Electoral College ballot boxes arrive as a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to confirm the Electoral College votes cast in November’s election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo | Pool | AP
Senate staff saved paper Electoral College ballots before pro-Trump rioters broke into the chamber during a formal count Wednesday, according to a Democratic senator.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon shared a photo of the state-level presidential election results, which Congress planned to tally Wednesday before the president’s supporters stormed into the legislature. He said that “if our capable floor staff hadn’t grabbed them, they would have been burned by the mob.”
Congress started to count President-elect Joe Biden‘s presidential victory over Trump on Wednesday when rioters forced their way into the Capitol. Lawmakers evacuated to secure locations as the president’s supporters swarmed into the House and Senate chambers.
Congress plans to start counting the votes again as early as Wednesday night. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said lawmakers would restart the process as soon as they are cleared to use the Capitol following what she called a “shameful assault” on democracy “anointed at the highest level of government.”
Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the chamber’s majority whip, said “Congress will continue the business of certifying the Electoral College votes.”
“I have faced violent hatred before. I was not deterred then, and I will not be deterred now,” he wrote in a tweeted statement.
The Capitol was secured by about 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland sent National Guard forces, which worked with federal law enforcement to end the occupation of the legislature.
Before the attack started, Republican lawmakers backed by Trump objected to counting Arizona’s electoral votes. The House and Senate broke into separate sessions to debate and vote on affirming the result.
Trump had alleged, but repeatedly failed to prove in court, that systemic fraud led to his narrow loss in Arizona. States have certified their presidential election results.
The office of Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who objected to counting the Arizona ballot, did not say whether he would try to block certification of another state following the Capitol breach. Cruz, who joined a group of about a dozen Senate Republicans in saying they would challenge key states, earlier urged the mob to stop attacking the Capitol.
The office of Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who has backed the efforts to stop the electoral count in key states, also did not say whether he would object to the electoral count for any states.
Trump spoke to his supporters before they marched on the Capitol on Wednesday. He again lied about the election results.
In a video posted to Twitter later Wednesday, he continued to spread false claims about the presidential race. He tweeted later Wednesday, telling his supporters to “go home with love and in peace.”
“Remember this day forever!” he added.
Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Senate Republican to vote to remove Trump from office last year after the House impeached him, said Wednesday that “what happened here today was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States.”
In remarks he hoped to give earlier during the electoral vote count, the Utah Republican said, “I urge my colleagues to move forward with completing the electoral count, to refrain from further objections, and to unanimously affirm the legitimacy of the presidential election.”