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ISLAMABAD: Congress formally certified Joe Biden as the next US president on Thursday, dealing a hammer blow to Donald Trump whose supporters stormed the Capitol hours earlier, triggering unprecedented scenes of mayhem in the American democracy.
Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives successfully beat back Republican efforts to deny Biden the electoral votes needed to win, prompting loud cheers when the certification was announced.
The affirmation of Biden’s 306-232 victory over Trump in November essentially closes the door on the unparalleled and deeply controversial effort by Trump and his loyalists to overturn the results of 2020 election, international media reported. The president immediately released a statement pledging an "orderly transition" but suggesting he would remain in frontline politics, amid speculation that he may run again in 2024.
"Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20," he said. "I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!" The certification came hours after a mob breached the US Capitol and sent lawmakers scrambling for safety. They were able to return hours later, shaken but determined to complete the task.
In another setback for Trump, Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline was leading the push for the removal of Trump from office. Cicilline, a Democrat who has staunchly opposed Trump and voted to impeach him last year, teamed up with several of his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee to write a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, urging him to invoke the 25th Amendment.
“The world watched aghast as insurrectionists, who had been egged on by the President, threatened the safety of elected officials and staff and destroyed public property as they stormed and occupied both the House and Senate chambers bringing our democracy to a halt,” the letter reads. “At one point, the insurrectionists even removed an American flag flying at the Capitol and replaced it with a Trump flag.”
The 25th Amendment would give Pence the power to begin the process of removing Trump from power, even though the outgoing president only has 14 days until Joe Biden succeeds him.
In a tweet, Cicilline said if Pence doesn’t invoke the 25th Amendment, then Congress should vote to impeach the president. He also called for Trump’s conviction.
Dozens Congress members have also reportedly called for removal of Trump.
Katherine Clark, assistant speaker of the House and Massachusetts congresswoman, tweeted: “Donald Trump is a traitor to our country and our Constitution. He must be removed from office and prevented from further endangering our country and our people.”
Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer also tweeted: “Besides impeachment, I also support invoking the 25th Amendment. This madman must be removed as soon as possible and we can’t allow him to burn the house down as he goes out the door.”
Missouri congresswoman Cori Bush wrote: “As a member of @HouseJudiciary, I am calling for the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump and his removal from office. I’m also calling for the expulsion of @GOP members of Congress complicit in inciting the attack on our nation’s Capitol. Their actions must have consequences.”
Biden denounced the storming of the Capitol, calling it “an assault on the citadel of liberty” and saying the president had stoked the mob with his brazen and false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen.
In direct, forceful language, Biden called the scenes of chaos in the halls of Congress “a dark moment” in the nation’s history, appealed for calm and made clear that he held Trump accountable for instigating violence that left members of both parties and allies around the world appalled.
“At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite,” Biden said.
Egged on in an extraordinary rally across town by an aggrieved Trump, a flag-waving mob had broken down barricades outside the Capitol and swarmed inside, rampaging through offices and onto the usually solemn legislative floors.
Security forces fired tear gas in a four-hour operation to clear the Capitol. Police said that one woman, reportedly a female Trump partisan from southern California, was shot and killed and that three other people died in the area in circumstances that were unclear. Several other protesters were also reportedly injured.
In a significant new crackdown, social media companies pulled down the video on charges it aggravated violence and Twitter locked Trump out of his account for 12 hours and said that future violations could result in a permanent suspension. The company required the removal of three of Trump’s tweets, including a short video in which he urged those supporters to “go home” while also repeating falsehoods about the integrity of the presidential election. Trump’s account deleted those posts, Twitter said; had they remained, Twitter had threatened to extend his suspension.
Facebook and Instagram followed up in the evening, announcing that Trump wouldn’t be able to post for 24 hours following two violations of its policies. The White House did not immediately offer a response to the actions.
Mick Mulvaney, a former chief of staff in Donald Trump´s White House, announced Thursday he has quit his diplomatic post to protest mob violence by the president´s supporters at the Capitol.
"I can´t stay here, not after yesterday. You can´t look at that yesterday and think I want to be a part of that in any way, shape or form," Mulvaney told media.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is also resigning effective Monday, becoming the highest ranking member of President Donald Trump’s administration to resign in protest after the pro-Trump insurrection at Capitol.
In a statement Thursday, Chao, who is married to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, said the violent attack on the Capitol “has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”
Meanwhile, former US president and Republican leader George W Bush said early Thursday attacks such as the Capitol Hill riot occur in banana republics, not in democratic countries.
Condemning the Capitol Hill riot, George Bush said he was appalled by the "reckless behaviour of some political leaders" since the US Election 2020 — comments that added to the Republican leaders' growing criticism of Trump and his reaction to losing to Democrat Joe Biden.
The United States' former president underlined how some politicians acted irresponsibly to make the American institutions controversial after the US Election 2020, while fellow Republicans fuelled the protests.
"Laura and I are watching the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our nation's government in disbelief and dismay," he added. "It is a sickening and heart-breaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic."
World leaders and governments also expressed shock and outrage at the storming of the US Capitol in Washington by supporters of President Donald Trump.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday she was "furious and saddened" by the events and said Trump shared blame for the unrest.
"I deeply regret that President Trump has not conceded his defeat, since November and again yesterday," she said. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Trump supporters to "stop trampling on democracy".
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Twitter condemned the "disgraceful scenes in US Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power".
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added in his own tweet: "The US rightly takes great pride in its democracy, and there can be no justification for these violent attempts to frustrate the lawful and proper transition of power."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the "rampage at the Capitol was a disgraceful act and it must be vigorously condemned."
The EU´s foreign policy chief condemned an "assault on US democracy".
"In the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege," Josep Borrell tweeted.
Calling the action an "assault on US democracy, its institutions and the rule of law", he added: "This is not America. The election results of 3 November must be fully respected."
French President Emmanuel Macron said: "We will not give in to the violence of a few who want to question" democracy. In a video posted on his official Twitter account, he added: "What happened today in Washington is not American".
Russian officials pointed to the storming of the US Capitol as evidence of America´s decline, with Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the Russian upper house´s foreign affairs committee, saying it showed US democracy was "limping on both feet".
Polish President Andrzej Duda, a close Trump ally who did not congratulate Biden on his victory until more than a month after the election, described the events as "an internal issue for the United States".
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the chaos unleashed on the US Capitol "shows above all how fragile and vulnerable Western democracy is".
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: "Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour."
Australian PM Scott Morrison condemned the "very distressing scenes" in the US.
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern tweeted: "Democracy - the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob."
"Shocking scenes in Washington, DC," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg tweeted. "The outcome of this democratic election must be respected."
"Horrible images from Washington DC Dear @realDonaldTrump, recognise @JoeBiden as the next president today," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter.
Irish premier Micheal Martin, who has invited the Irish-American Biden to visit his ancestral homeland early in his presidency, tweeted his condemnation. "The Irish people have a deep connection with the United States of America, built up over many generations. I know that many, like me, will be watching the scenes unfolding in Washington DC with great concern and dismay," Martin said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Trump ally who has heaped praise on the outgoing US president in the past, said he was "distressed to see news about rioting and violence" in Washington.
"Extremely troubled by the violence and horrible events taking place in Washington D.C. American democracy is resilient, deeply rooted and will overcome this crisis," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a tweet.
"We are following with concern the internal developments happening in the US," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a tweet that "this is an unacceptable assault on democracy. A peaceful and orderly transfer of power must be ensured."
"The looting and violence at the US Senate are not a good example for countries where democracy is fighting hard for a place in the sun," Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said in a tweet.
"Extremism, violence, polarisation and violence is never the way forward. Terrible pictures from Washington. May democracy be brought back to working again," Denmark´s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Facebook.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted that "Yesterday´s attack on the Capitol has only succeeded in reaffirming the principles we share. Spain will work with the United States for a more just world and the triumph of democracy over extremism."
Slovenia´s right-wing Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who backed Trump and who has yet to congratulate Biden on his victory, tweeted: "All should be very troubled by the violence taking place in Washington DC."
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama -- who led a coup in 2006 and was accused of assaulting an opposition lawmaker in 2019 -- added his condemnation. "The violent scenes we saw in Washington today are an affront to democracies around the globe. True and genuine democracy is a precious treasure that no nation should ever take for granted," he tweeted.