Barbara A. Wolanin did not leave her TV often on Wednesday afternoon, watching terrified, she said, as hundreds of pro-Trump rioters rushed into the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building where eight large, framed historical paintings hang.
For nearly four hours, the collection she had spent more than 30 years caring for as Curator for the Architect of the Capitol was at the mercy of a mob that broke into rooms on the south side of the Capitol (including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office), smashed windows and then marched through the National Statuary Hall, waving American, Confederate and “Trump Is My President” flags.
Their time in the building is now represented by the damage they left behind. A 19th-century marble bust of former President Zachary Taylor was flecked with what appeared to be blood. A picture frame was left lying on the floor, the image gone.
The building itself is also a work of art — a paragon of Neoclassical architecture designed by Dr. William Thornton in the late 1700s and completed by the Boston architect Charles Bulfinch in 1826. But at the height of the riot, people were scaling its exterior using ropes, while others used poles as battering rams to break open an entrance. Inside, a pro-Trump loyalist posed on the Senate dais while another hung from the balcony in the chamber.
Detailed damage assessments from the Architect of the Capitol or the U.S. Capitol Police have yet to be released. But the singular works of art that curators consider the treasures of the building did not appear to have suffered any major damage.
It could have been much worse, Dr. Wolanin said.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Wednesday’s mob attack on the Capitol “borders on sedition.” The National Association of Manufacturers took out the qualifier: “This is sedition,” it said in a statement that accused President Trump of having “incited violence in an attempt to retain power.” And within the first hour of the attack, Merriam-Webster reported, “sedition” was at the top of its searches, ahead of “coup d’état,” “insurrection” and “putsch.”
To many scholars and historians, the use of the word sedition — defined as “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority” — was not misplaced.
“Treason, traitor, terrorism, sedition — these are strong words with specific meanings that are often tossed aside in favor of their buzzword impact,” Joanne Freeman, a historian at Yale University, said in an email. “But meanings matter. And sometimes, those words apply.”
But did it apply on Wednesday? Geoffrey R. Stone, a legal scholar at the University of Chicago, said that might have been the case.
“Normally, it refers to speech that advocates action or beliefs that are designed to overthrow or undermine the lawful processes of government,” he said of the strict definition of sedition. “Actions like burning down a building, or assassinating someone — those are separate crimes.”
As for those who rushed the Capitol, he said, they might argue that what they were doing was protesting, which is protected under the First Amendment.
“The problem is, they’ve gone beyond the bounds of what the First Amendment would protect as speech,” he said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of President Trump’s staunchest allies, blamed the president Thursday for the mob that overtook the Capitol, calling his rally that incited violence an “unseemly” event that got “out of hand.”
“The president needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution,” Mr. Graham said.
But Mr. Graham also faulted the Capitol Police for not being more forceful with the rioters whom he called “domestic terrorists.”
“The people sitting the chairs need to be sitting in a jail cell,” he said of those who stormed the building and sat in the senate president’s chair and at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk. “Sedition may be a charge for some of these people.”
Mr. Graham said Capitol Police “failed” and argued the violence might have been much worse had the Trump supporters carried weapons in their backpacks.
“They could have blown the building up. They could have killed us all,” Mr. Graham said. “They should have been challenged. Warning shots should have been fired and deadly force should have been used.”
Mr. Graham said he did not support removing Mr. Trump from his duties via the 25th Amendment and also declined to answer a question about whether Mr. Trump should ever run for office again.
“I’m not worried about the next election,” he said. I’m worried about getting through the next 14 days.”
The mood in Washington was subdued on Thursday, a day after a riotous mob fought through barricades and stormed into the Capitol building. Here’s a look at what photographers are seeing on the ground.
The mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday did not just threaten the heart of American democracy. To scientists who watched dismayed as the scenes unfolded on television, the throngs of unmasked intruders who wandered through hallways and into private offices may also have transformed the riot into a super-spreader event.
The coronavirus thrives indoors, particularly in crowded spaces, lingering in the air in tiny particles called aerosols. If even a few extremists were infected — likely, given the current rates of spread and the crowd size — then the virus would have had the ideal opportunity to find new victims, experts said.
“It has all the elements of what we warn people about,” said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “People yelling and screaming, chanting, exerting themselves — all of those things provide opportunity for the virus to spread, and this virus takes those opportunities.”
President Trump has downplayed the pandemic almost since its beginning, and many of his supporters who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday did not appear to be wearing masks or making any effort at social distancing. Under similar conditions, gatherings held in such close quarters have led to fast-spreading clusters of infection.
But transmission of the virus has always been difficult to track. There is little effective contact tracing in the United States, and many in the crowd at the Capitol arrived from communities far from Washington.
The Black Lives Matter protests in the summer raised similar concerns. But most were held outdoors, and greater numbers of participants seemed to be masked. Research afterward suggested these were not super-spreading events.
Attendees of the rally preceding the rush to the Capitol on Wednesday also stood outdoors close together for hours, but “I’m less worried about what was happening outdoors,” Dr. Rimoin said. “The risk increases exponentially indoors.”
In the aftermath of a violent mob invading the Capitol building on Wednesday, calls in Congress are growing for President Trump to be stripped of his power from office under the disability clause of the 25th Amendment.
The amendment provides a complex, difficult process for wresting power from a sitting president. Here is a brief history of the 25th Amendment and an explanation of how it operates.
What is the 25th Amendment?
The 25th Amendment to the Constitution is primarily designed to clarify the presidential order of succession. The first three sections deal with when a president resigns, dies or becomes ill or temporarily incapacitated.
The fourth section provides a multistep process for the vice president and a majority of the officials who lead executive agencies — commonly thought of as the cabinet — to declare that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That process ultimately requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.
How did the 25th Amendment come about?
In the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, there was some confusion about how to choose a new vice president after Lyndon B. Johnson became president. And there was concern about what might happen if Johnson fell ill or was incapacitated before his replacement was found. Congress formally proposed the 25th Amendment in 1965, and the amendment became part of the Constitution in 1967, after 38 states ratified it.
How would it actually work, if invoked now?
The first step would be for Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the cabinet to provide a written declaration to the president pro tempore of the Senate (currently Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa) and the speaker of the House (currently Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California) that Mr. Trump “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That would immediately strip Mr. Trump of the powers of his office and make Mr. Pence the acting president.
But the 25th Amendment would allow Mr. Trump to immediately send a written declaration of his own to Mr. Grassley and Ms. Pelosi saying that he is in fact able to perform his duties. That would immediately allow him to resume his duties, unless Mr. Pence and the cabinet send another declaration to the congressional leaders within four days restating their concerns. Mr. Pence would take over again as acting president.
That declaration would require Congress to assemble within 48 hours and to vote within 21 days. If two-thirds of members of both the House and the Senate agreed that Mr. Trump was unable to continue as president, he would be stripped permanently of the position, and Mr. Pence would continue serving as acting president. If the vote in Congress fell short, Mr. Trump would resume his duties.
Would that ever happen?
The authors of the 25th Amendment intended it to be a difficult process that would make it exceedingly rare. They succeeded.
To put it in context, it is even more difficult to strip a president of power under the 25th Amendment than it is under the impeachment process. A president can be impeached by a simple majority in the House and removed from office by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Stripping a president of power under the 25th Amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
Videos taken on the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday show how people tried to organize within the mob that had stormed the building.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, called on Thursday for President Trump to be removed from office over his role in spurring on a violent mob that stormed the Capitol and broke into the House floor a day earlier.
Ms. Pelosi called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows him and the Cabinet to take the power of the presidency from Mr. Trump. Her remarks echoed a similar statement made earlier by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.
If Mr. Pence did not move to do so, Ms. Pelosi said that she and other members of Congress “may be prepared” to move forward with impeaching the president for a second time.
“The president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference in Washington. “In calling for this seditious act, the president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people.”
Ms. Pelosi said she was hoping to have a response from Mr. Pence within the day.
Mr. Trump has just 13 days left in his presidency. Since Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol, a number of Democrats and a few Republicans have publicly stated that Mr. Trump should not be allowed to finish his term.
During the siege, Ms. Pelosi’s office was invaded and vandalized. Intruders in her suite overturned desks and smashed photos, and at least one person ripped a piece of a wooden plaque that marked the entrance to the speaker’s office off a wall.
Ms. Pelosi, a frequent target of Mr. Trump’s, described the events as “horrors that will forever stain our nation’s history, instigated by the president of the United States.”
She said that she was calling for the resignation of the chief of the Capitol Police, which has been criticized over its response to the mob. Officers appeared to be easily overwhelmed by the crush of people outside the Capitol.
Ms. Pelosi also said that the House’s sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, who is responsible for security in the chamber and its office buildings, would be resigning from his position.
Elaine Chao, the secretary of transportation, became the first cabinet official to join a number of Trump administration officials who have said that they will resign after a mob of the president’s loyal supporters stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, disrupting Congress as it was certifying the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Ms. Chao, who is married to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, announced her resignation on Thursday in a letter posted on Twitter. She said that she would step down from her position on Jan. 11 and that her office would cooperate with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s nominee for transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg.
“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” Ms. Chao wrote. “As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”
Ms. Chao is one of a number of officials to announce their resignations. They include those in prominent positions in the White House, and staff members who have been working in the Trump administration since the beginning of the president’s term four years ago.
Some of the resignations came hours after President Trump openly encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol to protest what he has falsely claimed was a stolen election. The moves are being made with less than two weeks remaining in Mr. Trump’s term.
Mick Mulvaney, a special envoy to Northern Ireland who was also President Trump’s former acting chief of staff
Matthew Pottinger, Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser since 2019
Tyler Goodspeed, the acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers
Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary who served as chief of staff to Melania Trump
Rickie Niceta, Ms. Trump’s social secretary
Sarah Matthews, a deputy White House press secretary
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said on Thursday that he would fire Michael C. Stenger, the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms, as soon as Democrats took the majority. The statement, made in the wake of a violent mob breaking into the Capitol and entering the Senate chamber, was first reported by Politico.
The Senate’s sergeant-at-arms is the body’s chief law enforcement and executive officer. In his role, Mr. Stenger is responsible for overseeing the rules of the Senate and maintaining security in both the Capitol and Senate office buildings. He has held the position since April 2018.
The Senate’s sergeant-at-arms is elected by the chamber’s members. Mr. Stenger was elected in April 2018, in a resolution that was passed by unanimous consent.
Mr. Stenger spent 35 years in the Secret Service, according to his biography on the Senate’s website. He is also a former captain in the Marine Corps.
Previously, he served as the Senate’s assistant sergeant-at-arms for the Office of Protective Services and Continuity, a position in which one of his responsibilities is overseeing security.
The House of Representatives also has its own sergeant-at-arms, who is elected to two-year terms. The current sergeant-at-arms, Paul D. Irving, has held the position since January 2012.
At least 56 Washington police officers were injured on Wednesday as they tried to push back hundreds of people who rushed the Capitol, the chief of the city’s Metropolitan Police Department said.
Chief Robert J. Contee said his officers had answered the call for help from the U.S. Capitol Police, whose officers were overrun by supporters of President Trump on their way into the Capitol. The chief of the Capitol Police said earlier on Thursday that several of his officers had been hospitalized with serious injuries.
“What we did do is restore democracy for all of America,” Chief Contee said at a news conference on Thursday morning in which he and Mayor Muriel Bowser provided more details on the attack on the Capitol. Among the updates:
Chief Contee said at least 68 people had been arrested. Only one of those people were from Washington and eight were women, he said.
Aside from the woman shot and killed by a U.S. Capitol Police officer on Wednesday, three other people died near the Capitol of medical emergencies, Chief Contee said.
Ms. Bowser, a Democrat, called the storming of the Capitol “textbook terrorism” and noted that the police response to racial justice protesters over the summer seemed “much stronger” than on Wednesday.
Asked about the actions of Capitol Police officers, Ms. Bowser had harsh words. “Obviously it was a failure or you would not have had police lines breached and people entering the Capitol building by breaking windows,” she said.
Chief Contee said the police were reviewing photographs and had released images of some people whom they were seeking.
Ms. Bowser urged the new Congress to pass a bill within its first 100 days to make Washington D.C. a state, and she also asked that the D.C. National Guard be put under her control and not under the president’s.
It was a siege. It was a mob. It was anarchy. Or, as the Italian newspaper La Stampa put it in its front-page headline Thursday, “Once upon a time, there was America.”
Wednesday’s violent siege of the United States Capitol — that symbol of Western democracy — instantly created a dire new image of America for the world to see.
The Boston Globe
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
The Chicago Tribune
But to some people, shocking news only feels real after it is printed on the pages of a newspaper they know. By Thursday, photos of officers with guns drawn at a barricaded door to the House chamber, and crowds of supporters of President Trump storming the Capitol steps, had cemented the reality of a day of stunning political violence in America on newspaper front pages around the world.
Editors wrestled with the right words to describe what had happened. At least two British newspapers blared there was “anarchy,” while the Daily Mirror, a popular tabloid, said the violence was perpetrated by a “crazed Trump mob.”
The urgent newspaper headlines mirrored the statements of Western politicians who criticized in newly blunt terms the leader of their most powerful allied nation. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she was “angry and sad.” Emmanuel Macron, the French president, appeared before an American flag in a video he released just before 3 a.m. Paris time on Thursday and said, in English: “We believe in the strength of American democracy.”
But the British magazine The Economist struck a less hopeful note. Rather than illustrate the next cover with a drawing, as they usually do, the magazine’s editors chose a photograph of a hooded member of the mob that stormed the Capitol, holding an iPhone, sitting in the head chair of the Senate chamber.
The headline: “Trump’s Legacy.”
A bust of President Zachary Taylor was defaced with what appeared to be blood during the riot at the Capitol on Wednesday. It was covered in plastic as the building was cleaned on Thursday.
The Justice Department said on Thursday that it would not rule out pursuing charges against President Trump for his possible role a day earlier in encouraging a mob of his supporters to march on the Capitol just before thousands stormed the building.
“We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,” Michael R. Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, told reporters.
Mr. Sherwin was asked whether such targets would include Mr. Trump, who exhorted supporters during a rally near the White House, telling them that they could never “take back our country with weakness.” Propelled by Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of election irregularities, the protesters had gathered to demonstrate against Congress’ certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory and moved on to the Capitol after the president’s rally.
Mr. Sherwin said that he stood by his statement. “We’re looking at all actors,” he said. “If the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re gonna be charged.”
His comments were an extraordinary invocation of the rule of law against a president who has repeatedly pressured law enforcement officials to advance his personal and political agendas. The Justice Department generally views that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.
Mr. Trump is also said to have discussed in recent weeks the possibility of pardoning himself, an unprecedented and untested use of presidential power, but it is uncertain whether that would ultimately protect him.
Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also told the crowd on Wednesday that Republicans in Congress should back Mr. Trump’s efforts to undo the election result: “We’re coming for you,” he said of lawmakers who refused. And Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, said that to win the election, his supporters would need to engage in “trial by combat” against Democrats.
Federal prosecutors filed on Thursday their first charges stemming from the riot, charging one man with assaulting a police officer and another with illegally possessing a loaded handgun.
Both criminal complaints were filed in Federal District Court in Washington. The city’s Metropolitan Police Department had announced earlier that they had arrested nearly 70 people at the riot on charges that included unlawful entry, gun possession and assault.
In a separate statement, the Capitol Police announced the arrest of 14 other people on Thursday.
The first federal complaint accused Mark J. Leffingwell of assaulting a Capitol Police officer around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday in a hallway in the Senate wing of the Capitol building. The officer, Daniel Amendola, said in the complaint that Mr. Leffingwell was part of a crowd that had “breached a window.” When Officer Amendola sought to stop him and others from entering the building any further, Mr. Leffingwell punched him repeatedly in the head and chest, according to the complaint. Mr. Leffingwell then “spontaneously apologized.”
Prosecutors also unsealed charges against a Maryland resident, Christopher Alberts, accusing him of illegally carrying a black Taurus 9-millimeter pistol at the riot. Officers first saw Mr. Alberts leaving the Capitol complex around 7:30 p.m. and noticed “a bulge” on his right hip. When they stopped Mr. Alberts, the officers found the pistol, which had one round in the chamber and a magazine filled with twelve rounds, according to the complaint. They also discovered that he was wearing a bulletproof vest and had a gas mask in his backpack.
After he was taken into custody, the complaint said, Mr. Alberts told the police that he had the weapon for “personal protection” and did not intend to harm anyone.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, both called on Thursday for President Trump’s removal from office over his role in igniting the violent mob that stormed the Capitol a day earlier.
Both men called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows him and the Cabinet to take the power of the presidency from Mr. Trump. Mr. Schumer went a step further, saying that if Mr. Pence did not act, he thought Congress should reassemble to impeach Mr. Trump a second time.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Mr. Schumer said. “This president should not hold office one day longer.”
In a video posted on Twitter, Mr. Kinzinger, who has been frequently critical of Mr. Trump in recent weeks, said the president had “become unmoored, not just from his duty or even his oath, but from reality itself.”
Mr. Trump has just days left in his term; he will leave office on Jan. 20, when President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to be sworn in.
The statements from Mr. Schumer and Mr. Kinzinger follow similar calls by Representatives Charlie Crist and Ted Lieu, both Democrats, on Wednesday. A letter signed by 17 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee was also sent to Mr. Pence, calling on him to invoke the 25th Amendment.