President Donald Trump lashed out at Republicans refusing to back his last-gasp effort to cling to power as his vice-president Mike Pence defied pressure to nullify Joe Biden’s victory at a joint session of Congress later on Wednesday.
“They’re weak Republicans. They’re pathetic Republicans,” Mr Trump said of lawmakers who have not joined an effort to challenge the vote certification in a politically explosive but futile effort to block Mr Biden from being sworn in on January 20.
As Mr Trump was addressing a crowd of supporters in Washington, Mr Pence released a letter in which he ruled out the president’s suggestion that he should tamper with the electoral vote count to reverse Mr Biden’s win while presiding over the joint session.
“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,” Mr Pence wrote in a letter to members of Congress ahead of the vote.
In his speech, Mr Trump repeated his erroneous claim that Mr Pence had the power to overturn the 2020 result. “Mike Pence is gonna have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country,” he said.
He added: “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, I will tell you right now. I’m not hearing good stories.”
Mr Pence was one of several Republicans that Mr Trump lambasted in what is likely to be one of his last speeches before leaving office. He called Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp “one of the dumbest governors in the United States” and berated his former attorney-general Bill Barr because he did not want to serve as his “personal attorney”.
And he described the three conservative justices he appointed to the Supreme Court as ungrateful, after the Court declined to hear his challenges to the election. “They couldn’t give a damn,” said Mr Trump.
Mr Trump said he had no plans to concede the 2020 election: “We will never give up. We will never concede.”
Mr Trump spoke as pro-Trump protests gripped Washington, with hundreds of supporters of the outgoing president congregating around the White House and the Capitol. DC police made ten arrests at the protests between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning as they struggled to contain violent clashes.
According to police reports, ten people were arrested for assault, including assault of police officers, and illegal possession of firearms and high-capacity ammunition chambers.
While two of the arrested people were from Maryland, which borders Washington DC, others had travelled to the capital from Colorado, Texas, North Carolina and Florida.
On Monday evening, police also arrested Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys group. A judge proceeded to ban Mr Tarrio from entering DC after he stood accused of burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn down from a historically black church late last year.