WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Congress will resume the Electoral College proceedings once the Capitol is cleared of pro-Donald Trump protesters and safe for use.
Pelosi said she made the decision Wednesday in consultation with the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the vice president, who will preside.
She noted the day would always be “part of history,” but now it would be “as such a shameful picture of our country was put out into the world.”
Officials earlier declared the U.S. Capitol complex “secure” after heavily armed police moved to end a nearly four-hour violent occupation by supporters of President Donald Trump.
An announcement saying “the Capitol is secure” rang out Wednesday evening inside a secure location for officials of the House. Lawmakers applauded.
Related: Protesters clash in downtown L.A., while Trump rallies unfold elsewhere in Southern California
The occupation interrupted Congress’ Electoral College count that will formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s upcoming inauguration on Jan. 20.
Lawmakers were evacuated to secure locations around the Capitol complex and Washington, D.C. after thousands of Trump supporters breached the building and skirmished with police officers.
Police had used tear gas and percussion grenades to begin clearing pro-Trump protesters from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol ahead of a curfew in Washington. In the moments before, there were violent clashes between the police and protesters, who tore railing for the inauguration scaffolding and threw it at the officers.
Police used tear gas and percussion grenades to break up the crowd, which began dispersing.
One woman was confirmed to have been shot and killed.
The district’s police chief said at least 13 people were arrested, and five firearms had been recovered during the pro-Trump protests on Wednesday.
Former President George W. Bush says he and his wife, Laura, are sickened and heartbroken over the “mayhem” in Washington and have watched in “disbelief and dismay” as events unfolded.
Bush said the “assault” on the Capitol on Wednesday and the disruption of a constitutionally mandated meeting to affirm Democrat Joe Biden’s victory was “undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”
The Republican said in a statement that he is “appalled” by what he described as “reckless” behavior by some political leaders since the election and the lack of respect for U.S. institutions, traditions and law enforcement.
Bush addressed those who are disappointed by the election result, saying, “Our country is more important than the politics of the moment.”
The protesters were egged on by Trump and his false attacks on the integrity of the November presidential election. While rallying his supporters outside the White House Wednesday morning, he urged them to march to the Capitol.
But later — hours after they fought police and breached the building — he told them that although they were “very special people” and he backed their cause, they should “go home in peace.”
President-elect Biden, two weeks away from being inaugurated, had declared in Wilmington, Delaware: “I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,”
Biden said that democracy was ’“under unprecedented assault,” a sentiment echoed by many in Congress, including some Republicans.
The chaotic protests halted Congress’ constitutionally mandated counting of the Electoral College results, in which Biden defeated Trump, 306-232.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had tried to steer Congress away from Wednesday’s formal protest of those results, and he said at the start of proceedings that Trump had clearly lost.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse is directly blaming President Donald Trump for the storming of the Capitol by huge, angry crowds of pro-Trump protesters.
The Nebraska lawmaker and frequent critic of Trump said Wednesday evening that the Capitol “was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard — tweeting against his Vice President for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the Constitution.”
Sasse says in a written statement, “Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the President’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Wednesday’s ordinarily mundane procedure of Congress certifying a new president was always going to be extraordinary, with Republican supporters of Trump vowing to protest election results that have been certified by the states. But even the unusual deliberations, which included Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader McConnell defying Trump’s demands, were quickly overtaken by the chaos.
In a raucous, out-of-control scene, protesters fought past police and breached the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they marched through the halls. At least one explosive device was found that was detonated.
The protesters abruptly interrupted the congressional proceedings in an eerie scene that featured official warnings directing people to duck under their seats for cover and put on gas masks after tear gas was used in the Capitol Rotunda.
Senators were being evacuated. Some House lawmakers tweeted they were sheltering in place in their offices.
The Pentagon said about 1,100 District of Columbia National Guard members were being mobilized to help support law enforcement at the Capitol.
Pence was closely watched as he stepped onto the dais to preside over the joint session in the House chamber.
Pence had a largely ceremonial role, opening the sealed envelopes from the states after they are carried in mahogany boxes used for the occasion, and reading the results aloud. But he was under growing pressure from Trump to overturn the will of the voters and tip the results in the president’s favor, despite having no legal power to affect the outcome.
“Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
But Pence, in a statement shortly before presiding, defied Trump, saying he could not claim “unilateral authority” to reject the electoral votes that make Biden president.
Despite Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud, election officials and his own former attorney general have said there were no problems on a scale that would change the outcome. All the states have certified their results as fair and accurate, by Republican and Democratic officials alike.
Arizona was the first of several states facing objections from the Republicans as Congress took an alphabetical reading of the election results. Then the chaos erupted.