Pivotal US Senate run-off elections in the state of Georgia were dramatically overshadowed on Wednesday when hundreds of supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump stormed the US Congress.
The keenly-followed vote count in Georgia following Tuesday’s close run-off elections faded into a distant second place as the country’s capital Washington DC, the seat of the federal government, descended into a state of near anarchy.
In what some news reports called “an insurrection”, unprecedented and extraordinary scenes erupted Wednesday afternoon in Washington with pro-Trump protesters storming the Congress.
A joint session of the House and Senate was underway to ratify the Electoral College’s votes to declare Democrat Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.
As the protests flared up Washington was placed under lockdown over fears of violence. A curfew was also put in effect as police in the Capitol called for back-up.
This happened shortly after a rally outside the Congress building during which the outgoing president Donald Trump fired up his supporters by repeating his unsubstantiated claims that November's presidential election was rigged and stolen from him.
He also again called on Vice-President Mike Pence not to ratify the Biden victory in his role as president of the Congress.
Mr Pence has a ceremonial role to confirm the Electoral College count in which Mr Biden has secured 306 votes to Mr Trump's 232.
Mr Trump has demanded that Mr Pence "come through" for him, a demand which he repeated during Wednesday afternoon's rally.
However, the Vice-President uncharacteristically defied Donald Trump's call to reject the election outcome.
He issued a statement saying he could not claim "unilateral authority" to reject electoral votes.
The Republicans' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who had previously recognised Mr Biden's victory, albeit somewhat belatedly, restated his position during Wednesday's meeting and appealed to his Republican colleagues to do likewise.
But the session was interrupted when Mr Trump's supporters breached security and invaded the Congress.
Police subsequently evacuated the building and there were reports of an armed stand-off. One person was reported to have been shot by security.
The US National Guard was called out to quell protest in which some Congressional offices including that of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were ransacked.
Mr Trump, who’s inflammatory rhetoric during the rally is blamed for firing up his supporters, later posted a Tweet calling on the protesters to be ‘peaceful’, although he is widely seen as the instigator of the demonstration.
He was previously heard in a recent telephone call demanding that the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger a Republican, “find 11,780 votes”, to overturn Mr Biden’s victory.
But Mr Raffensperger refused.
Campaigning for the GOP candidates in Georgia on Monday, Trump had again lashed out against the Democrats claiming that "the Democrats are trying to steal the White House, you cannot let them. You just can't let them steal the U.S. Senate, you can't let it happen."
Then on Wednesday at the rally outside the US Congress building in Washington, Mr Trump continued his unrelenting rhetoric, railing against his loss and repeating his claim that the election was stolen from him.
As the protests flared up Washington was placed under lockdown over fears of violence. A curfew was declared and the DC National guard was mobilised amidst continuing scenes of unrest.
President-elect Joe Biden made a national broadcast while the protest was ongoing, condemning what he referred to as “an insurgency” and challenged Mr Trump to make a similar national address and tell his supporters to halt their unlawful action.
Shortly after, Donald Trump in a brief recorded address told his supporters to “go home” while doubling down on his rhetoric that “the election was stolen by evil people”.