On a cold and gray January afternoon, lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill for what’s typically a mundane task – tallying the Electoral College votes from November’s election, officially certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the winner two weeks before his inauguration as the 46th president of the United States.
The events that unfolded that day were anything but typical.
The day would soon turn chaotic when thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump, spurred on by false claims of election fraud by the then-president, violently stormed the Capitol, many intent on stopping Congress from counting the votes.
Congress ultimately fulfilled its duty and certified Biden as president. But the insurrection resulted in five deaths, hundreds of arrests, an impeachment trial and a number of still-ongoing federal investigations.
Below is a timeline of the events on Jan. 6, 2021, and their aftermath. Watch a visual timeline in the video player above.
January 6, 2021
12 p.m.: Trump speaks to supporters at rally outside White House
Trump begins speaking to his supporters just south of the White House and near the National Mall, rallying them as lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill to count the electoral college votes.
He speaks to thousands in the crowd, calling them “American patriots” and insisting he won the election, to which they respond with chants such as “Stop the steal!” and “Fight for Trump!”
“We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn't happen,” Trump tells the crowd to cheers. “Just take a look, take third-world countries. Their elections are more honest than what we've been going through in this country. It’s a disgrace.”
About 15 minutes into his speech, he calls on his supporters to walk down to the Capitol building to “cheer on” Republican members of Congress who would vote against the election certification.
“We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you,” Trump says, though he never went to the Capitol building and instead returned to the White House.
Some supporters begin to move toward the Capitol’s west side. On the east side — the farthest from the National Mall — a small crowd has already gathered behind metal barricades, many protesting with Trump flags. It is largely peaceful at this moment.
1 p.m.: Lawmakers gather for Electoral College count
Lawmakers from both parties gather on Capitol Hill to begin counting the Electoral College votes in the early afternoon. Numerous Republicans reiterate Trump’s since-disproven claims of widespread voter fraud and say they will contest the election results from three states: Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Other Republicans, including then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., say overruling the will of the people “would damage our republic forever.”
At the same time, Vice President Mike Pence releases a statement saying he does not have “unilateral authority” to reject the Electoral College votes.
1:03 p.m.: Police clash with protesters on Capitol steps
Police and protesters clash on the steps to the Capitol as rioters break through surrounding metal fence barricades, climbing onto the west Capitol steps and nearby risers. They begin to gather and climb via scaffolding set up for Joe Biden’s inauguration later that month.
1:10 p.m.: Trump calls for Capitol walk again; finishes speech
Shortly before the end of his speech, Trump finishes laying out his case for why he believes the election results were false, calling on his supporters to “fight like hell.”
“If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore,” he says, shortly after adding: “We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. … We’re going to the Capitol.”
By then, many had already breached the outer barricades set up by Capitol police officers.
1:26 p.m.: Evacuations for part of Capitol Hill begin
Capitol police order the evacuation of several buildings on Capitol Hill, including the Library of Congress, the Madison Building and Cannon House Office Building.
1:30 p.m.: Senate and House debates begin in chambers
Two Republicans – Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – raise objections to the Electoral College vote count in Arizona. Senators and House members separate to their respective chambers to begin debate on the objection.
Around the same time, two objects – later confirmed to be pipe bombs – are detected near the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National committees, temporarily diverting some law enforcement away from the Capitol complex.
1:40 p.m.: Rioters encroach on Capitol steps, closing in police
By 1:40 p.m., thousands of rioters have made it up the steps on the west side of the Capitol, some carrying Trump flags, and many begin to gather on the scaffolding. A small group of remaining officers try to fend them off with flashbangs of smoke near the building’s entrance.
One man named Brian, who declined to give his last name, speaks to Spectrum News as he ushers people from the National Mall to keep coming closer to the Capitol, as the crowd pushes toward Congress and grows larger on the steps.
“Move forward!” he yells.
“We just want them to know that we’re here. There’s an honest group of people here,” Brian says shortly before the building is breached.
1:50 p.m.: Police declare a riot
The head of D.C. police declares the events at the Capitol a riot. Several minutes later, a radio transmission says police lines have been breached.
The Capitol complex is on “full lockdown,” an officer tells Spectrum News reporters on the scene a few minutes later. Congressional office buildings, which surround the main Capitol, are sealed off from both the inside and outside.
2:13 p.m.: Rioters breach Senate side of the Capitol
The Capitol is officially breached when a rioter seizes a plastic shield and smashes through a window on the northwest side of the building. The moment is captured on video by a freelance journalist here.
Meanwhile – as the growing mob streams into the National Statuary Hall – Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., is delivering an address on the Senate floor. Partway through, his speech is interrupted as Pence is escorted out of the room by armed guards.
The Senate officially goes into recess, but senators remain inside the chambers.
Across the complex, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moved to a secure location.
2:15 p.m.: Rioters chase officer up stairs
Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman confronts the group of rioters who broke into the Senate side of the building, leading them up a flight of stairs and away from an entrance to the Senate chamber – where inside, officers are still trying to lock down the doors as senators evacuate.
The group comes within 100 feet of the room where Pence is hiding.
2:20 p.m.: House goes into recess
House proceedings continue for several minutes despite a warning sent to staff that reads: "Due to security threat inside: immediately, move inside your office, take emergency equipment, lock the doors, take shelter.”
At 2:29 p.m., the House is gaveled out of session.
2:24 p.m.: Trump tweets about Pence
As Trump tweets that Pence did not “have the courage” to overturn the election, the vice president is evacuated to another spot in the Capitol.
Soon after, Trump speaks by phone with Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., to further pressure the lawmaker to object to the count.
2:26 p.m.: Rioters break into House offices
A separate group of rioters breaks into Pelosi’s suite of offices in search of the Democratic leader.
“They’re pounding the doors trying to find her,” one staffer could be heard on an audio recording, which was published by The Washington Post, around 2:28 p.m.
Pictures would later emerge of individuals seated at Pelosi’s desk and rifling through her belongings, a number of which were stolen from the complex.
2:31 p.m.: D.C. mayor calls for curfew
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser orders a curfew to begin at 6 p.m. and last all night.
During the curfew, no one “other than persons designated by the mayor” can “walk, bike, run, loiter, stand or motor by car” anywhere in the District of Columbia, not counting media and essential workers.
2:38 p.m.: Trump tweets at supporters
As officers attempt to hold back the rioters surrounding the House floor, lawmakers begin to evacuate, some donning gas masks.
2:44 p.m.: Reports of shots fired
Several House lawmakers report hearing shots fired outside the chamber; Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt is fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tries to climb through a window that led to the House floor.
At the same time, armed guards are at a standoff with protesters at the door to the House floor. A group of House lawmakers leaving the chamber comes within feet of the group of rioters.
On the opposite side of the building, rioters have breached the Senate chamber.
2:52 p.m.: Federal troops enter Capitol
FBI swat teams enter the Capitol for the first time as the last large group of House lawmakers is escorted from the premises.
Over the next several hours, officers are tasked with clearing the building and Capitol grounds. The governors of nearby states Maryland and Virginia dispatch the National Guard to help Washington.
3:04 p.m.: D.C. National Guard is approved to aid law enforcement at Capitol
Nearly an hour after insurrectionists first breach the building, then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller approves activation of the D.C. National Guard, which includes more than 1,000 guardsmen.
The guard was requested by the chief of Capitol Police just before 2:30, according to The Washington Post. But the National Guard is overseen by the military, and therefore the president.
The New York Times reported that Trump resisted approving the guard’s deployment and that it was Pence who gave the final green light.
Yet the first National Guardsmen ultimately arrived at the Capitol around 5:40 p.m., when most rioters had already left the building.
4:17 p.m.: Trump shares video to Twitter
Trump releases a video to Twitter repeating his false claims of a stolen election, adding in part: "We have to have peace. ... You're very special. You've seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace."
6 p.m.: Washington, D.C., curfew in effect as night falls
As darkness solidifies around the Capitol, D.C.’s curfew goes into effect and would last until 6 a.m. National Guardsmen stand around the now locked-down building.
6:01 p.m. Trump tweets a message to his supporters
Trump once again takes to Twitter to reiterate false claims about the election and urges his supporters to go home.
"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he wrote. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"
8 p.m.: Congress resumes Electoral College tally
The Capitol complex is declared secure more than six hours after the first rioters broke into the building. Members of the House and Senate return to resume their duty of certifying the election, which would take another several hours.
"The United States Senate will not be intimidated," McConnell says upon his return to the floor late that night. "We are back at our posts. We will discharge our duty under the Constitution and for our nation. And we're going to do it tonight."
While some Republican lawmakers who had planned to object to the Electoral College counts stand down, eight senators and 139 representatives still vote against the results even after the day’s insurrection.
The objections to Pennsylvania’s vote count trigger another debate and a vote in both chambers after the first objections to Arizona earlier that day, which happened just before the violent break-in.
Jan. 7, 2021
3:40 a.m.: Congress certifies Biden’s win
More than 13 hours after the Capitol was first breached, Pence officially certifies the election for the Biden-Kamala Harris ticket in the early hours of Jan. 7.
"Joseph R. Biden Jr. of the state of Delaware has received for president of the United States 306 votes,” Pence says. “Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida has received 232 votes.”
Later that day, Trump finally committs to an “orderly transition,” despite not conceding and, in fact, still questioning the results of the election.
“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,” Trump says. “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”
Days later, The New York Times would report that Trump expressed regret about his comments committing to an orderly transition.
Post-Jan. 7, 2021
Two weeks after the deadly attack, Biden is inaugurated on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, which still bears the scars of the insurrection, as well as the security fencing and barbed wire erected to protect the building and the lawmakers within it.
Ultimately, more than 26,000 National Guard troops protect the nation’s capital that day.
The new president addresses the chaotic events of Jan. 6 as he calls to “restore the soul and to secure the future of America.”
“Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy,” Biden says. “The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded. We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
In the year since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 700 people have been arrested across nearly all 50 states in connection with the violence in Washington that day.
Over 220 individuals have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. So far, 71 people have been sentenced for riot-related crimes, 56 of whom pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
At least 165 people have pleaded guilty so far, mostly to crimes punishable by a maximum sentence of six months. And there are dozens of cases involving more serious offenses still moving through the system.
The Capitol insurrection has had far-reaching consequences beyond those charged in the actual event.
One week after the riot, the House voted to impeach Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection,” alleging that he incited the attack with his rhetoric. Just 10 Republicans joined every House Democrat to support the single article of impeachment (four Republicans abstained).
The trial began on Jan. 25, 2021, days after Biden took office, and showed in raw and emotional detail how perilously close the invaders came to destroying the nation’s deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Trump refused to concede the election.
Despite the support of seven Republican senators – including former GOP presidential nominee Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah; Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina; Sen. Susan Collins of Maine; and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – the Senate failed to convict Trump (57-43; conviction required 67 votes), acquitting the then-former president.
The Jan. 6 commission
In February of 2021, Pelosi announced that she would form an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot, but despite the support of nearly three dozen Republicans in the House, Senate Republicans filibustered the commission bill, killing its formation.
In the aftermath, the House voted, largely along party lines, to form the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol.
While its formation was not without controversy – including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulling all of his Republican picks to serve on the panel after Pelosi objected to two of them – the panel quickly began investigating the brazen attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
Now, after six months of intense work, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is preparing to go public.
While the fundamental facts of Jan. 6 are known, the committee says the extraordinary trove of material they have collected — 35,000 pages of records so far, including texts, emails and phone records from people close to Trump — is fleshing out critical details of the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries, which played out on live television.
Committee members hope to fill in the blanks about the preparations before the attack, the financing behind the Jan. 6 rally that preceded it and the extensive White House campaign to overturn the 2020 election. They are also investigating what Trump himself was doing as his supporters fought their way into the Capitol.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.