Headlines: January 8, 2021
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House Democrats have announced they plan to introduce Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump just about a year after he was acquitted by the Senate after his first impeachment. The stunning attack on the Capitol building on Wednesday by a mob of pro-Trump rioters has left Washington D.C. reeling and accusations flying as to who should be held responsible. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has written a letter to her Republicans colleagues demanding that Trump resign immediately or face Congressional action. Associated Press reports that Pelosi is “meeting with the House Democratic caucus Friday to consider impeachment proceedings against the president.” Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark of Massachusetts said that an impeachment vote could be held as early as next week. Pelosi has also reportedly spoken to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff about curbing Trump’s power to command the military and particularly nuclear strikes. After Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the invoking of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office immediately, Vice President Mike Pence, who would have to initiate such an action, immediately shot down the idea.
After a 12 hour suspension by Twitter, Trump on Thursday posted a video striking a different tone saying in a carefully scripted address that those who broke into the Capitol building would be held accountable. He also claimed contrary to evidence that his orders led to the National Guard clearing the building and for the first time acknowledged that he would leave the White House before January 20th. Even though Trump on Thursday attempted to distance himself from the rioters, just a day earlier Trump had posted a video embracing them. On Friday morning he asserted, “I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” Trump cabinet members have been fleeing his administration and on Thursday Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigned over the riot.
In addition to a 35-year old woman who was killed by Capitol police, and 3 others who died of “medical emergencies” outside the building, a law enforcement officer has now apparently died after being injured in the riot. His death is apparently being investigated as a possible homicide. Meanwhile when asked about it, the Justice Department did not rule out charging Trump for his role in instigating the violence. An inside source told reporters that over the past few weeks the President has been discussing the possibility of pardoning himself, which raises the question of premeditated criminal activity. In fact in the short period before rioters breached the Capitol barricades, the Trump family and close allies were seen in a newly publicized video that was taken by Trump’s son Donald Jr. watching the proceedings on television screens with glee and exclaiming about the need to “fight.” Don Jr. referred to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as “an actual fighter,” while his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle saying, “have the courage to do the right thing, fight!”.
Extensive handwringing and hindsight has focused on the multiple security failures that led to the massive and violent breach of the nation’s Capitol building that houses the Senate and House Chambers. The Capitol has its own police force, separate from the D.C. police and federal officers. In the wake of Wednesday’s riot, the head of the Capitol police Chief Steven Sund has announced his resignation. Chief Sund claims he thought the gathering was simply a demonstration even though the President and his supporters had for weeks openly discussed a gathering that by all indications was expected to result in violence. According to Associated Press days before the attack, “the Pentagon asked the U.S. Capitol Police if it needed National Guard manpower. And as the mob descended on the building Wednesday, Justice Department leaders reached out to offer up FBI agents. The police turned them down both times, according to a Defense official and two people familiar with the matter.”
In addition to turning down help in advance, questions abound as to why fewer than 60 people were arrested on the day the riot took place. U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said, “Hundreds of people flooded the Capitol and were not [handcuffed] by police…I don’t want to be Monday morning quarterbacking to say why they didn’t do it, but it made our job more difficult.” He added, “I can’t explain why they weren’t” arrested. According to the Washington Post, “a large amount of government paperwork along with electronic devices and other items were stolen from congressional offices during the disturbance, which ‘could have national security implications.’” At least 55 people are now facing federal charges and prosecutors are vowing more will be charged as extensive video and photographic evidence on social media can help identify the mask-refusing mob. In fact internet sleuths have already begun an independent crowd-sourced effort to identify and out rioters and attendees of Trump’s rally, leading to several being fired from their jobs. Federal law enforcement also found pipe bombs at the locations of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee headquarters and are now offering a $50,000 reward for more information.
In other news, the United States broke records two days in a row for Covid-related deaths in a 24-hour period. On Thursday there were a whopping 4,111 deaths from the virus nationwide. In Los Angeles which has become one of the new epicenters of the disease, Mayor Eric Garcetti said that all the virus-deaths in the city in a single day rivalled homicide numbers over a year. On the vaccine front, the state of California has approved a second priority group for vaccinations to prevent existing doses in storage from going to waste. According to the LA Times, “That group includes individuals who work in education, child care, emergency services, food and agriculture, as well as those 75 and older.” Two bright spots did emerge on Friday as the results of a new study confirm that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that has been approved in the U.S. does indeed protect against the far more transmissible variant of the disease that has been recently identified. And, about 90% of the survivors of the disease show a “robust” immunity to it remaining in their bodies 8 months after infection.
The latest jobs report from the month of December is out and the news looks grim. The economy lost about 140,000 jobs during a month that is typically buoyed by holiday consumer spending. The official unemployment rate – which is widely accepted as a gross underestimate – is now at about 6.7%. The news means that President Donald Trump will leave office with one of the highest levels of unemployment in decades.
And finally, grim new data from a European climate institute has found that the decade that just ended was the hottest on record. The study also concluded that the last year, 2020, was tied with 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded.