Headlines: January 7, 2021
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Members of Congress certified Democrat Joe Biden as the President elect of the United States early on Thursday morning, resuming their interrupted meeting after an unprecedented attack on the Capitol building by a violent mob of far-right extremists. Late on Wednesday evening Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been Trump’s strongest ally in the Senate, repudiated the attack fomented by the President. Several of his party colleagues joined McConnell in denouncing the attack but most did not mention Trump by name. Still, several GOP Senators including Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri objected to Arizona and Pennsylvania’s election results but were voted down. When it came time for House Representatives to vote on those challenges, lawmakers voted 303 to 121 against the Arizona challenge and 282 to 138 against the Pennsylvania challenge. This means that a majority of House Republicans voted to throw out electors from those two states but were defeated. Vice President Mike Pence, whose ceremonial job it was to oversee Biden’s certification defied Trump and is reportedly livid with the President after nearly 4 years of accepting his erratic and unethical behavior.
President Trump, whose Twitter account was suspended for 12 hours conveyed a statement via his staffer Dan Scavino finally saying he would respect a peaceful transition of power. But even in his statement he adamantly stuck to the lie that he won the election. Several Trump staffers have quit their jobs ostensibly in protest of the mob attack on the Capitol building including former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney who had been occupying the position of US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland. CNN reports that, “a growing number of Republican leaders and Cabinet officials told CNN that they believe Donald Trump should be removed from office before January 20. Four of them called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked, and two others said the President should be impeached.” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has announced she is drawing up Articles of Impeachment. Some prefer impeachment to the 25th amendment even though there are only 2 more weeks of Trump’s presidency because a conviction would ensure Trump will never be eligible to hold federal office again.
After years of facing calls to ban Trump from social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have taken some limited action. Trump posted two tweets that Twitter found objectionable and suspended his account for a minimum of 12 hours or until he took down the objectionable content. In one of his tweets Trump told his supporters to “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” which echoed a video statement he had posted earlier telling his violent supporters that they were special and that he loved them. Facebook and Instagram have barred him until he leaves office. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who previously cited “free speech” to justify years of Trump’s violent incitements, made a statement saying, “We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”
The events of Wednesday January 6th have left the entire nation reeling with at least 4 people known to be dead, among them one woman who was shot by Capitol Police while attempting to force her way into the House chamber via a broken window. The 35-year old Trump supporter was Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran. The officer who fired the shot was immediately placed on administrative leave and the police chief issued his condolences to Babbitt’s family—a gesture rarely, if ever, offered to Black and brown victims of unjustified police brutality. Little is known about the other three deaths that apparently took place outside the Capitol building as a result of what are being called “medical emergencies.” A total of 52 people were arrested out of the thousands that had shown up for the attack.
Among those who were found to have participated was a newly elected member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, a pro-Trump Republican. A man whose photo of sitting down at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk has gone viral has also been identified. Richard Barnett of Arkansas is a self-avowed “White Nationalist” who had said on social media days earlier that he was prepared to meet a violent death as part of his actions. He also photographed himself with a stolen piece of mail from Pelosi’s office.
Trump had egged on his supporters for weeks including in one tweet where he said, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th…Be there, will be wild!” California Representative Karen Bass, in response to an FBI call for tips on who incited the riot, sent the intelligence agency a photo of Mr. Trump. On the same day that tens of thousands descended onto Washington D.C. Trump’s supporters elsewhere gathered at state capitols around the country and disrupted operations, prompting some places to evacuate. A major scuffle broke out in downtown Los Angeles with dozens of Trump supporters and LAPD officers casually standing by intervening occasionally.
In fact, the Capitol Police in DC have come under fire over the actions of several officers seemingly enabling the Trump extremists. One video that has been widely shared shows the moment an officer pulled open barricades outside the Senate building allowing the mob to break through. Another video shows rioters inside the Capitol taking selfies with a police officer who calmly and stood next to them in a comradely fashion. Prominent leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement denounced the glaring double standards applied to the far-right violent extremists who were met by poorly armed bicycle police rather than the heavily militarized response to BLM activists. The Pentagon, which did not hesitate to deploy troops against left wing activists last year faced strong criticism for dragging its feet on Wednesday. Now, some on the far right are even going as far as claiming that the violent mob was really “Antifa” in disguise. A California Republican legislator even posted a tweet making the baseless claim before taking it down.
In other news, coronavirus infections and deaths continue to rage across the U.S. as a new 24-hour death toll record was broken on Wednesday. A total of 3,865 died from the virus in the U.S., which is the worst daily total of any time and any country. The US Department of Health and Human Services has now said that hospitals can begin vaccinating lower priority groups if it helped to hasten the pace of dispensing vaccine doses. Health Secretary Alex Azar said, “It would be much better to move quickly and end up vaccinating some lower-priority people than to let vaccines sit around while states try to micromanage this process.” He added, “Faster administration could save lives right now, which means we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
And finally, the Labor Department released its weekly unemployment figures on Thursday showing a largely unchanged number. About 787,000 Americans applied for jobless claims last week, a very slight fall from the week before. Jobless benefits of $300 a week have also begun to be sent out, as part of the last economic relief bill that Congress passed. The benefits are half the amount authorized last year.