President-elect Joe Biden condemned the assault on the U.S. Capitol by right-wing rioters on Wednesday and called on President Trump “to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”
“At this hour our democracy is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times,” Biden said.
He called the rioters “a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness.”
“This is not dissent. It’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end now,” Biden continued.
A large and violent mob of Trump supporters, some of them armed, broke into the Capitol on Wednesday following a speech by the president in which he once again lied about winning November’s presidential election.
Congress met Wednesday afternoon to formally certify Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, a move protested by Republican lawmakers like Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who have said without evidence that there was widespread fraud in the election.
The pro-Trump rioters forced their way into the Capitol complex as police drew their guns. Vice President Mike Pence and senior members of Congress were quickly escorted to an undisclosed location. The frightening turn of events unfolded about an hour after Trump held a rally to protest the certification of the election.
At least one individual is said to be in critical condition after being shot inside the Capitol.
In his remarks, Biden repeated his frequent refrain that what a president says to the country matters: “The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, they can inspire. At worst, they can incite.”
Since November, Trump has publicly insisted that the election was somehow “stolen” by Democrats, although he has never provided any proof that this was the case. He has also repeatedly called on his supporters to protest the election results, telling them the country would be destroyed unless they took action.
In a September debate with Biden, Trump called on the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group, to “stand back and stand by” when he was asked to condemn such militia groups.
After members of his party publicly begged him to disavow the insurrection, Trump urged the crowd Wednesday to “remain peaceful” via Twitter but did not instruct them to leave the Capitol.
“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
In a one-minute video message released via Twitter later in the day, Trump repeatedly and falsely stated that the 2020 election was stolen from him before encouraging the rioters who stormed the Capitol to be peaceful and go home. He added, “We love you. You’re very special."
The Department of Defense belatedly authorized the National Guard to confront the protesters Wednesday afternoon, and over 1,000 guardsmen were expected to pour into Washington by the evening. The governors of Maryland and Virginia also said they were activating their National Guard units.
Striking a somber tone, Biden said that the country “is so much better than what we’ve seen today” and that the day’s events were “a reminder — a painful one — that democracy is fragile.”
“President Trump, step up,” he said.
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