In a historic and tragic day, lawmakers returned late Wednesday to continue certifying electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election, a process that was disrupted by a chaotic scene, as protestors broke into the U.S. Capitol. One woman was fatally shot by police in the violent intrusion. Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor and Amna Nawaz join Judy Woodruff to break down the latest.
It has been an extraordinary and now tragic day.
Our Lisa Desjardins was inside the Capitol when it was stormed by protesters. Our Yamiche Alcindor has been at the White House throughout this day.
Lisa, to you first.
This news that the woman who was shot has died casts an even greater pall over what was already a horrific set of developments.
And I believe the Capitol hasn't begun to really reckon at all with the events of today.
As I'm talking to you, I see next to me, you can see next to me, actually, the sergeant of arms of the House of Representatives just passing me on his way into the House chamber. And I also saw high-ranking aides to Nancy Pelosi moving in. It looks to me like they are getting ready to allow people back in the Capitol.
So, I may be able to go that way myself there soon. We know that they have cleared and secured, according to Capitol Police, the U.S. Capitol Building.
And, again, as you say, Judy, officials are planning to meet and continue and finish the Electoral College count, the decisive certification of Joe Biden as president, tonight.
There is a curfew in place, as you said, in Washington, D.C. We have had announcements here. I don't think those were meant for us. Those are meant for protesters. I have never heard this kind of announcement before, a sort of siren and bell sound that warned people, if they did not get home before this hour, they would be subject to arrest if they were outside.
I believe that was meant for protesters. And now it does look like we're going to be able to shortly make it back into the Capitol. At least, the leading officials of the House are on their way in there now.
And, Lisa, of course, we're trying to understand whether they plan to go — they do plan to go forward.
We have heard a — we have just seen a statement by Whip Clyburn, who, of course, very close to Speaker Pelosi, saying they plan to get the business done of counting these electoral votes.
But what we don't know is if all the objections that had been…
… entertained, that had been planned, that they're going to go forward with all that, given now what's happened.
No, we don't know.
And it is a very wide universe of Republicans who were objectors. They don't all feel the same way about why they are objecting. Some of them felt that the election was fraudulent. Others of them said they wanted to make a point and just have a day of debate.
So, that is a question then that leads to how much time will be used up how, many Republicans will speak to actually try and debate this issue, or, because of what's happened here, the consequences of sort of this departure from reality that we saw with the election, and now we have seen manifests physically here in the Capitol, will that change how many Republicans want to speak up tonight objecting to the election?
Well, we will see. We're going to be covering it closely, watching it very closely.
And now to you, Yamiche, at the White House, where the president went — left from the White House this morning to go speak to these protesters, who later ended up mobbing the Capitol.
And now, Yamiche, he's made some statements, but he stands by his view that the election was stolen.
Today, we saw the physical manifestations and consequences of the president continuing to spread disinformation about the election and his loss in the 2020 election. The president is not backing down from that, even though, as you noted and as we have noted, someone has died, someone has — people have been terrorized inside the U.S. Capitol.
Violent protesters breached the walls. And, still, the president persists with misinformation, with disinformation. What we saw today was that consequences of conspiracy theories. And it's really that conspiracy theories have consequences. It's that false allegations have consequences. It's that delusional and at times debunked claims have consequences.
And I want to point out a tweet that the president sent just a few minutes ago.
Here's what he said, justifying, it seems, the actions of these protesters. He said: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love and peace. Remember this day forever."
That is the president lending his voice, in some ways justifying protesters' actions, protesters who felt entitled to come to the U.S. Capitol, to break windows, to do all of these things that have made this day so extraordinary.
And we see the president continuing to double down, as president-elect Joe Biden is telling President Trump tonight to step up, saying that he needs to get on national television and condemn this and tell people that this was wrong.
The president has said that there should be calm, but he has not done that. He has not gone to take questions. He has not gone before television cameras as of now. He's been watching all of this unfold from the safety of the White House that all day has remained calm, while the rest of the city has been chaotic.
The rest of the city chaotic.
And things have gotten so out of hand, Yamiche, we are not only seeing Democrats call for the president to be impeached, when he only has two weeks left in office. We saw that stunning statement from the National Association of Manufacturers, one of the major associations here in Washington, normally Republican-leaning, calling on the vice president, Mike Pence, to consult with a Cabinet on having the president removed from office. And, again, this was only two weeks left.
Where do things stand right now between the president and the vice president? The president was criticizing his own number two today for not going through with rejecting the election results?
Well, the rift in the Republican Party grew wider today, with the president lashing out at the vice president, saying that he did not do what the president wanted him to do, which is upend the count.
Vice President Pence said that it was his constitutional duty to have a ceremonial role. So, right now, things are tense between the vice president and the president. The vice president has also been more pointed in his criticism of protesters, while President Trump has justified some of their actions.
Another thing to note, as you said, there are manufacturing groups, other allies of the president openly talking about the 25th Amendment, openly saying that the president might not be able to be trusted with the next 14 days, which is all that remains in his presidency.
But look at all that happened, Judy, in just one day. In just one day, someone lost their life. So there are a lot of people who are worried that President Trump simply will not be responsible with this time and could continue to incite violence in their eyes.
And, Yamiche, just quickly, do we know what the president's plans are for the rest of the evening, for tomorrow? Is the White House saying anything to — about that?
The White House is not saying what the president's plans are.
It seems pretty clear, based on people that I'm talking to, that the president is going to continue to watch television, going to continue to take to Twitter, going to continue to send tweets that will likely have to be labeled, as many of them were today by Twitter, as misinformation, as disinformation.
He's going to continue to do that. But there is no clear communications plan here, this, of course, on a day where Americans are looking for leadership, where Americans are wondering, how can we all stay safe in this moment? The president is not offering any of that.
What we have seen is former White House officials, including former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, as well as the former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah, saying that this has to stop, saying that this needs to be condemned by the president in more strong terms.
I'm thinking of a Republican official in Georgia, Gabriel Sterling, who said someone was going to get killed and the president should condemn all of this different activity. The president didn't do that weeks ago. And now we're here today with the president continuing not to do that.
All right, Yamiche Alcindor at the White House, our Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol.
Lisa, last we spoke with you, you were making your way back into the Capitol Building. Hoping you get there as soon as possible, as they clear it out.
Lisa, Yamiche, thank you both. And we will be coming back to you throughout the evening.
As Lisa reported, it was a chaotic scene outside the Capitol and inside.
Our Amna Nawaz was on the outside. She was there. And she joins me now.
So, Amna, tell us. You had to move a little bit farther away. Tell us where things stand.
That's right, Judy.
As you know, here in Washington, D.C., that curfew has gone into place, so the streets are very quiet. The D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser, has said that, unless you are an essential person meant to be outside right now, everyone should be off the streets.
And D.C. police have been doing their jobs, moving people and asking people to move away from the Capitol grounds and off the streets.
So, things are quiet now. But, as you mentioned, we did have to move locations a couple of times, once earlier from the Capitol grounds, because the protesters that had been out there, as the hours went by and as time went on, and they realized that they weren't going to be able to breach any more of the entryways, and they were in a standoff with Capitol Police, they basically turned on the media there.
And a number of those protesters went towards the media pen, where a number of foreign journalists were housed, as well as some other domestic journalists, began tearing away the barricades, taking their gear, throwing water bottles and yelling.
At that point, our "NewsHour" team moved to a different location. At that location, we were confronted yet again with another group of Trump supporters who were leaving the Capitol grounds rally, and again confronted us, calling us fake news and harassing us. So, we decided, for our own safety, to relocate once again.
So, the streets right now are quiet. As we know, the Capitol is now secure. But we have to remember what it took for the Capitol to get there. And it took the involvement of D.C. Capitol Police, of riot gear, of riot police, of SWAT teams, of National Guard troops moved in, just to support those forces on the ground, because what we all saw today was just a remarkable scene unfold on the steps of the Capitol.
And, to be clear, the people who were there were there because they heard the president's message loud and clear, and they responded and acted on it. Every single protester we spoke to said that they were there because they believe the election was stolen, because they believe that president-elect Joe Biden was not duly elected and because, in their minds, they could not see this process move forward.
They felt it was undemocratic, and their country was being stolen from them. These are people who told us they trust no one but themselves and the president. They don't even trust that the pandemic is real. No one was wearing masks, and many of them were very tightly packed together in close groups.
So, these were people who have been very closely listening to the president's messaging for a very long time, have internalized and believed all of the false claim from the lies he's repeated. And, today, they acted upon it.
And that's what we saw unfold on the steps of the Capitol today — Judy.
Truly, a stunning turn of events throughout the day.
Amna, any sense from looking at these protesters, either by what they said or how they were dressed or whatever — whatever they said to you, that suggests they were organized in some way, that they came together as a group? What did you see in terms of that?
Well, there were a number of sort of disparate groups who'd rallied together. So there was a group of veterans for Trump and women for Trump.
We spoke to some people who actually flew in from California, family members, sisters and their husbands who had flown in together just to be here as supporters of President Trump.
But we also heard from a number of people who repeated a number of core statements we have heard from conspiracy theorists We saw some QAnon flags and memorabilia. We saw some white nationalist images and messages as well.
So, these are all groups that we know, we have all covered for a very long time, that have very strong messaging and circles on social media and elsewhere. And once a message gets seeded into that community, it spreads very quickly and is very deeply internalized.
And people were out there repeating a lot of those same messages. So, a number of them had those things to say. It didn't seem as if there was any one large overarching thing bringing them together, other than the fact that they were there to support President Trump. That's the message they had for us.
I also have to say, Judy, a point we haven't reported enough, this was an overwhelmingly white group. There were very few people of color. And we know in the past, when we have seen the president respond to the Black Lives Matter protests, for example, calling people thugs who peacefully took to the streets in protest of racial injustice. That was not the response we heard from him today — Judy.
Amna Nawaz reporting on today's events from outside the Capitol. She is in downtown Washington right now watching as the protesters — as the night begins in this city and as the curfew has gotten underway just in the last 20 minutes.
Amna, thank you.
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