U.S. President Donald Trump addressed thousands of supporters Wednesday in Washington, insisting he will “never concede” as lawmakers gather on Capitol Hill to certify the election of Joe Biden as America’s next president.
Speaking on stage with the White House as a backdrop, Trump repeated his false claims that November’s election was “stolen” and that he won in a “landslide.” Along with the “radical left Democrats,” Trump said the “fake news media” used “the China virus” — referring to the COVID-19 pandemic — as cover to “steal the election.”
Trump also called on Vice President Mike Pence to “do the right thing” as he presides over the certification of the electoral vote in a largely ceremonial role late Wednesday, two weeks before Biden’s inauguration. Trump falsely insisted that “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.”
Trump’s supporters, including some groups that clashed with police, started gathering in Washington on Tuesday night. Authorities said they arrested at least six people on charges that included weapons and ammunition possession, assaulting a police officer and possessing a stun gun.
Washington’s streets were shut down, and Mayor Muriel Bowser called in the National Guard, fearing a repeat of sometimes-violent confrontations between protest groups the city experienced last year.
Downtown shops have been boarded up, and National Guard members assisted District of Columbia and National Park police in controlling crowds Wednesday.
Bowser and politicians in neighboring Maryland and Virginia urged residents to stay home Wednesday and avoid counterprotests.
The election certification, usually a routine and ceremonial function that is the final step after the Electoral College officially elected Biden on December 14, has turned into a litmus test of Republican lawmakers’ loyalty to Trump. More than 100 Trump loyalists in Congress were set to challenge Biden’s certification.