It’s inauguration day and we all made it through the night. All of the bullsh*t talks of a military coup and the implementation of Martial Law by conspiracy theorists have been put to rest.
It didn’t happen. Unfortunately for American, President-elect Joe Biden and his Progressive agenda will be sworn in today and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Florida Democrats are rejoicing (as they should be) because they won, after all.
But all this celebration could be short-lived if Biden fails to appease the Leftist faction of the Democratic Party.
In Florida, the likes to state Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith could be ready to hold Biden’s aging “moderate” feet to the fire if he doesn’t entertain and reward their efforts to instill a Socialist Democratic eutopia.
We already know that Congressional Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders will be on Biden’s tail and pressing him to pass their ideological agenda, which would give Reps. Eskamani and Smith cover to do the same.
Now with President Trump leaving the White House, the 2024 field of Republican presidential candidates will start to take form in the coming months.
Enter Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sens, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, and Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Yes, Matt Gaetz. READ MORE
Joe Biden @JoeBiden —It’s a new day in America
“Wasserman Schultz calls Trump and cabinet white supremacists one last time” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – After the Capitol riot that left 6 dead when Right-Wing extremists supportive of President Donald Trump, stormed the building, Democrats like Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz amped up the existing “racist” and “White Supremacy” rhetoric that took hold and was labeled on President Trump shortly after he took office in 2017. Rep. Wasserman Schultz, who has used the “White Supremacy” term against Trump in the past, pulled out for one last hooray on the eve of the Trump administration leaving The White House. In a tweet directed at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Wasserman Schultz stated that she was “glad that he and the rest of Trump’s white supremacy-friendly Cabinet members will be out of work by this time tomorrow.” As we said, Wasserman Schultz has been using the terms “white supremacy” and “white supremacist” very loosely, including the time when she accused Trump of giving white supremacists “permission” to go out and shoot people indiscriminately. “After so many mass shootings, “something is seriously wrong. And it’s on your hands. It’s on your watch, and the blood is on your hands,” said Wasserman Schultz
“COVID-19, Civil Unrest, and Biden Inauguration” by The Floridian’s Jim McCool – Tomorrow, the United States will officially undergo the 46th presidential administration in its history with the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden (D). The Biden Administration will be a historic one, as it will bring in the first female Vice President, and the oldest president was ever sworn into the presidency. On top of all that, the inauguration will take place in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 400,000 Americans. Typically, the U.S. Congress is allotted a total of 200,000 tickets for their constituents to attend a presidential inauguration however, each lawmaker will only be allowed to have two in order to discourage travel. The inauguration attendance is expected to match the population of a typical State of the Union Address, which is roughly 1,000 people. One of the biggest parts of the inauguration is the many events that happen afterward. While there will still be a parade, the presidential balls have been converted to virtual celebrations, something never done before. And in response to recent political tensions, this inauguration will be the most regulated with security measures. Over 25,000 members of the National Guard have been ordered to the Capitol in order to keep the peace between the event and Far-Right extremists, along with physical barriers constructed around the Capitol to obstruct violence on Capitol Hill.
“DeSantis looks to protect First Amendment Rights, but Nikki Fried doesn’t get it” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried likes to chide Gov. Ron DeSantis by towing Democratic Party talking points about how he has failed Floridians on just about every issue, but before she continues to blame DeSantis on the ills of the world, maybe she should first think a little deeper before she speaks about First Amendment rights? A few days ago, AG Fried took issue with DeSantis telling a group of Conservative-minded Texans in Austin that he was concerned about how the Parler social media application was completely shut down by Amazon. “What Twitter did to the president … that’s obviously a big deal, and I don’t want to minimize that,” DeSantis said. “But what really bothered me is how they decapitated this company, Parler.” Fried, who apparently didn’t read between the lines or put much critical thinking into what DeSantis was saying, tweeted that DeSantis “actually said @parler_app is the most important legislative issue” for him, instead of addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to POLITICO, “DeSantis said passing laws to protect what he sees as conservative censorship is “probably the most important legislative issue” Florida has headed into the 2021 legislative session.”
“Gaetz: Leftists Wants “to Control ALL Media”” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – In recent weeks, Republican lawmakers have aimed verbal jabs at Big Tech companies, arguing that they are set on silencing conservative voices on their platforms. After the storming of the Capitol two weeks ago, President Donald Trump (R) was banned across all social media sites after accusations that he had incited the riot that claimed a number of lives. Subsequently, a number of lawmakers have also faced the threat of being de-platformed and calls of resignation have increased over being accused of taking part in inciting the riot. One lawmaker who’s been criticized for inciting the riot is Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) who shared his thoughts on Justice with Judge Jeannine Pirro regarding the power that Big Tech currently has in the political arena. Project Veritas, led by James O’Keefe, released a video, obtained through undercover measures, of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expressing that Twitter was mainly focused on silencing President Trump’s Twitter account, but he also expressed that the social media company would be expanding its measures to other accounts “beyond inauguration.” Said accounts were not mentioned, but the Sunshine State lawmaker warned that this is a clear example of authoritarian measures being used on the American people. “The beatings will continue until the WOKEtopia is achieved,” affirmed Gaetz. In reference to Dorsey and his goal for Twitter, “he doesn’t just want to create a platform for people to just share their thoughts. He wants control.” In moving forward, the Congressman questioned what this means for the American people if companies can ban the sitting President of the United States.
“Abbott’s Indignation Over Background Checks on National Guard” by Texas Politics’ Isabel Webb Carey – Governor Greg Abbott took to Twitter Monday in response to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller’s announcement of background checks on 25K National Guard members deployed in Washington, D.C. “This is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard,” Abbott tweeted. “No one should ever question the loyalty or professionalism of the Texas National Guard. I authorized more than 1,000 to go to DC. I’ll never do it again if they are disrespected like this.” Miller’s statement released on Monday emphasized the precautionary nature of checks. He said that “while we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital.” He added: “this type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events.” Service members undergo regular reviews for extremist connections, but the FBI screening is an addition to previous monitoring. According to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, as of Sunday, the vetting had not flagged any issues. These measures are a response to reports that troops and veterans may have taken part in the Capitol Hill riot on January 6. An Army Special Forces officer is under investigation for appearing on the Capitol grounds that day. Additionally, one of the five left dead in the riots was later revealed to be a veteran. The information prompted calls from Congress on Thursday for the Pentagon to investigate white supremacy in its ranks. “This is a national priority. We have to be successful as an institution,” said McCarthy. “We want to send the message to everyone in the United States and for the rest of the world that we can do this safely and peacefully.”
“How seniors can sign up for vaccines this week in NW Florida” by WKRG’s Cody Long – As Alabama struggles with vaccine distribution, Florida seems to be doing a better job getting shots into its residents’ arms. The state has found much success in letting Publix pharmacies give vaccines to seniors 65 and older. Governor Ron Desantis announced more locations across the state Tuesday. “We’re excited about this,” Desantis said. “We now have this really in all corners of the state and it’s something we very well may do state wide if we’re able to have enough vaccine on hand.” You must act quickly when making an appointment because they fill up fast. Early Wednesday morning at 6 a.m., you can start signing up at Publix.com/covidvaccine then you click Florida and scroll down to find your county. Once those appointments fill up, it will reopen Friday morning. “Warp Speed says that they’re going to start giving more to states that have more elderly population and we hope we can get it because we can use it,” Desantis said. The Escambia County Health Department received 2,500 doses Tuesday and most of those will go to hospitals. If you submitted an online interest form recently, they will contact you about making an appointment. In Santa Rosa County, a vaccine shipment did not arrive on time so they have canceled the clinic at Milton Community Center for Wednesday and Thursday. Those who signed up will be contacted to reschedule. In Okaloosa County, the health department will be giving vaccines Friday, Saturday and Monday. You can sign up starting Wednesday at noon. Click here for the times, locations and how to make an appointment in Okaloosa County.
“Florida surgeon general says state’s vaccine is ‘supply limited’” by Fox 13’s Christine Sexton – As Gov. Ron DeSantis barnstorms the state announcing new COVID-19 vaccination sites, a top health-care adviser acknowledged Tuesday on a phone call with hospital officials that Florida is in a “supply-limited situation.” Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said in the statewide phone call that he does not know when additional “first doses” of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be sent to the state or how many doses would be in a potential future delivery. “At the present time, we are in pretty much a supply-limited situation,” Rivkees said. “So, as more vaccine becomes available, we will be able to determine when we can send more vaccines out to hospitals for community vaccination.” The additional first-dose vaccines, Rivkees said, would be in addition to follow-up second dose vaccines that were delivered to hospitals late last week and early this week. Agency for Health Care Administration Acting Secretary Shevaun Harris, who joined Rivkees on the phone call, said some hospitals weren’t expected to get their second-dose deliveries until late Tuesday night due to a shipping delay. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that people take two doses of COVID-19 vaccines for full protection. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine can be administered 21 days after the first dose, while the second dose of the Moderna vaccine can be administered as early as 24 days after the first dose. The supply shortage comes as the numbers of coronavirus cases in the state increase and the death toll mounts. As of Tuesday, Florida reported 1,589,097 cases since the pandemic started. The death toll of Florida residents stood at 24,436, of which 8,925 were long-term care residents and staff members.
“Florida deputy arrested after calling for protesters to shoot federal officers at Capitol” by CBS 12’s Sabina Lolo – A 29-year-old deputy was arrested after sending some “frightening” text messages. After receiving a report, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office immediately launched an investigation into Deputy Peter Heneen. “And Heneen said, ‘you need to shoot the blank back. F the feds. Shoot the fed,'” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “The next statement was, ‘Need to make the streets of DC run red with blood of the tyrants.'” The sheriff’s office suspended Heneen and Sheriff Judd expects to start the process to fire Heneen Tuesday night. He’s also facing felony criminal charges for making written threats. Florida stiffened its law for making such threats after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Under the revised statute, Heneen could face up to 15 years in prison. Sheriff Judd says the deputy who reported him is a hero.
“Trump will find ‘both love and hate’ in Florida as he begins post-presidential life” by Miami Herald’s David Smiley and Francesca Chambers – When President Donald Trump leaves the White House for the final time Wednesday, he will board Air Force One and head for Palm Beach International Airport, where he’ll be greeted by the warm embrace of his South Florida loyalists as he heads into his post-presidential life. Trump’s strongest supporters are organizing crowds to greet his motorcade on its route to Mar-a-Lago, the private Palm Beach club he calls home. And when Joe Biden is sworn in at noon as the nation’s 46th president, Trump should be firmly situated in a state where his allies occupy some of the most powerful positions in government, media and politics. But as the twice-impeached Trump and some of his adult children plan to settle in Florida after four long years in Washington, much is still unsettled, and the full fallout of a Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob has yet to be determined. “The president will unfortunately encounter both love and hate when he returns to Florida tomorrow,” Republican strategist Karen Giorno, a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign, said in a Tuesday interview. Trump’s first impression of his new life could be somewhat comforting for a man described by confidants as increasingly isolated and unpredictable in his final days in office. Though early talk of Trump throwing a celebration Wednesday in South Florida appears to have fizzled, Republican activists are gathering the president’s supporters to greet him along shut-down streets. And in a state run by Republicans — including a governor who rose to power with the help of Trump’s endorsement and a newly reelected state party chairman who co-chaired Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign — Trump should expect a similar welcome among the GOP.
“Florida Capitol Building quiet on eve of Biden inauguration” by News Service of Florida – With extra law enforcement on standby, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday there remains no indication of potentially violent protesters arriving at the state Capitol to mark President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. “We have more law enforcement at the state Capitol. I don’t think anyone showed up at the state Capitol all week. Maybe someone will come tomorrow. I don’t know,” DeSantis told reporters during an appearance in Cape Coral on Tuesday. “So, we’ve basically heeded some of those warnings. But I can tell you nothing’s materialized so far.” On Friday, DeSantis activated the Florida National Guard to assist state and local law enforcement, in response to an FBI warning of potentially violent protests in state capitals in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. Contrary to expectations that protesters would gather outside of the Florida Capitol on Sunday and Monday, the scene was relatively quiet. State and local law enforcement officers could be seen in doorways and on the rooftop of the Capitol building, along with adjacent House and Senate office buildings. A helicopter circled the grounds. Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey said Sunday the city would remain on alert in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration. “I can tell you that we are prepared and we will continue (to be) for as long as we need to be,” Dailey told reporters Sunday afternoon at a park not far from the Capitol. Dailey didn’t give details of the law enforcement plans, however.
“Former Florida GOP candidate arrested in storming of U.S. Capitol” by Tampa Bay Times / Miami Herald’s David Ovalle and Jay Weaver – A Miami member of the extremist Proud Boys group who once ran unsuccessfully for elected office was arrested early Tuesday on allegations he took part in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Gabriel Garcia made his first appearance in federal court Tuesday as a criminal complaint against him was unsealed. He is being charged with engaging in acts of civil disorder, entering restricted grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. According to a criminal complaint, Garcia, 40, recorded and uploaded a series of Facebook videos of himself inside the Capitol along with others in the mob. “We just went ahead and stormed the Capitol. It’s about to get ugly,” he says in the video. The complaint alleges that Garcia yelled at U.S. Capitol police, calling them “f—ing traitors” and “USA! Storm this sh-t!” In one video, he also yells out “Nancy come out and play!” — an apparent reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is a frequent target of supporters of President Donald Trump. He also says “Free Enrique,” a reference to Enrique Tarrio, the Miami leader of the Proud Boys who was arrested days before the insurrection in Washington, D.C., according to the complaint. Last year, Garcia ran for Florida House District 116 as a Trump backer. He described himself as a “lifelong, loyal Republican” in challenging incumbent Daniel Perez. Garcia, a U.S. Army captain who won 41 percent of the vote in his unsuccessful challenge of Perez, later told the Herald that descriptions of the Proud Boys as a hate group are lies.
“Parents contemplate allowing their kids return to classrooms in Northwest Florida” by WEAR TV’s Oliva Iverson – As students move into the next semester of the school year, the threat of COVID-19 is worse than it was at the beginning of the year. Parents shared with Channel 3 the many factors involved in deciding whether to move their kids between virtual and in-person learning. “In the beginning, we thought it would be safer to keep him at home because my grandfather is under hospice care,” said Stephanie Duffy Bourque, Tate High School parent. “But then by the end of the first semester, him normally being an A, B student — he was a D and F student. And he’s really excited for college, wanting to apply, so we thought it was just better for him to go back to brick and mortar school for his grades, and they’ve already started to go back up since we made that decision,” said Bourque. She added that remote learning took a toll on her son’s mental health. However, she would consider moving back to virtual learning if there was a larger outbreak at his school. The reason other parents are keeping their children remote is also due to the COVID-19 outbreak. One Crestview mother told Channel 3 that she wanted to send her three kids back. She shared that it’s hard having all of her children learning online but the spike in cases is concerning for the rest of her family at home. “My son, he’s not in school yet, he’s going next year, and he has asthma, and he has an autoimmune deficiency, and if my children get sick, there is a good chance of him getting sick as well,” said Kimberly Parker, Okaloosa County parent.
“VP Mike Pence expected to skip Trump send-off to Florida” by Fox News’ Matt Leach and Paul Steinhauser – Vice President Mike Pence is not expected to attend Wednesday morning’s farewell ceremony for President Trump at Joint Base Andrews, a source familiar with the vice president’s schedule confirms to Fox News. The news comes as the vice president officially announced on Tuesday afternoon that he and outgoing second lady Karen Pence will attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, which is scheduled for Noon E.T. on Wednesday, at the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Pence aides tell Fox News that it would be logistically challenging for the vice president to show up at both the presidential inauguration as well as the Trump farewell ceremony, which is being held four hours earlier. Taking to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon – on the eve of his final hours as vice president – Pence wrote “Thank you for the privilege of serving as your Vice President these past four years, it has been the greatest honor of my life. On behalf of our Wonderful Second Lady, Karen Pence, and our entire Family, Thank You and God Bless America.” Trump will depart Joint Base Andrews at around 8am ET Wednesday for his home in Florida. He will become the first president in more than a century and a half to not attend his successor’s inauguration. Trump will depart Joint Base Andrews at around 8am ET Wednesday for his home in Florida. He will become the first president in more than a century and a half to not attend his successor’s inauguration.
“Florida pediatrician pleads guilty to conspiring to falsify clinical trial data in research study for asthma medication for children” by JD Suppra Shannon DeBra – On January 8, 2021, the Department of Justice announced that a Miami, Florida pediatrician pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with a clinical research study of an asthma medication for children. Dr. Yvelice Villaman Bencosme admitted that between approximately 2013 and 2016, she participated in a scheme to defraud an unnamed pharmaceutical company by fabricating data and participation of clinical trial subjects in connection with a study to investigate the safety and efficacy of an asthma medicine for children, between the ages of 4 and 11. Dr. Bencosme admitted that she falsified medical records to make it appear that the pediatric subjects came for scheduled visits, took study drugs as required by the trial and received payments for the visits. Dr. Bencosme was the principal investigator for the clinical trial at issue. In addition to Dr. Bencosme’s guilty plea, a former study coordinator at the same medical clinic where Dr. Bencosme worked also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in late 2020, and two other individuals have also been charged in connection with the fraud scheme and are awaiting trial. This case is troubling not only because of the monetary fraud aspect but also because of the potential harm that could have come from reliance on the fraudulent study data.
“Matt Gaetz won’t run against Marco Rubio in 2022” by Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man – U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz said Tuesday he won’t challenge U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2022 Florida primary. “I have no interest in running against Marco Rubio for the US Senate,” he wrote on Twitter. He left open the possibility that he’d run for another statewide office instead of seeking re-election. “In 2022 the only statewide position I would consider running for in the current political climate is Commissioner of Agriculture. But things can change! (Not the Senate thing though),” Gaetz said. Agriculture commissioner is the only statewide office currently held by a Democrat, Nikki Fried. Later Tuesday, Gaetz tweeted comments suggesting at campaign themes, saying agriculture commissioner should support the Second Amendment and oppose illegal immigration. On Friday, Palm Beach County’s state Republican committeeman, Joe Budd, said he wanted Gaetz to challenge Rubio. Budd was an early, outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, as is Gaetz, and is president of the Trump 45 Club USA, a political club that draws large crowds to its monthly meetings. Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican at the beginning of the third term in the House, is well known to conservative audiences on cable TV and social media as one of the most outspoken voices in support of President Donald Trump. Rubio, in his second term and the state’s senior senator, has had a mixed relationship with Trump. Both men sought the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and criticized each other harshly during the campaign.
“McConnell says Trump ‘provoked’ the Capitol riot as Senate weighs another impeachment trial” by Fox News’ Marisa Schultz – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., placed blame on President Trump for the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. McConnell addressed the insurrection during a floor speech Tuesday afternoon and said Trump “provoked” the mob that tried to use “fear and violence” to stop the Joint Session of Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win. “The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.” “…But we pressed on. We stood together and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation, not even for one night.” McConnell’s comments came a week after the House voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” Since his election defeat, Trump has refused to concede, claimed he won the election in a landslide and spread allegations of extensive election fraud despite courts repeatedly rejecting his claims.
The culmination of his efforts to stop Biden from taking office came when he called his supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 and whipped up the crowd before they marched to the Capitol to try to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s win. The insurrection forced Congress to abruptly recess and take shelter. Yet the lawmakers later reconvened and certified Biden’s victory — despite some GOP objections, led by Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri. “We certified the people’s choice for their 46th president,” McConnell said. “Tomorrow President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect [Kamala] Harris will be sworn in. We’ll have a safe and successful inaugural.”
“Biden Inauguration Day: How many people will attend ceremony in-person?” by Fox News’ Brittany De Lea – President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in on Wednesday in an extremely pared-down Inaugural event, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and intensified concerns about security. The inaugural committee is “strongly encouraging” people not to attend the event in person – and to instead tune in to the virtual livestream. Viewing stands will not be made available, while dinners and balls have also been canceled. Official tickets to inauguration events are typically distributed by congressional offices, free of charge. During a typical year, members usually receive about 200,000 to give out to constituents, as reported by USA Today. The publication said this year members are limited to tickets for themselves and one guest, which means no tickets will be available for constituencies. Overall, The Washington Post estimated that around 2,000 people will attend the event, including 200 “VIPs” – or families of the president-elect and vice president-elect, congressional leadership and several diplomats. USA Today also estimated attendance at several thousand. For comparison, more than 500,000 people were expected to have attended President Barack Obama’s 2009 event. While President Trump will not be among the attendees, many other high-profile leaders will be there, including former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in addition to their wives – and former First Ladies – Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, about 25,000 members of the National Guard are streaming into Washington from across the country — at least two and a half times the number for previous inaugurals.
“National Guardsmen removed from U.S. capital ahead of inauguration” by Fox News’ Caitlin McFall – Chief of the National Guard Bureau announced Tuesday that 12 Guardsmen have been removed from the U.S. capital ahead of the presidential inauguration, in part because of suspected far-right extremist ties. Gen. Daniel Hokanson told reporters that at least two of the security officials deployed to protect the presidential inauguration were removed from duty because of “inappropriate comments or texts.” One of the Guardsman was reportedly flagged through the chain of command, while another individual was identified through an anonymous tip on a law enforcement tip-line. Hokanson did not explain what constituted “inappropriate” language, but said the removal of 12 Guardsmen was “out of an abundance of caution.” “We’ve had 12 identified and some of those, they’re just looking into,”Hokanson said Tuesday, adding that their questionable behavior could be completely unrelated to extremist connections. “But we want to make sure out of an abundance of caution…that we do the right thing,” he added. The Department of Defense has deployed 25,000 National Guards troops to Washington, D.C. to aid in securing the capital during the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, following the attacks earlier this month by pro-Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol building, which left five dead. While 21,500 National Guard personnel have been stationed throughout the U.S. capital as of Monday, Fox News confirmed an additional 2,750 active duty troops will support the security of the event.
“Some Trump supporters think he’s about to declare martial law — and they’re excited” by Alex Koppelman and Donie O’Sullivan, CNN Business – Sometime Monday, some of the remaining dead-enders convinced that President Trump will remain in office for at least the next four years got a sign. A Telegram account falsely purporting to be run by Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was telling them that the moment they’d been waiting for, the moment Trump would finally act and use the military to crush his enemies, was coming. “Nothing can stop this,” the account said in a message that had been seen by at least 185,000 people as of Tuesday morning. “They can no longer hide in the shadows,” it added half an hour later. Then, 20 minutes later: “Last hours.” It continued on like this. Around 10 a.m. ET it posted an ominous picture of soldiers in uniform behind a fence in Washington DC with the caption “Stay in your homes.” By Tuesday afternoon, the account had almost 220,000 followers — likely helped by the fact that it was being widely and actively discussed and promoted on other platforms including Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB). Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment. After CNN asked about the people sharing links to and promoting the Telegram channel on its platform, Twitter said it was “taking action on accounts sharing it” and would prevent the link from being tweeted further. A spokesperson for Gen. Hyten told CNN Tuesday morning that the account is “an absolute fake” and added the Pentagon was “actively working” to get it taken down. Tuesday afternoon the account was marked as a “scam” with the message, “Warning: Many users reported this account as a scam or a fake account.” The account has since shed some followers, and many of the messages have been removed. A Telegram spokesperson told CNN, “Telegram monitors reports and warns users about fraudulent accounts in clear-cut cases like the one you pointed out. ” Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Trump talked out of pardoning kids and Republican lawmakers” by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Pamela Brown – President Donald Trump received an unsettling warning on his final Saturday night in the White House. Huddled for a lengthy meeting with his legal advisers, Trump was warned the pardons he once hoped to bestow upon his family and even himself would place him in a legally perilous position, convey the appearance of guilt and potentially make him more vulnerable to reprisals. So, too, was Trump warned that pardons for Republican lawmakers who had sought them for their role in the Capitol insurrection would anger the very Senate Republicans who will determine his fate in an upcoming impeachment trial. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and another attorney who represented Trump in his first impeachment trial, Eric Herschmann, offered the grave warnings as Trump, his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner listened. Other lawyers joined by telephone. They all told Trump he should not pardon himself, his family or any GOP lawmakers in a prospective manner unless he was prepared to list specific crimes. Cipollone and former Attorney General William Barr both warned Trump earlier this month they did not believe he should pardon himself, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN last week. Barr conveyed this position to Trump before resigning last month, sources say. Trump continued to bring the matter up in the ensuing days, even after officials believed the issue was resolved. But the sobering meeting on Saturday evening at the White House seemed to put the idea to rest.
“Sen. Hawley blocks quick consideration of Biden’s Homeland Security nominee” by CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez – Sen. Josh Hawley blocked quick consideration of President-elect Joe Biden’s Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, on Tuesday, leaving the third-largest federal department without confirmed leadership as it faces national security concerns, a pandemic and an incoming president prepared to roll out ambitious immigration plans. The Missouri Republican’s decision stemmed from an exchange with Mayorkas hours earlier during the nominee’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures,” Hawley said in a statement. “Just today, he declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system. Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered,” he continued. Transportation Security Administration head David Pekoske is expected to temporarily take over as acting Homeland Security secretary when the Biden administration enters office Wednesday, according to Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Alexei Woltornist. Under President Donald Trump, DHS has been rattled with consistent leadership turnover, including in the final weeks of his administration. Earlier this month, Chad Wolf stepped down from his post as acting secretary following intense scrutiny over the validity of his appointment.
“Trump Approves Deportation Protections for Venezuelans in U.S. Illegally” by WSJ’s Michelle Hackman – As one of his final acts in office, President Trump has authorized a program to give work permits and deportation protections to Venezuelan immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission, an action President-elect Joe Biden had promised to take during the 2020 campaign. The designation formally known as Deferred Enforced Departure offers legal protections to any Venezuelan national present in the U.S. as of Jan. 20, 2021 for 18 months. That is likely to benefit at least 94,000 Venezuelans in the country without authorization as of 2018, according to the Migration Policy Institute, though analysts believe the current number is likely higher. Mr. Trump’s move is seen as a form of pressure the U.S. government can use against Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan authoritarian leader whom the Trump administration has targeted with sanctions, a limited travel ban and other measures. In Jan. 2019, the U.S. officially recognized the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s interim president. During the 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden said he would offer Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan immigrants should he win the election. TPS is roughly identical to the Deferred Enforced Departure program in the protections it offers. DED is issued directly by a president, while TPS must be approved by the Homeland Security secretary.
“DOJ Inquiry Into Sen. Richard Burr’s Stock Trades Ends Without Charges” by WSJ’s Aruna Viswanatha – The Justice Department won’t pursue charges against GOP Sen. Richard Burr after ending its investigation of stock trades he made in advance of the coronavirus market turmoil last year, the North Carolina lawmaker said. “The Department of Justice informed me that it has concluded its review of my personal financial transactions conducted early last year,” Mr. Burr said Tuesday. “The case is now closed. I’m glad to hear it. My focus has been and will continue to be working for the people of North Carolina during this difficult time for our nation.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation began looking into reports in March that several members of Congress, their spouses or their investment advisers sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock after lawmakers attended closed-door briefings about the threat posed by the virus as it was beginning to reach the U.S. Some of those trades spared lawmakers as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses as stocks sank by mid-March. Mr. Burr, who sat on two committees that received detailed briefings on the growing pandemic, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he had chaired, had sold shares of companies valued at as much as $1.7 million, which he owned with his wife. The sale saved the couple at least $250,000 in losses based on what those stocks were worth at the close of trading March 19, the Journal reported at the time. Mr. Burr had said he made the trades based on news reports out of Asia rather than any inside information he had received, but he stepped down from his post as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee while the investigation continued.
“Justice Department Seeks to Limit Scope of Landmark LGBT Rights Decision” by WSJ’s Sadie Gurman and Jess Bravin – The Justice Department has issued a memo that aims to limit the impact of a landmark Supreme Court ruling protecting gay and transgender people in the workplace, a last-ditch attempt from the Trump administration to hinder policy shifts expected as President-elect Joe Biden begins assembling new leadership at the agency. The Supreme Court’s June ruling, Bostock v. Clayton County, said a bedrock federal civil-rights law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The 6-3 opinion, by Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch, rejected administration arguments that federal civil rights law provides no protection to LGBT employees. The new memo, dated Sunday and sent by the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, John Daukas, acknowledges the court’s ruling was sweeping, but says the department should not extend it further to areas such as housing and education, where longstanding gender-based policies on bathrooms and sports teams could come into play. The 23-page memo, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, also suggests that some employers could cite religious beliefs that would allow them to discriminate against LGBT employees. “Unlike racial discrimination, the Supreme Court has never held that a religious employer’s decision not to hire homosexual or transgender persons ‘violates deeply and widely accepted views of elementary justice’ or that the government has a ‘compelling’ interest in the eradication of such conduct,” the memo says. The Trump administration “lost the case, so they are looking for every possible way to narrow its implications rather than acknowledge that the days of discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are behind us,” said David Cole, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued a companion case to Bostock.
“McConnell seeks to protect filibuster in talks with Schumer” by Politico’s Burgess Everett – Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell have yet to strike an agreement on how to run an evenly split Senate. And McConnell is driving a hard bargain. In a letter to colleagues, McConnell indicated he wants a commitment from Schumer (D-N.Y.) to preserve the legislative filibuster as part of their agreement governing the rules of the 50-50 Senate. He said while he is taking his cues from the last split Senate in 2001, he also believes “we need to also address the threats to the legislative filibuster.” “The time is ripe to address this issue head on before the passions of one particular issue or another arise,” McConnell said. “A delay in reaching an agreement could delay the final determination of committee assignments but it is important to maintain the status quo on the legislative filibuster.” The two leaders met for about a half-hour on Tuesday in McConnell’s office, during his last day as majority leader. There was no apparent resolution afterward; Schumer told reporters that “we discussed a whole lot of issues.” Schumer declined to comment on the future of the legislative filibuster, but a spokesperson threw cold water on addressing it in an organizing resolution. “Leader Schumer expressed that the fairest, most reasonable and easiest path forward is to adopt the 2001 bipartisan agreement without extraneous changes from either side,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson said that Schumer and McConnell had made progress on confirming Biden’s nominees and holding a “fair impeachment trial” for outgoing President Donald Trump.
“The ‘deep state’ of loyalists Trump is leaving behind for Biden” by Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Cassella – Donald Trump spent four years railing against a “deep state” of career federal workers he claimed was undermining his administration from the inside. When Joe Biden takes office this week, he may actually have one. A higher-than-usual number of Trump administration political appointees — some with highly partisan backgrounds — are currently “burrowing” into career positions throughout the federal government, moving from appointed positions into powerful career civil service roles, which come with job protections that will make it difficult for Biden to fire them. While this happens to some degree in every presidential transition, and some political appointees make for perfectly capable public servants, Biden aides, lawmakers, labor groups and watchdog organizations are sounding the alarm — warning that in addition to standard burrowing, the Trump administration is leaning on a recent executive order to rush through dozens if not hundreds of these so-called “conversions.” The fear is that, once entrenched in these posts, the Trump bureaucrats could work from the inside to stymie Biden’s agenda, much of which depends on agency action. The October executive order — which Biden is expected to swiftly rescind — has allowed federal agencies to help political appointees circumvent the usual merit-based application process for career civil service jobs, while moving career policymakers into a new job category with far fewer legal protections. Thanks to weak transparency laws, the full impact of both changes may not be known for months.
“Cuomo warns of tax hikes, dire cuts if feds can’t find $15B” by Politico’s Anna Gronewold – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had one overriding message Tuesday as he delivered his annual budget address from New York’s state Capitol: If Washington doesn’t send New York $15 billion as part of a pandemic relief package, he’ll have no choice but to slash public payrolls, cut services and raise taxes on the rich. Cuomo argued that the state is uniquely entitled to those funds because the pandemic hit New York so hard last spring and was comparatively defenseless thanks to federal government bungling. “New York paid a bill for Covid that no state in the nation paid for and it’s not even close in many ways,” he said. “The remaining cost is $15 billion.” He went one step further and threatened to pursue litigation if the federal government did not acquiesce to his ask, though officials, when asked, did not immediately say whom the state might sue or what legal arguments New York could employ. For the moment, though, it’s uncertain whether the state will get what it is asking for, and its new budget, due at the end of March, reflects that uncertainty. “We don’t know, in short, what level of aid we will get, but the budget is dependent on that number,” he said. The full amount would mean New York could avoid squeezing its localities out of their allotted aid, offer relief to small businesses and restaurants, focus on education and workforce issues, and get on the road to recovery, he said. Anything less, he said, would be an affront to the suffering the state experienced as one of the first to be overwhelmed by the pandemic, calling it a “2021 version of the federal government saying ‘drop dead’ to New York.”
“Migrant caravan member cites Biden’s pledge to suspend deportations for 100 days as reason for traveling to US” by Fox News’ Bradford Betz – A migrant traveling with a caravan that left Honduras on Friday told a reporter he was headed to the U.S. because soon-to-be President Joe Biden is “giving us 100 days to get to the U.S.” The migrant, seen in an interview shared by The Hill, did not provide his name but said he was from Roatán, a tourist island off the northern coast of Honduras. He appeared to be citing Biden’s pledge to place a 100-day moratorium on deportations – one of several items on his agenda that will reverse some of President Donald Trump’s signature policies. The migrant told a reporter he was fleeing a “bad situation” that was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, hurricanes, and a president who is not helping the people. When asked what he wanted for “his people,” the migrant said it was “to get to the U.S. because they’re having a new president.” “He’s gonna help all of us,” the migrant said of President-elect Joe Biden. “He’s giving us 100 days to get to the U.S.” to get legal status and “get a better life for our kids and family.” Biden has promised a pathway to legal permanent residency for those in the country illegally and a suspension on deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But any migrants who arrive at the U.S. border within the first 100 days of the new Biden administration will likely be disappointed. On Sunday, an unnamed Biden transition official said the migrants hoping to claim asylum in the U.S. during the first few weeks of the administration “need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the U.S. immediately,” NBC News reported.
“AOC tweets ‘Abolish ICE’ after agency commemorates MLK Day” by Fox News’ Bradford Betz – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Monday appeared unimpressed by a tweet from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To show their appreciation for the civil rights icon on the federal holiday, ICE tweeted an image of a King statue, with the text: “Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of hope, justice and equality.” Without addressing King directly, Ocasio-Cortez retweeted the text and called for the agency to be abolished. Ocasio-Cortez has called for dismantling the agency for years, even in moments when her Democratic colleagues appeared to back away from the idea. Though Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter feed on Monday was filled with references to King and his legacy, King’s niece, Alveda King, told Fox News that the congresswoman ought to “take a page out of Martin Luther King Jr.’s book.” The suggestion came in response to Ocasio-Cortez’s comments during a virtual town hall last week in which she referred to President Donald Trump as the “poison of White supremacy.” “I believe that AOC really should take a page out of Martin Luther King Jr.’s book.” King told Fox News host Harris Faulkner. Alveda told Faulkner that while her uncle praised the law for keeping bad actors in line, “he also said that the law cannot transform the human heart.”
“Trump may issue 50 to 100 commutations, pardons before term ends; rapper Lil Wayne expected to be on list” by Fox News’ Kristin Fisher and Brooke Singman – President Trump is expected to issue between 50 and 100 commutations and pardons before he leaves office this week, two sources familiar with the list told Fox News. The sources told Fox News that the announcement of the pardons will likely come in one large batch on Tuesday, but there is a slight chance the White House will wait to make them official Wednesday morning. The president has until noon on Wednesday to do so. Fox News has learned that there was a meeting at the White House on Sunday afternoon to finalize the growing list of pardons and commutations. But sources with knowledge of the process say Trump is not expected to grant protective pardons for any members of his family, nor is he expected to attempt to issue a pardon for himself. Despite an aggressive campaign by WikiLeaks to try to secure a pardon for its founder Julian Assange, the president is not expected to give him one. The Justice Department has maintained that Assange should face trial on 18 charges, put forth by the Obama administration in 2010, centered on conspiring to breach government computers and violate the Espionage Act. The charges carry a maximum of 175 years in prison.
“McConnell, Schumer close in on power-sharing agreement in evenly divided Senate” by CNN’s Mau Raju – The top two Senate leaders are nearing a power-sharing agreement to hash out how the evenly divided chamber will operate, with Democrats in charge of setting the schedule but both parties likely to hold an equal number of seats on Senate committees, according to sources familiar with the talks. The negotiations between Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have been built largely around how the Senate operated the last time the body was split 50-50: When George W. Bush initially became president in 2001. Final details are still being sorted out between the two leaders, sources said. Similar to those rules, set in January 2001, Schumer and McConnell aides are discussing allowing bills and nominations to advance to the Senate floor even if they are tied during committee votes, something that could become common given that each party is expected to have the same number of seats on committees. Democrats will hold the chairmanships of the committees, giving them power to set the agenda, and Schumer will be granted the title of majority leader since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will cast tiebreaking votes on the floor. The full chamber still has to ratify these procedures, but that is expected to occur once Schumer and McConnell have finalized their agreement.
“US approaches 400,000 coronavirus deaths” by CNN’s Ralph Ellis, Amanda Watts and Christina Maxouris – As the US approaches 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, new cases have been trending down but multiple states are reporting cases of new variants of the virus. The US recorded 1.5 million new Covid-19 cases in the past seven days, according to the most recent data from Johns Hopkins University, an 11% drop from the previous week. Cases declined in 35 states week-over-week, and 18 states saw a drop in the number of deaths.
But with a longer range view, last week’s apparent improvement falls much closer to average. Over the past month, the number of new Covid-19 cases recorded each day has ranged from nearly 101,000 to more than 302,000; over the past seven days, new cases averaged about 218,000 daily. “The virus has established itself in the human population and it’s not going anywhere,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert with Johns Hopkins University, told CNN. “We’re going to see a lot of transmission until we cross the threshold for herd immunity.” At least 398,879 people have died in the U.S. from Covid-19 in the United States, and the country passed the 24 million mark in total cases on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than half — 60% — of all Covid-19 cases in the United states have been reported since Election Day, according to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. California, the current epicenter of the pandemic in the US, became the first state on Monday to record more than 3 million Covid-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins and the Covid Tracking Project. The number of Covid-19 cases in California has tripled in just the past two months.
“Armed demonstrators gather at Virginia state Capitol as states stay tight on security ahead of inauguration” by CNN’s Amir Vera and Dakin Andone – Dozens of armed demonstrators gathered at the state Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday as authorities remained on alert at capitols across the United States two days ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Several demonstrators in Richmond identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys and Boogaloo groups as well as the Black Panthers. The demonstrations were part of the state’s annual “Lobby Day,” an event held in support of Second Amendment rights and hosted by the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Car caravans originating from across the state of Virginia also converged on downtown Richmond. The Citizens Defense League, unable to obtain a permit to hold their yearly rally downtown, held the caravan instead. The Richmond Police Department reminded demonstrators in a tweet Monday that the city has banned firearms at permitted events, which are events of 11 or more people that obstruct pedestrian or vehicular traffic. The demonstrations came after a state of emergency was declared in Richmond ahead of anticipated protests at the state Capitol and Gov. Ralph Northam activated the National Guard in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol. Officials braced for potential unrest this weekend after an internal FBI bulletin warned that such demonstrations were being planned at all 50 state capitols through at least Wednesday. But protests were largely small, with demonstrators — some of whom were armed — vastly outnumbered by police.
“For Joe Biden, Daunting—and Unprecedented—Challenges” by WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib – Every new president and Congress face their own particular set of challenges, which tend at the outset to feel both unique and daunting—though sometimes they actually aren’t as new and momentous as they seem. Such, however, isn’t the case as President-elect Joe Biden and a reconfigured Congress take office. It isn’t hyperbole to describe the tasks facing Washington’s new political alignment as unprecedented. Mr. Biden starts off with two broad problems no modern president has ever faced: a continuing pandemic and a predecessor who has worked tirelessly to convince Americans that the past election was illegitimate. On top of that, Mr. Biden also will be taking office on the steps of a Capitol still bearing the scars left by a mob of Trump supporters set on stopping him from taking office. Pile on top of that a Congress that is more evenly divided between the two parties than at any point in 20 years, the largest federal debt as a share of the economy since World War II and a rising global competitor in China, and the tasks are genuinely daunting.
“The new vice president will spend much of her time helping to shepherd the Biden agenda through a 50-50 Senate” by WSJ’s Tarini Parti – Upon being sworn in as vice president Wednesday, Kamala Harris will have to balance multiple roles: as a counselor to President-elect Joe Biden, the Senate tiebreaker and the potential standard-bearer for the Democratic Party whose current leaders are in their 70s or 80s. Ms. Harris, who will be the first woman and first Black vice president, will begin her tenure with a broad but undefined portfolio of responsibilities, according to her aides. Both she and Mr. Biden have said she would be a full partner, sharing her opinions on every decision and taking on tasks he won’t have time to manage, as the sharply divided country copes with a pandemic and a still-recovering economy. “There’s not a single decision I’ve made yet about personnel or about how to proceed that I haven’t discussed it with Kamala first,” Mr. Biden said last month. While Mr. Biden, 78, is in good health, he will be the oldest president to be sworn into office, putting the role of Ms. Harris, 56, as next in the line of succession and as a party leader into greater focus. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader from New York, is 70, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, is 80. Ms. Harris’s challenge—as is the case for every vice president—will be to help Mr. Biden’s agenda without contradicting or overshadowing him. Ms. Harris, who officially resigned from her Senate seat Monday, is expected to model her vice presidency after Mr. Biden’s, according to her aides. The president-elect also started his tenure, after serving in the Senate, in the midst of an economic crisis in 2009. Mr. Biden came to be seen as a loyal ally to President Barack Obama and led congressional negotiations on key legislation though sometimes exasperated Mr. Obama and his aides by straying from the administration’s message.
“Capitol Riot Becomes Civics Lessons in Schools” by WSJ’s Yoree Koh and Jennifer Calfas – At the start of class, Logan Ridenour reminded the high school juniors of the ground rules for discussing the Capitol riot: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and everyone should be a respectful listener. Mr. Ridenour, a social sciences and civics teacher at Dupo High School in southern Illinois, one of 40 states that require civics class for graduation, was used to having tough conversations with his civics students whose political views span both sides of the aisle, with more of them leaning to the right. But the conversation in the wake of the storming of the Capitol was particularly daunting because of its historic nature and the political sensitivities embedded in it, he said. Some students said President Trump incited the riot; others said he just gave a speech. In a vigorous, civil debate, the teens looked up the definition to incite and discussed the constitutional right to protest and the 25th amendment. At the end, Mr. Ridenour tied what happened at the Capitol back to their lesson on civic virtues like honor, respect and responsibility. “Regardless of where you stand on this, if you look at these virtues did you feel like it was on display with what occurred?” he asked. The students held firm to their different opinions, he said. The Capitol riot and this week’s presidential inauguration have become teachable moments in classes around the nation, pulling civics education to the forefront as teachers say they face new questions from students and others say it all exemplifies the need for a better civics curriculum and funding.
“Outlook darkens for Wall Street as Biden’s regulators take shape” by Reuters’ Michelle Price – Wall Street may be facing an uncomfortable four years after President-elect Joe Biden’s team confirmed on Monday it planned to nominate two consumer champions to lead top financial agencies, signaling a tougher stance on the industry than many had anticipated. Gary Gensler will serve as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Federal Trade Commission member Rohit Chopra will head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Progressives see the agencies as critical to advancing policy priorities on climate change and social justice. Wall Street-friendly Republicans on Monday criticized Biden for bowing to leftists, warning the picks would be divisive. “The Biden team is pandering to members of the far-left,” Patrick McHenry, lead Republican on the House of Representatives finance panel said of Chopra, while warning Gensler should “resist pressure to commandeer our securities disclosure regime to try to fix non-economic issues or social problems.” The chair of the derivatives regulator from 2009 to 2014, Gensler implemented new swaps trading rules created by Congress after the financial crisis, developing a reputation as a tough operator willing to stand up to powerful Wall Street interests. Chopra helped set up the CFPB after the crisis and served as its first student loan ombudsman. At the FTC, he campaigned for tougher rules for big tech companies on consumer privacy and competition, and for stricter enforcement penalties.
“Acting Pentagon chief: No indication of insider threat before inauguration” by Reuters’ David Shepardson – The acting Pentagon chief said on Monday the FBI is assisting the U.S. military in vetting more than 25,000 National Guard troops being deployed to assist in protecting the U.S. Capitol around President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration for potential security concerns. After the Jan. 6 Capitol assault by supporters of President Donald Trump that resulted in five deaths and sent lawmakers into hiding, the U.S. government has imposed unprecedented security surrounding the Capitol, including non-scalable fences rimmed with razor wire and a large security zone that the public is barred from. Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said in a statement on Monday the vetting is “normal for military support to large security events… While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital.” Miller said he appreciated “the support of the FBI in assisting with this task and for each of the more than 25,000 Guardsmen.” The Washington Post reported Monday the FBI in an intelligence report warned law enforcement agencies that far-right extremists had discussed posing as National Guard members in Washington. The Post added the report did not identify any specific plots to attack the inauguration events. The U.S. Army said on Tuesday it was is working with the FBI to see if any attackers were current service members and with the Secret Service to see if any of the nearly 10,000 National Guard troops securing Biden’s inauguration would need additional screening.
“Weary migrants wait at Guatemala roadblock as caravan stalls” by Associated Press – Guatemalan police and soldiers on Monday broke up a group of hundreds of migrants who had spent two nights stuck at a roadblock on a rural highway. Some migrants threw rocks while authorities launched tear gas and pushed the migrants with their riot shields back down the highway. Migrants with children were more gently prodded back the way they had come. The year’s first migrant caravan had largely stalled two days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Biden has promised to take a different approach to immigration and even though immediate changes at the U.S. border are not expected, it has created some hope in Central America. A steep mountain and tall wall flanking the rural highway have allowed Guatemalan authorities to bottle up the group that had numbered about 2,000 when it pushed into Guatemala Friday night. Their ranks have reduced through attrition as some migrants have agreed to be bused back to the Honduran border. A Guatemalan official repeated that offer Monday morning, telling the migrants they had buses at the ready for those who wanted to return to Honduras. A smaller number have been forcefully sent back after scuffling with authorities who held their line with baton strikes and tear gas. The primary of objective of the authorities’ midday push was to reopen the highway. Police and soldiers banged their riot shields intimidatingly as an official told the migrants to clear the highway. The migrants scattered, but remained in the general area. Guatemala’s immigration authorities said Monday that another group of about 800 migrants had been located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) farther north along the highway near Rio Hondo. They are also blocked from advancing there, but authorities said they successfully negotiated opening one lane of traffic so vehicles could pass.
“House launches probe into intelligence failures preceding Capitol insurrection” by Politico’s Kyle Cheney – Four House committee leaders are launching an investigation into “high-level failures” of intelligence and security planning that left the Capitol vulnerable to insurrection on Jan. 6. The committee chairs said in a letter released Saturday that emerging evidence shows federal intelligence officials and law enforcement agencies received information about the likelihood of violence targeting Congress, but a breakdown in the information-sharing process left the Capitol vulnerable, despite widely anticipated efforts to disrupt the lawmakers’ session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. “This still-emerging story is one of astounding bravery by some U.S. Capitol Police and other officers; of staggering treachery by violent criminals; and of apparent and high-level failures — in particular, with respect to intelligence and security preparedness,” wrote House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, House Oversight Committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney and House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson in a letter to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and top federal intelligence officials. “The Committees will conduct robust oversight to understand what warning signs may have been missed, determine whether there were systemic failures, and consider how to best address countering domestic violent extremism, including remedying any gaps in legislation or policy,” they continued. The committees are seeking a series of classified briefings beginning in late January to help lawmakers understand the evidence of threats they had collected, both about Jan. 6 and other threats to the transition of power leading up to Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
“Top FEMA official attended Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ rally” by Politico’s Natasha Bertrand and Kyle Cheney – A top official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has been assisting in preparations for the Inauguration next week, attended President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. At that rally, Trump urged his followers to “fight” and march to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where hundreds broke into the Capitol building in a riot that left five people dead. The official, Chris Grisafe, told staff this week that he attended the rally to show his support for the outgoing president, and has claimed that he did not move with the crowd from the rally area near the White House to the Capitol grounds. Grisafe’s attendance at the Jan. 6 rally alarmed some FEMA staff, according to one person familiar with the matter, and several employees reported it to the DHS Inspector General and the FBI. Grisafe currently serves as one of FEMA’s top political appointees in the role of associate administrator for resilience, where he helps “oversee and manage FEMA’s national preparedness, mitigation, insurance, continuity and grant programs,” according to his official biography. The Coast Guard veteran was part of the response efforts for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita and served at the Pentagon in a variety of advisory roles before joining FEMA last August. A FEMA spokesperson said in a statement that Grisafe “was on personal leave on January 6. FEMA does not comment on how employees choose to spend their personal time.” The spokesperson noted that Grisafe “was not present at the Inauguration security briefing with the vice president” that took place on Thursday, but did not elaborate on whether he has been involved more generally in FEMA’s efforts to “promote an enhanced preparedness posture” for the Inauguration.