After almost a year of scrutiny, the congressional committee investigating the riot has been presenting its findings.
Tearful testimony from witnesses claiming to have been bullied by President Donald Trump himself and the account from a police officer describing ‘slipping in people’s blood’ shocked America and the world.
In a momentous appearance by video link, the president’s daughter Ivanka said she ‘accepted’ former Attorney General William Barr’s assertion that no fraud was involved in the 2020 election.
In response, a clearly stung Donald Trump — who dismissed the hearings as a ‘kangaroo court’ — claimed she had not been involved in looking at the election results having ‘long since checked out’.
Here JONATHAN MAYO recalls the dramatic events that followed the storming of the Capitol building
November 3, 2020, Election Night
10pm: President Trump is in the White House, watching the election results on television with his wife Melania. The 74-year-old businessman is relaxed and confident, with his trademark red tie discarded.
The passion of the election rallies over the past few days has convinced him that victory is assured.
Results from Ohio and Iowa are positive, but political pundits have warned that early results will favour the president; the postal votes, which are counted later, will favour Democrat candidate Joe Biden.
11.20pm: Fox News, Trump’s favourite news network, makes the shock prediction that the key state of Arizona will be won by Biden. No Democratic presidential candidate has won Arizona since Harry Truman in 1948.
This spells defeat for Trump. He is furious at Fox.
His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tells Trump the Democrats are trying to steal the election from him.
2.30am: Trump makes a rambling speech to the Press demanding that the counting of votes be stopped and claiming victory.
He concludes: ‘This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly we did win this election.’
For the past two weeks America has been reliving the drama of January 6, 2021, when Washington DC’s Capitol — which houses both chambers of Congress — was stormed by a mob. After almost a year of scrutiny, the congressional committee investigating the riot has been presenting its findings
6.45pm: For the past few weeks, Rudy Giuliani has challenged the election results in some states, but most cases have been dismissed or withdrawn.
At a press conference at the Republican Party headquarters Giuliani makes the case to ‘Stop the Steal’.
After 30 minutes, black hair dye starts to run down his cheeks. No one is listening to what Giuliani is saying any more.
President Trump, watching on TV, is livid. ‘What’s this s**t dripping off his face?’
January 5, 2021
2pm: Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence meet alone in the Oval Office. Tomorrow, Pence will be presiding over a joint session of Congress where the electoral ballots will be counted and the results of the 2020 election ratified.
This is just a ceremonial duty, but Trump has been persuaded by aides that all Pence has to do is object and the election will be declared invalid.
The president asks him: ‘Do you want to be a patriot or a pussy?’
Outside on the National Mall, people are gathering for a mass rally the next day to ‘Stop the Steal’, where Trump will be the keynote speaker.
In the past few weeks there have been more than a million mentions on social media about ‘storming the Capitol’ and discussions about which law-makers should be ‘dispatched first’. Neither the FBI nor the Department for Homeland Security has issued warnings about the danger of violence.
January 6, 2021
8.17am: Donald Trump tweets: ‘States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval [sic].
‘All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States. AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!’
10am: There are about 25,000 people waiting for the Trump rally to start. Metal fencing has been erected around the Capitol with signs saying ‘Area Closed’.
Responsibility for the two-square miles of the Capitol complex rests with the United States Capitol Police (USCP). At this moment, only about 30 officers guard the side of the Capitol facing the rally.
Most officers are only wearing their regular uniforms. Many of the frontline officers have not received instruction in civil disturbance tactics since their initial training.
10.45am: Republican Senator Todd Young is surrounded by angry protesters who want him to stop the vote count. He tells them: ‘I share your conviction that President Trump should remain president. I share that conviction. But the law matters. I took an oath. I took an oath under God. Under God. Do we still take that seriously in this country?’
Jacob Chansley, a self-styled shaman, wearing a headdress with horns and with tribal tattoos on his chest, is shouting slogans through a megaphone: ‘Remember this time, ladies and gentlemen, for this is the day that we rebirth the United States of America!’
11am: In among the ordinary Trump supporters are far-Right groups in body armour, communicating by radio. About 200 members of the neo-fascist group the Proud Boys, some carrying baseball bats, assemble in front of the Capitol.
One shouts: ‘Let’s take this f*****g Capitol!’ but is immediately rebuked by another Proud Boy: ‘Let’s not f*****g yell that. All right?’
11.45am: President Trump gets into the presidential limo known as The Beast for the two-minute drive to the rally. His family are already in a green room backstage.
Don Jr is filming everything on his phone, including his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle saying to the camera: ‘Have the courage to do the right thing! Fight!’
Midday: Trump begins his speech to a crowd that now numbers about 50,000. ‘We’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.’
Robert Moore of ITN follows the mob inside. He asks one Trump supporter why he is here: ‘They stole this election from us. We want our freedom back. We want our country back. We are good people. They did this to us.’ It is the worst breach of Capitol security since the War of 1812, the so-called second war of independence against Britain
Some in the crowd shout back: ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ and, ‘Let’s take the Capitol!’
The President says: ‘We will never give up. We will never concede. Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you.’
12.30pm: Mike Pence releases a carefully-worded letter saying: ‘My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.’
Outside, the Capitol Police are facing an angry crowd shouting: ‘We’re gonna murder you and then them!’ One officer said: ‘I felt at this time a tangible fear that maybe I or some of my colleagues might not make it home alive.’
12.54pm: On the west side of the Capitol, at the so-called Peace Circle, a group of protesters pick up metal fencing and throw it at the Capitol Police.
‘All available USCP units’ are ordered to the west front. This is the first breach of the Capitol grounds. Steven Sund, the Capitol Police Chief requests assistance from the Secret Service.
1.03pm: Trump’s speech is drawing to a close: ‘Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy.’ Then the President ignores the teleprompter script and says: ‘After this we’re going to walk down — and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol . . .’
The crowd roars in approval.
1.10pm: Congress is divided into two institutions — the House of Representatives and the Senate, situated in either wing of the Capitol.
Today, both are meeting in joint session to ratify the election. Unaware of the chaos outside, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House bangs the gavel to call the joint session of Congress to order.
As Trump comes off stage, his chief of staff Mark Meadows says there is no way he can walk to the Capitol. Trump tells him: ‘I didn’t mean it literally!’
A Capitol police officer calls on his radio for backup: ‘They’re throwing metal poles at us! Multiple law-enforcement injuries!’
The Capitol Police have seven Civil Disturbance Unit platoons but only four have been issued with the correct equipment of helmets, hardened plastic armour and shields. One platoon’s equipment is inaccessible as its bus is locked.
1.30pm: Now Trump’s speech has finished, the initial protesters are joined by thousands more. Members of the DC Metropolitan Police drive up to the Capitol. Commander Ramey Kyle recalled later: ‘When I first arrived, it sounded like a battle was raging. Right then I knew we were in for a big fight.’
Kyle is afraid his officers will be surrounded and picked off one by one.
2.05pm: A member of the Proud Boys, wielding a police riot shield, is the first to smash a window and break into the Capitol, a floor below where the Senate is in session.
Robert Moore of ITN follows the mob inside. He asks one Trump supporter why he is here: ‘They stole this election from us. We want our freedom back. We want our country back. We are good people. They did this to us.’
It is the worst breach of Capitol security since the War of 1812, the so-called second war of independence against Britain.
2.13pm: Mike Pence is hastily escorted off the Senate Floor and the sessions ends. In the House Chamber, an aide says to Nancy Pelosi: ‘Ma’am, we’ve gotta go.’
Senator Mitt Romney is walking out of the Senate Chamber to get to his office. Running the other way is Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman who tells Romney to turn around and go back into the Chamber as the rioters are heading their way.
Romney, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, sprints to safety.
2.14pm: Officer Goodman makes his way down to the ground floor where he comes face-to-face with a crowd trying to get into the building. His hand moves towards his holster and he unclips it.
The office TV is on, showing live pictures of the riots taking place outside. The Secret Service want to get him out of the building but Pence refuses. The doors of the House of Representatives and the Senate are locked
Behind the rioters, photographer Ashley Gilbertson thinks: ‘He is razor’s edge to pulling his gun. If he pulls his gun this is a whole different thing.’
A man jabs at Goodman with a Confederate flag and says: ‘Where the f*** are the members at? What are you going to do — shoot us?’
2.15pm: Mike Pence is hiding in an office just off the Senate Chamber with his wife Karen, daughter Charlotte and brother Greg. Karen draws the curtains so the rioters can’t find them.
The office TV is on, showing live pictures of the riots taking place outside.
The Secret Service want to get him out of the building but Pence refuses. The doors of the House of Representatives and the Senate are locked.
2.16pm: Officer Goodman runs up a flight of stairs, pursued by the mob. He stands his ground, holding a baton he’s found on the floor, then lures the rioters away from an entrance to the Senate Chamber and towards a squad of his police colleagues.
Journalist Igor Bobic is filming it all on his phone. ‘If they’d turned right instead of left, if they didn’t follow him, they were two or three seconds away from entering the Senate Chamber.’
In the other wing of the Capitol, the House of Representatives is still in session. Representative Paul Gosar, from Arizona, is speaking in support of President Trump but, around him, law-makers are getting alerts on their phones that the Capitol has been breached and they can hear the shouts of the mob.
An irritated Gosar says: ‘Mr Speaker, can I have order in the Chamber?’ Democrat Dean Phillips shouts angrily from the gallery down to the Republicans: ‘This is because of you!’
2.23pm: Outside, the Capitol Police are still trying to keep protestors contained behind the metal barriers. Officer Brian Sicknick is sprayed in the face with a chemical spray and he reels away in distress, temporarily blinded. A few hours later Brian suffers two strokes and dies. A medical examiner rules later that the officer died of a medical condition not brought on by the incident.
2.24pm: President Trump tweets an attack on his vice-president: ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution . . .’
Below the Capitol dome, a lone police officer attempts to stop rioters entering the iconic Rotunda, the symbolic heart of the building, where presidents including Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan have lain in state.
The mob push past the officer and towards the House of Representatives’ Chamber which has not yet been evacuated.
One man shouts: ‘Occupy! Do not destroy!’
2.28pm: Robert Moore of ITN is stunned to find the mob ransacking Nancy Pelosi’s office and tearing her nameplate off the wall and stamping on it.
Members of her staff are hiding under a table in a nearby barricaded office with the lights turned off. They can hear the rioters pounding on doors shouting: ‘Where are you, Nancy?’
Pelosi aide Leah Han thinks ‘Am I going to get raped? Am I going to get shot?’ One man tries to break down the door, but then moves on.
2.38pm: President Trump has been pressured to condemn the riots in the Capitol. His aide in charge of social media, Dan Scavino, sends out a tweet from the President’s account: ‘Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!’
Outside, the area where the inauguration is due to take place on January 20 is overrun. The mob dismantle the scaffolding to use the poles as weapons. The police respond with tear gas and pepper spray. There is blood on the white marble.
The police pull back into a tunnel that gives access to the building, knowing that if their line breaks, there will be thousands rather than hundreds in the Capitol hunting for law-makers.
2.40pm: Rioters have reached the entrance to the House Chamber. There are still Members on the floor and in the gallery. Washington journalist Jamie Stiehm is in the gallery and said later: ‘There was a sense of panic. I was afraid. I made a call to my family, just to let them know that I was here and it was a dangerous situation.’
The mob is trying to break in from multiple doorways. At a set of glass doors between the hallway and the Speaker’s Lobby, officers are using a stack of wooden chairs as a barricade. On the other side, the rioters are using flagpoles, helmets and their hands to break the glass. Three nervous-looking Capitol Police officers try to block their way.
2.45pm: Political journalist Jake Sherman is trapped in the House Chamber and sends a series of hastily-written texts to the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows: ‘We are under siege in the capitol [sic]’. ‘There’s an armed standoff at the house chamber door. We’re all helpless.’ The battle for the tunnel continues.
Commander Ramey Kyle urges his officers to stand firm: ‘We are not losing the U.S. Capitol today!’
2.47pm: The three Capitol Police officers blocking access to the Speaker’s Lobby see an armed tactical unit arriving and so move away from the doors. The rioters seize the opportunity to break a glass panel.
Thirty-five-year-old Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran with a Trump flag wrapped round her waist, is hoisted up to try to get through a broken panel. Secret Service and police shout at her to ‘Get down!’.
Lieutenant Michael Byrd opens fire, hitting Babbitt in the left shoulder. She falls to the floor and dies later of her injuries.
Three other protesters die outside the Capitol, one from an overdose and two from heart attacks.
Some of those trapped inside the Chamber start taking off their congressional badges and make calls to loved ones. Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell sends a text to his wife: ‘I love you and the babies. Please hug them for me.’
2.50pm: On the other side of the Capitol, rioters have managed to break into the Senate Chamber. As they rifle through papers left behind by the law-makers, one says: ‘There’s got to be something we can use against these scumbags.’
A bartender from Nashville named Eric Munchel — wearing full paramilitary gear and carrying plastic zip-tie restraints used by the police — is clambering over the law-makers’ chairs. Munchel broke into the Capitol with his mother Lisa, a nurse wearing a bullet-proof vest. She said later: ‘I’d rather die as a 57‑year-old woman than live under oppression’.
2:53pm: Donald Trump Jr. sends an urgent text message to his father’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. ‘He’s got to condem [sic] this s**t. Asap. The captiol [sic] police tweet is not enough.’
Meadows agrees and talks to the President about recording a video message. Shaman Jacob Chansley is sitting on the dais, in a seat Mike Pence vacated just an hour ago. He scribbles on the vice-president’s notes: ‘It’s only a matter of time! Justice is coming.’
Capitol Police officer Keith Robishaw has followed him into the Chamber by himself. He calmly asks: ‘Any chance I could get you guys to leave the Senate wing? I just want you guys to know this is the sacredest place.’ They ignore him.
3.00pm: A father of five, Adam Johnson, picks up Nancy Pelosi’s podium and walks off with it. When he reaches the Rotunda, Johnson poses for a photo in front of a painting depicting the surrender of British General John Burgoyne in 1777. The photo of ‘Podium Guy’ goes viral.
There is a party atmosphere in the Rotunda and joints are being passed around.
3.15pm: Congressman Ruben Gallego, who had combat experience in Iraq as a Marine, sees buses arrive to evacuate him and other law-makers, but he feels that if they leave, they will lose the Capitol.
He texts his colleagues telling them all that they have to stay put: ‘We get on those buses there’s no guarantee we’re coming back’.
Thanks to reinforcements, the police are slowly managing to regain control, but the police in the tunnel have been pushing against the rioters for 45 minutes and are exhausted. They believe they are fighting for their lives.
The crowd grabs Officer Mike Fanone and pulls him out of the tunnel. As he is beaten and Tasered by the crowd, Fanone yells in desperation that he has kids.
Fanone is pulled back inside the tunnel unconscious, but survives. The police manage to hold the tunnel.
4:17pm: President Trump tweets a video message filmed outside the White House. The President says: ‘We have to have peace. So, go home. We love you. You’re very special.’
The mob slowly begins to disperse in clouds of tear gas.
Later that evening, Mike Pence returned to the Senate Chamber, saying: ‘Let’s get back to work.’
In the early hours of January 7, he was able to announce that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were the president-elect and vice-president-elect of the United States.
In the Capitol riot, one policeman died and more than 140 officers were injured. Four officers later took their own lives.
Donald Trump was impeached one week before his term expired in January, but was later acquitted. He maintains that the protesters posed ‘zero threat’.
Jonathan Mayo is the author of The Assassination Of JFK: Minute By Minute, published by Short Books.