On Wednesday, January 6, thousands of Trump supporters—including the Proud Boys, 3 Percenters and QAnon members—descended upon the Capitol and broke into the Houses of Congress. The attack was the first on the Capitol in over 200 years, and left five people dead.
The last time the United States Capitol was overrun, albeit by a foreign power, was in 1814, during the War of 1812, when British troops nearly burned Washington D.C to the ground.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have cited U.S. President Donald Trump’s insurrectionist rhetoric the morning of the riots as inciting violence and rioting. Trump stated, “We’re going to have to fight much harder, and Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us,” alluding to Pence’s refusal to invalidate the election during that day’s hearing where congress would make his loss official.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong,” he added during the speech, where he asserted long debunked lies regarding president-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election being “the product of fraud.”
The Department of Justice, former Attorney General Bill Barr, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) all stated in a joint statement unequivocally that there has been no substantial voter fraud on any level during the 2020 elections. The DHS stated “2020 was the most secure election in American history.”
Despite these assertions, Trump, and the politicians and civilians that support him, have claimed that “the election was rigged,” with organizations like Stop the Steal insisting that supporters of the outgoing president must protest the results and halt the process of confirming Joe Biden as President-elect.
There have been four civilian deaths related to the riot so far, including Ashli Babbitt, an air force veteran who was shot in the neck by Capitol police while she and others were trying to force their way into the building. Two Capitol police officers have also died: Brian Sicknick, who died Thursday of injuries sustained at the riot, and Howard Liebengood, who died by suicide Saturday after responding to the rioting at the Capitol.
In addition to the deaths, rioters vandalized Congress. They spread feces on the walls throughout Congress, smeared blood on marble statues and stole and destroyed Congressional members’ personal property.
Several politicians and journalists have noted that pictures and videos have surfaced that show Capitol police opening barriers and gates, waving protesters into the buildings, with some authorities even taking selfies with the rioters.
The Capitol police have maintained they were simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of people rushing the barricades and buildings.
The Pentagon was slow to respond to Wednesday’s events. According to reports, Trump’s new officials within the Pentagon blocked requests from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to utilize the National Guard to contain what had been seen as a potentially dangerous gathering of protesters. They continued blocking it, even as senators and representatives also began requesting support from the federal government.
The Washington Post reported Bowser had made multiple requests for National Guard support to assist in suppressing a crowd that was expected to contain “a large number of white supremacists and armed militia.”
In a pair of memos issued in reaction to the request, the Pentagon obstructed the distribution of weapons or riot gear to the D.C. guard, prohibited them from interacting with protestors, and thwarted the guard’s ability to share equipment with local law enforcement, according to further analysis by The Washington Post.
Regardless of the reasoning behind such refusals by the Pentagon, the lack of personnel clearly contributed to the devastation inflicted by the rioters. Despite this, late into the evening, Congress eventually certified President-elect Joe Biden.
After legislators were able to return to Congress after the riot, one of Trump’s most staunch supporters, former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, addressed the riots on the Senate floor: “The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken…If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”
As of Saturday, January 9, the majority of social media and internet platforms have banned Trump, his campaign and far-right extremist message boards such as Parler in response to Wednesday’s events at the capitol.
Also in response to Wednesday’s events, House Democrats introduced articles of impeachment against Trump for a second time Monday, accusing the president of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for his role in inciting the riot.