The US Capitol Building has gone into lockdown after hundreds of pro-Trump protesters stormed the building during the count to certify Joe Biden’s victory. One woman is in a critical condition with a gunshot to the chest. The protesters were urged on by the president at his “March to Save America” rally nearby. Vice-President Mike Pence, who earlier rejected Trump’s calls to overturn the election results, was quickly evacuated from the Senate chamber, where lawmakers were debating a Republican objection to certify the presidency. There have been reports of a protester shooting into the House chamber as police officers tried to barricade the door, while House members were given gas masks before being rushed from the floor. The Washington Post is reporting that the Defense Department has denied a request to deploy the National Guard, while a former DC police chief has called it “as close to a coup attempt as this country has ever seen”. Trump, who said earlier at his rally, “We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Ave – I love Pennsylvania Avenue – and we’re going to the Capitol”, has since tweeted for protesters to “stay peaceful”.
The Capitol Hill chaos forced US Congress to stop counting electoral votes, but the Senate vote count continues down in Georgia, where Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff has extended his lead, putting Democrats on the brink of Senate control. Democrat Raphael Warnock last night defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler for the other spot, becoming the state’s first black senator. A top election official in Georgia said it was all but certain that Ossoff would emerge as the victor against David Perdue, adding that it was likely that the victory would exceed the margin to trigger a recount.
Friday’s special meeting of national cabinet will consider tightening rules on arrivals, including mandatory pre-flight testing and a blanket ban on travel from the UK and South Africa. The travel ban will probably be rejected, news.com.au reports, as the UK strain is on course to become the dominant strain elsewhere. Authorities in Victoria and WA are pushing for the pre-flight test and want those who test positive unable to board planes, while WA Premier Mark McGowan wants to see pre-flight testing extended to the US as well. The group will also receive an update on the much-debated vaccine rollout, with federal Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday “not ruling out” speeding up the process. The aged care industry is calling for the mandatory vaccination of staff, while business groups in other sectors say they agree with government plans not to make the vaccine mandatory across the community.
Julian Assange has been denied bail, two days after a UK court ruled on mental health grounds that he should not be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges. District judge Vanessa Baraitser, the same judge who denied the extradition request, said the WikiLeaks co-founder “still has an incentive to abscond from these as yet unresolved proceedings”, noting he had a history and the means of doing so. Clair Dobbin, a lawyer for the US government, pointed to the readiness of other states to offer protection to Assange, referencing an offer of asylum from the president of Mexico. The US government is appealing the extradition ruling to the High Court. Assange will remain in Belmarsh prison in London, where he has spent the past 18 months since being evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy.