How the first week of 2021 culminated in a coup attempt at the US Capitol

How the first week of 2021 culminated in a coup attempt at the US Capitol
Source: Leah Millis, Reuters
From Congress overturning Trump’s veto for the first time on January 1 to Biden’s victory officially being certified in the early hours of January 7, this is how one week shook America.

Though New Year’s Day brings with it the promise of a new year, 2021 was always going to be weighted down with the unresolved story lines of 2020.

With President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration less than two weeks away, it appeared as if the protracted 2020 election was approaching its conclusion. However, a violent coup attempt at the United States Capitol on January 6, led by supporters of President Donald Trump, made it clear the story wasn’t over. It also showed that a peaceful transfer of power is no longer a foregone conclusion in the US.

The year has only just begun, but the first week was one of the most eventful in recent history. From Congress overturning Trump’s veto for the first time on January 1 to Biden’s victory officially being certified in the early hours of January 7, this is how one week shook America.

January 1

Coming into 2021, Trump and his lawyers had experienced dozens of court losses in their efforts to overturn the election results, including before the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, allies of the president continued to insist there was election fraud and that the electoral college vote, which occurred on December 14, 2020, would be overturned by Congress on January 6.

Despite efforts by a number of Republican members of Congress, Trump’s last-ditch attempt to overturn the will of the people was not realized.

There was never any serious likelihood that Congress would reject the electoral college vote, a fact that was made clear when the Republican-led Senate overturned Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act on New Year’s Day. It was the first time in Trump’s nearly four years in office that his veto had been overturned by Congress and a symbolic indication that his time in power was coming to an end.

January 2

On Saturday, seven Republican senators and four Republican senator-elects, led by Senator Ted Cruz, vowed to challenge the electoral college certification.

In a statement, the senators argued, “Voter fraud has posed a persistent challenge in our elections, although its breadth and scope are disputed. By any measure, the allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes.”

The statement continued: “Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states. Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed.

“Accordingly, we intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed.”

In a separate statement, Vice President Mike Pence, whose role also includes serving as president of the Senate, expressed support for the effort of the Republican senators.

The statement said Pence “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on Jan. 6th.”

January 3

On Sunday, The Washington Post published a recording of Trump speaking with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and multiple other people. On the recording, Trump appears to pressure the Republican election officials to make up votes so he can win the state.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump can be heard telling Raffensperger on the call. Biden beat Trump by 11,779 votes in the state of Georgia.

Raffensperger, as well as other Republican officials in Georgia, had already been in Trump’s crosshairs for certifying the state’s election results against the president’s wishes. Raffensperger has repeatedly pushed back against Trump’s claims that there was massive voter fraud in Georgia and has insisted that the reported election results are accurate.

Raffensperger is reportedly the one who recorded and released the call to The Washington Post.

January 4

Monday was the day before the Georgia Senate runoff elections. There were two races to be decided, one between incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. The other was between incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock. The Republicans needed to win at least one of the races to maintain control of the Senate.

After weeks of claiming the election in Georgia was rigged, Trump appeared in Georgia on Monday night, ostensibly to campaign for Perdue and Loeffler. In reality, though, Trump spent much of the rally complaining about the presidential election and insisting he was going to remain in the White House.

January 5

On Tuesday, Georgians went to the polls to vote for their senators. Though Georgia has traditionally been considered a red (Republican) state, Biden’s victory there two months earlier had the effect of energizing the Democratic base in the state. Going into January 5, both Ossoff and Warnock were narrow favorites to win their respective races according to FiveThirtyEight.

Democrats received their first good news that evening when multiple outlets, including The Associated Press, declared that Warnock had defeated Loeffler to become the first Black senator in Georgia’s history. More good news would follow the next day when Ossoff was declared the winner of his race. However, any celebration was cut short by events that day in Washington, DC.

January 6

Everything came to a head on Wednesday when a joint session of Congress met to officially certify the electoral college vote and a pro-Trump rally gathered at the National Mall.

In Congress, Pence oversaw the official count of the state electoral votes. Seven Republican senators objected to Pennsylvania’s votes, while six objected to Arizona’s votes. In the House of Representatives, 138 Republicans supported throwing out Pennsylvania’s votes and 121 supported throwing out Arizona’s votes.

The objections did not receive enough support to make a difference, though, and both Arizona and Pennsylvania’s votes were counted. Some Republicans, including Loeffler, who had originally pledged to support the objections, changed their minds at the last minute.

While Congress was certifying the vote, Trump supporters were gathered at a so-called “Save America Rally” in which Trump appeared, as well as his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, members of his family, and other prominent Trump allies. At the rally, Trump reportedly said, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and Congressmen and women.”

Indeed, following the rally, the pro-Trump crowd went to the Capitol building where Congress was meeting and forced their way in. Some of the crowd broke into the offices of members of Congress and were photographed in the Senate Chamber. Four people were killed in confrontations with the police and at least 14 police officers were injured. There were dozens of arrests following the riot.

While Trump initially tweeted a call for people to “remain peaceful,” in a video posted a short time later he seemed to advocate that his supporters continue their violent and forceful attack on the Capitol. Twitter took the unprecedented step of removing the video and blocking Trump for 12 hours. Facebook followed suit.

January 7

In response to the riot, politicians and public figures from both sides of the aisle demanded Trump’s removal from office, either via the 25th Amendment or through a second impeachment. Senator Chuck Schumer, who will likely be the Senate Majority Leader in the next term, called what happened on Wednesday an “insurrection” and stated, “This president must not hold office one day longer.”

On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg announced Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts would be blocked until he left office. In the announcement, Zuckerberg said, “The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.”

The attack on Congress by the pro-Trump mob effectively delayed the certification of the electoral vote. However, it didn’t matter. Early the next morning, the Senate finished certifying the vote, officially completing the last step for Biden to be president.

On January 20, at noon, Joe Biden will become the 46th US president and Trump’s term will officially come to a close.

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