Hours after hundreds of President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the US Capitol in a harrowing assault on American democracy, a shaken Congress yesterday formally certified Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.
Immediately afterwards, the White House released a statement from Trump in which he pledged an "orderly transition" when Biden is sworn into office on Jan 20, although he repeated his false claim that he won the November election. The Republican president on Wednesday fired up his supporters to overturn the election result before a mob swarmed the Capitol.
The destructive and shocking images at the Capitol of what other Republicans called an "insurrection" filled television screens in the United States and around the world, a deep stain on Trump's presidency and legacy as his tenure nears its end.
The FBI asked the public for tips on people involved in the violence.
In certifying Biden's win, longtime Trump allies such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell rejected Trump's pleas for intervention, while the violence at the Capitol spurred several administration officials to quit.
After the chaos on Capitol Hill, Congress late on Wednesday resumed its work certifying Biden's Electoral College win: normally a formality but which included efforts by some Republican lawmakers to stall the process. As the tense debate stretched into the early hours of Thursday, the Senate and the House of Representatives rejected two objections to the tally and certified the final Electoral College count with Biden receiving 306 votes and Trump 232 votes.
McConnell, who had long remained silent while Trump sought to overturn the election results, chastised other Republicans who stalled certification. He called the invasion a "failed insurrection".
"They tried to disrupt our democracy," he said on the Senate floor. "They failed."
The outcome of the certification proceedings was never in doubt, but it was interrupted by rioters who forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the Capitol.
Security forces fired tear gas in a four-hour operation to clear the Capitol. Police said a woman, reportedly a Trump partisan from southern California, was shot and killed and three others died in the area in circumstances that were unclear.
Some besieged the House chamber while lawmakers were inside, banging on its doors. Security officers piled furniture against the chamber's door and drew their pistols before helping lawmakers and others escape.
The assault on the Capitol was the culmination of months of divisive and escalating rhetoric around the Nov 3 election, with Trump repeatedly making false claims the vote was rigged and urging his supporters to help him overturn his loss.
Following Thursday's certification, he issued a statement via White House aide Dan Scavino, saying: "Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th."
Biden said on Wednesday that the activity of the rioters "borders on sedition".
The violence came on the day that his Democratic party secured narrow control of the Senate with wins in two Georgia runoffs.
Wednesday's chaos unfolded after Trump - who before the election refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost - addressed thousands of supporters near the White House and told them to march on the Capitol to express their anger at lawmakers.
He told supporters to pressure their elected officials to reject the results, urging them "to fight".
Some prominent Republicans in Congress squarely blamed Trump for the violence.
"There is no question that the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame," Representative Liz Cheney, the No-3 House Republican, wrote on Twitter.
Trump had tried to get Pence and other Republicans to block the certification of the election - the final step before Biden takes office - even though they lacked the constitutional authority to do so.
After Pence made clear he would not do this, Trump president ripped into his No-2 on Twitter even as the Senate, with the vice president presiding, was under siege.
The shock of the assault seemed to soften the resolve of some Republicans who had supported Trump's efforts. Several Republican senators who had said they would mount objections to the electoral vote count changed their minds when they returned to the chamber.
Two objections - to the vote tallies in Arizona and Pennsylvania - were voted down resoundingly in both the House and the Senate.
"All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough," Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's staunchest allies in Congress, said on the Senate floor.
Election officials of both parties and independent observers have said there was no significant fraud in the November contest, when Biden won 7 million more votes than Trump.
Historians said it was the first time that the Capitol had been taken over since 1814 when the British burned it during the War of 1812.