News Headlines 1/18/21

REPORT: FBI VETTING NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS IN D.C. DUE TO WORRIES ABOUT INSIDER ATTACK: The FBI is vetting all of the 25,000 National Guard troops being deployed in Washington, D.C., for President-elect Joe Biden‘s inauguration on Wednesday because defense officials are worried about a potential insider attack or other threat from them, the Associated Press reported Sunday (January 17th). Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told AP that although they are conscious of the potential threat in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, they have so far not seen evidence of any threats from within the ranks of the servicemembers, and the vetting hasn’t turned up any issues. The report cited officials as saying the vetting process began as the first Guardsmen began deploying to Washington more than a week ago, and that it is set to be done by Inauguration Day.

ONLY SMALL PROTESTS AT STATE CAPITOL BUILDINGS: Despite worries and online chatter about armed protests at state Capitol buildings across the country Sunday (January 17th) in the wake of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, only small groups of right-wing protesters turned out in some of the states, some of them armed with rifles, and none showed up at others. Statehouses across the country have significantly increased security because of the warnings from the FBI, and the protesters at the Capitols were outnumbered by police and National Guard troops. There were no reports of any violence. States will remain alert, however, with the threat continuing at least through President-elect Joe Biden‘s inauguration on Wednesday.

CNN: TRUMP TO ISSUE AROUND 100 PARDONS, BUT NOT FOR HIMSELF: President Trump is readying to issue around another 100 pardons and commutations Tuesday, his last full day in office, CNN reported Sunday (January 17th). Their number will reportedly include white collar criminals and high-profile rappers, along with ones more criminal justice reform-aligned. They are also expected to include controversial pardons, but as of now, according to CNN, Trump is not expected to pardon himself. The idea that presidents can pardon themselves is a constitutionally dubious one, with most experts believing they can’t. Additionally, Trump’s advisers have encouraged him not to do it in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol because it would look like he was guilty of something, the report cited a source as saying.

INCOMING CDC DIRECTOR EXPECTS 500,000 CORONAVIRUS DEATH IN U.S. BY MID-FEBRUARY: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who will be the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in President-elect Joe Biden‘s administration, said on CBS’ Face the Nation yesterday (January 17th) that she expects there will be 500,000 deaths caused by the coronavirus in the U.S. by the middle of February. As of this morning, there had been just under 400,000 deaths — 397,600 — according to Johns Hopkins University’s data, so she’s forecasting another 100,000 deaths in one month. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb predicted on the same show that the mutated variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the U.K. that is more contagious will be the dominant strain in the U.S. by March. Gottlieb said that it’s currently about 0.5 percent of all infections across the country, but that will likely double each week, saying, “[I]n about five weeks, this is going to start to take over.” Although the variant is more contagious, it doesn’t appear to be any more deadly.

RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WHO SURVIVED NERVE AGENT POISONING ARRESTED AFTER ARRIVING IN MOSCOW: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested Sunday (January 17th) after he landed at an airport in Moscow. He was returning to Russia from Germany, where he’d been recovering for five months after a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent that he charges the Russian government was behind. His detention had been expected, since Russian officials claim he violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. “strongly condemns” Navalny’s arrest, calling it “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities.” Jake Sullivan, who President-elect Joe Biden has chosen to be his national security adviser, tweeted, “Mr. Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable.”