Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Friday, January 8, 2021, 3:36 PM

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick died last night after sustaining critical injuries on Wednesday, when a pro-Trump mob forcibly invaded the Capitol Building as lawmakers were slated to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory, writes CNN. Prosecutors plan to open a federal murder investigation into Sicknick’s death. So far, five people, including Officer Sicknick, have lost their lives as a result of Wednesday’s insurrection.

More than 50 D.C. and Capitol Police officers were injured during the Trump supporters’ riot against the results of the 2020 election, according to NPR. Fifteen individuals currently face federal charges related to the breach of the Capitol and 40 local criminal cases have been filed against pro-Trump extremists who engaged in the violence. Lawfare’s Bryce Klehm and Rohini Kurup are compiling documents related to the arrests and will be updating this case tracker as files become available.

Facing bipartisan backlash for inciting Wednesday’s violence with his fraudulent claims of a stolen election, President Trump broke from his promise to continue contesting the electoral results and acknowledged his defeat in a video released yesterday evening, reports the Hill. His announcement followed growing calls for the president’s immediate removal from office—whether through impeachment or invocation of the 25th Amendment. The latter option would require a majority of Trump’s cabinet to declare the president unfit for office. Two White House cabinet members, Education Secretary Betsy Devos and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, resigned from their posts on Thursday, citing the havoc that occurred on Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer joined other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to voice their support for impeachment of the president, according to the New York Times. Lawmakers in support of the effort have stated that a fast-track process could begin as early as mid-next week.

Pelosi also announced that she spoke with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today “to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Sherwin, the acting attorney general for D.C., did not rule out the possibility that federal agents and prosecutors may investigate the incendiary statements made by President Trump on Wednesday before the rioting began, writes the Washington Post. Asked specifically about the president’s remarks, Sherman stated, “We are looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role, if the evidence fits the element of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”

U.S. officials say that they underestimated the threat posed by Trump supporters in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, despite knowledge of social media discussions planning an invasion of the Capitol, reports the Wall Street Journal. Officials claimed that while they took alerts about potential escalation seriously, they believed the online discourse about using force was common and often exaggerated among those on the far right. And in an effort to prevent a violent federal crackdown such as those which stoked outrage about police brutality last summer, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser had sent a letter to U.S. officials on Monday urging federal law enforcement to maintain a light and limited presence during the Jan. 6 protests.

Trump is said to have discussed pardoning himself in the final days of his presidency, according to the Times. While divided about whether the move would be lawful, legal scholars agree that a presidential self-pardon would set a dangerous new precedent by allowing American presidents to absolve themselves from facing punishment for crimes committed while in office.

The U.S. recorded its highest coronavirus figures to date yesterday, reporting 280,292 new COVID-19 cases and 4,112 deaths on Jan. 7, according to the Times. As of Thursday, the Trump administration has shipped out more than 21 million COVID-19 vaccine doses—yet only 5.9 million Americans have so far been vaccinated.

The incoming Biden administration plans to establish new senior positions on democracy and human rights, global health and cyber and emerging technology at the National Security Council, writes the Post. A senior adviser to the Biden transition also stated that the team expects to take a stronger position on countering China than past Democratic U.S. administrations.

The Wall Street Journal examined a new Chinese digital currency aimed at increasing state control in a society where digital payments using mobile apps are already widespread.

Israel will delay the next hearing for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due to increased coronavirus restrictions, reports the Hill. Netanyahu has been accused of fraud, bribery and breach of trust in three corruption cases and has now pleaded not guilty in each.

Dominion Voting Systems filed a lawsuit against former Trump campaign legal adviser Sidney Powell today for defamation over election conspiracies, writes Forbes. Dominion is seeking $1.3 billion in damages from Powell, in addition to a permanent injunction on further defamatory claims about the company.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Bryce Klehm and Rohini Kurup shared a new Lawfare database tracking legal documents related to the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.

Herb Lin argued that Wednesday’s Capitol siege has created potentially serious cyber risks for the U.S. government and legislators.

Bryce Klehm, Alan Rozenshtein and Jacob Schulz explained how members of the pro-Trump mob likely violated a slew of federal criminal laws on Wednesday.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared an episode of the National Security Law Podcast, titled “Day of Infamy,” about the legal issues at hand after Wednesday’s violence—including questions about the president’s removal.

David Priess and Jack Goldsmith evaluated legal routes for the immediate removal of President Trump, assessing both the impeachment procedure and the 25th Amendment.

Lester Munson shared an episode of Fault Lines discussing the mission of America’s Intelligence Community and exploring what role it should play in warning of the next pandemic.

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