Countdown to Biden presidency

2021-01-20T11:00:00

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Rebuilding begins

After four years of chaos, corruption, lies, and ultimately an armed insurrection, people across the United States and around the world are counting down the hours and minutes until the powers of the US Presidency pass to Joseph R. Biden, Jr., at 12:00 noon EST on January 20, 2021.

His task will be to build back better from the COVID crisis and the abuses of the Trump era, and his administration will immediately act against four major crises:

FBI vetting National Guard over concerns of “insider attack”

The FBI is reported to be vetting all 25,000 National Guard personnel serving in Washington, DC, due to concerns of an “insider attack” on the Inauguration. These are the wages of professional political disinformation. Every political actor inside or outside of government who has helped Trump to spread his big lie about the election, or other baseless lies about “communists”—lies which have been used to radicalize people to commit acts of terror and intimidation—bears responsibility for this dangerous situation.

Part of the concern stems from apparent participation of people with military training in the attack on the US Capitol. Beyond that, one defense official told the Washington Post:

the Pentagon received 143 notifications of extremism-related probes last year from the FBI, 68 of which were related to suspected domestic extremism among current and former service members — a category that includes white nationalism, anti-fascist, antiabortion and anti-government beliefs. Most of the cases were related to veterans, the official said.

After President Trump declined to send aid to the Capitol, for at least 2 hours, there is concern that the DC National Guard answers to the President, rather than to the governor of a state. It is unclear at this writing precisely how decision-making about National Guard responsiveness will be handled, in the hours leading up to the formal handover of the powers of the Presidency.

Courage in the face of tyranny puts Putin regime on the defensive

The return of Alexei Navalny to Russia, after operatives apparently working for Vladimir Putin poisoned him with a military-grade neurotoxin, is an act of courage beyond anything Russia’s president has ever shown. Navalny is the leader of Russia’s leading anti-corruption effort, so Putin’s cruel opposition to his work speaks volumes about the corrupt and unaccountable nature of his regime.

If Putin had anything like the courage, principle, or patriotism Navalny has shown, he would immediately release him, and all who support him, and he would call for open elections to be monitored by independent foreign election observers, under an absolute prohibition on using any powers of the state to assist his own campaign.

The half-baked charges Putin’s regime uses to keep its critics from mounting strong national campaigns is evidence of the regime’s unfitness to govern, and of its structural frailty. That the regime also murders those it cannot sideline or silence is proof it operates outside any justifiable legal mandate and works actively against—not for—the interests of the Russian people.

Navalny arrested upon return to Russia

Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny—a popular political opponent of Vladimir Putin’s regime—returned to Russia today, months after he was poisoned in an attempted assassination. Navalny narrowly escaped assassination after Russian operatives lined his underwear with the lethal nerve agent Novichok.

When he fell ill, his plane landed, he was evacuated to hospital, and then sent on to Germany for treatment. Investigators in Germany determined he was poisoned with Novichok, a banned Russian nerve agent.

Today, Navalny returned to his Russia. His plane was diverted when its intended destination airport was abruptly closed to incoming air traffic. Upon arrival, he was reportedly taken into custody.

Axios reports:

Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Amnesty International is calling for his immediate release, as well as the release of any who went to greet him upon his return. Amnesty’s Moscow director is saying:

Navalny’s arrest is further evidence that Russian authorities are seeking to silence him. His detention only highlights the need to investigate his allegations that he was poisoned by state agents acting on orders from the highest levels.

International outcry over the attempted assassination of Mr. Navalny and the regime’s persecution of his Anti-Corruption campaign has been widespread. World leaders have denounced the poisoning and demanded a full and transparent investigation from Russian authorities, which has not materialized.

Document seen at White House suggests Trump discussed 2nd coup attempt

Two days after he was impeached for Incitement of Insurrection—as we learn federal investigators believe there is evidence of a plot to assassinate elected officials during that insurrection—a photograph captured by a Washington Post reporter outside the White House suggests Donald Trump today discussed a 2nd coup attempt.

The photograph was shared on Twitter by a Washington Post photographer:

The zoomed-in version makes it possible to clearly see the words “Insurrection Act now” and “martial law if necessary”. The document also appears to suggest the placement of certain individuals in key positions of importance to national security, and to call for a disinformation campaign to maintain the “big lie” that radicalized Trump followers to insurrection.

The crime of seditious conspiracy carries a prison term of up to 20 years.

This comes as 20,000 National Guard soldiers have taken up posts around Washington, DC, to secure the Capitol, the White House, and other halls of government against allegedly ongoing terrorist plots.


UPDATE—Sunday, Jan 17, 2021

Acting Secretary of Defense orders NSA to install Trump loyalist as agency’s top lawyer

According to Politico:

A former Republican operative and Trump loyalist will be installed as the NSA’s top lawyer just days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the agency said in a statement on Sunday.

The announcement came one day after it was reported that acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller had ordered the NSA’s director, Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, to install Michael Ellis in the position of the agency’s general counsel.

The troubling document seen in the hands of My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, which seemed to urge Trump to impose “martial law” also mentioned installing loyalists at key agencies and referenced “Fort Mead”. (The NSA is headquartered at Fort Meade.)

Give his background as a political operative, it is unclear whether Mr. Ellis will be able to remain in this position, which according to federal regulations should have been filled on an interim basis by a career professional from the agency.

Federal Prosecutors say Attackers Planned Assassinations

Among the most horrific details of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol were the chants and pronouncements from the attackers that they planned to assassinate the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and other elected officials. Now, federal prosecutors say Jacob Anthony Chansley is an ongoing threat and cite evidence the plan was “to capture and assassinate elected officials.”

In their filing, prosecutors wrote:

Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States Government… they were there to take out several United States congressmen.

Katelyn Polantz is reporting today for CNN that:

Prosecutors describe those who took over the Capitol as “insurrectionists” and offer new details about Chansley’s role in the violent siege last week, including that after standing at the dais where Vice President Mike Pence had stood that morning, Chansley wrote a note saying “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

This latest filing by prosecutors signals the deepening gravity of the charges facing insurrectionists and their network of sympathizers and supporters—including, potentially, those who funded their planning, travel, and events in Washington, DC. The news comes amid emerging evidence one heavily armed insurrectionist hoped to coordinate with at least one Senator.

Majority of Americans want Trump criminally charged

A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News finds a majority of Americans want Donald Trump to face criminal charges for instigating the attack on the US Capitol. Some important additional details from the poll:

  • 9 in 10 Americans oppose the “storming of the Capitol” with 80% “strongly” opposing it.
  • 20% of Republicans place “a great deal” or “a good amount” of blame on Trump for the insurrection.
  • Fully 42% of Republicans view him as at least partly to blame.
  • 2/3 of all Americans believe Trump behaved irresponsibly by lying about the election results.

The 42% of Republicans who place some blame on Trump should also be read in context: While there is no evidence of election fraud, and most Americans recognize Trump has spread dangerous lies, more than half of Republicans still believe those lies. 66% of Republicans, according to this poll, say they believe there is significant evidence of widespread fraud.

Election officials in all states, every state and federal court asked to examine the question, and Trump’s own Attorney General all confirm there is no evidence of widespread fraud. Cyber security officials also said the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history”.

Parsing the numbers a bit, this poll suggest that at least 1/5 Republicans who believe there is election fraud also blame Trump, at least partly, for the attack on the Capitol. Given that more than 60 lawsuits have failed for lacking evidence of fraud, and all state-level audits and recounts have found the results were accurate, the number of Republicans who hold Trump accountable is likely understated in these results.

The impeachment trial in the Senate will take place with more than half the country viewing Trump as criminally liable, and nearly half of Republicans viewing Trump as at least partly responsible.

Attack on the Capitol was coordinated paramilitary strike

In a stunning, detailed account of police officers’ desperate struggle to protect the Capitol, Peter Hermann reports in the Washington Post:

many appeared to be on a mission, and they launched what he and the police chief described as a coordinated assault.

“Everything they did was in a military fashion,” Glover said, saying he witnessed rioters apparently using hand signs and waving flags to signal positions, and using what he described as “military formations.” They took high positions and talked over wireless communications.

Authorities would later learn that some former members of the military and off-duty police officers from across the country were in the pro-Trump crowd. Glover called it disturbing that off-duty police “would knowingly and intentionally come to the United States Capitol and engage in this riotous and criminal behavior against their brothers and sisters in uniform, who are upholding their oaths of office.”

Hermann’s report draws on direct testimony from law enforcement officers who risked their lives to keep thousands of insurrectionists from breaching the Capitol. It opens with this harrowing account:

Blinded by smoke and choking on gas and bear spray, stripped of his radio and badge, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone and his battered colleagues fought to push back rioters trying to force their way into an entrance to the U.S. Capitol.

8 days on from the insurrection, it is now public knowledge that dozens of people on a domestic terrorist watch list were part of the attack on the Capitol, also thanks to reporting by the Washington Post.

Time Capsule: Trump seen as “corrupt… ignorant… ineffective &… evil”

In an op-ed in Ha’aretz, David Rothkopf writes, the day after Donald Trump was impeached for Incitement of Insurrection:

Donald Trump is undoubtedly America’s worst president, the only president to be impeached twice, the only person to lead a coup against the United States government, the president who presided over and was personally responsible for the greatest one year loss of life in American history, the only president since Herbert Hoover to actually leave office with fewer people employed than when he was sworn in, the only world leader to have been summarily banned from virtually all major social media sites because his words were so inflammatory, the most prolific liar if not conspiracy theorist in U.S. political history (which is saying something), a man who managed to be at once the most corrupt, the most odious, the most ignorant, the most ineffective and the most evil political leader in U.S. history.

More than 90,000 Americans could die of Covid-19 in next three weeks, CDC forecast shows

By Christina Maxouris, for CNN

More than 38,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 in the first two weeks of the new year. 

Another 92,000 are projected to die from the virus over roughly the next three weeks, according to an ensemble forecast published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the full story here.

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