Violent mobs supporting outgoing US President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol Building in Washington in an unprecedented attack that many said could be characterised as a coup d’etat.
Since his loss to Joe Biden in the November election, Trump has alleged widespread rigging of polls without any evidence. His case: postal ballots, which were widely used by voters in the US elections because of the pandemic, and which happened to be overwhelmingly in favour of Democrats, are easily rigged.
In fact, since the election loss, Trump’s team filed 62 lawsuits challenging the poll outcome in several key states, losing 61, and winning one in Pennsylvania that resulted in a small change in the vote tally and did not affect the overall result.
Trump, however, has continued to maintain that the US polls were rigged, and has frequently called on his supporters to help him win back the “stolen election”.
What happened today
Even as the Congress was slated to meet on January 6 to officially certify the votes of the Electoral College, Trump held a “Save America” rally, where he urged his supporters to “fight like hell” to “take back our country”.
Soon after, a mob of more than hundreds marched on to the Capitol, clashed with security and breached the Senate chambers and nearly breached the House of Representatives, besides multiple offices of members of Congress, including the House Speaker’s. The vote count had to be temporarily suspended as members of the Congress were rushed to a safe place.
The intruders were cleared after a few hours by the National Guard but not before the storming saw incidents of arson, vandalism and looting and the scuffle left four people dead and more than fifty, including law enforcement officials, injured.
The Congress reconvened and certified Biden’s victory, after hearing out an unsuccessful motion favoured by a handful of senators to reject the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Through the four years of his presidency, Trump has been known for his volatile temperament and has faced several accusations of trying to undermine the law to get his way.
During the election campaign, Trump had refused to pledge to a peaceful transition of power were he to lose, raising the same bogey of the possibility of electoral fraud.
But with Trump being accused of inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol will go down as a historic event where an outgoing president of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated democracy refused to cede power. Media reports quoting insiders said the President has been consumed by his electoral loss and had since November 3, focusing on ways to overturn the results, even as the US battles a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and ravaged the economy.
After Congress certified the Biden as President, Trump conceded and promised a peaceful transfer of power on January 20 when his tenure ends -- while continuing to claim that the election was stolen from him.
In continuing to claim electoral fraud and with millions of Americans still believing Trump’s case, he is still a risk to peace in a country whose ideological fault lines have widened over recent years.
Many lawmakers, including from Trump’s Republican party, have criticised the President for his behaviour, with some claiming Vice President Joe Biden should invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, and become President, claiming Trump to be unfit to lead.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have temporarily suspended Trump’s accounts but it is unlikely that the divisions that have erupted in US polity will heal anytime soon.
First Published: IST