News Headlines 1/20/21

BIDEN INAUGURATED TODAY: President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated at 12 noon today (January 20th), bringing Donald Trump‘s presidency to a close. His day will begin with a morning church service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their spouses, and, at his invitation, by the top four congressional leaders of both parties. He will sworn in at the west front of the U.S. Capitol, but without cheering supporters looking on from the National Mall because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, inaugural organizers installed 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the Mall, representing the Americans who couldn’t be there.

After their swearing-in Biden, Harris and their spouses will travel to Arlington National Cemetery along with former Presidents Bill ClintonGeorge W. Bush and Barack Obama and their spouses to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There won’t be a traditional inaugural parade because of the pandemic. Instead, there will be a virtual, livestreamed parade with events from around the country, as Biden and Harris get a presidential escort to the White House that will include the University of Delaware Drumline and the Howard University Drumline from Biden and Harris’ alma maters, and representatives of every branch of the military, including the U.S. Army Band, a Joint Service Honor Guard, and the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard and Fife and Drum Corps. There also won’t be any traditional inaugural balls in the evening because of the pandemic. Instead, a televised, hour-long show calling Celebrating America will air, during which both Biden and Harris will speak.

Memorial for Coronavirus Victims:

On the eve of his inauguration, Trump and Harris led a sunset ceremony yesterday in front of the Lincoln Memorial in honor of the 400,000 Americans who have been killed by the coronavirus. Speaking briefly, Biden said, “To heal we must remember.” Then as four hundred lights representing those lost to the virus lit up behind him around the Reflecting Pool, Biden said, “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness . . . and remember all who we lost.” Harris spoke about collective mourning and memory, saying, “For many months we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.”

Biden: [“To heal, we must remember that it’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It is important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today.”] SOUNDCUE (:17 OC . . . we’re here today.)

Trump Video and Departure:

The White House released a farewell video from Trump yesterday on his last full day in office. In it, he touted his administration’s accomplishments, saying, “I did not seek the path that would get the least criticism. I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices because that’s what you elected me to do.” Trump extended “best wishes” and “luck” to the incoming administration. He stated, “This week we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous.” However, he didn’t mention Biden’s name. Trump also indicated he doesn’t plan to fade away, saying, “I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning.’

Breaking with more than 150 years of tradition, Trump won’t be present for his successor’s inauguration. Instead, he will leave the White House in the morning and fly to his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida. He’ll be leaving from Joint Base Andrews, where a military-style ceremony requested by Trump will be held at 8 a.m.

Trump: [” We inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes and we also want them to have luck, a very important word.”] SOUNDCUE (:17 OC . . . very important word.)

[” Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning.”] SOUNDCUE (:11 OC . . . only just beginning.)

TRUMP GRANTS CLEMENCY TO 143, INCLUDING BANNON PARDON : President Trump granted clemency to 143 people in the final hours of his presidency early this morning (January 20th), 73 pardons and 70 commutations, including a pardon for Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist. Not on the list were pardons for Trump himself, his family members, or his attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Bannon’s pardon ends a prosecution that was still months away from trial in which he was charged with defrauding thousands of investors who believed their money would be used to help build Trump’s border wall. Other allies of Trump and his family given pardons included Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy, who pled guilty in a secret lobbying campaign to influence the administration for a foreign billionaire in exchange for millions of dollars, and former New York Observer editor Ken Kurson, a friend of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who was charged with cyberstalking three people and harassing two others during his divorce.

Others granted clemency included: rappers Lil Wayne, on a gun possession charge, and Kodak Black, also on a weapons charge; conservative operative Paul Erickson on wire fraud and money laundering charges; former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, convicted of racketeering, extortion and filing false tax returns; and developer and venture capitalist Bob Zangrillo, who was charged in the college admission scandal. Beyond these high-profile names, most of the pardons and commutations were given to people whose cases had been pushed by criminal justice reform advocates. Trump had previously pardoned other associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner.

U.S. PASSES 400,000 CORONAVIRUS DEATHS: The U.S. passed 400,000 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday (January 19th), nearly equal to the number of Americans who die each year from strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia combined, according to AP, which notes the pace of deaths is on track to surpass the number of Americans killed in World War Two by the end of the week. The U.S. accounts for nearly 20 percent of worldwide deaths from the virus, far more than any other country.

MCCONNELL CONTENDS TRUMP ‘PROVOKED’ CAPITOL ATTACK: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said as the Senate reconvened yesterday (January 19th) for the first time since certifying President-elect Joe Biden‘s election win in the hours after the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol that the assault was, quote, “provoked” by President Trump and others who wanted to overturn the election results. McConnell said of those who mounted the attack, “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.” The House impeached Trump last week, accusing him of inciting insurrection for the attack. McConnell has not said how he will vote when the Senate holds the trial, but some Senate Republicans have challenged the legal ability to convict a president after they’ve left office.

McConnell: [“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like.”] SOUNDCUE (:16 OC . . . did not like.)

ARMY SOLDIER ARRESTED IN ALLEGED PLOT TO BLOW UP 9/11 MEMORIAL, OTHER LANDMARKS: A U.S. Army private was arrested Tuesday (January 19th) on terrorism charges after he allegedly spoke online about plots to blow up the 9/11 Memorial in New York as well as other landmarks, and attack U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. Twenty-year-old Cole James Bridges believed he was communicating online with the Islamic State (ISIS) group about the plots, but it was a member of the FBI. He reportedly expressed frustration with the military and said he wanted to help ISIS. He’s being held of charges of attempted material support of a terrorist organization and attempted murder of a military member. Bridges was arrested in Georgia, where he was with the Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart.