Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Wake-Up Confidential: Pence On Hot Seat

: The Democratic-led House passed a resolution last night  almost entirely along party lines urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump with a vote by the Cabinet in the wake of the attack on the Capitol that he's been accused of inciting. However, Pence had already said earlier in the day that he wouldn't do it in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, stating that it's, quote, time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden."

So the House will today move on to begin impeachment of Trump on a single charge of "incitement to insurrection," and as of last night, five Republican lawmakers said they would vote in favor of it, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House GOP leader. She said in a statement, "The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution." But Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump's fiercest allies, said, quote, "cancel culture" was trying to cancel the president. It's unknown if enough Republicans would join with Democrats in the Senate for the two-thirds needed to convict, but Axios reported last night that there's a, quote, "better than 50-50 chance" that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would vote to convict.

Trump Says Pre-Capitol Attack Speech 'Totally Appropriate'

President Trump appeared in public yesterday for the first time since the attack on Capitol, traveling to the city of Alamo, Texas, near the border to highlight what's been built of the border wall and his illegal immigration policies. Trump rejected any responsibility for the Capitol assault, saying that his speech at the rally before it happened in which he urged his supporters to fight and to march to the Capitol was, quote, "totally appropriate." While speaking in Texas, Trump also dismissed the 25th Amendment threat, calling it "zero risk" to him, while adding it, quote, "will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration." He also slammed the push to impeach him a second time, stating, "It’s causing tremendous anger and division and pain far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the USA, especially at this very tender time."

FBI Says It Warned of Potential for Violence

In a briefing by FBI and Justice Department officials yesterday, the FBI said it warned law enforcement agencies ahead of last week’s attack on the Capitol about the potential for extremist-driven violence, contradicting earlier statements that they were caught off guard. Justice Department officials said they are mounting an aggressive efforts to find the rioters and bring them to justice. Most of the charges brought against some 70 people so far have been misdemeanors, but the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said they are looking at bringing sedition and conspiracy charges against some of the rioters, stating, "This is only the beginning." Officials said they were using some of the same techniques they use in international counterterrorism investigations.

Military Leaders Remind Servicemembers Free Speech Doesn't Give Right to Commit Violence

Amid worries about further violence in the days leading up to Inauguration Day and on the day itself, a memo released yesterday that was signed by all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reminded members of the military that the right to free speech doesn't give the right to commit violence. It also stated that Joe Biden was duly elected and will be the next commander in chief once he's sworn in on January 20th. The top military leaders further called the attack on the Capitol an act of sedition and insurrection, and stated, "As service members, we must embody the values and ideals of the nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law." It's known that some military veterans took part in the attack on the Capitol, but the extent of any involvement by active-duty members hasn't been established.

Ocasio-Cortez Said Thought She was 'Going to Die' in Attack

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram Live last night that she had a, quote, "very close encounter" during the attack on the Capitol and thought she was "going to die." She didn't give many details, saying she wasn't certain if should could because of security issues. But called what happened "traumatizing," saying, "I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive." 

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. voters say our democracy is under threat in the wake of the attack on the Capitol, according to a poll out Monday by Quinnipiac University. Almost identical numbers of Republicans and Democrats said they feel that way, 77 percent and 76 percent respectively, with a slightly lower 70 percent of independents agreeing. Additionally, by a 4 to 1 margin, 81 percent to 12 percent, voters agreed that extremism is a big problem in the U.S. Asked if they believed the attack on the Capitol was an attempted coup, 47 percent said yes, 43 percent said no, and 10 percent were unsure

➤HHS SECRETARY ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO SPEEDUP CORONAVIRUS VACCINATIONS: Amid vaccinating Americans against the coronavirus going slower than had been hoped, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced a series of changes yesterday (January 12th) to increase supply, extend eligibility for seniors, and establish more vaccination sites. In one shift, the government will now base each state’s allocation of vaccines partly on how successful states have been in administering those already given to them, instead of on population. He also said the government will stop holding back the required second doses of the vaccines, saying they believe there will be enough supply for people when their second doses are needed, and is urging states to immediately start vaccinating groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older and younger people with certain health problems. Further, states had been given permission to designate more places where people can get their shots.

Anyone Flying to U.S. Will Have to Show Negative Covid Test

Health officials announced yesterday that under a new requirement being put into place in two weeks, anyone flying to the U.S. will have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test. The move is an expansion of a similar requirement announced last month only for people coming from the U.K., where a more infectious mutation of the virus was discovered and is driving a big surge of infections there. The order applies both to U.S. citizens and foreign travelers. 

➤FEDERAL GOV'T. EXECUTES FIRST WOMAN SINCE 1953: A 52-year-old woman was executed by lethal injection early this morning at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, the first female federal inmate put to death since 1953. Lisa Montgomery had been convicted of strangling a pregnant woman to death in Missouri in 2004 and cutting the baby out of her womb. The baby survived. The Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to move forward after an appeals court had granted a stay of execution on Tuesday. That stay had come after another appeals court lifted an Indiana judge's last-minute ruling saying Montgomery was likely mentally ill and couldn't understand that she would be executed. Her attorney, Kelley Henry, has argued, "Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage and severe mental illness that was exacerbated by the lifetime of sexual torture she suffered at the hands of caretakers." Montgomery is the 11th federal prisoner to be executed since last July, when President Trump resumed federal executions after 17 years.

➤PACKER Q-B AARON RODGERS TO GUEST HOST 'JEOPARDY': Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers revealed the surprise news yesterday that he's going to be a Jeopardy! guest host during the offseason. Rodgers, whose team is currently readying for their divisional playoff game this weekend, said, "The show has been so special to me over the years. It’s been a staple at my house . . . for the last 16 years -- six o’clock, watching Alex and trying to get as many questions as I can." Rodgers was a winning contestant on Celebrity Jeopardy! in 2015, and said yesterday that it had been a "dream come true." In the wake of longtime host Alex Trebek dying from pancreatic cancer in November, Jeopardy! is using a series of interim hosts, starting this week with record-holding former contestant Ken Jennings. Jeopardy! declined to comment, saying no announcements had been made about future guest hosts. Rodgers said, "I may have jumped the gun a little bit, so I apologize to Jeopardy! if they wanted to announce it. . . . It kind of just went down the last couple of days, us figuring it out. It is very exciting."

🏒NHL SEASON GETS UNDERWAY TODAY: The NHL season gets underway today, just three-and-a-half months after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup after a season that was suspended by months because of the coronavirus. With the pandemic still raging, the league announced on the eve of the season opening that 27 players had tested positive, 17 of them on the Dallas Stars. Each team is scheduled to play a reduced 56 all divisional games during the regular season. The NHL realigned its teams to have an all-Canadian division to avoid border crossing problems due to the pandemic.

🏀AS GAME POSTPONEMENTS CONTINUE, NBA ADDS MORE RULES: As games continue to be postponed in the NBA because of issues related the coronavirus, either positive tests or contact tracing reducing the number of players available below the team minimum, the NBA and the Players Association added more rules yesterday to try to keep the season on track. For at least the next two weeks, players and team staff will have to stay at their homes when they are in their home markets, and are banned from leaving their hotels when they are on the road, with exceptions mainly for practices and games. Pregame meetings in locker rooms can now no longer be more then 10 minutes, and players have been told to limit on-court interactions with other players to elbow or fist bumps. Last night's game between Boston and Chicago was postponed, and the scheduled games today between Utah and Washington and between Orlando and Boston have also been called off.

🏌MASTERS TO HAVE LIMITED NUMBER OF SPECTATORS: The chairman of Augusta National said yesterday that they plan to allow a limited number of spectators for the Masters, which is being played from April 8th to 11th, as long as it can be done safely amid the pandemic. The Masters was postponed last year and eventually played in mid-November without any spectators, the first time the golf major had been played in the fall since it began in 1934.

🏒BRUINS RETIRING JERSEY OF O'REE, WHO BROKE NHL'S COLOR LINE: The Boston Bruins announced yesterday that it will retire the Number 22 jersey of Willie O'Ree, who broke the NHL's color line in 1958. The ceremony will take place before the Bruins' game on February 18th against the New Jersey Devils. O'Ree, who's now 85, became the NHL's first black player with Boston, and played just two NHL seasons, both with the Bruins. O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2018 as part of the "Builder" category, which honors those who have made significant contributions to the sport.

🏊U.S. OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL-WINNING SWIMMER KELLER APPARENTLY AMONG CAPITOL RIOTERS: Klete Keller, who won two Olympic gold medals for the U.S. as a swimmer, was apparently among the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol last week. Video footage appears to show the 38-year-old, who is wearing a Team USA jacket, during the riot. The New York Times reported that several former teammates and coaches said they recognized him. Keller won gold in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics anchoring the four-man team that included Michael Phelps in the 4x200 freestyle. He had most recently worked as a real estate agent in Colorado Springs. Since the video went viral, Keller has deleted all of his social media.

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