures to nullify results, by replacing slates of Biden electors with those declared to Trump, and/or manufacture evidence of fraud (which would likely violate election tampering statutes enacted by the states); and demanding lawmakers investigate supposed election "irregularities", or conduct signature matches of mail-in ballots (regardless of efforts already undertaken). Trump also personally inquired about, but did not act upon, invoking martial law to "re-run" the election in the swing states that Biden won (which would violate federal law prohibiting election oversight by the U.S. military, and likely be considered an unconstitutional suspension of civil liberties) and hiring a special counsel to find incidences of fraud (even though federal and state officials have concluded that such cases were very isolated or non-existent).[102]

Congress was scheduled to meet on January 6, 2021, to count the results of the Electoral College vote and certify the winner, typically a ceremonial affair.[103][104] Trump had spent previous days suggesting that Vice President Mike Pence should stop Biden from being inaugurated, which is not within Pence's constitutional powers as vice president and president of the Senate. Trump repeated this call in his rally speech on the morning of January 6.[105] The same afternoon, Pence released a letter to Congress in which he stated he could not challenge Biden's victory.[105][106]

Planning of the rally

Trump announced plans for a rally before the January 6 vote count to continue his challenge to the validity of several states' election results. On December 18, Trump announced on Twitter, "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"[107][108] The "March to Save America" and rally that preceded the riots at the Capitol were largely organized by Women for America First, a 501(c)(4) organization chaired by Amy Kremer, co-founder of Women for Trump.[109] In late 2020 and early 2021, Kremer organized and spoke at a series of events across the country as part of a bus tour to encourage attendance at the January 6 rally and support Trump's efforts to overturn the election result.[110] Women for America First invited its supporters to join a caravan of vehicles traveling to the event.[109] Event management for Trump's speech was carried out by Event Strategies, a company founded by Tim Unes, who worked for Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.[109]

Ali Alexander on December 15, 2020, promoting the objection to counting electoral votes for Biden on January 6, 2021

Ali Alexander, a right-wing political activist who took part in organizing the rally and expressed support for the storming as "completely peaceful", was reported as saying in December that Representatives Paul Gosar (RAZ), Andy Biggs (R–AZ) and Mo Brooks (R–AL) were involved in the planning of "something big".[111] "We're the four guys who came up with a January 6 event," he said.[112] According to Alexander, "It was to build momentum and pressure and then on the day change hearts and minds of Congress peoples who weren't yet decided or who saw everyone outside and said, 'I can't be on the other side of that mob.'" His remarks received more scrutiny after the events of January 6, causing Biggs to respond with a statement denying any relationship with Alexander.[113][114][115] The Washington Post wrote that videos and posts were shown earlier connections between Alexander to the three members of congress.[116]

The rioters openly planned to disrupt the counting of Electoral College ballots for several weeks prior to the event, and called for violence against Congress, Pence, and law enforcement.[117] Plans were coordinated on "alt-tech" platforms distinct from larger social media platforms such as Reddit or Twitter, which had implemented bans to censor violent language and images. Websites such as TheDonald.win (a successor to the Reddit forum r/The_Donald), social networking service Parler, chat app Telegram, Gab, and others, were used to discuss previous Trump rallies and made plans for storming the Capitol.[118][119] Many of the posters planned for violence prior to the event, with some individuals discussing how to avoid police on the streets, which tools to bring to help pry open doors, and how to smuggle weapons into Washington D.C.[119] There was also discussion of their perceived need to attack law enforcement.[108] Following clashes with Washington D.C. police during protests on December 12, 2020, the Proud Boys and other far-right groups turned against supporting law enforcement.[108] At least one group, Stop the Steal, posted on December 23, 2020, its plans to occupy the Capitol with promises to "escalate" if met with opposition from law enforcement.[120] Discussions on multiple sites talked very graphically and explicitly about "war", physically taking charge at the event, and killing politicians, including a request for opinions about which politician should be hung first (with a GIF of a noose).[118]

Protesters outside the Capitol

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said his media company paid $500,000 to book the Ellipse for the pro-Trump rally immediately preceding the riots, and claimed that the Trump White House asked him to lead the march to the Capitol.[121] Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, said on Twitter that Turning Point had sent over 80 buses to the Capitol.[122] Other people attempted to raise funds in December via GoFundMe to help pay for transportation to the rally, with limited success.[1] An investigation by BuzzFeed News identified more than a dozen fundraisers to pay for travel to the planned rally. GoFundMe subsequently deactivated several of the campaigns after the riot, but some campaigns had already raised part or all of their fundraising goals prior to deactivation.[123]

Prior intelligence and concerns of violence

In the days leading up to the storming, several organizations that monitored online extremism had been issuing warnings about the event.[124] On December 21, 2020, a U.K. political consultant who studies Trump-related extremism tweeted a forecast of what the planned event of January 6 would become, including deaths.[125] On December 29, 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued at least one bulletin to law enforcement agencies across the country, warning of the potential of armed protesters targeting legislatures.[126] Prior to January 6, 2021, the local Joint Terrorism Task Force was notified by the FBI of possible impending violence at the Capitol.[127] The Washington Post reported an internal FBI document on January 5 warned of rioters preparing to travel to Washington, and setting up staging areas in various regional states. The document used the term "war" to describe the rioters' motive, which mentioned specific violence references, including the blood of Black Lives Matter and Antifa members.[128] However, the FBI decided not to distribute a formal intelligence bulletin.[127][129] Some security specialists later reported they had been surprised that they hadn't received information from the FBI and DHS before the event. Later reflections about the intelligence failures revealed that surprise that no threat assessments had been issued, with possible causes for the failure related to DHS personnel changes and law enforcement biases.[130]

The Anti-Defamation League published a January 4 blog post warning about violent rhetoric being espoused by Trump supporters leading up to the Electoral College count, including calls to violently disrupt the counting process. The post said that it was not aware of any credible threats of violence, but noted that "if the past is any indication, the combination of an extremist presence at the rallies and the heated nature of the rhetoric suggests that violence is a possibility."[124][131] Also on January 4, British security firm G4S conducted a risk analysis, which found that there would be violent groups in Washington, D.C., between January 6 and Inauguration Day based on online posts advocating for violence.[124][132] Advance Democracy, Inc., a nonpartisan governance watchdog, found 1,480 posts from accounts related to QAnon that referenced the events of January 6 in the six days leading up to it, including calls for violence.[124]

Police preparations

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser requested on December 31, 2020, that District of Columbia National Guard troops be deployed to support local police during the anticipated demonstrations. In her request, she wrote that the guards would not be armed and that they would be primarily responsible for "crowd management" and traffic direction, allowing police to focus on security concerns. Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller approved the request on January 4, 2021. The approval activated 340 troops, with no more than 114 to be deployed at any given time.[133] Three days before the riots, the Department of Defense twice offered to deploy the National Guard to the Capitol, but were told by the United States Capitol Police that it would not be necessary.[134]

Three days before the storming, a 12-page report from the Capitol Police's intelligence unit described that Congress would be the target on the day of the Electoral College vote counting, but the report was apparently not shared widely.[135]

Two days before the storming, Bowser announced that the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD) would lead law enforcement for the event, and would be coordinating with the Capitol Police, the U.S. Park Police, and the Secret Service.[136] (Jurisdictionally, MPD is responsible for city streets of the National Mall and Capitol area, whereas the Park Police are responsible for the Ellipse (the site of Trump's speech and rally that day), the Secret Service is responsible for the vicinity of the White House, and the Capitol Police is responsible for the Capitol complex itself).[136] "To be clear, the District of Columbia is not requesting other federal law enforcement personnel and discourages any additional deployment without immediate notification to, and consultation with, MPD if such plans are underway," Bowser wrote in a letter to the United States Department of Justice, and reproduced this language in a Tweet.[136]

Also on January 4, Capitol Police chief Steven Sund was refused additional National Guard support by the then-House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving and then-Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael C. Stenger.[137][138] The FBI spoke to over a dozen known extremists and "was able to discourage those individuals from traveling to D.C.", according to a senior FBI official. The FBI shared information with the Capitol Police in advance of the protest.[139]

Robert Contee, the acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, said after the event that his department had possessed no intelligence indicating the Capitol would be breached.[140] Capitol Police chief Sund said his department had developed a plan to respond to "First Amendment activities" but had not planned for the "criminal riotous behavior" they encountered.[140] As a result, Capitol Police staffing levels mirrored that of a normal day and officers did not prepare riot control equipment.[141] U.S. Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy said law enforcement agencies' estimates of the potential size of the crowd, calculated in advance of the event, varied between 2,000 and 80,000.[134] On January 5, the National Park Service estimated that 30,000 people would attend the "Save America" rally, based on people already in the area.[142]

Events in Washington, D.C.

Events before the "March to Save America"

On January 5, several events related to overturning the election took place in or around the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The "Rally to Revival" was organized by Cindy Chafian and permitted to take place at Freedom Plaza during the afternoon and evening;[143] the "Save the Republic Rally" was organized by Moms for America and took place in the early afternoon at Area 9 across from the Russell Senate Office Building;[144] and the "One Nation Under God" rally, which was organized by Virginia Women for Trump, Stop the Steal, American Phoenix Project, and Jericho March, took place near the United States Supreme Court.[145]

"The Silent Majority" rally was organized by James Epley and permitted in the North Inner Gravel Walkway between 13th and 14th Streets within the National Mall.[143] Epley's events took place on January 5 and 6. At least ten people were arrested, several on weapons charges, on the night of January 5 and into the morning of January 6.[146]

On January 6, the "Wild Protest" was organized by Stop The Steal and took place in Area 8 across from the Russell Senate Office Building.[147] The same day, the "Freedom Rally", which was organized by Virginia Freedom Keepers, Latinos for Trump, and United Medical Freedom Super PAC, took place at 300 First Street NE across from the Russell Senate Office Building.[148]

"March to Save America"

Protesters at Washington Union Station in the morning on January 6

The "March to Save America" took place on January 6 in The Ellipse within the National Mall.[143] Others gathered about a quarter-mile north on the Ellipse, where Trump, his lawyer and adviser Rudy Giuliani, and others, such as Chapman University School of Law professor John C. Eastman, gave speeches.[149] Giuliani repeated conspiracy theories that voting machines used in the election were "crooked" and called for "trial by combat".[150][151] Representative Mo Brooks told the crowd, "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass."[152] Representative Madison Cawthorn (R–NC) said, "This crowd has some fight."[153] Amy Kremer told attendees "it is up to you and I to save this Republic" and called on them to "keep up the fight".[110] Trump's sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, also spoke, naming and verbally attacking Republican congressmen and senators who were not supporting the effort to challenge the Electoral College vote, and promising to campaign against them in future primary elections.[154]

Trump gave a speech from behind a glass barrier, declaring he would "never concede" the election, criticizing the media and calling for Pence to overturn the election results, something outside Pence's constitutional power.[105][155] His speech contained many falsehoods and misrepresentations that inflamed the crowd.[156] Trump did not overtly call on his supporters to use violence or enter the Capitol,[157] but his speech was filled with violent imagery,[158] and Trump suggested that his supporters had the power to prevent Biden from taking office.[157]

Stop the Steal signs seen in front of the Capitol

Trump incited his supporters to "walk down to the Capitol" to "cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women and we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them." He told the crowd that he'd be going with them. As to the counting of Biden's electoral votes, Trump said, "We can't let that happen" and suggested that Biden would be an "illegitimate president."[157][158] Referring to the day of the elections, Trump said, "most people would stand there at 9:00 in the evening and say, 'I want to thank you very much,' and they go off to some other life, but I said, 'Something's wrong here. Something's really wrong. [It] can't have happened.' And we fight. We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore."[50]:01:11:44 He said the protesters would be "going to the Capitol and we're going to try and give [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country".[159] Trump also said, "you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated."[157][158]

He attacked Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), stating that "We've got to get rid of the weak Congresspeople, the ones that aren't any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world."[160] He called upon his supporters to "fight much harder" against "bad people";[158] told the crowd that "you are allowed to go by very different rules";[158] said that his supporters were "not going to take it any longer";[157] framed the moment as a last stand,[157] suggested that Pence and other Republican officials put themselves in danger by accepting Biden's victory;[158] and told the crowd that he would march with them to the Capitol (although he did not do so).[158][157] In addition to the twenty times he used the term "fight", Trump once used the term "peacefully", saying, "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard."[158] Before Trump had finished speaking, some supporters began moving up the National Mall, telling others that they were storming the Capitol.[161]

Rioting in the Capitol building

Proud Boys marching in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building

On January 6, by 11:00 a.m. and concurrent with events happening in and around the U.S. Capitol, a rally of Trump supporters filled the Ellipse, which is located just south of the White House grounds and about 1.6 miles from the Capitol. Coming from the White House, Trump addressed the rally, from noon to 1:10 p.m., encouraging this crowd to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol; members of the crowd began walking toward the Capitol "in a steady stream" before he finished speaking.[162] At the end of his speech, Trump returned to the White House. Meanwhile, another crowd of Trump supporters that had gathered outside the Capitol began clashing with the police and pushing forward to the building. The crowd walking up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Ellipse merged with the crowd at the Capitol.[162] A reliable estimate of the total size of the crowd cannot be ascertained, seeing that aerial photos are not permitted in Washington, D.C., for reasons of security. The crowd was estimated to be in the thousands.[163]

On the Capitol grounds, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), a leader of the group of lawmakers who vowed to challenge the Electoral College vote, greeted protesters with a raised fist as he passed by on his way to the joint session of Congress in the early afternoon.[164][165]

Around 1:00 p.m. EST, hundreds of Trump supporters clashed with officers and pushed through barriers along the perimeter of the Capitol.[53][166] The crowd swept past barriers and officers, with some members of the mob spraying officers with chemical agents or hitting them with lead pipes.[11][167] Although many rioters simply walked to the doors of the Capitol, some resorted to ropes and makeshift ladders.[168] Representative Zoe Lofgren (D–CA), aware that rioters had reached the Capitol steps, was unable to reach Steven Sund by phone; House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving told Lofgren the doors to the Capitol were locked and "nobody can get in".[169] A short time afterward, the Capitol Police requested reinforcements from the DC Metropolitan Police, who arrived within 15 minutes.[170]

Meanwhile, Sund, at 1:09 p.m., called Irving and Stenger and asked them for an emergency declaration required to call in the National Guard; they both told Sund they would "run it up the chain". Irving called back with formal approval an hour later.[171]

At 1:50 p.m., the on-scene Capitol Police commander declared a riot.[170]

At 1:58 p.m., Capitol Police officers removed a barricade on the northeast side of the Capitol.[172]

Trump supporters crowding the steps of the Capitol after displacing police shield wall preventing access

Just after 2:00 p.m., windows were broken through, and the mob breached the building[173][174] and entered the National Statuary Hall.[11][175][176][177] As rioters began to storm the Capitol and other nearby buildings, some buildings in the complex were evacuated.[67] Outside the building, the mob constructed a gallows and tied a noose to it, punctured the tires of a police vehicle, and left a note saying "PELOSI IS SATAN" on the windshield.[11] Politico reported some rioters briefly showing their police badges or military identification to law enforcement as they approached the Capitol, expecting therefore to be let inside; a Capitol Police officer told BuzzFeed News that one rioter told him "[w]e're doing this for you" as he flashed a badge.[140]

Concerned about the approaching mob, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) called Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who was not on Capitol grounds but at the police department's headquarters. When asked what the Capitol Police were doing to stop the rioters, Sund told Waters, "We're doing the best we can" before the line went dead.[169]

A gallows built outside the Capitol

In many cases, those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armor and technology such as two-way radio headsets that were similar to those of the very police they were confronting.[178] Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly with the intention of using them to take hostages.[117][179][180] Some of the rioters carried Confederate battle flags[11][181][182][183] or Nazi emblems.[184][185][186][187] Some rioters wore riot gear, including helmets and military-style vests. For the first time in U.S. history, insurrectionists displayed a Confederate battle flag inside the Capitol.[188][189][181][190] Christian imagery and rhetoric was prevalent in the mob of insurrectionists who seized the Capitol. Rioters carried crosses and signs saying, "Jesus Saves", and "Jesus 2020". On the National Mall, rioters chanted, "Christ is king." One rioter who stormed into the building carried a Christian flag. Rioters referred to the neo-fascist Proud Boys as "God's warriors".[191][192] These were mainly neo-charismatic, prophetic Christians who practice their faith outside of mainstream denominations, who believe that Trump is the Messiah, or that he was anointed by God to save Christian Americans from religious persecution.[193]

Although a few evangelical leaders supported the riots,[191] most condemned the violence and criticized Trump for inciting the crowd.[194] This criticism came from liberal Christian groups such as the Red-Letter Christians as well as evangelical groups who were generally supportive of Trump.[195][191] This criticism did not affect evangelical support for Donald Trump. Investigative journalist Sarah Posner, author of Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump, argues that many white evangelical Christians in the U.S. create an echo chamber whereby Trump's missteps are blamed on the Democratic Party, leftists, or the mainstream media, the last of which being viewed as especially untrustworthy.[196]

At the time, the joint session of Congress – which had already voted to accept the nine electoral votes from Alabama and three from Alaska without objection – was split so that each chamber could separately consider an objection to accepting Arizona's electoral votes that had been raised by Representative Paul Gosar and endorsed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Both chambers were roughly halfway through their two-hour debate on the motion.[197][198]

C-SPAN broadcast of the Senate going into recess after protesters infiltrate the Capitol

While debate over the Arizona electoral college votes continued, an armed police officer entered the Senate chamber, positioned facing the back entrance of the chamber. Pence handed the floor from Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to Senator James Lankford (R-OK). Moments later, Pence was escorted out by members of the Secret Service. The rioters began to climb the stairs towards the Senate chamber. A lone Capitol Police officer, Eugene Goodman, worked to slow the mob down as he radioed that they had reached the second floor. Just steps from the still-unsealed Senate chamber doors, the rioters instead followed the Capitol Police officer, leading them back away from the Senate. Banging could be heard from outside as people attempted to breach the doors. As Lankford was speaking, the Senate was gaveled into recess, and the doors were locked at 2:15 p.m. A minute later, the rioters reached the gallery outside the chamber.[169][199] A police officer carrying a semi-automatic weapon appeared on the floor and stood between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).[200] Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) exasperatedly threw up his hands and directly criticized several fellow Republicans who were challenging President-elect Biden's electoral votes, yelling to them, "This is what you've gotten, guys."[201] Several members of Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough's staff carried the boxes of Electoral College votes and documentation out of the chamber to hidden safe rooms within the building.[202][10]

Trump tweeted that Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done" at 2:24 p.m. Afterwards, Trump followers on far-right social media called for Pence to be hunted down, and the mob began chanting, "Where is Pence?" and "Find Mike Pence!"[203][204][205] Outside, the mob chanted, "Hang Mike Pence!,"[206] which some crowds continued to chant as they stormed the Capitol;[207][206] at least three rioters were overheard by a reporter saying they wanted to find Pence and execute him as a "traitor" by hanging him from a tree outside the building.[208] All buildings in the complex were subsequently locked down, with no entry or exit from the buildings allowed. Capitol staff were asked to move into offices and lock their doors and windows; those outside were advised to "seek cover".[65]

As the mob roamed the Capitol, lawmakers, aides, and staff took shelter in offices and closets. Aides to Mitch McConnell, barricaded in a room just off a hallway, heard a rioter outside the door "praying loudly", asking for "the evil of Congress [to] be brought to an end".[169] The rioters entered and ransacked the office of the Senate Parliamentarian.[209]

People inside the Capitol being evacuated. Staff and reporters inside the building were taken by secure elevators to the basement, and then to an underground bunker constructed following the 2001 attempted attack on the Capitol. Evacuees were redirected while en route after the bunker was also infiltrated by the mob. [210]

With senators still in the chamber, Trump reached Senator Tommy Tuberville by phone and told him to do more to block the counting of Biden's electoral votes. The call had to be cut off when the Senate chamber was evacuated at 2:30 p.m.[211][212][210][213] After evacuation, the mob briefly took control of the chamber, with some armed and armored men carrying plastic handcuffs and some posing with raised fists on the Senate dais that Pence had left minutes earlier.[11][214] Pence's wife Karen Pence, daughter Charlotte Pence Bond, and brother Greg Pence (a member of the House; R–IN) were in the Capitol at the time it was attacked.[215] It was later reported that as Pence and his family were leaving the Senate chamber for a nearby hideaway, they came within a minute of being visible to rioters on a staircase only 100 feet away.[216]

Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate Michael C. Stenger accompanied a group of senators including Lindsey Graham and Joe Manchin to a secure location in a Senate office building. Once safe, the lawmakers were "furious" with Stenger; Graham asked him, "How does this happen? How does this happen?" and added that they "[are] not going to be run out by a mob."[169]

Meanwhile, in the House chamber around 2:15 p.m., while Gosar was speaking, Speaker Pelosi was escorted out of the chamber. The House was gaveled into recess, but would resume a few minutes later.[217][218] Amid the security concerns, Representative Dean Phillips (D–MN) yelled, "This is because of you!" at his Republican colleagues.[219] The House resumed debate around 2:25 p.m. Around 2:30, when Gosar finished speaking, the House went into recess again. The rioters had entered the House wing and were attempting to enter the Speaker's Lobby just outside the House chamber. Lawmakers were still inside and being evacuated, with Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy and a few other individuals being taken to a "secure location".[220][221] With violence breaking out, Capitol security advised the members of Congress to take cover.[222][223] Members of Congress inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks, as law enforcement had begun using tear gas within the building.[217][224] Staff members removed boxes of sealed electoral vote certificates to prevent them from being damaged or stolen by rioters.[223][225][226]

Video shot inside the House of Representatives chamber with armed security blocking the doors

ABC News reported that shots were fired within the Capitol.[224][227] An armed standoff took place at the front door of the chamber of the House of Representatives: as the mob attempted to break in, federal law enforcement officers drew their guns inside[11] and pointed them towards the chamber doors, which were barricaded with furniture.[228] In a stairway, one officer fired a shot at a man coming toward him.[229] Photographer Erin Schaff said that, from the Capitol Rotunda, she ran upstairs, where rioters grabbed her press badge. Police found her, and, as her press pass had been stolen, they held her at gunpoint before her colleagues intervened.[201]

Panic buttons in at least two Representatives' office were found to have been torn out.[230] Staffers for Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D–MA) barricaded themselves in Pressley's office. They attempted to call for help with panic buttons that had been previously installed and even used in safety drills, but "[e]very panic button in my office had been torn out — the whole unit", Pressley's chief of staff told the Boston Globe.[231]

Multiple rioters, using the cameras on their cell phones, documented themselves occupying the Capitol and the offices of various representatives,[232][233][234] storming the offices of Speaker Pelosi,[235][236] accessing secure computers and stealing a laptop.[237]

Participating groups

Among the many flags flown by rioters were the Gadsden flag and Women for Trump.

The mob that stormed the Capitol consisted of some of Trump's longtime and most fervent supporters, coming from across the United States.[238] The mob included Republican Party officials and political donors, far-right militants, and white supremacists.[238] Some individuals came heavily armed. Included in the group were some convicted criminals, including a man who had been released from a Florida prison after serving a sentence for attempted murder.[238] Supporters of the boogaloo movement, the Traditionalist Worker Party, the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, QAnon, the Groyper Army, and national-anarchism, as well as neo-Confederates, Holocaust deniers, among others, were present during the riot, with some wearing emblematic gear. Neo-Nazi and Völkisch-inspired neopagan apparel was also worn by some participants during the riots, including a shirt emblazoned with references to the Auschwitz–Birkenau concentration camp and its motto, Arbeit macht frei (German for "work makes you free").[239] After the storming of the Capitol, two white nationalists known for racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric streamed to their online followers a video posted on social media showing a man harassing an Israeli journalist seeking to conduct a live report outside the building.[240] Some participants wore shirts bearing the abbreviation 6MWE, standing for "6 Million Wasn't Enough", a reference to the number of Jewish people who were killed in the Holocaust.[241] According to the FBI, the majority of individual participants in the riot who appeared on its terrorist watchlist "are suspected white supremacists."[242] Following the event, members of the Nationalist Social Club, a neo-Nazi street gang, detailed their participation in the storming and claimed the acts were the "beginning of the start of White Revolution in the United States".[243]

The Associated Press reviewed public and online records of more than 120 participants after the storming and found that many of them shared conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election on social media and had also believed other "QAnon" and "deep state" conspiracy theories. Additionally, several had threatened Democratic and Republican politicians before the storming.[238] The event was described as "Extremely Online", with "pro-Trump internet personalities" and fans streaming live footage while taking selfies.[244][245]

Some military personnel participated in the riot;[238] the Department of Defense is investigating members on active and reserve duty who may have been involved in the riot.[246][247] An analysis by National Public Radio showed that nearly 20% of defendants charged in relation to the attack served in the military; in the general population, 7% of all American adults are veterans.[248] Police officers and a police chief from departments in multiple states are under investigation for their alleged involvement in the riot.[249] As of January 14, at least 28 law enforcement officers or officials are suspected of participating in Trump's pre-riot rally, or joining the Capitol riots, or both.[250] Two Capitol Police officers were suspended, one for directing rioters inside the building while wearing a Make America Great Again hat, and the other for taking a selfie with a rioter.[251][252]

Court charges filed by federal prosecutors against members of the Oath Keeper militia who stormed the capital indicated that the militiamen were updated via Facebook messages on the location of lawmakers as they were evacuated, and received orders such as "All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas".[253][254][255]

America's Frontline Doctors supported by the Tea Party Patriots, had members, including its founder Simone Gold, and its communications director John Strand, arrested in connection with the assault on the Capitol.[256][257]

At least sixteen Republican current and former state legislators were present at the event, including West Virginia State Senator Mike Azinger, Nevada State Assemblywoman Annie Black, Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase, Maryland Delegate Daniel L. Cox, Alaska State Representative David Eastman, West Virginia Delegate Derrick Evans, Colorado State Representative-elect Ron Hanks, Missouri State Representative Justin Hill, Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem, Virginia State Delegate Dave LaRock, Michigan State Representative Matt Maddock, Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano, and Tennessee Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, as well as outgoing Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones (a former Democrat who announced at the rally that he had joined the Republican Party), outgoing Arizona State Representative Anthony Kern, and former Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Saccone. Weaver claimed to have been "in the thick of it" and Evans filmed himself entering the Capitol alongside rioters. All denied participating in acts of violence.[258][259][260][261] Evans was charged by federal authorities on January 8 with entering a restricted area;[262] he resigned from the House of Delegates the next day.[263]

Alleged foreign involvement and payments

On December 8, 2020, a French national gave around $500,000 in bitcoin payments to alt-right figures and groups. About half of these funds went to Nick Fuentes, the leader of the online Groyper Army, who denied breaching the building. The day after the transfer, the Frenchman killed himself.[264] The FBI is investigating whether any of this money financed illegal acts.[265]

The FBI is also investigating whether foreign adversaries of the U.S. – governments, organizations or individuals – provided financial support to people who attacked the Capitol.[265]

Separately, a joint threat assessment issued by the FBI, DHS, and other agencies said that "Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition" and that these governments, through state actors, state media, and their proxies, used the riots to promote violence and extremism in the United States, denigrate American democracy, and in some instance promote conspiratorial claims.[265]

Officials' conduct during the riot

Donald Trump's statement during the conflict, two hours after the building was breached. The video was originally posted on Twitter at 4:17 p.m. and shared on other social media before being removed from all platforms for violating various policies.

Trump, who had spent previous weeks promoting the "Save America" rally,[266] was "initially pleased" when his supporters breached the Capitol and refused to intercede,[267] but also "expressed disgust on aesthetic grounds" over the "low class" appearance of the supporters involved in the rioting.[268] Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) said that senior White House officials told him that Trump was "delighted" to hear that rioters were entering the Capitol.[269] Staffers reported that Trump had been "impossible to talk to throughout the day", and that his inability to deal with his election loss and displeasure that his supporters were unsuccessful in overturning the result by force had, according to one staffer, made Trump "out of his mind."[270] Concerned that Trump may have committed treason through his actions, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone reportedly advised administration officials to avoid contact with Trump and ignore any illegal orders that could further incite the storming to limit their prosecutorial liability under the Sedition Act of 1918.[271]

Shortly after 2:00 p.m. EST, as the riot was going on and after senators had been evacuated from the Senate floor, Trump phoned Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, then Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, asking them to make more objections to the counting of the electoral votes to try to overturn the election.[272] At 2:47 p.m., as his supporters violently clashed with police at the Capitol, Trump tweeted, "Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!"[273] The Washington Post later reported that Trump did not want to include the words "stay peaceful".[274]

Trump was in the West Wing of the White House at the time. A close adviser to Trump said the president was not taking many phone calls. When Trump watches television, the adviser explained, he will pause a recorded program to take a phone call, but "if it's live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold."[275]

By 3:10 p.m., pressure was building on Trump to condemn supporters engaged in the riots; Trump's former communications director, Alyssa Farah, called upon him to "Condemn this now" and wrote "you are the only one they will listen to."[273] By 3:25 p.m., Trump tweeted "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," but did not call upon the crowd to disperse.[273] By 3:40 p.m., a number of congressional Republicans called upon Trump to more specifically condemn violence and to call on his supporters to end the occupation of the Capitol: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R–CA) said that he had spoken to Trump to ask him to "calm individuals down"; Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a tweet telling Trump that "it is crucial you help restore order by sending resources to assist the police and ask those doing this to stand down"; and Representative Mike Gallagher (R–WI), in a video message, told Trump to "call it off".[273] In contrast to Trump, who only called upon his supporters to "remain peaceful", Pence called for the occupation of the Capitol to end immediately.[273]

Lindsey Graham later told the Washington Post that "it took [Trump] awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation ... [he] saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen".[274]

By 3:50 p.m., White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that the National Guard and "other federal protective services" had been deployed.[273] At 4:06 p.m. on national television, President-elect Biden called for President Trump to end the riot. At 4:22 p.m., Trump issued a video message on social media that was later taken down by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. In it, he praised his supporters and repeated his claims of electoral fraud, saying: "This was a fraudulent election, but we can't play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You're very special. You've seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace."[72][273]

At 6:25 p.m., Trump tweeted: "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" and then issued a call: "Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"[273][73][276] At 7:00 p.m., Rudy Giuliani placed a second call to Lee's number and left a voicemail intended for Tuberville urging him to make more objections to the electoral votes as part of a bid "to try to just slow it down". Giuliani said: "I know they're reconvening at 8 tonight, but it ... the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow – ideally until the end of tomorrow."[272]

During the riots Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) posted on Twitter some information about the police response and the location of members, including the fact that Speaker Pelosi had been taken out of the chamber, for which she has faced calls to resign for endangering members.[277][278] Boebert responded that she was not sharing private information, since Pelosi's removal was also being broadcast on TV.[230]

Representative Ayanna Pressley left the Congressional safe room for fear of other members there "who incited the mob in the first place".[230]

While sheltering for hours in the "safe room" – a cramped, windowless room where people sat within arms' length of each other – some Republican Congress members refused to wear facemasks, even when their Democratic colleagues begged them to. During the following week, three Democratic members tested positive for the coronavirus. An environmental health expert described the situation as a "superspreader" event.[279]

Armed guards walking through the halls of Congress after they were ransacked

Sund joined a conference call with D.C. government and Pentagon officials at 2:26 p.m. where he "[made] an urgent, urgent immediate request for National Guard assistance", telling them he needed "boots on the ground". However, Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, Director of the Army Staff, said he could not recommend that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy approve the request, telling Sund and others "I don't like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background".[171] Piatt later told the Washington Post that he "did not make the statement or any comments similar to what was attributed to me by Chief Sund".[280] On January 20 the Army confirmed that Lt. Gen. Charles A. Flynn was also on the phone call, and Flynn himself told the Washington Post that he "entered the room after the call began and departed prior to the call ending".[280]

About 2:31 p.m. on January 6, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6:00 p.m. curfew to go into effect that night.[281] Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also issued a curfew for nearby Alexandria and Arlington County in Northern Virginia.[282][283]

Armed DHS agents were on standby near the Capitol in case of unrest, but were not deployed until after the violence had subsided.[284]

Pentagon officials reportedly restricted D.C. guard troops from being deployed except as a measure of last resort, and from receiving ammunition and riot gear; troops were also instructed to engage with protesters only in situations warranting self-defense and could not share equipment with local police or use surveillance equipment without prior approval from Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller.[285][286] McCarthy and Miller decided to deploy the entire 1,100-strong force of D.C. National Guard to quell violence.[287][288] About 3:04 p.m., Miller spoke with Pence, Pelosi, McConnell and Schumer, and directed the National Guard and other "additional support" to respond to the riot.[289][287][290] The order to send in the National Guard, which Trump initially resisted, was approved by Pence.[287][291] This bypassing of the chain of command has not been explained.[292] Around 3:30 p.m., Northam said that he was working with Bowser and Congress leaders to respond and that he was sending members of the Virginia National Guard and 200 Virginia State Troopers to support D.C. law enforcement, at the mayor's request.[293] At 3:45 p.m., Stenger told Sund he would ask Mitch McConnell for help expediting the National Guard authorization.[171]

Protesters gathered outside the United States Capitol

It took over three hours for police to retake control of the Capitol, using riot gear, shields, and batons. Capitol Police were assisted by the local D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.[11] Smoke grenades were deployed on the Senate side of the Capitol by Capitol Police working to clear rioters from the building.[294] Black officers employed with Capitol Police reported being subjected to racial epithets (including repeated uses of "nigger") by some of the rioters.[295] Capitol Police chief Steven Sund said his officers' slow response to the rioting was due to their being preoccupied by the improvised explosive devices found near the Capitol.[296] FBI and Department of Homeland Security agents wearing riot gear entered the Dirksen Senate Office Building around 4:30 p.m.[297]

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced at 4:57 p.m. that elements of the New Jersey State Police were being deployed to the District of Columbia at the request of D.C. officials, and that the New Jersey National Guard was prepared for deployment if necessary.[298] Shortly before 5:00 p.m., congressional leaders were reportedly being evacuated from the Capitol complex to Fort McNair, a nearby army base.[299] Around 5:20 p.m., Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that he would send the Maryland State Police and Maryland National Guard, after speaking to the Secretary of the Army.[300][301] Hogan's requests of the Defense Department to authorize National Guard troops to be deployed at the Capitol initially were denied in multiple instances.[302] At around 5:40 p.m., the Senate Sergeant at Arms announced that the Capitol had been secured.[303]

Riot police and protesters outside the Capitol in the evening

As police continued to try to push rioters away from the Capitol, protests continued, with some moving out of the Capitol Hill area. Some verbal and physical attacks on reporters were reported, with attackers denigrating media outlets as providing "fake news".[225] One rioter told a CNN crew as they were being harassed by others, "There's more of us than you. We could absolutely fucking destroy you!"[304] A video on social media recorded a man harassing an Israeli journalist covering the events live.[305]

By 6:08 p.m., police had arrested at least thirteen people and seized five firearms.[306] Although Bowser had ordered a 6:00 p.m. curfew, it went largely ignored by the pro-Trump rioters, hundreds of whom remained in the Capitol Hill area two hours after the curfew went into effect.[307]

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged to deploy a thousand members of the New York National Guard to D.C., in addition to the resources promised by other states.[308] On the night of January 6, Bowser issued an order extending the public emergency in Washington, D.C., for 15 days, writing in the order that she expected some people would "continue their violent protests through the inauguration".[309][310] The following day, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy announced that a fence would be built around the Capitol, and remain in place for at least 30 days; construction of the fence began that same day. McCarthy also said New Jersey National Guard troops would be mobilized, as would troops from the Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania National Guards.[24]

By the end of the day, police had arrested 61 people for "unrest-related" offenses, with about half of these arrests occurring on the Capitol grounds.[311]

Improvised explosive and incendiary devices

Two improvised explosive devices, believed to have been planted before the riots, were found within a few blocks of the Capitol.[312] A device suspected to be a pipe bomb was discovered next to a building containing Republican National Committee (RNC) offices at around 12:45 p.m. About 30 minutes later, another suspected pipe bomb was found under a bush at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters.[16][313] The devices were of a similar design – about one foot in length, with end caps and wiring apparently attached to a timer, and containing an unknown powder and some metal.[313][314] The devices were safely detonated by bomb squads; police later said they were "hazardous" and could have caused "great harm".[16] The FBI distributed a photo of the person who they believe planted the devices and issued a reward of up to $50,000 for information.[314] Sund told The Washington Post on January 10 that he suspected the pipe bombs were intentionally placed to draw police away from the Capitol;[171] Representative Tim Ryan (D–OH) echoed the sentiment in a virtual news conference on January 11, who said "we do believe there was some level of coordination ... because of the pipe bombs ... that immediately drew attention away from the breach that was happening".[315][316]

A vehicle containing a semi-automatic rifle and a cooler full of eleven Molotov cocktails was also found nearby.[317][318] The driver was subsequently arrested.[319] He also had three handguns in his possession at the time of his arrest.[320]

Completion of electoral vote count

Congress reconvened in the evening of January 6 after the Capitol was cleared of trespassers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reopened the Senate's session around 8:00 p.m. EST, saying that the Senate refused to be intimidated, and that it would count the electors and declare the president "tonight", after two hours of debate on the objection to the Arizona electors. He called the vote the most consequential in his 30-plus years of congressional service. At 9:58 p.m., the Senate rejected the objection 93–6, with only six Republicans voting in favor: Ted Cruz (TX), Josh Hawley (MO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), John Neely Kennedy (LA), Roger Marshall (KS), and Tommy Tuberville (AL).[321]

Congressional staffers removed the Electoral College certificates from the Capitol as it was evacuated.

At 11:08 p.m., the House of Representatives rejected a similar motion to dispute the Arizona vote by a margin of 303–121.[322] All of the "yeas" came from Republicans while the "nays" were from 83 Republicans and 220 Democrats.[323] A planned objection to the Georgia slate of electors was rejected after co-signing Senator, Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), withdrew her support in light of the day's events.[324] Another objection was raised by Hawley and Representative Scott Perry (R–PA) to the Pennsylvania slate of electors, triggering another two-hour split in the joint session to debate the objection.[176] At 12:30 a.m. on January 7, the Senate rejected this objection by a 92–7 vote, with the same people voting the same way as before with the exceptions of Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Rick Scott (R-FL) voting in favor and John N. Kennedy voting against.[325]

At 3:08 a.m., the House of Representatives similarly rejected the motion to sustain the objection by a margin of 282–138. Again, all of the votes in favor were Republican, while this time, only 64 Republicans voted against and 218 Democrats voted against.[326] Representative Peter Meijer (R–MI) said that several of his Republican colleagues in the House would have voted to certify the votes, but did not out of fear for the safety of their families,[327] and that at least one specifically voted to overturn Biden's victory against their conscience because they were shaken by the mob attack that day.[328]

At 3:41 a.m., Congress confirmed the outcome of the Electoral College vote, Biden's 306 votes to Trump's 232, with Pence declaring that Biden and Harris would take office on January 20.[329][330][331]

Casualties

Five people died or were fatally injured during the event: one was a Capitol Police officer, and four were among those who stormed or protested at the Capitol.[332] Sixty Capitol Police officers were injured in the riot, of whom 15 were hospitalized and one was in critical condition;[35] all had been released from the hospital by January 11.[333] Additionally, rioters injured more than 58 D.C. Metro police officers during the attack, including one who remained hospitalized five days after the attack.[333] Some insurrectionists beat officers with pipes,[2] and some officers sustained head injuries from being struck with lead pipes.[35] Rioters injured other police officers by using chemical irritants and stun guns, hitting them with fists, sticks, poles and clubs; trampling and stampeding them; pushing them down stairs or against statues; and shining laser pointers in their eyes. Many police officers were attacked with bear spray, a highly concentrated form of pepper spray stronger than the tear gas typically carried by officers. One D.C. Metro officer was hit six times with a stun gun and suffered an apparent heart attack.[333]

One of the most intense of the many violent incidents occurred shortly after 2 p.m., as a swarm of rioters attempted to breach a door on the West Front of the Capitol. There, rioters dragged three D.C. Metro police officers out of formation and down a set of stairs, trapped them in a crowd, and assaulted them with improvised weapons (including hockey sticks, crutches, flags, poles, sticks, and stolen police shields) as the mob chanted "police stand down!" and "USA!"[334] At least one of the officers was also stomped upon.[34]

Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick died from injuries sustained in the riot. [335] [2]

In a separate incident during the riots,[334] Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, 42, a 15-year veteran of the force,[336] was mortally wounded by a rioter who hit him in the head with a fire extinguisher.[13][2][334] Reuters reported that Sicknick suffered a thromboembolic stroke after sustaining head injuries,[337] and collapsed after returning to his division office. He was later placed on life support,[13] but died the following day.[31][335] Sicknick's death is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department's Homicide Branch, the USCP, and federal authorities.[335]

During the riot, Ashli Elizabeth Babbitt, a 35-year-old from San Diego,[338][220][339] was fatally shot by Capitol Police as she attempted to climb through a shattered window in a barricaded door leading into the Speaker's Lobby, which has direct access to the House floor.[338][220][340] The incident was recorded on several cameras.[340][220] Babbitt was unarmed when she was shot and killed; however, officers were aware that many rioters and intruders could be carrying concealed weapons.[229] The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department launched an investigation into the death,[341] and the officer who shot her was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.[342] Babbitt was a follower of QAnon, and had tweeted the previous day "the storm is here", a reference to a QAnon conspiracy theory.[343][344][345]

Three others also died: Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia; Kevin Greeson, 55, from Athens, Alabama; and Benjamin Philips, 50, of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.[346][347][348] Boyland was trampled to death by people rushing to breach a tunnel entrance on the west side of the Capitol;[349] she was a radicalized follower of QAnon whose family had begged her not to attend.[350][351] Greeson died of a heart attack.[352] His family said he was "not there to participate in violence or rioting, nor did he condone such actions".[353] Philips died of a stroke.[352] The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that there was no indication that Philips participated in the raid.[30] Philips had started the social media site "Trumparoo", intended for Trump supporters.[354] A family member of Boyland said that "the president's words incited a riot that killed four of his biggest fans last night".[355]

Capitol flag at half-staff in honor of Brian Sicknick on the night of January 12

House Speaker Pelosi had the flags at the Capitol lowered to half-staff in Sicknick's honor.[356][357] Trump initially declined to lower flags at the White House or other federal buildings under his control, before relenting four days later.[358][359][360] Biden, Pence and Pelosi offered condolences to Sicknick's family; Trump did not.[356][361] After Sicknick's death, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) received backlash for previous speeches that were perceived as calls for violence.[362]

There were calls for Trump to be prosecuted for inciting the violence that led to the five deaths.[363][364] An article on Law & Crime discussed whether felony murder charges in relation to Babbitt's death could be brought against protesters, those who invaded the Capitol, or instigators of the rally. It concluded that such charges were very unlikely.[365]

Morale among the Capitol Police plummeted after the riots. The department responded to "a couple of incidents" where officers threatened to harm themselves; one officer turned in her weapon because she feared what she would do with it.[32] Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood, who was on duty at the riot, died by suicide three days later.[366][367]

Damage, theft, and impact

A damaged window in one of the rooms in the Capitol

Rioters stormed the offices of Nancy Pelosi, flipping tables and ripping photos from walls;[235][236] the office of the Senate Parliamentarian was ransacked;[209] art was looted;[11] and feces was tracked into several hallways.[294][368] Windows were smashed throughout the building, leaving the floor littered with glass and debris.[11][369] Some items of furniture were damaged, turned over, or stolen.[369] One door had "MURDER THE MEDIA" scrawled onto it.[370] Rioters damaged Associated Press recording and broadcasting equipment outside the Capitol after chasing away reporters.[371] Rioters also destroyed a display honoring the life of congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis.[372][373] A photo of Representative Andy Kim (D–NJ) cleaning up the damage in the rotunda after midnight went viral.[374]

The rioters caused extensive physical damage.[11][294] The Office of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), which maintains the Capitol and preserves its art and architecture, released an initial damage assessment on January 9. The AOC reported interior damage from the riot (specifically broken glass, broken doors, and graffiti), and also reported that some statues, paintings, and historic benches "displayed the residue of various pepper sprays, tear gas and fire extinguishers deployed by both rioters and law enforcement personnel."[375] Items, including portraits of John Quincy Adams and James Madison, as well as a marble statue of Thomas Jefferson, were covered in "corrosive gas agent residue"; these were sent to the Smithsonian for assessment and restoration.[376] A 19th-century marble bust of President Zachary Taylor was defaced with what seemed to be blood, but the most important works in the Capitol collection, such as the John Trumbull paintings, escaped unharmed.[369][375] On the Capitol's exterior, two 19th-century bronze light fixtures designed by Frederick Law Olmsted were damaged.[375] Because the Capitol is not insured against loss, taxpayers will pay for the damage inflicted by the siege.[370]

ABC News reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had recovered several improvised explosive devices that were intended to cause serious harm, and were looking at those in the mob that were trained perhaps in the military and more intent on causing serious harm, including harming Vice President Pence. ABC analyst and retired CIA officer Mick Mulroy said the FBI would likely be conducting a full counterintelligence sweep on all those who participated in the assault to determine possible foreign intelligence ties, as these individuals may have taken sensitive information from the congressional offices they ransacked.[377][378] The presence of several military veterans who took part in the assault has created growing concern among former military members.[379]

A laptop owned by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was stolen.[380] A laptop taken from Speaker Pelosi's office was "[a] laptop from a conference room ... that was only used for presentations", according to Pelosi's deputy chief of staff.[381] Representative Ruben Gallego (D–AZ) said "we have to do a full review of what was taken, or copied, or even left behind in terms of bugs and listening devices."[140] Military news website SOFREP reported that "several" Secret‑level laptops were stolen, some of which had been abandoned while still logged in to SIPRNet, causing authorities to temporarily shut down SIPRNet for a security update on January 7 and leading the United States Army Special Operations Command to re-authorize all SIPRNet-connected computers on January 8.[382][383]

Representative Anna Eshoo (D–CA) said in a statement that "[i]mages on social media and in the press of vigilantes accessing congressional computers are worrying" and that she had asked the Chief Administrative Officer of the House (CAO) "to conduct a full assessment of threats based on what transpired".[384] The CAO said it was "providing support and guidance to House offices as needed".[381]

One protester was arrested on charges of theft. It was alleged that she had stolen a laptop or hard drive from Pelosi's office with the intention of sending it to a friend in Russia for sale to the country's foreign intelligence service.[385]

Signs, flags, stickers, Nancy Pelosi's damaged nameplate, and other items left behind from the riot will be preserved as historical artifacts in the collections of the House and Senate and those of national museums.[376] Anthea M. Hartig, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, said that the Smithsonian would seek to collect and preserve "objects and stories that help future generations remember and contextualize Jan. 6 and its aftermath", a statement echoed by Jane Campbell, president of the Capitol Historical Society.[386][387]

Reactions

Domestic reactions

Pro-Trump protesters around the Capitol on the evening of January 6

After drawing widespread condemnation from Congress, members from his administration and the media, Trump released a videotaped statement to stop the resignations and threats of impeachment or removal. In a video statement released on January 7, Trump condemned the violence at the Capitol, saying that "a new administration will be inaugurated", which was widely seen as a concession, and that his "focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power" to the Biden administration.[388][389] Vanity Fair reported that Trump was at least partially convinced to do so by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who told Trump that a sufficient number of Senate Republicans would support removing him from office unless he conceded.[390] White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had attempted to distance the administration from the rioters' behavior in a televised statement earlier in the day.[391] On January 9, The New York Times reported that Trump had told White House aides that he regretted committing to an orderly transition of power and would never resign from office.[392]

In another unusual move, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and all of the other Joint Chiefs[a] issued a statement on January 12 condemning the storming of the Capitol, reminding personnel of their sworn obligation to support and defend the Constitution, that Biden was about to become their commander-in-chief and stating that "the rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection."[393] They said, "As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civilian authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."[394][395] On January 19 Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said "the mob was fed lies" and "they were provoked by the president and other powerful people."[77]

International reactions

Over 70 other countries and international organizations expressed their concerns over the protests and condemned the violence, with some specifically condemning Trump's own role in inciting the attack.[396][397] Multiple world leaders have made a call for peace, describing the riots as "an attack on democracy".[398] The leaders of some countries, including Brazil, Poland, Hungary, and Russia, declined to condemn the situation, and described it as an internal U.S. affair.[399]

Many media outlets worldwide described the storming as "anarchy", including British newspaper i and Canadian newspaper Ottawa Sun.[400][401]

Several NATO intelligence agencies outside the United States also briefed their governments that it was an attempted coup by President Trump which may have had help from federal law-enforcement officials.[402]

Aftermath

National Guardsmen at the Capitol building on January 12, 2021, in preparation for the inauguration of Joe Biden

On January 7, Michael R. Sherwin, the interim United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, said rioters could be charged with seditious conspiracy or insurrection.[296] He suggested that Trump could be investigated for comments he made to his supporters before they stormed the Capitol, and that others, including any Capitol Police officers, who "assisted or facilitated or played some ancillary role" in the events could also be investigated.[180][296] In the wake of the event, an FBI official has said they expect to make hundreds of arrests, likely on charges of sedition and conspiracy.[403] Those already arrested include: the leader of a Proud Boys group in Hawaii;[404] Jake Angeli, also known as the "QAnon Shaman";[405] far-right activist Tim "Baked Alaska" Gionet;[406] and the 34-year-old son of a Kings County Supreme Court judge,[407] among others.[405]

Calls for Trump to be prosecuted for inciting the crowd were also made in the aftermath of the event.[363] Because Trump continued to claim that the presidential election was rigged without any proper evidence and inciting violence, the social media platform Twitter suspended Trump's main account first for 12 hours and then permanently.[408] Following this, Trump attempted to access alternate accounts on the platform to continue with the tirade but all tweets were subsequently deleted and the accounts either suspended or banned.[409] Furthermore, Trump was banned from other major social media outlets including Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat; meaning he has been essentially removed from most major social media platforms.[410]

Law enforcement's failure to prevent the mob from breaching the Capitol attracted scrutiny to the Capitol Police and other police agencies involved.[411][412][413] In the wake of the violence at the capitol, several members of the Trump administration resigned.[21]

Public health experts have said that the storming of the Capitol was a potential COVID-19 superspreader event.[414]

Questions have been raised in the media regarding the discrepancy in police response to Black Lives Matter and white supremacist protesters, including the rioters who stormed the US Capitol.[415][416][417] According to an analysis by The Guardian of statistics collected by the US Crisis Monitor, "Police in the United States are three times more likely to use force against leftwing protesters than rightwing protesters", regardless of whether the protest is peaceful or violent.[418][419]

Impeachment of Trump

On January 11, 2021, Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced to the House a single article of impeachment against Trump, which they had written, for "incitement of insurrection" in urging his supporters to march on the Capitol building.[420][421][422][423] Nancy Pelosi named impeachment managers, led by Raskin and followed in seniority by Diana DeGette, Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean, and Joe Neguse.[424] Trump was impeached for the second time on January 13. He is the only federal official in United States history to have ever been impeached twice.[425][426]

Events outside Washington, D.C.

State capitols

Multiple U.S. state capitols were temporarily closed or evacuated after the storming of the U.S. Capitol.[427][428] Several states also experienced protests and riots.

Eleven people were arrested for illegal possession of pepper spray at a demonstration near the California State Capitol in Sacramento. There was at least one reported assault. Several roads were closed in downtown Sacramento and some bus lines were stopped, with over 200 police assigned to the demonstration. Some members of the crowd wore t-shirts supporting the far-right Proud Boys.[429] About 60 pro-Trump activists gathered outside the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta,[430] including armed militia movement members.[431] A courthouse complex and two other government buildings were closed as a precaution.[430] Chester Doles, a former Ku Klux Klan member who leads the far-right group American Patriots USA, attempted to enter the state capitol to deliver a "redress of grievances" about the election to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger;[431] however, Raffensperger and his staff evacuated early as a precaution.[431][430][432] A pro-Trump demonstration took place inside the first-floor rotunda of the Kansas State Capitol; the organizers had a permit and no incidents were reported.[430][433]

Trump supporters and police at the Texas State Capitol on January 6

A peaceful "Storm the Capitol" rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, was met by about 30 Minnesota State Patrol troopers and did not breach the state capitol. Demonstrators then marched to the governor's residence.[434] The protesters cheered upon learning that rioters in Washington had entered the U.S. Capitol.[435] Protesters in Lincoln, Nebraska, gathered outside the state capitol during the opening of the new session of the Nebraska Legislature.[436] Protesters and counter-protesters demonstrated at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, with one brief violent incident reported.[437] At the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City, one arrest was made on charges of attempted arson as well as assault and battery for attempting to light other people's flags on fire.[438] The protest numbered in the hundreds and was otherwise peaceful.[439] There were also arrests in Salem after hundreds gathered outside the Oregon State Capitol.[440] A crowd also formed in Carson City, Nevada.[441] In Indianapolis, approximately 100 people, including many members of the Proud Boys, gathered at the Indiana Statehouse; the Indiana crowd was peaceful.[442]

Two Tennessee lawmakers held a pro-Trump "prayer rally" at Legislative Plaza in Nashville. The crowd numbered roughly 150.[443][444] Pro-Trump activists in Olympia, Washington, some of whom were armed, broke through the gates at the Washington Governor's Mansion at the State Capitol Campus and occupied the front lawn, prompting a standoff with the State Patrol.[445][446]

In an internal "situational information report" dated December 29, 2020, the FBI's Minneapolis field office warned of armed protests at every state capitol, orchestrated by the far-right boogaloo movement, before Biden's inauguration.[447][448]

Other U.S. cities

Several hundred protesters gathered outside the Ahern Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The protest extended onto Las Vegas Boulevard as protesters marched to the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse.[449][450] There were also protests in the Los Angeles area, including at the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters downtown; as well as in Beverly Hills and in Newport Beach. An incident was reported of a protester spraying a counter-protester with a chemical irritant.[451] During the Los Angeles protests, a mob of 30 to 40 Trump supporters physically assaulted a black woman who was walking down the street, shouting racial slurs and chanting "All Lives Matter" while shoving, striking, spraying with pepper spray, and ripping off her hair extensions.[452][453]

International

Internationally, Trump's allegations of a "stolen" election found a small audience among conspiracy theorists and fringe groups.[454] In Canada, a few dozen people rallied in support of Trump in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary.[455] At the Vancouver rally, CBC photojournalist Ben Nelms was assaulted by one of the demonstrators.[456] In Japan, a few hundred people rallied in support of Trump in Tokyo, with several people carrying the U.S. flag and the Rising Sun Flag, a controversial symbol in East Asia because of its association with Japanese imperialism. The gathering in Tokyo was backed by Happy Science, a new religious movement that has been described as a cult, and took place several hours before the rally in Washington, D.C.[454]

In New Zealand, about 100 participants attending a "freedom rally" outside the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington organized by conspiracy theorist and New Zealand Public Party leader Billy Te Kahika waved pro-Trump banners and flags.[457][458]

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