Electoral College ballots saved during DC riots


Electoral College ballot boxes arrive as a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to confirm the Electoral College votes cast in November’s election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

Jim Lo Scalzo | Pool | AP

Senate staff saved paper Electoral College ballots before pro-Trump rioters broke into the chamber during a formal count Wednesday, according to a Democratic senator.

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon tweeted a photo of cases containing the state-level presidential election results, which Congress had planned to tally Wednesday before the president’s supporters stormed into the legislature. Merkley said, “If our capable floor staff hadn’t grabbed them, they would have been burned by the mob.”

Congress had started to count the ballots expected to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s presidential victory over Trump when rioters forced their way into the Capitol. Lawmakers evacuated to secure locations as the president’s supporters swarmed into the House and Senate chambers.

Congress restarted the process of counting the votes Wednesday night. The Senate convened at around 8 p.m. ET. The House gathered again around 9 p.m. ET, after what Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called a “shameful assault” on democracy “anointed at the highest level of government.”

Lawmakers signaled they would work through the night to tally the votes.

“I have faced violent hatred before. I was not deterred then, and I will not be deterred now,” Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the chamber’s majority whip, said in a tweeted statement.

The Capitol was secured by about 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland sent National Guard forces, which worked with federal law enforcement to end the occupation of the building.

Before the attack started, Republican lawmakers backed by Trump objected to counting Arizona’s electoral votes. The House and Senate broke into separate sessions to debate and vote on affirming the result. When they reconvened, they resumed debate on Arizona.

Trump had alleged, but repeatedly failed to prove in court, that systemic fraud led to his narrow loss in Arizona. States have certified their presidential election results.

The office of Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who objected to counting the Arizona ballot, did not say whether he would try to block certification of another state following the Capitol breach. Cruz, who had joined a group of about a dozen Senate Republicans in saying they would challenge key states, earlier urged the mob to stop attacking the Capitol.

The office of Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who has backed the efforts to stop the electoral count in key states, also did not say whether he would object to the electoral count for any states. Other Republicans reversed course and said they would not challenge results Wednesday, including Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost her Senate seat in Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia to her Democratic challenger, the Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Trump spoke to his supporters before they marched on the Capitol on Wednesday. He again lied about the election results.

In a video posted to Twitter later Wednesday, he continued to spread false claims about the presidential race. He tweeted again Wednesday, telling his supporters to “go home with love and in peace.”

“Remember this day forever!” he added.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Senate Republican to vote to remove Trump from office last year after the House impeached him, said Wednesday that “what happened here today was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States.”

In remarks he hoped to give earlier during the electoral vote count, Romney said, “I urge my colleagues to move forward with completing the electoral count, to refrain from further objections, and to unanimously affirm the legitimacy of the presidential election.”

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