Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of social media giant Facebook, announced Thursday that President Donald Trump has been banned from the platform “indefinitely” and for “at least the next two weeks” following a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete,” Zuckerberg said in a statement Thursday morning.
The decision comes after pro-Trump rioters and others breached the Capitol building in a bid to prevent the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden's victory by Congress which was affirmed early Thursday.
Washington, D.C., Police Chief Robert Contee told USA Today that four people died during the unrest including a woman who was shot by the U.S. Capitol Police, and three others — two men and one woman — who died in “separate medical emergencies.”
The woman shot dead by Capitol Police was identified as 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt from San Diego. She was an Air Force veteran who served for 14 years.
“She loved her country, and she was doing what she thought was right to support her country in joining up with like-minded people that also love their president and their country,” her husband, Aaron Babbitt, told KTLA5. “She was voicing her opinion, and she got killed for it.”
He said he learned about his wife’s death on the news and doesn’t understand why she was killed because as far as he knew, she wasn’t carrying any weapons.
“I don’t know why she had to die in the people’s house,” he said. “That’s our house; it’s everybody’s house.”
On Wednesday, Twitter and Facebook said they were forced to lock President Trump out of his accounts limiting his access to his millions of followers after he published a series of messages they marked as inaccurate and inflammatory.
In one post that was removed by Twitter, Trump released a video in which he urged supporters "to go home in peace." Again repeating claims for voter fraud, Trump told supporters he knows how they feel and again stressed that the election was "stolen from us."
"But we can’t play into the hands of these people," Trump said. "We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You are very special."
Twitter said in a statement that the president’s account would be suspended for 12 hours after the removal of tweets they found to be in violation of their policy and could face permanent suspension for any future violations “including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies.”
Zuckerberg called the riot “shocking” on Thursday and said President Trump had clearly demonstrated that he plans to use his remaining time in office to “undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power.”
“The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden. His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world. We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect — and likely their intent — would be to provoke further violence,” Zuckerberg said.
“Following the certification of the election results by Congress, the priority for the whole country must now be to ensure that the remaining 13 days and the days after inauguration pass peacefully and in accordance with established democratic norms.
“Over the last several years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, at times removing content or labeling his posts when they violate our policies. We did this because we believe that the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech. But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” he added.
Officials in D.C. said so far police have made "in excess of 52 arrests," including 26 on U.S. Capitol grounds in connection to the riot.
Several White House officials including Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary and chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump have since resigned following the unrest.
“It has been an honor to serve the country in the @WhiteHouse. I am very proud to have been a part of @FLOTUS@MELANIATRUMP mission to help children everywhere, & proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration,” Grisham said in a statement on Twitter acknowledging her departure at approximately 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The first lady’s chief of staff has worked for the Trumps since the 2016 campaign and is one of their longest-serving aides. White House Social Secretary Anna Cristina "Rickie" Niceta also resigned Wednesday effective immediately, according to CNN.
Another White House press aide Sarah Matthews also resigned Wednesday night, noting that while she was honored to serve in the Trump administration, she "was deeply disturbed by what I saw today."
"Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power," she added in a statement.
The riot also drew bipartisan rebuke including from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who called it “a failed attempt at a coup.”
"The cornerstone of our democracy is the peaceful transfer of power. We must call this what it actually is: a failed attempt at a coup. This is the final chapter of an incompetent, cruel, and divisive administration that has trampled on the Constitution and the rule of law at every turn, and we won't let President Trump, the members of Congress who enable him, or the lawless mob that stormed our nation's Capitol steal our democracy,” he said in a statement. "The election results are clear and the will of the American people will be carried out."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also forcefully rejected the attack on the Capitol in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, insisting that “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were lawfully elected and will become the president and the vice president of the United States.”
“Trump and I, we’ve had a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way. Oh my God, I hate it. From my point of view, he’s been a consequential president, but today, first thing you’ll see. All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough,” he said.
“I’ve tried to be helpful, but when this Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled four to three, that they didn’t violate the constitution of Wisconsin, I agree with the three, but I accept the four. If Al Gore could accept five-four he’s not president, I can accept Wisconsin four to three,” he continued.
“It is over…. Joe Biden. I’ve traveled the world with Joe. I hoped he lost. I prayed he would lose. He won. He’s the legitimate President of the United States. I cannot convince people, certain groups, by my words, but I will tell you by my actions that maybe I above all others in this body need to say this. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected and will become the President and the Vice President of the United States on January the 20th.”