At 6 a.m. on Wednesday, thousands of Trump supporters gathered around The Ellipse in Washington D.C. to prepare for a pro-Trump rally.
Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., began the “Save America Rally,” followed by the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. When Trump stepped on stage, he told the massive crowd: “after this, we’re going to walk down . . . to the Capitol and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women.” After Trump concluded his speech an hour later, his followers stormed toward the Capitol.
At 1 p.m., lawmakers gathered in the House of Representatives chamber to count the Electoral College votes. Within 10 minutes, rioters began to wrestle their way onto the Capitol steps. A pipe bomb was discovered outside of the Capitol, and rioters began to force their way into the building by fighting police, scaling the walls on the west side of the building, and smashing windows.
In the days prior to the riot, Trump had placed significant pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to declare the 2020 election results as fraudulent.
However, after Pence failed to do so, Trump tweeted, “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 fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
During the chaos, Pence was escorted out of the Senate chamber. Afterwards, rioters attempted to hunt the vice president down inside the Capitol by chanting “Where is Pence?” Several Trump supporters also filed into the House of Representatives chamber and lawmakers fled the room wearing “escape hoods” (a respiratory hood and mask for protecting against fires or chemical accidents).
Shots were fired around 2:44 p.m. and a woman was reported to have been in critical condition after she was shot in the neck. Police later reported that the woman died from her injuries. According to D.C. police, three other adults died as a result of medical emergencies that were brought on by the furor.
Trump tweeted a one-minute video of himself telling his followers that he understood their pain.
“We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side,” the president wrote. “But you have to go home now. . . We love you, you’re very special.” Following the tweet, Twitter imposed a 12-hour tweet ban on the president. Nonetheless, Trump’s supporters were already riled up by his barrage of encouraging tweets.
As the raid wore on, it became abundantly clear that the hordes of Trump supporters were operating without a clear plan of action.
Consequently, the rioters’ efforts were haphazard and extensive damage was done to the Capitol building during the hours-long melee, including breaking into offices, stealing government property, and vandalizing art. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office was a particularly popular target and multiple rioters paraded stolen “trophies” of her belongings around the Capitol. One man sat in Ms. Pelosi’s chair, wrote her a nasty note and put his feet up on her desk. He also stole an envelope with the speaker’s letterhead on it, but he told reporters that he had “bought” it since he had “put a quarter on her desk.” Other rioters tore name plaques off of office doors and carried “Area Closed” signs that they had nabbed after storming past them.
At 8 p.m., Congress reconvened to resume counting the Electoral College votes. Around 9 p.m., D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III announced that at least 52 arrests were made on Wednesday: 47 for curfew violations (imposed by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and unlawful entry, four for carrying pistols without licenses, and one arrest for the possession of a prohibited weapon.
In addition to reporting on the day’s arrests, Contee confirmed that police had found two pipe bombs at the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee offices. The chief also noted that 14 D.C. officers were injured during the riots after they were assaulted by Trump supporters. In response to Wednesday’s pro-Trump rampage, Mayor Bowser fully blamed the president for the “unprecedented attack on our American democracy” and stated that Trump “must be held accountable. His constant and divisive rhetoric led to the abhorrent actions we saw today.”
As the day wore on, there were also discussions about the different routes lawmakers could take to remove Trump from office less than 14 days before his scheduled departure.
Several members of the Trump Cabinet (including some of the president’s allies) suggested invoking the 25th Amendment, which would determine that Trump is no longer able to perform the duties of his job and must step down. Other lawmakers have favored a more direct approach of re-impeaching the president, including Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota who said that she was already working on drawing up an article (or articles) of impeachment as early as midafternoon on Wednesday.
Former President Barack Obama stated that GOP leaders are currently facing a choice: “They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires. Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames. They can choose America.”