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Good evening. It was an extraordinary day in Washington, and we’ll get right to it with a special edition of the briefing.
An angry pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol this afternoon, halting Congress’s counting of the electoral votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
By 6 p.m., the sergeant-at-arms, the top security official at the Capitol, said that the building had been secured. Riot police officers remained at the scene. We’re covering the situation live.
An Army official said the entire D.C. National Guard — about 2,700 troops — had been activated, and Virginia’s governor dispatched members of his state’s Guard along with 200 state troopers. Questions were circulating as to why the Capitol Police, a force 1,000 strong, had failed to secure the building. Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, issued a citywide curfew starting at 6 p.m.
Earlier, when the mob was still gathering outside the Capitol Building, the House and Senate were going through the election certification process, a normally straightforward activity that was being drawn out by a faction of Republicans who planned to lodge formal objections to various states’ results in support of Mr. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.
Mitch McConnell, the outgoing Senate majority leader, shifted his tone from support of Mr. Trump’s legal challenges to election results, making an impassioned call for his fellow Republicans to respect the vote of the people, warning that the alternative was a “death spiral” for democracy.
The proceedings stopped abruptly as security officers rushed Vice President Mike Pence out of the Senate chamber and the Capitol Building was locked down, with senators and representatives first secured inside their respective chambers and then evacuated.
“This is what you’ve gotten, guys,” Senator Mitt Romney of Utah yelled at the renegade Republican faction as the mayhem unfolded.
“This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection,” Mr. Romney later said, furiously.
Below, people sheltered in the House gallery.
People around the nation and the world watched the scenes in the U.S. capital with shock. Many elected officials, both Republican and Democrat, called for an end to the violence.
President-elect Joe Biden said the breach of the Capitol Building was “an assault on the rule of law like few times we’ve ever seen it” and called on Mr. Trump to publicly “demand an end to this siege.”
At 4:17 p.m., Mr. Trump posted a video on Twitter in which he told his supporters to “go home, and go home in peace.”
“I know your pain,” Mr. Trump said. “I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order.” He assured them that they were “very special.”
“We will never concede,” Mr. Trump said in the speech that inflamed his supporters, delivered about noon in the Ellipse, a park just south of the White House.
He said Vice President Mike Pence should throw the 2020 election his way. Mr. Pence refused, issuing a statement affirming that he lacked the “unilateral authority” to decide the outcome of the presidential election.
After Mr. Trump urged the crowd to march on Congress, hundreds of calls to storm the building were posted online.
Peter Baker, our chief White House correspondent, took stock of a “remarkable scene evocative of coups and uprisings associated with authoritarian countries around the world.”
“A presidency that has stirred hostility and divisions for four years,” he wrote, “appeared to be ending in an explosion of anger, disorder and violence.”
As the chaos unfolded, Democrats won control of the Senate with a pair of historic victories in Georgia’s runoff elections.
Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock have both been declared the winners over their Republican opponents, David Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler. Mr. Warnock is the first Black person from Georgia, and the first Black Democrat in the South, to be elected to the Senate.
The Democrats’ twin victories will reshape the balance of power in Washington. Senator Chuck Schumer will become the majority leader, with Mr. McConnell relegated to minority leader. Republicans and Democrats will have 50 senators each, but Kamala Harris, as vice president, can cast tie-breaking votes.
The margins may have been slim in Georgia, but the Democratic showing confirmed its metamorphosis from conservative bastion to battleground state was complete.
Separately, Mr. Biden plans to nominate Judge Merrick Garland for attorney general.
Here’s what else you need to know:
The U.S. is woefully ill-equipped to track a dangerous new coronavirus variant, experts warned.
That’s because the U.S. has no large-scale, nationwide system for checking coronavirus genomes for new mutations, including the ones carried by the new variant that is now surging in Britain. For now, the variant appears to be rare in the U.S., but it has the potential to explode in the next few weeks.
The variant is just one of the growing list of challenges that have surfaced in 2021. Around the globe, people who held on in the hope that 2021 would banish a year of horror are struggling with the reality that the hardest challenges may lie ahead.
A thousand Hong Kong police officers arrested 53 pro-democracy leaders and activists before dawn, delivering a clear message: Beijing is in charge.
The mass arrests were the largest roundup yet under China’s new national security law.
Those arrested had tried to choose candidates to run in the city’s legislative elections in September, some arguing for aggressive confrontations with the authorities but others supporting more moderate tactics.
Separately, the New York Stock Exchange reversed course again, saying it would remove China’s three major state-run telecommunications companies — China Unicom, China Telecom and China Mobile — from the exchange. And Mr. Trump banned transactions with eight Chinese apps, including Alipay and WeChat Pay, in a surprise parting shot.
And Louisville hired Atlanta’s former police chief, who had resigned after a high-profile police shooting, to run its troubled department.
Erika Shields, who stepped down after the killing of Rayshard Brooks in June, will arrive in a city still gripped by the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Her selection highlights the difficulty of filling police chief vacancies nationwide, particularly in troubled departments like Louisville’s. Ms. Shields will become the fourth chief to lead the police force there since March.
Andrea Kannapell contributed to this briefing.
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