US President-elect Joe Biden has blasted the “insurrection” of pro-Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol in a riot that saw a woman shot dead.
The Democrat called on outgoing President Donald Trump to “step up” and repudiate the violence.
Mr Trump, who had urged the demonstrators to march on the Congress, later called on them to “go home”.
A joint session of Congress confirming electoral college votes was suspended by the mayhem and forced into recess.
The protesters fought their way past police to breach the US Capitol, shouting and waving pro-Trump and US flags as they roamed through the halls, demanding the results of the presidential election be overturned.
In stunning scenes beamed around the world, the invasion sent members of Congress scrambling for cover under their seats and donning gas masks as tear gas was fired in the Capitol Rotunda.
A female civilian who was shot inside the US Capitol during the chaos has died, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department said.
Federal law enforcement official said two suspected explosive devices were found and were both rendered safe by the FBI and Capitol Hill police.
What did Biden say?
Speaking from Wilmington, Delaware, Mr Biden said democracy was ‘”under unprecedented assault”.
“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfil his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,” he said.
“To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices on the floor of the United States Senate, rummaging through desks, on the House of Representatives, threatening the safety of duly elected officials.
“It’s not protest; it’s insurrection.”
What did Trump say?
Mr Trump responded in a recorded video on Twitter, repeating his unproven claims of fraud in November’s White House election.
“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt,” said the Republican president, who leaves office on 20 January.
“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.”
Twitter added a warning label to the tweet, citing the “risk of violence” and blocked it from being retweeted. The social media company later locked the president’s account to prevent him from tweeting.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Trump addressed a “Save America Rally” outside the White House.
He urged supporters to head to the Capitol and said: “Our country has had enough and we will not take it anymore.”
What happened at the Capitol?
Little is known about the woman who died, but disturbing footage from the scene shows her slumped on the ground with blood on her face.
Police have not yet released her identity of the woman and it is unclear who fired the shot that killed her.
The protesters surged up the Capitol steps at around 14:15 local time (19:15 GMT), shoving past barricades and officers in riot gear to penetrate the building.
The mob – some of whom were wearing wore body armour – used chemical irritants to attack police, according to Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee.
They marched through the building shouting “Where are they?” and chanting “We want Trump”.
One climbed on to the Senate dais and shouted: “Trump won that election.” Another protester was photographed sitting in House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with a foot on the table.
During the chaos, members of Congress – including Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris – were told to evacuate the building or remain where they were. A chaplain prayed as police guarded the doors to the House of Representatives chamber.
National Guard troops, FBI agents and US Secret Service were deployed to help overwhelmed Capitol police.
After an occupation lasting several hours, the sergeant-at-arms – the executive office of the Senate – announced that the building had been secured by law enforcement.
But there was little sign the protesters were heeding Mr Trump’s call to go home, despite a citywide curfew declared by the city mayor from 18:00 to 06:00 (23:00 to 11:00 GMT).
Meanwhile, a suspicious device was found outside the Republican National Committee’s headquarters, near the Capitol complex, and it was detonated by a bomb squad.
Vice-President Mike Pence had called on the rioters to leave the Capitol immediately, saying the violence and destruction “must stop now”.
There were also reports of protests at state legislatures in Kansas, Georgia, Utah and on the other side of the country in Oregon and the north-western state of Washington.
‘Surrender the building to us’
By Laura Trevelyan, BBC News, Washington
On the steps of Capitol Hill, hundreds of loyal Trump supporters are packed closely together, as nearby armed police officers keep a watchful eye.
The mood here is tense and defiant.
“We’re not [expletive] Antifa!” one man screams at the police, referring to the loose coalition of “anti-fascist” activists that oppose Mr Trump.
Trump loyalists near him wave placards that say “show us the ballots”.
“All we want is for the Capitol police to stand down, and surrender the building to us,” says one man to news cameras, as he is filmed by other Trump supporters.
The conviction here is that the election was stolen from President Trump, and the lawmakers inside the building should do their duty and somehow award the election to him.
Never mind that election officials have certified the results and the courts have thrown out Trump campaign lawsuits alleging fraud because there’s no evidence.
It’s a siege mentality here, as word spreads through the crowd that the National Guard is on its way to the Capitol.
What were the protesters targeting?
A joint session of Congress was being held to certify Mr Biden’s election victory on 3 November.
The proceedings are usually brief and ceremonial but Republican lawmakers have been objecting to some results.
For days Mr Trump had also been putting pressure on Mr Pence, who is presiding over the session, to block certification of the result. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” the president tweeted on Wednesday.
But in a letter to Congress, Mr Pence said that he had no “unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted”.
Mr Trump has also tried to throw doubt on the integrity of Tuesday’s Senate run-off votes in the southern, traditionally Republican, state of Georgia – where two Democrats are projected to have won.
Their victory would hand Democrats effective control of the Senate – something that will help Mr Biden push forward his agenda after he is inaugurated as president this month.
What’s the reaction?
Political figures across the world expressed shock. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned “disgraceful scenes” and called for a “peaceful and orderly transfer of power”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “Trump and his supporters must accept the decision of American voters at last and stop trampling on democracy.”
And former US President George W Bush said in a statement: “It is a sickening & heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.”
Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump
“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.
The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.
“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”
But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.
On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.
Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.
A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.
The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.
Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.
Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.
Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.
A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.
But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.
The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.
Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.
A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.
Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.
The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.
Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.
Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout
5 min read
Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.
It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.
The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.
Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.
“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.
In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.
“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.
“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”
Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.
He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same.
“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”
Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.
The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.
But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.
Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.
Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”
The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”
The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.
“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided.
“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”
Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.
“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”
The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.
He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”
But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.
He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.
“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.
“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.
“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”
Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”
How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers
Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.
The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.
After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.
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