Electoral College Certificates Reportedly Saved by Senate Aide Before Capitol Was Breached

According to Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the Electoral College certificates of the 2020 presidential election are safe after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Duckworth told CBS News that a "quick-thinking" staffer grabbed the certificates and the traditional wooden chests they are stored in before the United States Senate was evacuated. The U.S. Congress may reconvene tonight to carry out the counting of those votes.

"The good news is that one of the staff members was very, very quick-thinking, and was able to grab and secure the Electoral College ballots and bring them with her to this location," Duckworth said in a phone interview with CBS News, amid live coverage of the attack on the Capitol. "So we have them with us, and we will be able to proceed as long as Mitch McConnell calls us back into session." Duckworth, a Democrat, was among the lawmakers who wanted to send a message to the mob by calling the Senate back together and finishing the interrupted process.

The image of the old wooden chests that hold the Electoral College's certified votes were a symbolic beacon to many social media users on Wednesday afternoon. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley tweeted a picture of boxes safe and sound in whatever secure location he was escorted to. He wrote: "If our capable floor staff hadn't grabbed them, they would have been burned by the mob."

Trump supporters gathered in Washington D.C. for a rally hosted by the president himself on Wednesday, and marched right from the rally to the Capitol building at his urging. Dozens of them then broke into the building, smashing windows and destroying other public property as they took over the building. They made it to the Senate chamber, along with other auspicious offices, but so far it is unclear if they succeeded in damaging anything important.

As the dust settles and the building is emptied, more and more critics are questioning the police themselves in this historic security breach. MSNBC's Joy Reid compared the treatment of these Trump supporters to Black Lives Matter protests, going all the way back to the summer of 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Capitol police had plenty of advanced warning of this rally, and social media chatter indicating that it might get extreme. Some pundits are calling for an internal investigation of how they failed to hold the crowd at bay.

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At the time of this writing, Trump supporters are still clashing with authorities in Washington D.C. President-elect Joe Biden will take office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.