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Latest News: Capitol Grounds Are Cleared; Congress To Continue Electoral Vote Tally

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

At this hour, we are still following the developments at the U.S. Capitol. At least one person has died in connection with today's violence by pro-Trump extremists. President Trump has spoken only once since all of this began in his name, posting a video on Twitter, where he urged his followers to leave the Capitol. He also repeated his inaccurate statements about the election that have inflamed so many today and for the last two months. President-elect Joe Biden is calling for calm and criticizing the rhetoric of President Trump, and lawmakers are set to resume the certification process of the Electoral College votes at the Capitol tonight. We're going to talk about all of this now with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: So, Mara, I just want to get sort of a personal response from you because you have covered politics for such a long time. Tell me just what has been going through your mind as you've been reacting to the events of today.

LIASSON: Well, it's just heartbreaking. You know, this is supposed to be the greatest democracy on the face of the Earth. Politics is the nonviolent way that we work out our differences, and today that didn't happen. I don't know if I ever could have imagined that I would live to hear a senior member of the Republican Party - in this case, Mitt Romney - say, what happened today was, quote, "an insurrection incited by the president of the United States." I mean, it's just extraordinary. Everyone I've talked to today has just been totally heartbroken. But it's a logical conclusion in many ways to President Trump's repeated refusal ever since 2016 to not agree to a peaceful transfer of power, to not say he would accept the results of an election where he wasn't the winner.

And what was happening inside the Capitol today was that members of his party who were loyal to him were going to try to overthrow the will of the voters by trying to decertify the slates of electors sent to Washington by the states. That was going to fail. But the armed insurrectionists, the extremist rioters who breached the Capitol and - were first at a rally where the president addressed them and encouraged them to walk to the Capitol and later in a video, said, we love you; you're special. But he encouraged them, of course, to please go home and be peaceful.

CHANG: Right.

LIASSON: So he sympathized with the protesters, and many in his own party are saying he incited them. And now the question is, what happens next? Will there be any consequences for the president?

CHANG: Well, let's talk about that.

LIASSON: What happens to the Republican Party?

CHANG: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, looking ahead - well, first, before we look ahead, let's look at tonight. They are going to resume the certification process. Can you just talk about, like, the importance of this process, which, in so many other years, is a largely ceremonial process?

LIASSON: It's totally ceremonial. It shouldn't have become an important moment. But because the president refused to accept the results of the election and continued to press this false narrative that somehow or other, there were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes cast, he encouraged his supporters in Congress to challenge the election to see if they could overturn it. They know they couldn't. It was kind of a freebie for the Republicans who were challenging it because they - in the end, they wouldn't be undermining the will of the voters.

CHANG: They couldn't change the outcome.

LIASSON: They couldn't change the outcome.

CHANG: So what do you think, Mara? What do you think are the long-term consequences of a day like today...

LIASSON: Well, first of all...

CHANG: ...On institutions and on Biden's presidency going forward?

LIASSON: Well, Biden now has an incredible opportunity to unite the nation. That's what he ran on. He is the antidote to Trump. That's why he got elected. In terms of the Republican Party, they already were getting branded as the party of voter suppression, the party that wanted to throw out - undermine the will of the people. Now are they the party that believes in violent insurrection if you don't like the results of an election? - or at least one wing of the party might. We don't know that. But I think today is a turning point in American politics, and we're going to have to wait for it to shake out. But it's not good for the Republican Party.

CHANG: That is NPR's Mara Liasson.

Thank you so much, Mara.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.