Political

Trump-Biden transition updates: Joint session of Congress to count electoral votes begins

Bet_Noire/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, CATHERINE THORBECKE, MORGAN WINSOR and ROSA SANCHEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is slated to hand over control of the White House to President-elect Joe Biden in 14 days.

Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Jan 06, 11:28 pm
House votes down objection to Arizona’s election results

The House has rejected the challenge to Arizona’s electoral votes, 121-303, with most Republicans supporting the challenge.

There were 121 Republicans, 57% of the conference, who voted in favor of the objection, including GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

On the other side, 220 Democrats voted against the objection, joined by 82 Republicans. Two Democrats and five Republicans did not vote.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will soon move back into joint session with the Senate, where the certification of the electoral votes will continue alphabetically by state.

The next challenge expected is Georgia’s votes, but it’s unclear if House Republicans still have a senator to help them force debate and a vote.

Jan 06, 11:11 pm
Senate votes down objections to certifying Arizona electors

Hours after the Senate began debate counting the Electoral College votes, the full body voted 93-6 not to take up the objections to Arizona’s Electoral College votes.

Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Cindy Hyde-Smith, John Neely Kennedy, Roger Marshall and Tommy Tuberville all voted in favor.

Before the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol Wednesday, 13 Republican senators said they would object to the state over baseless claims of fraud. Seven changed their position after the violent siege ended and Congress returned to the Senate chamber.

Several senators will continue speaking on the floor while the House wraps up their debate on the objection to Arizona’s electoral results, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Jan 06, 10:01 pm
White House deputy press secretary resigns over Capitol breach

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews has resigned in response to what happened at the Capitol Wednesday.

Matthews said in a statement she was “honored” to serve the administration and “proud” of the policies it enacted, but added “our nation needs a peaceful transition of power.”

“As someone who worked in the halls of Congress I was deeply disturbed by what I saw today. I’ll be stepping down from my role, effective immediately,” she said in her statement.

Jan 06, 9:03 pm
Trump rebuffed efforts to call in National Guard, aides intervened for ‘sake of the country’

Multiple sources tell ABC News President Trump rebuffed efforts for quite some time to call in the National Guard Wednesday afternoon as chaos escalated at the U.S. Capitol, and steps weren’t made until a few White House officials intervened for “the sake of the country.”

Sources tell ABC News the aides explained to Trump that if action was not taken other protesters could mobilize across the country and the situation would only grow more dire.

Sources say the president is fuming mad inside the White House, unclear what his next move or action could be. He is described by one strong source as “stewing.”

Jan 06, 8:27 pm
McConnell says US Senate ‘will not be intimidated’ as session resumes

Speaking after Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “the United States Senate will not be intimidated.”

“We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. We are back at our posts. We will discharge our duty under the Constitution and for our nation, and we are going to do it tonight,” he said.

While McConnell condemned the violence, he also seemed to downplay the threat at the Capitol Wednesday, saying, “the United States and the United States Congress have faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today.”

“We will certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress,” McConnell added. “This institution is resilient. Our democratic republic is strong. The American people deserve nothing less.”

Jan 06, 8:18 pm
Pence makes statement on the Senate floor, reconvenes session

Vice President Mike Pence opened the joint session shortly after 8 p.m. with a brief statement after hours of chaos and riots ravaged the U.S. Capitol complex.

“The Senate will come to order,” Pence began. “Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift efforts of U.S. Capitol Police, federal, state, and local law enforcement, the violence was quelled.”

“The Capitol is secured, and the people’s work continues. We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms,” he continued. “We grieve the loss of life in these hallowed halls, as well as the injuries suffered by those who defended our Capitol today. And we will always be grateful to the men and women who stayed at their posts to defend this historic place.”

“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins, and this is still the people’s house. And as we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy,” he continued. “For even in the wake of unprecedented violence and vandalism at this Capitol, the elected representatives of the people of the United States have assembled again, on the very same day, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“Let’s get back to work,” he added to applause.

Jan 06, 7:47 pm
Melania Trump’s chief of staff resigns because of protests

Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s chief of staff and the former White House press secretary has resigned in the wake of violent protests in Washington Wednesday.

“It has been an honor to serve the country in the White House. I am very proud to have been a part of Mrs. Trump’s mission to help children everywhere, and proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration,” Grisham told ABC News in a statement.

-ABC News’ John Santucci

Jan 06, 7:08 pm
Pelosi says Congress has decided to proceed with business ‘tonight’

In a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the breach of the U.S. Capitol “a shameful assault was made on our democracy” but said it wouldn’t deter lawmakers from carrying out their duties.
 
“To that end, in consultation with Leader Hoyer and Whip Clyburn and after calls to the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the Vice President, we have decided we should proceed tonight at the Capitol once it is cleared for use,” she wrote.

“We also knew that we would be a part of history in a positive way, today, despite ill-founded objections to the Electoral College vote. We now will be part of history, as such a shameful picture of our country was put out to the world, instigated at the highest level,” Pelosi continued.
 
“Members and staff should remain on the Capitol complex until they are notified by the United States Capitol Police. I look forward to seeing you later this evening, during this time of great sadness,” she said.

-ABC News’ Mary Bruce

Jan 06, 6:24 pm
Trump tries to justify chaos at Capitol

As the chaotic scene continued in the nation’s capital with the world watching, Trump once again tweeted his repeated his false claim that the presidential election was being stolen from him and appeared to try to justify the storming of the U.S. Capitol that he encouraged earlier in the day.

“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,” he said.

“Remember this day forever!” he added.

Jan 06, 6:13 pm
President Bush releases statement on ‘Insurrection at the Capitol’

Former President George W. Bush released a statement on what he called an “insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol, calling it “a sickening and heartbreaking sight.”

“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic. I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement,” Bush said.

“The violent assault on the Capitol – and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress – was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes. Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation. In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law. To those who are disappointed in the results of the election: Our country is more important than the politics of the moment. Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety,” Bush continued.

He did not mention President Trump by name.

Jan 06, 5:30 pm
Manchin says Senate intends to finish business: ‘These thugs are not running us off’

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., just told reporters on Capitol Hill that the Senate intends to finish certifying the election this evening.

“We’re going to finish tonight,” Manchin said. “Everyone is committed to staying whatever it takes to get our job done.”

“These thugs are not running us off,” he added.

Manchin told reporters he believes that they will be able to continue debate in the Capitol building.

He said that being in the secure holding room with other Senators had a “way of bringing us together.”

-ABC News’ Trish Turner and Allie Pecorin

Jan 06, 5:31 pm
Electoral College ballots “rescued from Senate floor,” says Democratic senator

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.., tweeted a picture of what appears to be the mahogany boxes holding the Electoral College certificates that were the focus of the joint session — forced to a halt when pro-Trump protesters stormed the building earlier just as debate on Arizona’s vote count was underway.

The boxes are safe, per the senator, who added, “If our capable floor staff hadn’t grabbed them, they would have been burned by the mob.”

Jan 06, 4:30 pm
Trump calls on supporters who attacked Capitol to ‘go home’

After hours of chaos and as the Virginia State Police arrived at the U.S. Capitol Building, Trump called on his supporters to “go home” in a one-minute video message posted to Twitter.

Trump still didn’t concede his loss to Biden and, without evidence, called the election “stolen” and fraudulent,” but told the protesters to go home “in peace.”

 

 

“I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order we have to respect to our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.”

“It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us from me from you from our country. 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,” he said.

Jan 06, 4:16 pm
Biden calls on Trump to ‘step up’ amid violence at Capitol

President-elect Joe Biden, who was scheduled to deliver afternoon remarks on the economy, addressed the unrest at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon from Wilmington, Delaware, and called on Trump to “step up” and condemn the chaos being committed in his name.

“I call on President Trump to go on national television now, to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,” Biden said. “To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices, the floor of the United States Senate, rummaging through desks — on the Capitol, on the House of Representatives — threatening the safety of duly elected officials, it’s not a protest. It’s insurrection.”

 

 

“The world is watching,” he continued. “Think what our children watching television are thinking. Think what the rest of the world is looking at. For nearly two and a half centuries, we the people, in search of a more perfect union, have kept our eyes on that common good. America is so much better than what we’ve seen today.”

Jan 06, 3:10 pm
Armed standoff at door of House floor

There’s been an armed standoff at the front door of the House of Representatives and security officers drew their guns drawn at someone who is trying to breach the door, according to a pool reporter in the House chamber.

Another pool reporter on Capitol Hill said he observed protestors breach the Senate chamber. Senators were evacuated earlier, per sources.

One man stood up on the Senate dais and said, “Trump won that election,” according to the pool reporter, who also observed protests stalking the halls, appearing to look for senators.

Several dozen protesters were heard yelling, “Where are they?”

Capitol Police were asking for additional law enforcement assistance as protests intensify.

-ABC News’ Trish Turner

Jan 06, 2:57 pm
House of Representatives evacuates as protests escalate

Lawmakers were being evacuated rom the House floor after protesters began banging on door, according to a pool reporter in the House gallery.

Moments earlier, an officer told lawmakers they may need to duck under their chairs as protests escalated inside of the building.

“We now have individuals that have breached the Capitol building. They are in the Rotunda area,” the dispatch said.

Lawmakers still in the gallery were told to “be prepared” to relocate to cloakrooms.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., screamed from the gallery, “Call Trump! Call your friend!”

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., tweeted, “Police have asked us to get gas masks out as there has been tear gas used in the Rotunda.”

Trump finally broke his silence, after about an hour of protests, but did not call for the protesters to go home but to “Stay peaceful!”

Jan 06, 2:47 pm
Certification vote paused as protesters breach Capitol

Sen. Chuck Grassley interrupted the proceedings, taking over for Vice President Mike Pence to preside over the Senate — calling the Senate into recess subject to the call of the chair as protesters breached the inside of the U.S. Capitol building.
 
Pence appeared to have been moved out of the Senate chamber. The House of Representatives was being evacuated.

Jan 06, 2:34 pm
Trump attacks Pence as protesters storm the Capitol

As protesters of the Electoral College count and supporters of the president breached the Capitol building, Trump did not call for calm but attacked Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter.

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” Trump tweeted.

Jan 06, 1:37 pm
Gosar, Cruz object to certification of Arizona’s vote

As expected, the first election results have been challenged in Congress with GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona objecting to the counting of Arizona’s Electoral College votes.

“Are there any objections to counting the certificate of vote of the state of Arizona that the teller has verified periods to be regular in form and authentic?” said Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the session, as he will for each state.

“I write for both myself and 60 of my colleagues to object to the counting of the electoral ballots from Arizona,” Gosar said.

“Is the objection in writing and signed by a senator?” said Pence.

“Yes, it is,” Cruz proudly said, to applause from GOP lawmakers, with some rising to their feet.

Senators will go into the Senate and House members will stay in the House for two hours of debate on the certification of Arizona’s vote.

Minutes before the session began, Pence was heard asking an aide if his statement was out — in which said he does not believe it’s in his power to object the Electoral College count — and the aide said yes.

“Thank you,” Pence said.

Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admonished Republicans for gathering on their side of the chamber and their lack of social distancing, given the guidance issued asking members to stay in their offices and not congregate on the House floor unless they are voting.

Jan 06, 1:20 pm
Joint session of Congress to affirm Biden’s win underway

The joint session of Congress to confirm the Electoral College vote won by Biden is underway.

What’s usually a short, ceremonial event is expected to turn into a marathon affair. However, the end result will be the same — Biden will still be the next president, set to be inaugurated in just two weeks.

Vice President Pence is the presiding officer and in an uncomfortable situation as most legal experts agree he does not have the constitutional authority to object to Electoral College vote counting yet President Trump — down Pennsylvania Avenue at a “Save America” rally — demanded Pence “have the courage” to intervene, Trump saying he will be “very disappointed” if he doesn’t.

Moments before the session began, Pence released a statement through the White House making clear he does not believe he has the authority to intervene in the election

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

The Vice President’s job is to go through ceremonial mahogany boxes full of the votes from the states, ticking off each one alphabetically — but this year, it won’t be long until a senator objects.

When Pence gets to Arizona, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a Trump loyalist, is expected to object, thus launching up to two hours of debate in each chamber. Thirteen senators and as many as 140 House Republicans have said they will make objections in the process, but it’s still unclear how many states will be challenged. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has said he’ll object regarding Pennsylvania. Hawley has also said he does not believe Pence has the ability to not accept the electoral certification.

Jan 06, 12:45 pm
Trump ramps up pressure on Pence minutes before Congress meets to count electoral votes

Trump, speaking at the Ellipse, just outside the White House grounds, before thousands of supporters Wednesday, repeated he will “never concede” — and ramped up pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to try to overturn the outcome at a joint session of Congress just minutes away — which Pence cannot do.

“We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump said from behind plexiglass to chants of “Fight for Trump.”

“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to re-certify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people,” Trump said, teasing the 1 p.m. joint session of Congress to formally count the Electoral College votes.

“And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country,” Trump added.

Trump said he would lead the crowd of supporters to the Capitol Building following his remarks.

“And we’re going 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. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness,” he said.

“We’re going to see whether or not we have great and courageous leaders, or whether or not we have leaders that should be ashamed of themselves throughout history — throughout eternity. They’ll be ashamed. And you know what? If they do the wrong thing, we should never, ever forget that they did. Never forget. We should never, ever forget,” Trump said.

“We got to remember, in a year from now, you’re going to start working on Congress, and we’ve got to get rid of the weak congresspeople. The ones that aren’t any good. The Liz Cheneys of the world,” he went on.

“Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you.”

Jan 06, 10:22 am
Showdown looms in Congress as GOP members ready challenge to Biden’s win

As Congress convenes for a joint session Wednesday to ratify the Electoral College vote confirming Biden’s win, a historic showdown looms large as a handful of Republican lawmakers have said they will challenge Biden’s win.

More than 100 GOP lawmakers in the House and at least a dozen in the Senate are expected to join with President Trump in a last-ditch effort to challenge his election loss.

Democrats are calling this an unprecedented attack on American democracy, upending what is traditionally a solemn and relatively routine process of counting the certified electoral votes from each states.

The Republican lawmakers’ complaints, however, are not expected to shift the final outcome.

The joint session convenes at 1 p.m. ET.

Jan 06, 10:13 am
Hawley does not believe Pence has authority to oppose election certification

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., one of the 13 Republicans who plan to launch objections to the electoral ratification Wednesday afternoon, said on Fox during an interview with Laura Ingram Tuesday night that he does not believe Vice President Pence has the ability to not accept the electoral vote count.

Pence does not have the ability to overturn the election, despite tweets to the contrary from the president.
 
“I don’t think the Vice President counts under the law,” Hawley said. “I mean, he’s sort of just there.”
 
Hawley is a close ally of Trump but broke with the president on this issue.
 
“This is really on Congress,” Hawley said. “This is why it’s important to object and why I intend to object.”

Jan 06, 9:46 am
Trump continues to pressure Pence ahead of joint session on electoral votes

In his first tweet of the morning, President Donald Trump continued Wednesday to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election — which Pence cannot do.

Trump continued to peddle his false claims of election fraud, telling Pence, “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

Meanwhile, the nation’s capital is bracing for protests as Trump supporters convene for a rally in Washington, D.C.

Trump is expected to speak at 11 a.m. at what’s being called a “Save America Rally” from the Ellipse park just beside the White House.

Also Wednesday, a showdown looms in Congress as a handful of Republican lawmakers prepare to challenge Biden’s win.

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