WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday peddled baseless claims of election fraud before a crowd of raucous supporters in Washington, hours before a joint session of Congress confirms President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
The president’s remarks at a “Save America Rally” came after pro-Trump protesters and police clashed near the White House on Tuesday night, and just before before Vice President Mark Pence was set to preside over the counting of states’ Electoral College votes.
Speaking from behind a large plexiglass screen, Trump bellowed to thousands of supporters gathered at the Washington National Monument and The Ellipse park just south of the White House, continuing his months-long attack on the American democratic system.
“We beat them four years ago. We surprised them, we took them by surprise and this year, they rigged an election,” he said. “They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before.”
Trump supporters protesting the 2020 presidential election began to arrive in Washington on Tuesday, with demonstrations circulating between several federal sites — the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court and the National Mall. When the sun set, demonstrators clashed with Metropolitan Police, as groups clad in camouflage and American flag apparel roamed the streets. Six people were arrested, several for unregistered firearms related charges.
“All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN,” Trump tweeted. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
Republican officials, including more than 100 congressional representatives and 13 senators, have argued the vice president’s involvement in counting certified electors cast by each state includes the ability to reject those electors.
But the Electoral Count Act of 1887 only gives Pence the authority to tally votes previously approved by the states.
Nevertheless, Trump told supporters Wednesday that Pence would have to “come through for” them by rejecting those tallies, and if he didn’t it would be “a sad day for our country.”
“Because you’re sworn to uphold our Constitution,” the outgoing president said. “Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy.”
Trump spoke at length before encouraging his supporters to march down to the U.S. Capitol building to cheer on lawmakers slated to object to Biden’s certified victory by the Electoral College.
“We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors that have been lawfully slated,” Trump said.
A large amount of Trump’s rant was directed at national news media, with the president criticizing the objectivity of journalists nationwide. Calling them the “biggest problem we have in this country,” he slammed the press coverage of his administration.
“All over the world they talk about our elections. You know what the world says about us now? They say we don’t have free and fair elections,” the president said without evidence. “And you know what else? We don’t have a free and fair press. Our media is not free, it’s not fair. It suppresses thought, it suppresses speech and it’s become the enemy of the people.”
A slew of speakers preceded Trump, including North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn, Tea Party activist Amy Kremer, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and both his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who told Republicans it was time for them to choose sides.
“You can be a hero or you can be a zero, and the choice is yours, but we all are watching,” Trump Jr. said.
The crowd chanted “fight for Trump,” while Trump Jr. held the microphone above his head.
“That’s right guys, that’s the message. These guys better fight for Trump, because if [not] guess what, I’ll be in your backyard in a couple months,” he said.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani paraded debunked claims that Dominion Voting Systems machines had been tampered with to tabulate votes in Biden’s favor.
“Over the next 10 days we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent, and if we’re wrong, we will be made fools of,” Giuliani said. “But if we’re right a lot of them will go to jail. So, let’s have trial by combat.”