WASHINGTON – Capping nearly a half-century in politics, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer is on the verge of taking control as majority leader of a closely divided Senate, placing him at the center of the legislative battles to come when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated January 20.
Schumer, 70, the first New Yorker and the first Jew to hold the position of Senate Majority Leader, will succeed Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at a perilous moment: The country is gripped by the deadly COVID-19 epidemic, the economy is in tatters, and the nation is reeling from last Wednesday’s rioting at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters.
Indeed, Schumer likely will assume his new leadership role in the midst of another contentious fight to eject Trump from the White House, even as the Republican president’s term nears its end.
With a new Senate controlled by the Democrats unlikely to act on an article of impeachment until after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20, Schumer’s first order of business will be to devise a strategy to simultaneously confirm Biden’s Cabinet and pass critical policy initiatives while conducting an impeachment trial of Trump.
In a letter to Senate colleagues this week, Schumer vowed that impeachment won’t interfere with the Democratic Party agenda, which includes passage of a coronavirus pandemic stimulus package providing $2,000 individual payments and state and local assistance.
He also listed other goals, such as “bold legislation to defeat the climate crisis” and efforts to fix the health care and childcare systems, according to the Associated Press.
Biden has encouraged Schumer and other Democratic leaders to pursue a “bifurcated” approach by dividing legislative days between an impeachment trial and getting his nominees for top government posts confirmed by the Senate.
Although Trump would be out of office by the time the Senate is able to act on the impeachment charge, Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats note that Trump would be barred from running for president again in 2024 if he is convicted of inciting violence against the government.
Timing of Senate handover uncertain
It took an improbable Democratic sweep of two Senate seats in Georgia runoff elections Jan. 5 to shift control of the Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats — and elevate Schumer from minority leader to the top leadership job.
It is currently impossible to pinpoint the specific day on which Schumer will take control of the Senate, because of how closely divided the body is and because of some peculiarities of election law.
The chamber will ultimately be split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes in favor of Democrats. However, before that can happen a replacement for Harris, who is currently a senator, and the two senators-elect from Georgia, who won runoff elections last week, must all be seated.
Harris’s appointed replacement, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, can be seated as soon as Harris is inaugurated. But Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the two incoming senators from Georgia, could have to wait until as late as January 22 to take their positions, depending on when state officials certify their elections.
A history of pragmatism
Although Schumer’s position as his party’s leader inevitably places him at a political flashpoint, his history in state politics and the U.S. Congress over the past 45 years has been marked by a broad streak of pragmatism and a willingness to make deals across the aisle.
In particular, Schumer has served as a bridge between the parties on issues related to the financial services industry, one of the most important sectors, if not the most important, in his state’s economy. He is often criticized by members of his own party for being too solicitous of Wall Street.
He also sought to strike bipartisan deals on contentious issues. He was a member of the “Gang of 8” — a group of senators that in 2013 led a successful bipartisan effort to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law in the Senate. The legislation ultimately died in the House.
Over the years, Schumer has been a reliable supporter of many policy aims associated with the Democratic Party. In particular, he has been a strong advocate for gun control, expansion of access to health insurance, and the right of women to choose to have abortions.
However, he has also been willing to break from his party. He has, at times, resisted efforts to raise taxes on people earning considerably more money than average Americans, pointing out that in high-cost areas like New York, income levels that would be considered very high elsewhere are necessary to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.
Schumer’s strong support for Israel has also left him at odds with his party on occasion. He voted against the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration in 2015, and spoke in favor of President Trump’s controversial decision to move the United States’ embassy in Israel to the contested city of Jerusalem.
A skilled political campaigner and organizer, Schumer has never lost an election in his career. He also headed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, leading the party in retaking control of the Senate in 2006 by ousting half a dozen Republican incumbents. In the next election, still under Schumer’s leadership, the DSCC helped the party gain an additional eight seats.
His skills as a politician will be fully tested in the tightly controlled Senate, where the “filibuster” rule can make it difficult to pass any legislation with fewer than 60 votes, and where even measures that can be passed with a simple majority will have to please the most conservative Democrats in the body.
“Schumer is constrained both by the filibuster and also the preferences of his least-liberal members,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “That list starts with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
“It seems like the $2,000 stimulus checks will be a very early agenda item for the new Congress. Can Schumer structure it in such a way that he can secure the vote of Manchin, who has said that he doesn’t view the checks as a top priority? Or, if he loses Manchin, could he find Republican votes? How this unfolds is an interesting early test for Schumer as majority leader.”
A son of Brooklyn
Schumer’s elevation to one of the most powerful positions in the country comes as the culmination of a political career that has spanned nearly five decades. Beginning as a state assemblyman in New York in 1975, Schumer worked his way ever upward, spending eighteen years as a member of the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate for the first time in 1998.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1950, Schumer still lives in the borough’s Park Slope neighborhood with his wife of more than 40 years, Iris Weinshall. They have two adult daughters. Schumer attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, passing the bar in the state of New York in 1975, though he never practiced law.
Schumer is the second cousin of comedian and actress Amy Schumer.
Schumer is often the subject of jokes on Capitol Hill because of his sharp elbows and fondness for publicity. Former Senate Majority Leader and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole once said, “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Charles Schumer and a television camera.”
- The nation’s top military commanders condemned Wednesday’s acts of “sedition and insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol.
- The message from the Joint Chiefs of Staff comes nearly one week after thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in at least five deaths, including that of a Capitol Police officer.
WASHINGTON — In an extraordinary letter Tuesday to the U.S. military, the nation’s top commanders condemned last week’s acts of “sedition and insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol, while acknowledging Joe Biden’s election victory.
The message did not mention President Donald Trump by name, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led by U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, made it clear that the military intends to stand by the constitutional transfer of power to the next administration.
“As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civilian authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” wrote the nation’s highest military officers.
“As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law,” the chiefs wrote.
The message to the troops comes nearly one week after thousands of the president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in at least five deaths, including that of a Capitol Police officer.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump told reporters that people found his comments at a rally that sparked the violence at the Capitol “totally appropriate” and called the fallout “absolutely ridiculous.”
The president also briefly discussed the blowback he said would follow potential impeachment proceedings.
“For [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Democratic leader] Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” he said.
On Wednesday, the House plans to decide whether to make Trump the first president ever impeached twice.
The assault on the Capitol delayed congressional proceedings to tally electors’ votes and confirm Biden’s win in the Nov. 3 election.
Biden’s victory was projected by all major news outlets in mid-November and confirmed by Electoral College votes in mid-December. The Republican president has falsely insisted he won in a “landslide,” baselessly claiming his reelection was stolen through massive electoral fraud.
As protesters besieged the Capitol on Wednesday, Trump told supporters in a tweeted video, “You have to go home now.” The president stopped short of condemning the violence and told the mob, “We love you, you’re very special.”
On Monday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., called on acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller to investigate whether active-duty or retired military members took part in the deadly mob.
If such individuals are identified by criminal investigators, Duckworth said, Miller must “take appropriate action to hold individuals accountable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Army National Guard, noted that “upholding good order and discipline demands that the U.S. Armed Forces root out extremists that infiltrate the military and threaten our national security.”
A U.S. Army officer resigned Monday after commanders at Fort Bragg confirmed that they were reviewing Capt. Emily Rainey’s involvement in the riot.
In a Tuesday evening statement, the Army said it is working with the FBI to determine whether any participants in last week’s riot have any connection to the Army.
“Any type of activity that involves violence, civil disobedience, or a breach of peace may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state or federal law,” an Army spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.
In a nearly three-minute video posted on Thursday, the president called for national “healing and reconciliation.”
“To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay,” Trump said, in his first address to the nation following the violence that rocked Washington.
“Now tempers must be cooled, and calm restored. We must get on with the business of America,” Trump added.
The president also acknowledged that “a new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.”
A day later he said that he would skip President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Vice President Mike Pence said he will attend Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.
Traditionally, the incoming and outgoing presidents ride from the White House to the U.S. Capitol together for the inauguration ceremony.
Trump is not the first outgoing president to skip the inauguration of his successor. The others were Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson, according to the White House Historical Association. Like Trump, Johnson was also impeached.
The National Guard said Monday that it has authorized up to 15,000 troops to support the security of the inauguration. Defense officials added that there were approximately 9,000 National Guard members at former President Barack Obama’s inauguration. For Trump’s ceremony in 2017, more than 7,000 troops were mobilized.
A situational information report approved for release the day before the U.S. Capitol riot painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans, including individuals sharing a map of the complex’s tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina and head in groups to Washington.
“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C.,” the document says. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
BLM is likely a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice. Pantifa is a derogatory term for antifa, a far-left anti-fascist movement whose adherents sometimes engage in violent clashes with right-wing extremists.
Yet even with that information in hand, the report’s unidentified author expressed concern that the FBI might be encroaching on free speech rights.
The warning is the starkest evidence yet of the sizable intelligence failure that preceded the mayhem, which claimed the lives of five people, although one law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid disciplinary action, said the failure was not one of intelligence but of acting on the intelligence.
An FBI official familiar with the document said that within 45 minutes of learning about the alarming online conversation, the Norfolk FBI office wrote the report and shared it with others within the bureau. It was not immediately clear how many law enforcement agencies outside the FBI were told, but the information was briefed to FBI officials at the bureau’s Washington field office the day before the attack, this official said.
The official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing investigations, added that the report was raw intelligence and that at the time it was written, the FBI did not know the identities of those making the online statements.
The FBI already faces tough questions about why it was not more attuned to what was being discussed in public Internet conversations in the days leading up to the attack, and why the bureau and other agencies seemed to do little to prepare for the possibility of mass violence.
The document notes that the information represents the view of the FBI’s Norfolk office, is not to be shared outside law enforcement circles, that it is not “finally evaluated intelligence,” and that agencies that receive it “are requested not to take action based on this raw reporting without prior coordination with the FBI.”
Multiple law enforcement officials have said privately in recent days that the level of violence exhibited at the Capitol has led to difficult discussions within the FBI and other agencies about race, terrorism, and whether investigators failed to register the degree of danger because the overwhelming majority of the participants at the rally were White conservatives fiercely loyal to the President Trump.
“Individuals/Organizations named in this [situational information report] have been identified as participating in activities that are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the document says. “Their inclusion here is not intended to associate the protected activity with criminality or a threat to national security, or to infer that such protected activity itself violates federal law.
“However,” it continues, “based on known intelligence and/or specific historical observations, it is possible the protected activity could invite a violent reaction towards the subject individual or others in retaliation or with the goal of stopping the protected activity from occurring in the first instance. In the event no violent reaction occurs, FBI policy and federal law dictates that no further record to be made of the protected activity.”
The document notes that one online comment advised, “if Antifa or BLM get violent, leave them dead in the street,” while another said they need “people on standby to provide supplies, including water and medical, to the front lines. The individual also discussed the need to evacuate noncombatants and wounded to medical care.”
On Jan. 6, a large, angry crowd of people who had attended a nearby rally marched to the Capitol, smashing windows and breaking down doors to get inside. One woman in the mob was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer; officials said three others in the crowd died from medical emergencies. Another Capitol police officer died after suffering injuries.
On Friday, the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Steven D’Antuono, told reporters “there was no indication” of anything planned for the day of Trump’s rally “other than First Amendment-protected activity.” D’Antuono added, “we worked diligently with our partners on this.”
The FBI said in a statement that its “standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products,” but added that FBI field offices “routinely share information with their local law enforcement partners to assist in protecting the communities they serve.”
The FBI did not detail specifically who saw the document before the mob attack on Congress or what, if anything, was done in response.
For weeks leading up to the event, FBI officials discounted any suggestion that the protest of pro-Trump supporters upset about the scheduled certification of Joe Biden’s election could be a security threat on a scale with racial justice protests last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.
While the nation’s capital is one of the most heavily guarded cities on the planet, local and federal law enforcement agencies sought to take a low-key approach to last week’s event, publicly and privately expressing concerns that they did not want to repeat the ugly clashes between protesters and police last year.
Some law enforcement officials took the view that pro-Trump protesters are generally known for over-the-top rhetoric but not much violence, and therefore the event did not pose a particularly grave risk, according to people familiar with the security discussions leading up to Jan. 6.
Even so, there were warning signs, though none as stark as the one from the FBI’s Norfolk office.
FBI agents had in the weeks before the Trump rally visited suspected extremists hoping to glean whether they had violent intentions, a person familiar with the matter said, though it was not immediately clear who was visited or if the FBI was specifically tracking anyone who would later be charged criminally. These visits were first reported Sunday by NBC News.
In addition, in the days leading up to the demonstration, some Capitol Hill staffers were told by supervisors to not come into work that day, if possible, because it seemed the danger level would be higher than a lot of prior protests, according to a person familiar with the warning. Capitol Police did not take the kind of extra precautions, such as frozen zones and hardened barriers, that are typically used in major events around the Capitol.
Now, the Justice Department and federal agents are scrambling to identify and arrest those responsible for last week’s violence, in part because there is already significant online discussion of new potential clashes Sunday and again on Jan. 20 when Biden will be inaugurated.
Federal agents remain in a state of high-alert in the days leading up to the inauguration as authorities brace for possible violence not just in Washington, but around the country, officials said.
The FBI recently issued a different memo saying that “armed protests” were being planned “at all 50 state capitols” and in D.C. in the days leading up to the inauguration, according to an official familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive law enforcement matter.
The memo — first reported on by ABC News and later confirmed by The Washington Post — is a raw intelligence product, compiling information gathered by the bureau and several other government agencies, an official said. Some of it is unverified, and the threat is likely to differ significantly from place to place, the official said.
But the data it highlights to law enforcement are nonetheless troubling — including that there was information suggesting people might storm government offices, or stage an uprising were Trump to be removed from office, the official said.
In a statement, the FBI declined to comment specifically on the memo about state capitols but said: “Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity. As we do in the normal course of business, we are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners.
“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” it continues. “Our focus is not on peaceful protesters, but on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”
Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Washington (CNN)The FBI warned of a violent “war” at the US Capitol in an internal report issued a day before last week’s deadly siege, but it wasn’t acted on urgently enough to prevent the domestic terrorist attack, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
NEW YORK (AP) — One of the defining images of the Capitol Hill siege was of a man dangling from the balcony of the Senate chamber. Clad in black and with a helmet over his head, he might have been hard to identify even after he paused to sit in a leather chair at the top of the Senate dais and hold up a fist.
But Josiah Colt made it easy. He posted a video to his Facebook page moments later, bragging about being the first to reach the chamber floor and sit in Nancy’s Pelosi’s chair (he was wrong). He used a slur to describe Pelosi and called her “a traitor.”
A little later the 34-year-old from Boise, Idaho, posted again. This time, he sounded more anxious. “I don’t know what to do,” Colt said in a video he’d soon delete but not before it was cached online. “I’m in downtown D.C. I’m all over the news now.”
Colt was far from the only one documenting the insurrection from within last Wednesday in Washington. Many in the mob that ransacked the Capitol did so while livestreaming, posting on Facebook and taking selfies, turning the United States Capitol into a theater of real-time — and often strikingly ugly and violent — far-right propaganda.
“This extremist loop feeds itself. The folks who are watching and commenting and encouraging and sometimes giving some cash are supporting the individual on the ground. And he’s supporting their fantasies,” says Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
“Selfie culture,” Segal says, “has become so much part of the norm that it’s almost second nature when you’re carrying out a terrorist insurrection.”
Taken together, the various fragmented feeds from Wednesday’s incursion form a tableau of an ill-conceived insurrection — as full of “I was here” posturing for social media as of ideological revolution — and one that was given far more latitude than most peaceful Black Lives Matters protests were in 2020. In hundreds of images, the fallacy of a far-right brand of “patriotism” was laid bare.
The modern Capitol had previously been besieged before only in Hollywood fiction. Marauding aliens in “Mars Attacks!” Ensnarling ivy in “Logan’s Run.” Blown to bits in “Independence Day.” But the imagery of last week’s siege offered something else: a warped cinema verité of right-wing extremism with waving Confederate flags and white-power poses in Capitol halls.
Though many involved Wednesday in Washington were Trump supporters without designs on violence, the visuals illustrate that some were clearly there to summon mayhem if not outright bloodshed. The call to the Capitol drew many of the right’s extremist factions — some of whom helped lead the charge.
The white nationalist Tim Gionet, known online as “Baked Alaska” and a noted participant in the “Unite the Right” rally at Charlottesville, streamed live from congressional offices, gleefully documenting the break-in for more than 15,000 viewers on the streaming platform Dlive. The service, ostensibly for gamers, has grown into a tool for white nationalists because of its lack of content modulation.
Journalists chronicled the storming of the Capitol, some while being attacked. But the rioters’ self-documentation told another story: the on-the-ground culmination of an online alternative reality fueled by QAnon conspiracies, false claims of fraud in the election and Trump’s own rhetoric.
“In their minds they had impunity. I’m having trouble understanding how these people could believe that,” says Larry Rosenthal, chair of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies and author of the upcoming “Empire of Resentment: Populism’s Toxic Embrace of Nationalism.”
“They’re going to be prosecuted,” he says of those involved, and “they have provided the evidence.”
Federal law enforcement officials have pledged an exhaustive investigation into the rampage that left five people dead, including Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick. They are relying in part on the social media trail many left behind. “The goal here is to identify people and get them,” Ken Kohl, the top deputy federal prosecutor in Washington, told reporters Friday.
Among those arrested so far are Richard Barnett, photographed sitting in Pelosi’s office with his feet on her desk, and Derrick Evans, a newly elected Republican from West Virginia, who had posted video on social media of himself clamoring at the Capitol door. “We’re in! Keep it moving, baby!”
Colt landed on the Senate floor; photos suggested he had actually sat in a chair reserved for Vice President Mike Pence, who is president of the Senate. Colt issued an apology begging forgiveness for his prominent role. “In the moment I thought I was doing the right thing,” he said.
Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College whose books include “Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights,” expects many of the images from the Capitol breach will reverberate online as far-right propaganda. The woman who died trying to break through a Capitol door, Ashli Babbitt will be made a martyr.
“She’s going to be on all the posters, trying to get people radicalized,” Daniels says.
For those who have been tracking and researching how the far right operates online, the live streams of well-known activists like Gionet were especially telling. Gionet streamed from within the Capitol, interacting with his followers on Dlive as he went. When the number of viewers ticked over 10,000, he cheered, “Shoutout to Germany!” Megan Squire, a professor of computer science at Elon University who has studied Dlive, estimates Gionet made $2,000 in donations while inside the Capitol.
“He’s making an enormous amount of money saying incredibly racist and anti-Semitic and violent things,” Squire says.
Following neo-Fascists from one platform to another, some have said, is a helpless game of catch-up. Daniels disagrees.
“There’s a lot of evidence that deplatforming people who are harmful from these platforms is effective,” Daniels says. “The pushback from tech people is that it’s whack-a-mole, that if they’re not here, they’ll go somewhere else. Fine. Let’s play whack-a-mole. Let’s do this. Let’s chase them off of every platform until they go away.”
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
With a growing number of arrests and charges related to last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol, multiple law-enforcement agencies are building a sprawling investigation into who participated in the violent event that claimed at least five lives and sent fearful lawmakers into hiding.
Nearly 100 people have been arrested so far for their roles in the attack carried out by thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters or in unrest surrounding the Capitol that day. Many currently face lesser charges such as unlawful entry, disorderly conduct and defacing public property. Only a few have been accused of more serious crimes such as felony violations of the Riot Act.
In the cases of those who attacked the Capitol, those initial charges could be a precursor of more serious allegations, said University of Texas law professor Bobby Chesney.
It’s common for authorities to make arrests based on readily-proven charges, such as trespassing on federal property, Chesney said. Then, weeks later, prosecutors seek grand-jury indictments on more serious charges.
“It remains to be seen how aggressive the Justice Department will be in terms of going after organizers and ringleaders,” Chesney said. “No doubt the FBI and DOJ would prefer to get past January 20, moreover, both for the sake of general calm and to avoid any prospect of a pardon shutting down a particular case.”
Heading up the task of identifying, locating, arresting and charging offenders falls on the shoulders of acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin. He told National Public Radio this week that “hundreds” could ultimately face charges.
No charges are off the table, Sherwin said. Seditious conspiracy, rioting and insurrection will be considered if warranted.
Federal trespassing citations likely will result in fines or probation, experts said. More serious misdemeanors and felony charges related to weapons, conspiracy and assault could incur prison time.
“Prosecutors have a tremendous amount of discretion and this was an unprecedented assault on our seat of government,” said University of Wisconsin Law Professor Keith Findley. “My guess is they’ll take that very seriously… They’ll have many, many options to charge independently, or stack offenses. There’s a lot on the table.”
But some, like Anne Milgram, a New York University law professor and former attorney general of New Jersey, criticized the lack of more serious charges for those accused of ransacking the Capitol.
“What we’ve yet to see is a connection to seditious conspiracy,” Milgram said. “It feels to me, and everyone who watched, that the goal of this mob was to stop Congress from certifying the vote … the charges right now do not match the harm.”
Milgram said she expects the heaviest charges to stem from the slaying of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. Others have suggested several members of the mob could face felony murder charges in that case similar to a getaway driver in a fatal robbery.
Prosecutors have primarily focused on those caught on camera and identified by tipsters in photos and videos during the riot. Department of Justice officials, for example, have announced the arrests of notable viral participants, including Jacob Chansley, a.k.a. Jake Angeli, the Arizona man who wore a fur hat and horns; Adam Johnson, the Florida man photographed carrying Nancy Pelosi’s lectern; and Eric Munchel, the Tennessee man depicted in tactical gear carrying plastic wrist restraints.
Federal investigators also have the option of serving subpoenas on technology companies to preserve content that perpetrators might try to delete.
Pete Eliadis, president and CEO of Intelligence Consulting Partners, a security firm, faulted Capitol Police for failing to secure the building and make arrests on the scene, making the job harder for investigators.
But he believes the government will try to make an example out of the key figures whose viral images show their role in inciting violence.
“They want to make a statement that this will not be tolerated, so if they can make a plausible arrest, they will,” Eliadis said. “The ones who wanted the attention, they’re going to get the attention. It’s easier to focus on them than the masses coming through.”
Labeling the riot and finding the most accurate charges could be difficult without a domestic terrorism law, which Congress has considered for years, said Chris Bonner, a retired FBI agent who teaches courses on homeland security at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
“The very first thing people want to do is call something terrorism. There is no federal law covering domestic terrorism,” Bonner said. “If we’re going to decry something and criminalize it, we better have a law to cover it and then it better be equally applied across the ideological spectrum from extreme left to extreme right.”
Summer unrest a backdrop for charges
Federal prosecutions for the Capitol riot will undoubtedly draw parallels to unrest last summer over the killings of Black Americans by police.
Last year, following weeks of unrest in several cities after the death of George Floyd, Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen wrote a memo telling federal prosecutors to consider a sedition charge against protesters who conspired to “take a federal courthouse or other federal property by force.”
And federal prosecutors took over charging cases against more than 100 protestors in two particular hotspots – Portland and Seattle. However, dozens of those charges were low-level citations or misdemeanors. Most of the Portland cases have not gone to trial because the pandemic has backlogged the courts. That trend will likely continue for accused D.C. rioters; many may not see a trial before the end of 2021.
Michael Filipovic, federal public defender for the Western District of Washington state said the U.S. attorney took over several state court charges and sought to send a message with tougher penalties. He said comparing Wednesday’s riot to protests over the summer is difficult.
He anticipated misdemeanor charges for many Capitol trespassers, but more weighty charges to come soon.
“If prosecutors can prove you had a firearm, zip-ties and intent to detain or harm individuals, that’s something they’ll take very seriously where you’ll be looking at some felonies,” Filipovic said.
Edward Maguire, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University and associate director of the school’s Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, said he would expect to see charges that are more serious than those handed down during protests at President Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
More than 200 people were arrested during protests dubbed “J20” during the 2017 inauguration and charged with more serious felonies, including inciting to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, destruction of property and assault on police officers.
Federal prosecutors ultimately dropped charges in all but a handful of cases where people pleaded guilty. They failed to win convictions in others that went to trial.
At the very least, Maguire expects to see felony rioting charges for those confirmed to have breached the Capitol.
“It would be appropriate for them to see jail time,” Maguire said of the Trump rioters who entered Capitol Hill. “This is an insurrection, and it should be charged as one.”
Maguire said social media and video surveillance of the riot would likely give prosecutors stronger cases of intent than the evidence they had from the J20 protests.
Of the early arrests made by D.C.’s Metropolitan Police, all but a handful involved curfew violation and unlawful entry. The remaining others were arrested on more serious weapons charges or for defacing public property.
They included suspects like David Fitzgerald of Illinois who was cuffed as he attempted to exit through the barricades while following news crews that were being escorted out, and Joshua Pruitt, a 39-year-old from D.C. who is one of the few facing felony violations of the Riot Act.
Capitol Police also focused their arrests on unlawful entry, charging more than a dozen suspects for the offense, including Michael Curzio, a 35-year-old Florida man released from prison in February 2019 following an eight-year sentence for attempted first-degree murder.
Charges against Mark Leffingwell were among the first federal charges to roll into D.C.’s District Court on Thursday. A Capitol Police officer wrote in a complaint that Leffingwell attempted to push past him into the Capitol, then began punching repeatedly. While in custody, Leffingwell “spontaneously apologized for striking” him. Leffingwell has been charged with entering a restricted building, assault on a federal law enforcement officer and violent entry or disorderly conduct on capitol grounds.
Some legal defenses would be a stretch
Social media from the accused rioters suggests some may attempt novel legal defenses. Some may claim the President instructed them to march to the Capitol, giving them legal cover, while others have already claimed they “got caught up in the moment.”
Neither will hold much water in court, said UW’s Findley.
“The law recognizes duress, coercion and necessity, but those are limited and require showing that the person had no choice but to commit the criminal act facing violence or death. We’re nowhere close to that,” Findley said.
A “heat of passion” defense would also require protesters to prove that a reasonable person would have been provoked to take the same action, Findley said.
Some Capitol trespassers spoke out on social media and on video after the riot that they believed they hadn’t committed a crime because police let them in — or that they simply walked through open doors. Others chanted outside they had a right to enter because Congress works for the people.
But both federal law and new rules from the pandemic explicitly prohibit members of the public from entering the building. All public tours have been cancelled since March 2020 and only lawmakers, staff, media and their guests with proper credentials are currently allowed in.
Back when tours were available, they did not include access to the Senate and House galleries, which required a separate pass obtained through the office of the visitor’s senators or representatives.
Many of the rioters also broke rules by bringing prohibited items into the building, including water, electric stun guns, guns, ammunition, knives, mace and pepper spray and large bags, according to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.
Inside the galleries there is no photography or video recording allowed except by the media and the government’s own cameras.
And smoking, which several rioters filmed themselves doing inside the building, is strictly prohibited.
Contributing: Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY
Michael Novakhov Retweeted
The executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association has resigned amid backlash over a decision to send out robocalls urging people to march to the U.S. Capitol. https://on.msnbc.com/39msgqp
Top official at Republican AGs group resigns amid Capitol robocall controversy
Adam Piper stepped down amid backlash over a decision to send out robocalls urging people to march to the U.S. Capitol.
#Capitol #Attack was planned openly online for weeks. Why was it not prevented by the #FBI? They were too busy monitoring all those sex chats – they get more kick out of it. Give them their #Medals Of #Freedom, for saving this poor nation! – Google Search https://www.google.com/search?q=Capitol+Attack+was+planned+openly+online+for+weeks.+Why+was+it+not+prevented+by+the+FBI%3F+They+were+too+busy+monitoring+all+those+sex+chats+-+they+get+more+kick+out+of+it.+Give+them+their+Medals+Of+Freedom%2C+for+saving+this+poor+nation%21&source=lmns&bih=762&biw=1474&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS733US733&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj6g4zQrJbuAhXrlIQIHYrEBGEQ_AUoAHoECAEQAA …
Capitol Attack was planned openly online for weeks. Why was it not prevented by the FBI? ? – Google Search https://www.google.com/search?q=Capitol+Attack+was+planned+openly+online+for+weeks.+Why+was+it+not+prevented+by+the+FBI%3F+%3F&source=lmns&bih=762&biw=1474&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS733US733&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjxv56OqpbuAhVMneAKHQVrCNUQ_AUoAHoECAEQAA …
Capitol Attack was openly planned online – Google Search https://www.google.com/search?newwindow=1&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS733US733&sxsrf=ALeKk02JSpJ3Nhg_iDB_K9ToQoHLSTRJ2w%3A1610451873813&ei=oYv9X4iSMeHO5gLSjZTAAw&q=Capitol+Attack+was+openly+planned+online&oq=Capitol+Attack+was+openly+planned+online&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQDFDkOljkOmDWTGgAcAB4AIABRIgBhAGSAQEymAEAoAEBqgEHZ3dzLXdpesABAQ&sclient=psy-ab&ved=0ahUKEwjI5vbeqJbuAhVhp1kKHdIGBTgQ4dUDCA0 …
Capitol Rioters Planned for Weeks in Plain Sight. The Police Weren’t Ready.
Insurrectionists made no effort to hide their intentions, but law enforcement protecting Congress was caught flat-footed.
Capitol Attack was openly planned online – Google Search https://www.google.com/search?newwindow=1&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS733US733&sxsrf=ALeKk02JSpJ3Nhg_iDB_K9ToQoHLSTRJ2w%3A1610451873813&ei=oYv9X4iSMeHO5gLSjZTAAw&q=Capitol+Attack+was+openly+planned+online&oq=Capitol+Attack+was+openly+planned+online&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQDFDkOljkOmDWTGgAcAB4AIABRIgBhAGSAQEymAEAoAEBqgEHZ3dzLXdpesABAQ&sclient=psy-ab&ved=0ahUKEwjI5vbeqJbuAhVhp1kKHdIGBTgQ4dUDCA0 …
Capitol Attack Was Planned Openly Online For Weeks—Police Still Weren’t Ready
Explicit plans for violence were made in plain sight on multiple corners of the internet.
Who paid the Capitol Rioters? – Google Search https://www.google.com/search?q=Who+paid+the+Capitol+Rioters%3F&source=lmns&bih=762&biw=1474&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS733US733&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwidzoqYqJbuAhWFBd8KHZMWAqEQ_AUoAHoECAEQAA …
Michael Novakhov Retweeted
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick turns down Medal of Freedom from Trump http://hill.cm/6uSXpCb
The abrupt resignation of Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf added to the mounting tension in Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, with thousands of National Guard troops set to be deployed and the FBI warning of armed protests in all 50 state capitals.
As inaugural security preparations intensified, House Democrats accelerated their push to force the ouster of President Donald Trump before his term officially ends, threatening to impeach him for a second time unless he resigns for encouraging the march that led to last Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol.
But Vice President Mike Pence indicated that he’d reject demands to immediately oust Trump through the 25th Amendment to the Constitution as the two met in the Oval Office and agreed to work together for the remainder of the term, according to a senior administration official.
Investigations continued into the deadly Capitol riot, and Democrats in the House and Senate have said that Republican colleagues who continued to support Trump’s false claims that he won the election even after the insurrectionists had left, must be held to account.
Republicans also found themselves confronting another crisis, being shunned by once-reliable corporate allies who have been essential to financing their campaigns. At the same time, many of the president’s supporters around the country did not waver in their belief that the 2020 election had been stolen.
Earlier: GOP Lawmakers Hit by Boardroom Backlash for Bid to Undo Election
Earlier in the day, Wolf announced that “the evolving security landscape” had led to a decision to begin security for the inauguration on Jan. 13. The efforts were originally scheduled to begin on Jan. 19.
According to the FBI’s warning, the protests in state capitals would begin on Jan. 16 and at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 17, and continue through Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, according to a law enforcement official.
Wolf said the decision came at the recommendation of Secret Service Director James Murray, adding that local, state and federal partners will work together during the extended security operations.
The National Guard has received approval to deploy as many as 15,000 personnel to Washington before and during the inauguration, as law enforcement in the nation’s capital and around the country braced for violence during the transition of power.
Read More: Trump and Pence Signal President Won’t Resign or Be Removed
The lingering sense of anxiety over last week’s violence refused to dissipate as historians struggled to come up with analogous events from the past, and were asked a question that once seemed unthinkable — was the U.S. headed toward a new civil war?
The feeling of disruption did not ease when Wolf announced that he would step down after “recent events,” including court rulings that held he had not been lawfully appointed to the post.
At least five federal judges have ruled that Wolf lacked authority as acting secretary of the department because his nomination in November 2019 was never confirmed by the Senate. Biden has nominated Alejandro Mayorkas to be his Homeland Security secretary.
Last week, in the wake of the riot, Wolf called on “the president and all elected officials to strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday.” He said then that he wouldn’t step down before Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.
His sudden departure adds to the confusion surrounding federal and state security preparations for the inauguration. The Homeland Security Department plays a critical role in securing the actual inauguration and assisting state and local officials during times of crisis.
He said he would be replaced in an acting capacity by Pete Gaynor, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Wolf, a Trump loyalist, had been the chief of staff to Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary forced out by Trump in April 2019.
Read More: Democrats to Open Trump Impeachment Wednesday Unless Pence Acts
The National Guard deployment is a significant increase from the 6,200 troops from six states and the District of Columbia that have already been mobilized in the wake of last week’s attack.
Ten thousand of the troops are to arrive by Saturday and will stay through Jan. 20.
“We’ve received support requests from the Secret Service, Capitol Police and Park Police,” Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday. “Our troops have been requested to support security, logistics, liaison and communication missions.”
The meeting between Trump and Pence, in the Oval Office, marked the first time they have spoke since the president’s supporters entered the Capitol while the vice president was presiding over formal affirmation of their re-election defeat, according to two people familiar with the matter.
— With assistance by Sophia Cai, Jennifer Jacobs, and Billy House
Infectious-disease experts say there is no evidence the massive winter surge that is killing thousands of people a day in the United States is linked to the U.K. variant or to a homegrown strain. But they acknowledge their battlefield awareness is limited.
Some states have minimal capacity to conduct genomic sequencing that allows scientists to trace the random mutations that could give a virus variant some advantage over other strains. Like any virus, this one mutates randomly, and countless variants are in circulation.
The increase in the rate of new infections in the United States has been so rapid in recent weeks that scientists cannot rule out the possibility that an undetected variant is accelerating the spread. Other factors may be behind the surge, including holiday gatherings and the lack of adherence in some communities to public health guidelines designed to limit transmission, such as social distancing and wearing masks.
“It could be — a possibility — that we have our own mutant that’s being more easily transmissible,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday. “We don’t know. We’re looking for it. . . . If you look at the slope of our curve, which is very steep, it looks a bit like the curve in the U.K.”
Nearly 198,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 1,600 deaths were reported Monday in the United States. The seven-day running average for daily deaths has topped 3,200. Nearly 375,000 people have died of the virus in the nation since the beginning of the pandemic.
Officials in Indiana announced that the U.K. variant has been identified in their state. More than 60 cases of the variant strain have been identified across nine states since it was first detected stateside two weeks ago in Colorado.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box said in a statement Monday that viruses commonly mutate and that the best defense is to practice good hygiene and social distancing.
“Because this strain of the virus can be transmitted more easily, it’s more important than ever that Hoosiers continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing, maintain good hygiene and get vaccinated when they are eligible,” Box said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday its strain surveillance program and its partners are on track to more than double by week’s end the number of genomic sequences being uploaded to public databases compared with the sequencing rate in December. The CDC has organized virtual meetings with scientists and public health experts in an attempt to share information about variants of the virus in circulation.
“The general consensus is there’s no single variant driving current U.S. cases. That said, we need to be on the lookout for these variants of concern,” Duncan MacCannell, chief science officer with the CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection, said Monday.
Other scientists share that view.
“We don’t see any evidence of a particular variant ‘out running’ others,” Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute, said in an email. “That’s not to say there isn’t one, but we haven’t seen any evidence of it so far and we are looking, just not enough.”
William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in an email that “surveillance is such that we’d not detect any such variant until it was already emerged and well established.”
MacCannell estimated that less than 0.5 percent of current transmission in the United States involves the U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7. It has a suite of 17 mutations, including eight that affect the spike protein on the surface of the virus. British scientists believe it could be roughly 50 percent more transmissible than the more common coronavirus, which itself contains a mutation that appears to have boosted infectivity.
MacCannell said he expects that B.1.1.7 in coming weeks will make up a greater proportion of cases but said the pace and scale of that emergence is impossible to predict.
Scientists emphasize that these mutations do not appear to change the severity of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. There are multiple lines of evidence supporting the theory that this variant is more transmissible, but no evidence it is deadlier. One study published in Britain found no statistically significant difference in the rate of hospitalization among people infected with the new variant as opposed to the more common coronavirus strain.
But even if the variant doesn’t make an individual sicker, its increased transmissibility could result in more people becoming infected and, thus, increase deaths overall.
“Are the variants that are out there escaping the protection of the vaccine? Yes or no? That’s what they’re working on right now,” Fauci said, referring to scientists funded by his institute. “I need that answer and I need it very quickly.”
Another uncertainty is whether monoclonal antibodies used as therapeutic treatments will be effective against viruses that contain alterations to the portion of the spike protein targeted by those antibodies.
The maker of another medication used by some doctors to treat the coronavirus, remdesivir, said it is likely to be effective against variant strains, the CEO of that company said Monday.
Gilead Sciences is testing the drug on variants first detected in Britain and South Africa to determine its efficacy. Gilead has already found in laboratory tests that remdesivir maintains its effectiveness against 2,000 coronavirus strains, chief executive Daniel O’Day said.
“Remdesivir works at the source in the cell where the virus replicates, and what we know is, in these new variants, that part of the cell is not changing at all, in fact,” O’Day said Monday during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Hospitalized patients with covid-19 can receive remdesivir, which may shorten their recovery time. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug last year, under an emergency use authorization.
The virus will continue to mutate and, through natural selection, evolve, a fact that does not surprise the scientific community but has taken on new salience amid the recent bulletins about problematic variants.
“I think there is a high level of concern,” MacCannell said, referring to the views of the scientific community. “We don’t know fully the functional implications of these mutations. . . . I would suspect a lot of the mutations that we’re seeing are helping to optimize the virus for increased transmission.”
The rollout of vaccines, he said, “will be another set of pressures on the virus. That is one of the critical reasons why we need to get large-scale national monitoring up and running.”
Andersen said the U.K. variant and another identified initially in South Africa probably will become dominant in the United States within months. “Our mitigation efforts are woefully insufficient to deal with those,” he warned.
That’s a conundrum for policymakers. There are few officials with any appetite for greater restrictions on businesses and personal mobility, even with variants posing a new challenge. But what has happened in the United Kingdom — where much of the country is locked down — is sobering.
There are more than 1 million new infections every week in the United States, and scientists at scattered universities and research institutions are looking at only a few thousand genomic sequences weekly. The CDC is putting out contracts to academic and research institutions in an effort to push that to a goal of 6,500 weekly sequences.
“This is a brand-new virus. We’re learning as we go. There are the unknown unknowns that we have to acknowledge,” said Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “We’re all working on this around-the-clock.”
Fauci said it is critical to suppress the spread of the virus, given that a high number of infections leads to a greater number of chances for mutations.
“The race is to suppress the virus before it mutates to the point where it’s actually going to give you trouble,” Fauci said. “I don’t worry about these things, I just take them very seriously.”
Order authorises federal assistance in Washington, DC after officials warned of threats before Joe Biden inauguration.
Donald Trump has approved a state of emergency declaration in the United States capital, the White House press office said late on Monday, after US law enforcement officials warned of threats before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The order authorises federal assistance to be extended through January 24 to support efforts in Washington, DC to respond to the emergency situation.
Specifically, it allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “identify, mobilise and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency”.
The move comes after pro-Trump rioters overran the US Capitol building on January 6 in support of Trump’s false claims that the US election was stolen from him. Five people were killed in the violence.
Earlier on Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in an internal bulletin warned of possible armed protests in all 50 states and in the US capital in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser sent a letter on the weekend requesting tighter security ahead of the inauguration in light of the “chaos, injury, and death” at the Capitol on January 6.
Bowser asked the Homeland Security Department to extend emergency provisions to allow federal and local agencies to better prepare for the inauguration and requested daily intelligence and threat briefings from the FBI from January 11 to January 24.
Meanwhile, US Senators Chris Murphy, Kirsten Gillibrand and Martin Heinrich sent a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller on Monday asking for a full account of what happened during the Capitol riot.
The letter states that “over three and a half hours … elapsed between the initial breach of the barriers on the West side of the U.S. Capitol” and the arrival of the National Guard.
“On Jan 6 it took 4.5 hours before the U.S. military arrived to defend the Capitol. That is not acceptable and we request a full accounting of what needs to change,” Murphy tweeted.
Democrats are pushing to impeach Trump for inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol.
The US House of Representatives is expected on Tuesday to take up a measure calling on Vice President Mike Pence and members of Trump’s Cabinet to invoke a process under the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president deemed unfit to fulfill their duties.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that the president poses an “imminent threat” to the nation and “must be removed from office immediately”.
2:03 AM 1/12/2021 – Videos: ‘Long COVID’ haunts more patients than thought | COVID-19 Special | Videos: LIVE: The House convenes to begin drive to force Trump from office after Capitol storming | FBI reportedly warned Capitol Police of potential violence
deutschewelleenglish’s YouTube Videos: ‘Long COVID’ haunts more patients than thought | COVID-19 Special
Over a year after the first coronavirus cases, some early patients are still suffering. “Long Covid” refers to symptoms that can last for months or that return after recovery. A new study from Wuhan China has found three quarters of hospitalised patients still experience at least one symptom half a year later. What we’re yet to discover is just how long “long Covid” can last. Survivors know all-too well how damaging the sickness can be – even after they get better. The road to recovery can be long and difficult.
President Donald Trump is leaving America in a vortex of violence, sickness and death and more internally estranged than it has been for 150 years.
The disorientating end to his shocking term has the nation reeling from a Washington insurrection. The FBI warned Monday of armed protests by pro-Trump thugs in 50 states, which raise the awful prospect of a domestic insurgency. Health officials fear 5,000 Americans could soon be dying every day from the pandemic Trump ignored. Hospitals are swamped, medical workers are shattered amid a faltering rollout of the vaccine supposed to end the crisis.
It took 200 years for the country to rack up its first two presidential impeachments. Trump’s malfeasance has led the country down that awful, divisive path twice in just more than a year. With House Democrats expected to formally impeach the President for inciting a mob assault on Congress on Wednesday, he will rely on the Republican enablers who refused to rein in his lawlessness to save him from conviction again.
Millions of Americans have bought into the delusional, poisoned fiction that an election Trump lost was stolen, and there are signs that some police and military forces have been radicalized by the grievance he stokes.
The city Trump has called home for four years is being turned into an armed camp incongruous with the mood of joy and renewal that pulsates through most inaugurations. In a symbol of a democracy under siege, the people’s buildings — the White House and the US Capitol — are caged behind ugly iron and cement barriers.
This is the legacy President-elect Joe Biden will inherit in eight days when he swears to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution — an oath that Trump trampled when inciting the Capitol attack last week from behind a bulletproof screen while buckling the cherished US chain of peaceful transfers of power.
With unintended irony, Biden’s team has picked “America United” as the inaugural theme — a motto that is now more apt in defining Biden’s hoped for destination rather than the splintered land he will begin to lead.
Trump’s pattern of violence
It is becoming ever more obvious that the horrific scenes on Capitol Hill on Wednesday were not a one-off. Instead, they now look part of a pattern including the White supremacist marches in Charlottesville that Trump refused to condemn, and the gassing of peaceful anti-racist protesters in the square outside the White House so he could hold an inflammatory photo-op.
In a chilling new warning, the FBI revealed the possible next stage in this now nationwide wave of radicalization, saying armed protests were planned at state Capitols in all 50 states between January 16 and Inauguration Day, January 20. Even as a nationwide sweep widens for the perpetrators of last week’s outrage, the bureau said new protests were planned for Washington for three days around the inauguration.
There are threats of an uprising if Trump is removed by way of the 25th Amendment. The FBI said it was also tracking threats against Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In Washington, two Capitol Police officers were suspended and more are under investigation for allegedly helping the mob.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was shocked by the magnitude of the bureau’s intelligence on possible new violence.
“I don’t think in the entire scope of my career working counter terrorism issues for many, many years, I don’t think I ever saw a bulletin go out that concerned armed protest activity in 50 states in a three or four day period,” McCabe said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
Biden told reporters that despite the warnings, he was not afraid of taking the oath of office outside next week — but the combination of a massive security effort to protect him from Trump’s supporters and social distancing amid the Covid-19 pandemic mean his will be the most hollowed out inauguration in years.
Trump’s acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf resigned on Monday, in a yet another sign that the country lacks effective government at a moment of stark danger. By contrast, senior officials from the outgoing Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration worked closely together in the Situation Room on January 20, 2009, when there was concern about the authenticity of terror threat to the inauguration.
So far, after a massive domestic terror attack on the citadel of US democracy, there has been no major public briefing by any major federal law enforcement agency or the White House, an omission that fosters a sense of an absent government.
The current atmosphere of fear and wild political insurrection are a lesson in what happens when a figure as powerful as a President deliberately tears at America’s deep racial and social fault lines as a tool of his own power. Trump’s presidency revealed a new insight about the all-powerful modern presidency — the character of the person in the Oval Office chair really matters.
A Congress that can’t constrain a President
Momentum towards impeachment is now all but unstoppable in the House after Pelosi rejected a suggestion from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of some kind of censure motion.
McCarthy did acknowledge to Republican caucus members Monday that the President bore some responsibility for last week’s insurrection, according to a person familiar with the call. But some of his other responses to the outrage — an overhaul to the electoral certification process and legislation to promote voter confidence hinted at the insincerity of the Republican approach.
With a few exceptions, Republicans — who indulged and in many cases supported Trump’s blatantly false claims of electoral fraud for weeks — have responded to the uproar over last week’s Capitol attack by complaining that by pushing impeachment, Democrats are fracturing national unity. It’s as if the last four years never happened.
There are also questions over whether Republicans understand the seriousness of last week’s events. Remarks by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt are still reverberating through the Capitol.
“My personal view is that the President touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again,” Blunt said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
His comment eerily recalled the rationalizations of Republicans who declined to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial after he tried to get Ukraine to interfere in the election to damage Biden.
America has emerged from many dark periods since the Civil War. The country was torn by resistance to the Civil Rights movement. And the Vietnam War turned generations against one another. But the fact that millions of people now appear to deeply mistrust the electoral system that is the basis of US democracy means that the country’s internal political cohesion is now being tested as it has rarely been in the last century-and-a-half.
And the Republican indulgence of the President’s repeated political arson has revealed a massive constitutional blindspot. When one party’s lawmakers are in thrall to a strongman leader, their duty to ensure checks and balances to constrain presidential power is soon forgotten.
Trump to reemerge
Trump has not appeared in public for days. And the suspension of his social media accounts amid concern that he could stir up more violence mean the country has been unable to assess his mood.
But the President is due to make a trip to visit the border wall that he said Mexico would pay for but instead saddled the taxpayers with the bill. White House sources said that the President is determined to spend his last full week in office touting his achievements and is expected to release another round of controversial pardons. CNN reported Monday that former Attorney General William Barr and White House counsel Pat Cipollone have advised the President not to attempt what would be yet another epic abuse of power — an attempt to pardon himself.
The virus is meanwhile running rampant. Eleven states and Washington, DC, just recorded their highest 7-day average of new cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. For the first time, the country is averaging over 3,000 deaths from the pandemic per day. Trump’s outgoing head of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield warned in a recent interview with McClatchy newspapers that the pandemic would get worse for the rest of January and parts of February and that the country could see 5,000 deaths a day.
And hopes that the nation could soon turn a corner are being tempered by the glitches in the vaccine roll out. Just as with the early stages of the crisis, poor coordination between federal and local and state authorities and the overall lack of a broader distribution plan are hampering the effort.
Like everything else, it will be up to Biden to fix it.
Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 11, 2021: Naval divers have found aircraft debris and human body parts from the crash of Flight SJ182 in Indonesia; Central Texas received up to six inches of snow on Sunday; new information allegedly points to the Russian FSB in the SolarWinds hack; ensuring the well-being of people with disabilities is critical during disaster response; 20 people, include 12 children, were rescued after their sailboats capsized off Santa Cruz Harbor; vog is forecast as trade winds return amid the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea Volcano; an earthen dam in Berea, Ohio, is undergoing emergency repairs to prevent its possible failure; and record high temperatures forecast for Southern California increase fire weather concerns.
1) Four minutes after takeoff out of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Flight SJ182 disappeared off radar. The Sriwijara Air flight, operated by a Boeing 737-500, departed Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Saturday and was carrying 62 souls on board when it crashed into the Java Sea. Naval search teams have located debris, along with human body parts, that are suspected to be from the downed aircraft.
2) Central Texas received several inches of snow Sunday afternoon, which knocked out power to thousands of customers across the region. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a winter storm warning through midnight on Sunday, for at least six counties, noting that up to six inches of snow could fall in the region. The unusual snowfall prompted school closures on Monday, although warming temperatures beginning on Monday are likely to melt the snow quickly.
3) New information regarding the SolarWinds hack suggests that the malware used may be tied to a hacking group known as “Turla.” According to Kaspersky — a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm — the backdoor used by the hackers was likely done on behalf of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Estonian authories pointed out the connection, and Kaspersky noted that three characteristics of a hacking tool, “Kazuar,” appear to have been present in the SolarWinds hack.
4) When disasters strike, those with disabilities may face life-threatening circumstances, such as a loss of power for life-sustaining medical equipment. Ensuring their well-being is critical during response efforts, and research shows that they are disproportionately affected by a disaster. It is imperative to ensure planning efforts include listening to the needs of those with disabilities, and also to bring community, health, and support workers to disaster planning tables, as they have a wealth of information on how to best support those with disabilities.
5) Multiple sailboats capsized outside the Santa Cruz Harbor on Sunday afternoon amid dangerous and rough surf. The incident occurred when four boats were struck by a large wave, tossing 20 people — including 12 children — into the ocean. Rescue crews and surfers were able to quickly rescue everyone from the dangerous waters, and no injuries or deaths were reported.
6) Increased vog from the Kilauea Volcano is expected over West Hawaii areas due to trade winds that have returned to the region. According to the Vog Measurement and Prediction Project at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the vog will affect North and South Kona districts, along with Ka’u. SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions also remain elevated, and lava activity is ongoing, but confined within the Haleamaumau crater.
7) An earthen dam in Berea, Ohio, is undergoing emergency repairs to prevent its possible failure. The Coe Lake dam has been eroding slowly over time, and a 100-foot section recently opened up, allowing water to flow back and forth between Baldwin Creek and Coe Lake. The back-and-forth flow has increased the erosion, which has reduced the lake by nearly 14 inches or about 10 million gallons. The reservoir is the backup water supply for the city, and the emergency repairs will be followed up by a more extensive repair at a later date.
8)Record high temperatures are set to move into Southern California later in the week, increasing the fire danger risk. Mild Santa Ana winds moved into the area on Sunday and were expected to last into Tuesday, slightly elevating the fire risk. Offshore winds are predicted through the end of the week with the temperature increase, which is likely to elevate fire concerns throughout the region once again.