Mike Pence Certifies Electoral College's Declaration of Biden's Victory

Published January 7th, 2021 - 08:51 GMT
Vice President Mike Pence (L) and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) look on as the the count of electoral votes continues in the House Chamber during a reconvening of a joint session of Congress on January 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Vice President Mike Pence (L) and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) look on as the the count of electoral votes continues in the House Chamber during a reconvening of a joint session of Congress on January 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Highlights
Joe Biden's Electoral College victory was certified by Mike Pence at 3.41am, ending a nearly 15-hour saga .

Vice President Mike Pence ended Donald Trump’s desperate campaign to overturn the election at 3:41 a.m. Thursday morning and certified President-elect Joe Biden's win – despite the attempt of scores of Republicans to object to it.

Pence made the final announcement after a nearly 15-hour saga that saw rioting supporters of President Donald Trump mob the U.S. Capitol Building in a day of carnage and shame that left four dead, saw pipe bombs, long guns and Molotov cocktails discovered in the Capitol grounds – and left America’s image as the beacon of democracy reeling.

The MAGA mob – which included white supremacists, Holocaust deniers and Q Anon followers - interrupted the certification of results as they smashed through police barricades, stormed into the halls of the Capitol and even sat in the Senate chamber.

They looted offices, vandalized statues and confronted police as they rampaged through the Capitol, carrying Confederate flags, in hours of anarchy which shocked the world. Lawmakers were rushed off the floor of the House and Senate – and brought back at 8pm under armed guard while outside the mob defied a curfew in D.C. The president who had whipped them into fury tweeted: ‘You are special. You are loved.’

Congress’ overwhelming rejection of attempts to overturn the vote and Pence’s role in it will surely further enrage Trump, who wanted his VP to unilaterally overrule Biden's win. But the president was banished from Twitter for 12 hours Wednesday due to violating the company's rules meaning he could not vent on his favorite medium.

With just 13 days left of his presidency, Trump is now at war with Mitch McConnell, facing whispers of his own cabinet trying to force him out and Democrats openly discussing impeaching him again - while just a handful of senators led by Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and the majority of the House GOP remain loyal.

It was Hawley who forced Congress to sit late into the night. Biden was at 244 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed when a final challenge of Pennsylvania's count, signed onto by Josh Hawley, pushed lawmakers back into their respective chambers.

In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell skipped the two hours of permitted debate and went straight to a vote.

The upper chamber voted 92-7 to overrule the Republicans' objection.

'We don't expect additional votes tonight,' he said when things were done. McConnell had been against the GOP effort to challenge the Electoral College vote counts from the beginning.

The House proceeded with debate and then voted 282 to 138 to overrule the challenge of Pennsylvania, with 64 Republicans voting alongside Democrats to make up the majority.

Both houses have to vote in favor of a challenge for it to succeed.

Republicans in the House and Senate had also challenged the votes in Arizona - which prompted two hours of debate, interrupted by the MAGA riot - and that objection was overwhelmingly overruled.

House Republicans also tried to challenge the results in Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, but GOP senators would no longer sign on.

'Mr. President prior to the actions and events of today we did but following the events of today it appears that some senators have withdrawn their objection,' admitted Georgia Rep. Jody Hice when challenging the results in his state.

At nearly 4 a.m., Rep. Louie Gohmert tried to get one more challenge through - for the state of Wisconsin - but, again, a senator had withdrawn.

That spelled the end of the MAGA campaign to upend an election and Pence went on to read out the results of the Electoral College: Biden 306, Trump 232.

But he managed to avoid saying ‘Joe Biden is the winner’ or similar words – a minor softening of the blow to Trump by the deputy who had been until this week perhaps his most devoted follower.

'To those who wreaked havoc in our capitol today, you did not win,' Pence said after lawmakers returned to their seats. 'Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people's house.'

The vice president, who chaired the special joint session as provided under the Constitution, called it a 'dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.'

'But thanks to the swift efforts of the U.S. Capitol Police, federal, state and local law enforcement, the violence was quelled. The Capitol is secured and the people's work continues,' Pence said.

But astonishingly – and to the disgust of Republicans including Mitt Romney and every Democrat – some Republicans continued their doomed bid to overturn the election result.

The most senior was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who claimed that persisting was proof that Congress was not cowed by violence. And Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator who gave a clenched fist salute to the mob before it stormed the Capitol, also refused to back down even as other senators who had planned to object abandoned the campaign.

'Americans go to bed tonight their lasting memory should not be a congress overrun by rioters. It must be a resolute Congress, conducting healthy debate,' McCarthy said.

'We may not disagree on a lot in America but tonight, we must show the world that we will respectfully, but thoroughly carry out the most basic duties of democracy, we will continue with the task that we have been sent here to do. We will follow the Constitution and the law and the process for hearing valid concerns about election integrity. We'll do it with respect.'

Sen. Hawley, who was the first senator who pledged to back a House GOP effort to object to certain states' Electoral College vote counts, refused to abandon the effort entirely. 

The Missouri Republican argued that the Senate floor was the appropriate place to address any election fraud concerns - as opposed to a violent riot.

'Violence is not how you achieve change,' Hawley said. 'And that's why I submit to my colleagues that what we're doing here tonight is actually very important. Because of those who have concerns about the integrity of our elections ... this is the appropriate means, this is the lawful place, where those objections and concerns should be heard.'

He said he hoped the Senate could address concerns 'peacefully, without violence, without attacks, without bullets.'

Hawley then indicated that he might not file objections after the debate over Arizona was complete, bringing up the issues he had with Pennsylvania during his brief floor speech.

'And so Mr. President let me just say now, that briefly, in lieu of speaking about it later, a word about Pennsylvania - this is a state that I have been focused on, objected to,' Hawley said.

He then went on to complain that the state set-up 'universal mail-in balloting.'

'And did it irregardless of what the Pennsylvania Constitution says,' Hawley said, using the improper word for regardless.

The senator then objected to how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made its decision, holding up the law that allowed for enhanced mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Directly after Hawley spoke, Sen. Mitt Romney applauded those senators, like Loeffler and Lankford, who had abandoned Hawley and the 'dirty dozen's' effort. 

'The best way we can show respect to the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth,' Romney implored.

And the truth, he said, was 'President-Elect Biden won the election. President Trump lost.'

'I've had that experience myself, it's no fun,' Romney said, a reference to losing the 2012 presidential election to Democratic President Barack Obama.

As he concluded, Romney was given a standing ovation by some senators – but not by Hawley, who was sitting directly in front of him. 

As 2 am neared, Rep Conor Lamb, a Pennsylvania Democrat who represents the Pittsburgh area, unloaded on the Republicans who objected to the vote from his state.

Lamb first read from the speech he had planned to give pre-riot, including that Allegheny County's vote-counting operation had '31 video cameras!' he said, raising his voice.

'These objections don't deserve an ounce of respect. Not an ounce,' he then said.

'A woman died out there tonight and you're making these objections,' Lamb went on. 'Let's be clear about what happened in this chamber today: invaders came in for the first time since the War of 1812.'

Lamb nodded over in the direction of a group of his Republican colleagues.

'We know that that attack today, it didn't materialize out of nowhere. It was inspired by lies, the same lies you're hearing in this room tonight, and the members who are repeating those lies should be ashamed of themselves,' Lamb said. 'Their constituents should be ashamed of them.'

Rep. Morgan Griffith shouted to have Lamb's comments struck from the record.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled his request down, later explaining that he wasn't quick enough, saying it needed to happen 'exactly when the words are spoken.'

Nearby, a scuffle among lawmakers nearly broke out involving Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican, and Rep. Colin Allred, a Texas Democrat, according to Capitol Hill reporters.

Allred is a former professional football player.

As 2 am neared, Rep Conor Lamb, a Pennsylvania Democrat who represents the Pittsburgh area, unloaded on the Republicans who objected to the vote from his state.

Lamb first read from the speech he had planned to give pre-riot, including that Allegheny County's vote-counting operation had '31 video cameras!' he said, raising his voice.

'These objections don't deserve an ounce of respect. Not an ounce,' he then said.

'A woman died out there tonight and you're making these objections,' Lamb went on. 'Let's be clear about what happened in this chamber today: invaders came in for the first time since the War of 1812.'

Lamb nodded over in the direction of a group of his Republican colleagues.

'We know that that attack today, it didn't materialize out of nowhere. It was inspired by lies, the same lies you're hearing in this room tonight, and the members who are repeating those lies should be ashamed of themselves,' Lamb said. 'Their constituents should be ashamed of them.'

Rep. Morgan Griffith shouted to have Lamb's comments struck from the record.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled his request down, later explaining that he wasn't quick enough, saying it needed to happen 'exactly when the words are spoken.'

Nearby, a scuffle among lawmakers nearly broke out involving Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican, and Rep. Colin Allred, a Texas Democrat, according to Capitol Hill reporters.

Allred is a former professional football player.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi reopened the House of Representatives Wednesday night with a vow to stay as long as it takes to certify the election and Joe Biden's victory.

'Congress has returned to the Capitol,' she said seven hours after the chamber was closed because rioters were trying to breach its doors. 'We always knew that this responsibility would take us into the night, and will stay as long as it takes. Our purpose will be accomplished. We must and we will show to the country.'

'We know that we're in difficult times, but little could we have imagined the assault, that was made on our democracy,' she said in reference to the pro-Trump insurgents who tried to stop the Joint Session.

She said it was the duty of lawmakers to show the world 'the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.'

Shortly before all House members were evacuated around 2.30pm, Capitol Police approached Pelosi, who was presiding over the chamber from the speaker's rostrum, telling her she had to leave.

Pelosi didn't make a fuss and turned over her duties to House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern.

He told reporters on Capitol Hill that she whispered 'thank you' and handed him the gavel as she was led away.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will stand by President Trump and continue his party's objections to the certification of states won by Joe Biden in the electoral college.

Some Republican senators backed down from the original plan to object after pro-Trump insurgents rushed the Capitol.

But McCarthy said it was lawmakers' duty to conduct 'healthy debate' and to hear 'valid concerns about election integrity.'

'When Americans go to bed tonight their lasting memory should not be a Congress overrun by rioters. It must be a resolute Congress, conducting healthy debate. We may not disagree on a lot in America but tonight, we must show the world that we will respectfully, but thoroughly carry out the most basic duties of democracy, we will continue with the task that we have been sent here to do. We will follow the Constitution and the law and the process for hearing valid concerns about election integrity. We'll do it with respect,' he said on the House floor after the chamber reopened.

But he also condemned the rioters.

'We saw the worst of America this afternoon,' he said.

McCarthy also warned lawmakers to think twice about what they post on social media. Posts by Republicans, including President Trump, falsely stating the election was rigged and fraudulent were believed to have contributed to inciting the mob that ran sacked the Capitol.

'We also should think for a moment about what do we put on social media,' he said. 'Just because you have a personal opinion different than mine, you have a right to say it, but nobody has a right to become a mob. And we all should stand united to condemning them all together.'

Pence's condemnation was followed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, with Schumer - a New York Democrat - placing the blame squarely on Trump.

'Today's events would certainly not have happened without him,' Schumer said. 

McConnell, who earlier chastised members of his own party who planned to file objections to the Electoral College vote count, proclaimed, 'The United States Senate will not be intimidated.'

'Will not be kept out of its chamber by thugs, mobs or threats. We will not bend for lawlessness or intimidation,' the Kentucky Republican said.

He said senators would discharge their Constitutional duty - to certify the results of the presidential race.

'And we're going to do it tonight,' McConnell said.

The Kentucky Republican proclaimed, 'Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress.'

Schumer followed, admitting that he didn't quite have the words to describe what happened Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

'I have never lived through, or even imagined the experience like the one we have just witnessed in this Capitol,' he said. 'This temple to democracy was desecrated, its windows smashed, our offices vandalized.'

He spoke of the woman who was shot during the riots, who has since died of her injuries.

'We mourn her and feel for her friends and family,' Schumer said.

'This will be a stain on our country not so easily washed away,' he added.

And the soon-to-be majority leader, after Democrats were successful in both Georgia Senate run-off races, pointed a finger at Trump, calling the day's events the 'final terrible indelible legacy of the 45th president of the United States.'

'Undoubtedly our worst,' Schumer argued.

'Today's events did not happen spontaneously, the president who promoted conspiracy theories, who motivated these thugs, a president who exhorted them to come to our United States capitol, egged them on, who hardly ever discourages violence. This president deals a great deal of the blame,' Schumer said.

He said that those responsible for overtaking the capitol could not be called 'protesters.'

'These were rioters and insurrectionist goons and thugs, domestic terrorists,' Schumer said. 'They do not represent America

Senate Majority Leader spoke immediately after Pence to declare that the chamber would not be intimidated by 'thugs.'

McConnell found himself denouncing Trump's bid to overturn the election for the second time in a day, after earlier delivering a strong speech blasting the effort by members of his own caucus seeking to throw out electors in states that went for Joe Biden.

Wednesday night, after Trump supporters breached hallways that McConnell has walked for decades on 'unhinged' invaders – without mentioning that it was President Trump who encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol.

Nevertheless, he eviscerated the Trump backers who ran wild inside the chamber.

'The United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation,' vowed McConnell.

'We are back at our post. We will discharge our duty under the Constitution and for our nation.

And we're going to do it tonight,' said McConnell.

His words were both strengthened and undercut by his close association with Trump's tenure: McConnell's wife Elaine Chao serves as Trump's Transportation secretary. McConnell spent weeks without denouncing Trump's unsubstantiated claims the election was rigged. And it was in partnership with Trump that he achieved his life's goal of stacking the judiciary with conservative jurists.

He spoke with contempt towards the mob who invaded the Capitol, saying the country had 'faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today.'

'We've never been deterred before and we'll be not deterred today. They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed,' he intoned.

He called it a 'failed insurrection' and said it 'only underscores how crucial the task before us is for our republic.'

'Now we're going to finish exactly what we started,' said McConnell. 'We'll complete the process in the right way: by the book.'

He said the Senate would follow its precedents and laws and Constitution 'to the letter.'

'And we will certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election,' he said forcefully. 'Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress. This institution is resilient. Our democratic republic is strong. The American people deserve nothing less,' he said.  

Among Republicans bailing on the plan to contest the results was Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, known as an institutionalist before he signed onto the effort by Sen. Ted Cruz.

'Why in god's name would someone think attacking law enforcement occupying United States Capitol is the best way to show that you're right? Why would you do that?' he asked.

'Rioters and thugs don't run the capitol we're the United States of America. We disagree on a lot of things and we have a lot of spirited debate in this room. But we talk it out and we honor each other.

Lankford had been on the Senate floor defending the opposition to votes in states Biden won when officials evacuated the chamber and locked down the Capitol.

'I was literally interrupted mid-sentence speaking here. Because we're all aware of what was happening right outside this room,' he said, praising law enforcement who protected the Capitol.

He quickly bowed to the new reality.

'Obviously the commission that we've asked for is not going to happen at this point and I understand that and we're headed towards tonight towards the certification of Joe Biden to be the president of the United States,' he said. Cruz and his compatriots wanted a special commission to investigate electoral fraud claims tossed out of courts over a ten-day period.

'And we will work together in this body to be able to send peaceful example in the days ahead,' he concluded.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president's top allies in the Senate, threw water on the objectors' efforts recalling how in 1876 three southern states - South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida - sent two slates of electors to Congress, in a bid to end Reconstruction after the Civil War.

'It led to Jim Crow,' Graham said. 'If you're looking for historical guidance, this is not the one to pick.'

The South Carolina Republican also said that a forming a commission to look into fraud wouldn't change minds.

'Having a commission chosen by Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and John Roberts is not going to get you to where you want to go, it ain't going to work,' Graham said. 'It's not going to do any good, it's going to delay and it gives credibility to a dark chapter of our history.'

Graham maintained Trump was a 'consequential president.'

'But today ... all I can say is count me out, enough is enough, I've tried to be helpful.'

Graham praised Pence, telling him: 'what they're asking you to do, you won't do, because you can't.'

Trump has pressured Pence to choose between Electoral College votes and 'alternate' slates of electors, which the vice president doesn't have the power to do.

Graham also mentioned how he had traveled the world with Biden, when they served together in the Senate.

'I prayed he would lose,' Graham said. 'He's the legitimate president of the United States.'

Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost her race in the early hours Wednesday to Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock, announced that she would no longer be filing objections to Electoral College votes.

'When I arrived in Washington this morning, I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes,' she said. 'However, the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider and I cannot now, in good conscience, object.'

Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, also announced that he no longer supported senators filing objections.

The newly minted Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican, who had joined Sen. Ted Cruz's 'dirty dozen,' seemed to still back the effort in his debut floor speech.

'We must restore faith and confidence in one of our republic's most hallowed and patriotic duties: voting,' Marshall said.

Marshall said he backed the creation of an electoral commission to give states to constructive suggestions' going forward, due to the 'jarring irregularities' he claimed took place in the 2020 race.

It's unclear if Marshall would back additional challenges in states going forward, as the Senate's discussion was only focused on Electoral College votes in Arizona.

Republican Congressman Thomas Reed announced he is against the GOP objections to the certification, earning a round of applause from Democrats.

Reed walked to the Democratic side of the House to speak about his opposition, citing the day's violence in the Capitol as the reason.

'We settle our differences through elections,' he said, denouncing the 'mob rule' that took place earlier in the afternoon.

'What we see tonight in this body shall be what we do in America. And that is to transfer power in a peaceful way,' he said as Democrats gave him a standing ovation.

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, a top Trump ally on Capitol Hill, pushed a conspiracy theory that some of the mob that raided the Capitol were members of Antifa, who are opposed to fascism and other forms of extreme right-wing ideology. President Trump has tried to label Antifa as a terrorist group but they a political philosophy. There is no evidence they were involved in Wednesday's insurrection.

Gaetz cited the conservative newspaper The Washington Times when he spoke on the House floor to defend Republican objections to the electoral college votes in some states won by Biden.

'The Washington Times has just reported, some pretty compelling evidence from a facial recognition company, showing that some of the people who breached the Capitol today, were not Trump supporters, they were masquerading as Trump supporters, and in fact, we're members of the violet terrorist group Antifa,' he said as Democrats loudly booed him.

Gaetz, a frequent guest at Trump's Florida residence Mar-a-Lago, also defended the president, who was criticized by many, including members of the Republican Party, for his lackluster response to the riots.

'Another important point for the country is that this morning President Trump explicitly called for demonstrations and protests to be peaceful,' Gaetz said.

Trump, in tweets, did say the protesters should be peaceful but he didn't call for them to stand down and leave the Capitol.

Democrats booed Gaetz as he spoke, which he acknowledged: 'You can moan and groan but he was far more explicit about his calls for peace than some of the BLM and left wing writers were this summer, when we saw violence sweep across this nation.'

Gaetz also got in a dig at liberal Democrats, who have called to defund the police.

'I'm sure glad that at least for one day, I didn't hear my Democratic colleagues calling to defund the police,' he said as his Republican colleagues cheered.

Trump - after remaining silent for much of the afternoon - posted a video telling his 'very special' supporters inside the Capitol that he loves them and understands their pain but urged them 'to go home'. 

He had initially encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol after a rally earlier in the afternoon before asking them only to remain peaceful when violence broke out.   

The Capitol was briefly secured before being placed on lockdown again at around 6.45pm due to an 'internal security threat' after an officer was reportedly found unconscious. Anyone inside a building at the Capitol complex was instructed to take cover in an office with doors locked.     

But just before 8pm lawmakers who had been whisked to safety when the siege kicked off began arriving back at the Capitol to resume the Joint Session to certify the Electoral College count of the presidential election. 

The lawmakers were seen flanked by armed guards as they made their way into the Capitol. A spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence, who is residing over the Joint Session, said he was already in the building because he'd never left. 

As the protesters broke down police barricades and stormed into the Capitol, lawmakers cowering inside the House Chamber were told to put on gas masks as tear gas was fired in the Rotunda. Officers at the front door of the chamber had their guns drawn at a protester trying to break down the door.

The Capitol was placed on lockdown again at around 6.45pm due to an 'internal security threat' after an officers was reportedly found unconscious. Anyone inside a building at the Capitol complex was instructed to take cover in an office with doors locked    +62
The Capitol was placed on lockdown again at around 6.45pm due to an 'internal security threat' after an officers was reportedly found unconscious. Anyone inside a building at the Capitol complex was instructed to take cover in an office with doors locked

For those fleeing, it was a race against time: Protesters were getting in as quickly as members of Congress could get out. 

One protester occupied the Senate dais and yelled: 'Trump won that election'. Some protesters even occupied Pelosi's office, sitting mockingly at a desk. 

The chaotic scenes unfolded soon after Trump addressed thousands of his supporters and urged them to march to the Capitol. The protesters organized via far-right social media sites, including Gab and Parler, telling each other the best routes to avoid police on their way to the Capitol.

After protesters started clashing with law enforcement, Trump tweeted to his supporters to 'stay peaceful'. 

'Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!' the president wrote.

As the violence escalated, Trump tweeted: 'I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order - respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!' 

He did not initially tell the protesters to leave. 

Biden on Wednesday evening called for the restoration of 'simple decency' after the mob delayed Congress from certifying the results of November's election. 

'At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we've seen in modern times,' Biden said. He called it 'an assault on the rule of law like few times we have ever seen it.' 

'I call on this mob to pull back and allow democracy to go forward. 

In an address that took less than 10 minutes and was televised against a split screen of the still-occupied Capitol building, Biden attempted to project calm and to say that a deeply divided country can still come together - while also expressing outrage. 

He stopped short of accusing Trump of treason but said the events 'bordered on sedition'. 

'At their best, the words of a president can inspire,' Biden added. 'At their worst they can incite.' 

Minutes after Biden's address, Trump posted his own video telling his mob of supporters that he 'loves' them, but to 'go home'. In the same breath he also continued to peddle his baseless claims that the 'election was stolen'. 

'There's never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us - from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can't play into the hands of these people,' he said.

'We have to have peace. So, go home. We love you. 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.' 

The video was later removed by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube because it violated their policies.  

The president then posted another tweet reiterating his false claim that the election was stolen and encouraging supporters to 'remember this day'. The tweet was perceived by some as an attempt to rile up the Capitol crowds.  

'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 tweeted. 'Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!'

Twitter removed the tweet for violating its rules. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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