Congress certified the election of President-elect Joe Biden just after 3:30 a.m. ET this morning, hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol Building, reports the New York Times. Lawmakers’ final electoral vote count was set to take place yesterday, but was interrupted by the shocking and unprecedented display of violence, which was stoked by President Trump’s claims of a stolen election. Prior to the rioters’ intrusion, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked his fellow Republican lawmakers’ efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, warning that “our democracy would enter a death spiral” if Congress succumbed to the “sweeping conspiracy theories” about voter fraud.
After Congress confirmed Biden’s win, Trump released a statement reaffirming his baseless claims of an invalid election, but promising a peaceful transition of power: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”
The president’s announcement followed news that White House cabinet members were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. David Priess and Jack Goldsmith explored the possibility of taking such an extraordinary measure to stop Trump from sowing further unrest in a piece on Lawfare, posted this morning. According to the Washington Post, top administration aides are also weighing resignation from their posts after yesterday’s events, fearful of what Trump might do in his remaining days in the Oval Office.
Washington, D.C. officials say that four people died, 14 police officers were injured and 70 people were arrested on charges related to the unrest in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, reports NPR. Officials confirmed that one woman was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer amid the breach of the Capitol and three others died after separate medical emergencies. Most of the arrests made were for violating the 6 p.m. curfew, while at least four people face charges related to unlicensed carry of firearms and possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device. Not all people who unlawfully entered the Capitol Building were taken into police custody, according to officials.
The FBI announced it is seeking information related to violent activity at the Capitol to identify individuals responsible for instigating violence. The FBI provided a unique link for witnesses to submit tips and digital media depicting unlawful actions by rioters. As Bryce Klehm, Alan Rozenshtein and Jacob Schulz explained today on Lawfare, yesterday’s Capitol Building mob likely violated many federal criminal laws, including a statute prohibiting seditious conspiracy—a serious charge that can be brought against two or more people accused of conspiring to forcibly overthrow the U.S. government.
Facebook has suspended Trump from its platform for the remaining duration of his term in office, and possibly indefinitely, writes BBC. Yesterday, Twitter temporarily locked the president’s account and warned that Trump would be suspended permanently if he continued to violate the platform’s Civic Integrity policy. The social media companies made their decisions after the president posted repeated false claims about election fraud during yesterday’s riots. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that the company judged the president’s posts would provoke further violence.
Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won both Senate runoff races in Georgia—victories that will hand the Democratic party control in the Senate, according to the Wall Street Journal. Politico profiled Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who will be the first Jewish Senate majority leader.
Biden has announced his picks for several Justice Department positions, including the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general, reports the Times. He also named Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general, Vanita Gupta as the No. 3 and Kristen Clarke as the assistant attorney general for civil rights.
It has been newly revealed that the Justice Department was also compromised by the SolarWinds breach, which U.S. officials attribute to hackers in the Russian foreign intelligence service, according to the Post.
U.S. officials are considering adding Chinese companies Alibaba and Tencent to a blacklist prohibiting American investment in companies over their alleged ties to Beijing’s military and security services, writes the Wall Street Journal. Alibaba and Tencent are China’s two most valuable publicly listed companies.
Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to impose new U.S. sanctions against individuals and organizations involved in Beijing’s mass arrest on Wednesday of 53 pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, according to France 24.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security, “The Peaceless Transition of Power” edition, featuring commentary on the latest national security news, including a discussion about the pro-Trump rally that breached and occupied the Capitol during Congress’s election certification yesterday.
Howell also shared an emergency edition episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes, Quinta Jurecic and David Priess sat down with Georgetown University’s Mary McCord and Daniel Byman to discuss yesterday’s insurrection at the Capitol.
And Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast explaining the rules for Congress’s count of electoral votes, how much latitude lawmakers have in the process and what role the vice president could play in the final stage of the presidential election.
Abby Lemert and Eleanor Runde analyzed the latest in U.S.-Chinese technology policy and national security news in this week’s edition of SinoTech.
Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared a mini-episode of the National Security Law Podcast that they recorded on New Year’s Eve.
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