Lawmakers have returned to the US Capitol to finish certifying Joe Biden’s election victory, hours after Trump supporters stormed the building in a riot that saw four people die.
One woman was shot by police, while three others died as a result of “medical emergencies”, officials said.
The pro-Trump mob stormed the building in a bid to overturn the election result, suspending a Congress session.
US President-elect Joe Biden blasted the “insurrection”.
President Donald Trump, who had urged the demonstrators to march on the Capitol, later called on them to “go home”, while continuing to make false claims of electoral fraud. Twitter and Facebook later froze his accounts.
US Vice-President Mike Pence started the resumed session on Wednesday evening, in which lawmakers are counting and confirming electoral votes, saying it had been a “dark day in the history of the United States Capitol”.
The proceedings are usually brief and ceremonial but some Republican lawmakers have been raising objections in the session in an effort to overturn the result – a bid that is all but certain to fail.
The rampage came as two Democrats won Senate seats in elections in Georgia, which shifted the balance of Congress to their party’s effective political control, aiding the passage of Mr Biden’s agenda after he is inaugurated on 20 January.
What do we know about the deaths?
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said the woman shot by police was part of a group of individuals that forced entry into the House room, which was still in session. They were confronted by plainclothes officers, and an officer pulled out a weapon and fired it.
The woman was taken to hospital and proclaimed dead. She has not been officially named, but local media identified her as San Diego-area US Air Force veteran and Trump supporter Ashli Babbit.
Officials said the three other deaths included one woman and two men, but details of how they died have not been made public. At least 14 members of the police were injured during the unrest.
What happened at the Capitol?
Protesters surged up the Capitol steps at about 14:15 local time (19:15 GMT), shoving past barricades and officers in riot gear to penetrate the building.
The action was targeting the joint session of Congress being held to certify Mr Biden’s election victory on 3 November. The invasion sent members of Congress scrambling for cover under their seats as tear gas was fired.
The mob – some of whom wore body armour – used chemical irritants to attack police, according to Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee.
They shouted and waved pro-Trump and US flags as they roamed the halls, demanding the results of the presidential election be overturned.
Several thousand National Guard troops, FBI agents and US Secret Service were deployed to help overwhelmed Capitol police.
Two pipe bombs were recovered, one from the Democratic National Committee offices, not far from the Capitol, and one from the nearby Republican National Committee headquarters.
The occupation of the Capitol lasted more than three hours before the building was 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.
So far, more than 52 people have been arrested – 47 of them for curfew violations.
There were also protests on Wednesday at state legislatures in Kansas, Georgia, Utah and on the other side of the country in Oregon and the north-western state of Washington.
A deadly day and Trump’s legacy
This is how the Trump presidency ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bang.
For weeks, Donald Trump had been pointing to 6 January as a day of reckoning. It was when he told his supporters to come to Washington DC, and challenge Congress – and Vice-President Mike Pence – to discard the results of November’s election and keep the presidency in his hands.
Crisis can bring political opportunity, and there are many politicians who will not hesitate to use it to gain advantage.
Donald Trump – for now – is still in power. And while he may be chastened, he may be sitting in the White House residence watching television temporarily without his social media outlet, he will not be silent for long.
And once he decamps for his new Florida home, he could begin making plans to settle scores and, perhaps, someday return to power and rebuild a legacy that, for the moment, lies in tatters.
How did Biden and Trump react?
Democrat Mr Biden, who defeated the Republican president in November’s White House election, said the protesters’ activity “borders on sedition” and that democracy was “under unprecedented assault”.
“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.”
Mr Trump responded to the action in a recorded video on Twitter, repeating his unproven claims of election fraud.
“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt,” he said. “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.”
For the first time, Twitter froze Mr Trump’s account, saying it would be locked for 12 hours. The social media giant demanded he delete three tweets that it said could stoke violence and threatening “permanent suspension”. Facebook and Instagram followed suit.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Trump addressed a “Save America Rally” outside the White House, when he urged supporters to head to the Capitol. “Our country has had enough and we will not take it anymore,” he said.
Political figures across the world condemned the storming of the US Capitol.
Former President Barack Obama said history would rightly remember the assault on the Capitol as “as a moment of great dishonour and shame for our nation”.
And former US President George W Bush said: “It is a sickening & heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.”
What has been happening in Congress?
Mr Biden received 306 votes to Mr Trump’s 232 in the US electoral college, which confirms the president. So far, the House and Senate have rejected an objection to Mr Biden’s win in Arizona.
For days Mr Trump had been piling pressure on his vice-president, who was presiding over the session, to block certification of the result. But in a letter to Congress on Wednesday, Mr Pence said he had no “unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted”.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also definitively broke with Mr Trump in an emotional speech from the chamber floor, saying: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”
After the session resumed, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer blasted the mob at the Capitol as “rioters and insurrectionists, goons and thugs, domestic terrorists”, saying the president “bears a great deal of the blame”.
Senator Kelly Loeffler, who lost her bid for election in Georgia’s vote on Tuesday, said she could no longer in good conscience vote against certification as she had originally planned, citing the “abhorrent” invasion of the Capitol.
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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