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Rampage at the Capitol

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Donald Trump has been attacking American democracy for much of his time as president.

He has told repeated lies about voter fraud, undermining people’s confidence in elections. He has defied parts of the Constitution. He has spent his final weeks in office pressuring other government officials to overturn the result of an election he lost. He has occasionally encouraged his supporters to commit violence.

Yesterday, hundreds of those supporters decided to take Trump literally.

They fought their way through armed police, smashed windows and stormed the U.S. Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. They then spent several hours inside the building, vandalizing offices and the House floor. They injured at least 14 law enforcement officers. Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress and others fled for their safety.

In the end, the rioters — and Trump — will fail in their effort to keep him in power. At about 3:45 a.m., Congress did confirm Biden’s victory. Thirteen days from now, he will take the oath of office and become president of the United States.

But a physical assault on the nation’s seat of government is no small thing. And it was not a onetime event. It was a logical extension of the message that Trump has long been telling his supporters — that American democracy is a fraud, that his opponents are traitors and that his allies need to fight back.

“We’re seeing more and more citizens expressing openness to violence,” Lee Drutman, a political scientist, told me almost three months ago, “as more and more partisan leaders engage in the kinds of dehumanizing rhetoric that paves the way for taking violent action.”

Trump, speaking to the protesters at a rally hours before they burst into the Capitol, referred to his political opponents as “bad people” and “the enemy of the people.” He described his allies as “warriors” and encouraged them to stop “fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back.” He added, “We’re going to have to fight much harder.”

At the same rally, Rudy Giuliani said that Trump’s opponents should go to jail and added, “Let’s have trial by combat.” And Donald Trump Jr., addressing congressional Republicans who planned to split from his father, said: “We’re coming for you, and we’re going to have a good time doing it.”

After the violence, Trump himself wrote on social media, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

Trump’s efforts are failing in large part because a significant number of Republicans have refused to go along with him. But many other high-level Republicans have echoed and encouraged him. Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and dozens of other members of Congress have fanned voters’ anger by promoting Trump’s lies about the election. (Here’s a list of Congress members who did so yesterday.) They have joined his attempts to undermine the American system of government.

“This is what you’ve gotten, guys,” Senator Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican, yelled as the rioters breached the Capitol yesterday. He was addressing his colleagues who have supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the election.

Shortly afterward, uniformed police officers evacuated senators and reporters from the chamber to the basement, before rushing them through underground tunnels to a secure location in a Senate office building. There, Romney saw Jonathan Martin, a Times reporter, and called for Jonathan to come over and talk. In 15 years of covering him, Jonathan said he had never seen Romney so alarmed.

“This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection,” Romney, with fury in his voice, said.

THE SCENE, IN PHOTOS

How did the media in other countries cover the events?

“Trump supporters attack the heart of American democracy,” Correa de Manhã, in Portugal, reported. Italy’s La Repubblica wrote: “Trump supporters on the attack: weapons in the chamber, Congress in lockdown.”India’s Dainik Bhaskar: “Oldest democracy in crisis.”And France’s Le Figaro: “Capture of the Capitol: The day America’s democracy fractured.”

  • Jon Ossoff won his Senate campaign in Georgia, giving the Democrats control in both chambers of Congress.

  • Biden plans to nominate Judge Merrick Garland for attorney general. Republicans blocked Garland’s Supreme Court nomination in 2016.

  • It was the deadliest day of the pandemic in the U.S. so far, with more than 3,900 deaths and 255,000 new cases reported. (Delayed reporting from the holidays may have played a role.)

  • The federal government will introduce a program this week to administer coronavirus vaccines to high-risk groups, including older people and frontline workers, at pharmacies.

  • A court in Lahore, Pakistan, abolished so-called virginity tests for women in sexual assault cases, saying the practice is humiliating and casts suspicion on victims rather than the accused.

Animal Planet: Najin and Fatu are the last two northern white rhinos on Earth. What will we lose when they die?

From Opinion: Ezra Klein’s debut column for The Times, “Trump Has Always Been a Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing.”

Lives Lived: Albert Roux and his brother, Michel, brought fine dining to a new level in London with the opening of Le Gavroche in 1967. It was the first restaurant in Britain to be awarded one, two and then three Michelin stars. Albert Roux died at 85.


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