I had intended to keep writing about the news every month during the pandemic. It seemed things were spiraling out of control and I wanted to document the everyday events that made 2020 such a historic year. But honestly, just being a spectator was pretty exhausting. I was pretty sure that the election would be a close one, and the newest supreme court justice that replaced RBG would rubber stamp the election victory for Trump, much as they had for G. W. Bush. But a funny thing happened instead.
Trump lost. Biden won in several key states including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and Biden won by nearly six million popular votes. Trump won five of the states four years ago in his victory over Hillary Clinton, but Biden flipped each to the Democratic column.
Except Trump refused to concede the election, refused to admit that he lost. And the GOP refused to admit he lost. According to USA Today[i], ‘President Donald Trump spent much of the 2020 presidential campaign insisting that he could only lose if the election was rigged against him, and he has spent nearly every day since his defeat claiming his dire predictions of fraud had come to pass. But just as he cried foul before a single vote was cast – something he also did in 2016 – Trump has maintained he was robbed of victory without any credible evidence to support that belief. Despite assurances from his own departments of Justice and Homeland Security that no serious fraud occurred, Trump has raged against the election result and mounted a relentless campaign to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win.
The president, his lawyers and his allies have filed scores of lawsuits; made repeated allegations of election fraud in news and social media; organized protests; demanded recounts; tried to convince state legislatures to take action; and held hearings in various state houses, hotel ballrooms and, at one point, a landscaping company.
The president and his allies filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts seeking to overturn election results in states the president lost, and out of the 62 lawsuits filed challenging the presidential election, 61 have failed. Some cases were dismissed for lack of standing and others based on the merits of the voter fraud allegations. The decisions have came from both Democratic-appointed and Republican-appointed judges – including federal judges appointed by Trump. State Supreme Courts in Arizona, Nevada and Arizona each rejected or declined to hear Trump’s appeals to overturn results in those states, while the Pennsylvania and Michigan supreme courts denied multiple lawsuits. The lone victory for the Trump team was a small one. A Pennsylvania judge sided with the Trump campaign, ruling that voters could not go back and “cure” their ballots if they failed to provide proper identification three days after the election. The ruling affected few votes and did not change the outcome in Pennsylvania, which Biden won by 81,660 votes.
The U.S. Supreme Court twice refused to take up Trump-endorsed lawsuits that sought to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election. In a one-sentence denial, the Supreme Court on Dec. 8 rejected a request from Pennsylvania Republicans that sought to overturn Biden’s win in the state. The challenge, led Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., claimed that the Republican-led state legislature’s expansion of absentee voting violated the state’s constitution. Three days later, the Supreme Court refused to let Texas challenge the election results in four battleground states critical to Trump’s defeat. The court said Texas did not demonstrate “a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”
As for recounts “Georgia held two recounts of its presidential election results, both reaffirming Biden’s win in the state. Wisconsin had one recount that confirmed Biden’s victory there. The first recount in Georgia – a hand recount ordered by the state – found Biden won by 12,284 votes, a narrower margin than the 14,196-vote lead he held immediately following the election. Local election administrators identified uncounted ballots in four counties. Each was the result of human error. The second recount in Georgia – one requested by the Trump campaign – narrowed Biden’s victory to 11,779 votes. In Wisconsin, Biden gained 74 votes following a partial recount of the state’s results that focused only on two Democratic strongholds, Milwaukee and Dane counties. It increased Biden’s statewide margin to 20,682 votes out of about 3 million cast. Adding the differences in both states together, Trump gained 2,343 votes as a result of the Georgia and Wisconsin recounts.
Despite all the lawsuits, recounts and false voter fraud allegations, the Electoral College on Dec. 14 elected Biden the next president by a margin of 306 to 232 – marking no change in the electoral outcome. Biden finished with a record 81,281,502 votes nationally, defeating Trump in the popular vote by a sizable 7 million votes. With 51.3% of the national popular vote, Biden won with the highest share of the vote for a challenger of an incumbent president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Trump won 46.8% of the vote nationally.”
You’d think that would be the end of the matter, but no. Despite all facts pointing to a Biden victory, and all legal avenues for overturning that result having failed, Trump turned to more provocative means.
According to Wikipedia[ii], “On January 6, 2021, the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. was stormed during a riot and violent attack against the U.S. Congress. A mob of supporters of Trump attempted to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election by disrupting the joint session of Congress assembled to count electoral votes to formalize Joe Biden’s victory. The Capitol complex was locked down and lawmakers and staff were evacuated while rioters occupied and vandalized the building for several hours. More than 140 people were injured in the storming. Five people died either shortly before, during, or after the event.
Called to action by Trump, thousands of his supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., on January 5 and 6 in support of his false claim that the 2020 election had been “stolen” from him, and to demand that Vice President Mike Pence and Congress reject Biden’s victory. Starting at noon on January 6, at a “Save America” rally on the Ellipse, Trump repeated false claims of election irregularities and said, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” While he was still speaking, thousands of attendees walked to the Capitol, and hundreds breached police perimeters as Congress was beginning the electoral vote count. Many in the crowd at the Capitol stormed the building, occupying, vandalizing, and looting it for several hours. They assaulted Capitol Police officers and reporters, erected a gallows on the Capitol grounds, and attempted to locate lawmakers to capture and harm. Many of the attackers openly discussed committing violence, and lawmakers feared for their lives. Some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence”, after Pence’s rejection of false claims by Trump and others that the vice president could overturn the election results. The rioters vandalized and looted the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–CA), as well as those of other members of Congress.
With building security breached, Capitol Police evacuated the Senate and House of Representatives chambers. Several buildings in the Capitol complex were evacuated, and all were locked down. Rioters occupied and ransacked the empty Senate chamber while federal law enforcement officers drew handguns to defend the evacuated House floor. Pipe bombs were found at the offices of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, and Molotov cocktails were discovered in a vehicle near the Capitol. Trump resisted sending the D.C. National Guard to quell the mob. In a Twitter video, he continued to assert that the election was “fraudulent” but told his supporters to “go home in peace”. The Capitol was cleared of rioters by mid-evening, and the counting of the electoral votes resumed and was completed in the early morning hours of January 7. Pence declared President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris victors, and affirmed that they would assume office on January 20. Pressured by his administration, the threat of removal, and numerous resignations, Trump later committed to an orderly transition of power in a televised statement.
The assault on the Capitol generated substantial global attention and was widely condemned by political leaders and organizations both in the United States and internationally. Mitch McConnell (R–KY), then the Senate Majority Leader, called the storming of the Capitol a “failed insurrection” and said the Senate “will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation”. Several social media and technology companies suspended or banned Trump’s accounts from their platforms. Opinion polls showed that a large majority of Americans disapproved of the storming of the Capitol and of Trump’s actions leading up to and following it, although many Republicans supported the attack or at least did not blame Trump for it.
A week after the riot, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for incitement of insurrection, making him the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice. On February 13, following a five-day Senate trial, Trump was acquitted when the Senate voted 57–43 for conviction, falling ten votes short of the two-thirds majority required to convict; seven Republicans joined every Democrat in voting to convict, the most bipartisan support in any Senate impeachment trial of a president. Most Republicans voted to acquit Trump, though some held him responsible but felt the Senate did not have jurisdiction over former Presidents. Included in the latter group was McConnell, who said, “There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” but added, “former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction.”
Pelosi announced an independent commission modeled after the 9/11 Commission to investigate the attack. Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, later characterized the incident as domestic terrorism. As part of investigations into the attack, the FBI opened more than 400 case files, and more than 500 subpoenas and search warrants have been issued. More than 400 people have been charged with federal crimes. Dozens of people present in DC on the day, including the riot, were later found to be listed in the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database, most as suspected white supremacists. Members of the anti-government paramilitary Oath Keepers and neo-fascist Proud Boys groups were charged with conspiracy for allegedly staging planned missions in the Capitol, although prosecutors subsequently acknowledged they do not have clear-cut evidence that the groups had any such plans prior to January 6.”
So on January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden Jr. became president of the United States in a scaled-back inauguration ceremony. While key elements remained traditional, many events were downsized and “reimagined” to better adapt the celebration to a nation battling the coronavirus. And since then, things have slowly, bit by bit, started to feel more normal again. With Trump’s social media accounts silenced, and Biden running the country, there hasn’t been a constant frenzy of bad news, outrage and scandal. It’s been remarkably restorative on our collective frazzled nerves.
And while the virus continued to spread, it hit its all time peak on Jan 8[iii], with 300, 669 new cases in 1 day and a 7 day rolling average of 269,614 cases, and has been falling since. The vaccination campaign has been growing, and more people get their shots every day. There are signs of hope on the horizon and it feels pretty good.
[i] By the numbers: President Donald Trump’s failed efforts to overturn the election. William Cummings, Joey Garrison and Jim Sergent, USA TODAY. Jan. 6, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/politics/elections/2021/01/06/trumps-failed-efforts-overturn-election-numbers/4130307001/
[ii] 2021 storming of the United States Capitol. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_storming_of_the_United_States_Capitol
[iii] Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html
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