The President’s grudging and belated statement was the first time he has conceded defeat in the 2020 election. But it came at a price, as America woke to see the carnage inflicted by Trump-supporting rioters who stormed Congress, forced politicians into hiding and took over the Senate chamber. Among the dead was a woman, shot by police.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” said Mr Trump.
His words were posted on Twitter by an aide. The President’s personal Twitter account has been frozen for posting comments that appeared to justify the unprecedented assault on the seat of the nation’s democracy.
Vice-president Mike Pence defied his leader by taking part as Congress finally reconvened to formally confirm Mr Biden’s victory in the early hours. Mr Trump’s ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, said the rioters should be prosecuted.
The President could now face unprecedented moves to disbar him from office or even terminate his presidency. Tom Tugendhat, the British MP and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he had spoken to senior Republicans this morning who are considering a vote to impeach him, which could ban Mr Trump from ever running for office again.
Although the President has only a fortnight left in the White House, Democrats are calling for the unprecedented step of invoking the 25th Amendment to end his term immediately for being “unfit” to serve.
Extraordinarily, according to reports in Washington, some members of Mr Trump’s own Republican cabinet were considering the 25th Amendment. To succeed, it would require vice-president Mike Pence and a majority of the cabinet to vote for his removal on the grounds of his inability to “discharge the powers and duties of his office”.
There was worldwide shock when Mr Trump last night described the rioters as “very special” and told them, “We love you.” The chaos on Capitol Hill broke out at around 2.15pm local time when supporters broke through a handful of guards to burst into the Capitol complex. Within minutes, they were swarming through the building and banging on the doors of the House of Representatives gallery, where politicians were debating the presidential election results.
Trapped inside for about 15 minutes, the politicians picked up pieces of furniture to defend themselves in case the barricaded doors were breached.
Winston Churchill’s grandson, the British politician Sir Nicholas Soames, tweeted in response: “Finally the World can see that Trump is a maniac.”
There was praise for Mr Biden who made a dignified speech calling on Trump to call off the mob, saying: “The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite.”
In extraordinary developments:
– Senior Republicans including the loyal Mr Pence were rushing to distance themselves from Trump.
– The woman who died was named as 35-year-old Ashli Babbit, an air force veteran from San Diego. She was apparently unarmed and had earlier tweeted: “Nothing will stop us…. the storm is here”. Three other people died in the chaos, while 14 officers were injured.
– Pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and guns were recovered in the Capitol grounds after dozens were arrested and when riot police finally cleared the pro-Trump protest from the building. During the hours-long stand-off some Congress members had to lock themselves into their offices.
– A shell-shocked Congress formally confirmed Mr Biden’s election victory overnight after Senators reconvened after five hours of delay under the protection of armed guards. Mr Pence formally ascertained the result as the clock struck 3.32am local time. It marked the last step in affirming Mr Biden’s presidency ahead of the inauguration on January 20. “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win,” said Mr Pence. “Enough is enough,” declared Senator Lindsey Graham who had, until last night, encouraged Mr Trump to continue with baseless legal challenges to his defeat.
Mr Johnson, the US ambassador to London, tweeted: “Yesterday was a dark day for the United States. Like you, I watched the horrible scenes from Washington with profound concern and sadness. Those who participated and engaged in criminal acts should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of our law.” One fear haunting Republicans was that the billionaire could run again in four years’ time as an independent.
Mr Tugendhat told the Standard: “Members of the House I have spoken to last night and this morning are talking of impeaching him, not so much to bring short his term now but to make sure he never stands again.”
Democrats said Trump should be ousted without delay. “The President incited an insurrection in the US Capitol today,” tweeted Democrat House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. “The 25th Amendment should be invoked.”