Headlines: January 6, 2021
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Democrats appear set to take control of the United States Senate in a stunning upset in Georgia where Tuesday’s run off races have resulted in at least one, and very likely two wins. Raphael Warnock has beaten GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler decisively in a historic win as he becomes the first ever Black Senator from the state of Georgia. On Tuesday night Warnock gave his victory speech remotely. His colleague Jon Ossoff also declared victory over incumbent Republican David Perdue on Wednesday morning although many media outlets were still waiting to make the official pronouncement. If the win is indeed official, Ossoff will become the youngest member of the U.S. Senate. With 98% of all votes counted he leads Perdue by 16,000 votes. He addressed voters in a videotaped speech focusing on tackling the coronavirus pandemic. With Ossoff and Warnock both heading to the U.S. Senate, the chamber will be split evenly between both major parties. However, because Democrats control the Presidency they too will win control of the Senate, wresting away the title of Senate Majority Leader from top Republican Mitch McConnell. The Senate’s current minority leader Chuck Schumer is set to take on the mantle of majority leader and Schumer declared triumphantly in a statement on Wednesday morning, “It feels like a brand new day…For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”
Just a day after the momentous Georgia races, another election-related showdown awaits in Washington DC. In what would usually be an uncontroversial and ceremonial declaration of the newly elected President, outgoing White House occupant Donald Trump expects to make one last and desperate attempt to overthrow the will of voters. Members of Congress will certify the results of the electoral college votes but about a dozen Senators loyal to Trump have announced they will object. They are led by Senators Ted Cruz and Tommy Tuberville. It is Vice President Mike Pence’s task to oversee the certification. On Tuesday Trump made clear that he expects Pence to choose him over the U.S. Constitution, tweeting, “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.” In fact neither were electors fraudulently chosen, nor does Pence have the power to reject them and Mr. Pence appears to know it. In a letter to Congress he said he lacked the “unilateral authority” to reject electors. Even conservatives have now begun to label Trump’s efforts as a “coup.” Insiders speaking to the press say Trump privately acknowledges he lost but that has not stopped him from milking the controversy that he has created to its fullest extent.
Many thousands of Trump’s supporters have gathered in Washington DC, led by the men-only nationalist hate group, the Proud Boys, to lend credence to their President. And Trump has embraced their support speaking at the so-called Save America Rally on the Ellipse next to the White House. The Washington Post reports that hundreds of people stormed the Capitol barricades heading toward the building where members of Congress gathered. On Tuesday night D.C. police clashed with pro-Trump protesters arresting at least 6. According to NBC, “charges included a handful that were weapons-related, including carrying firearms without a license, possession of unregistered ammunition and possession of an unregistered firearm. Protesters were also charged with assaulting a police officer and simple assault.”
In other news, President elect Joe Biden says he plans to nominate Judge Merrick Garland to be his Attorney General. Garland would have become a Supreme Court Justice instead of Neil Gorsuch had Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed it under President Obama. While Garland as Attorney General could undo the partisanship that current Attorney General William Barr has infected his department with, according to the Washington Post, “some defense lawyers and criminal justice reform advocates have said they worry Garland’s record on the bench shows he is too deferential to the government and law enforcement.”
Under Barr, the Justice Department has just launched an effort to reduce civil rights protections for minority groups in the very last days of the Trump administration. Based on a draft obtained by the New York Times of the drastic proposal the paper says the changes, “would mark one of the most significant shifts in civil rights enforcement in generations.” Meanwhile the DOJ says it is continuing to investigate the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after the city refused to file charges against the officer. Mr. Blake has been left paralyzed after he was shot multiple times in front of his children. And Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teen who stands accused of killing and injuring Black Lives Matter activists protesting Blake’s shooting, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In other news, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not yet labeled last week’s bombing of a city block in Nashville, Tennessee as a terrorist act. The bombing, carried out by a white man who died in the blast, also wounded 3 people and destroyed more than 40 businesses. Nashville City Council member Zulfat Suara tweeted, “To those bending over backward to not call this an act of terror, if Warner had been a Muslim/immigrant/black, will you say the same thing or will you be one of the millions condemning not just him but his entire community?” The perpetrator was known to be a conspiracy theorist believing among other things in shape shifting “lizard people.”
In news from the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that in spite of a slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. could soon ramp up to dispensing 1 million vaccinations per day. “Any time you start a big program, there’s always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” he said to the Associated Press. Unlike the seasonal flu vaccine which is freely distributed to one and all, the COVID-19 vaccine is being prioritized for high-risk groups first, placing hurdles for hospitals that have to identify who those people are. And, because there are two doses 3 weeks apart, the vaccinations have to be tracked much more carefully. So far more than 19 million vaccine doses have been distributed around the nation but only a fraction have been used.
In international news, a U.K. judge has denied Wikileaks founder Julian Assange bail release, just days after an extradition order to the U.S. was denied. Although the judge based the extradition denial on the dire state of Assange’s mental health, she claims he is still a flight risk and has ruled that he remain incarcerated.