Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Tuesday, January 19, 2021, 4:27 PM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the pro-Trump mob which stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was “fed lies” and “provoked by the president and other powerful people” in a speech on the Senate floor today, reports the Wall Street Journal. The House passed an article of impeachment for “incitement of insurrection” against President Trump last week, making Trump the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. Sen. McConnell has stated that he is considering whether to vote to convict Trump during the Senate’s impeachment trial, which will take place after Trump leaves office.

The FBI is investigating possible connections between extremist groups such as the Proud Boys, a far-right male chauvinist group, and the Jan. 6 riots in an effort to determine whether certain individuals helped to coordinate specific aspects of the Capitol breach in advance, according to the Washington Post. The Justice Department has charged more than 100 people in connection to the assault on Jan. 6. The most recent arrests indicate that federal investigators are devoting increased attention to members with connections to extremist groups in order to understand whether certain individuals were acting in a coordinated fashion, rather than out of opportunism, to instigate the violence.

Two U.S. National Guard members have been removed from the Army’s security mission in Washington, D.C., which is positioned to support President-elect Biden’s inauguration, due to the members’ alleged ties to right wing militias, writes Politico.

Trump is expected to issue a slew of more than 100 pardons and commutations today as his presidential term comes to a close, reports ABC news. The list is likely to include individuals with connections to the president, as well as dozens of people whose cases have been championed by criminal justice reform advocates.

The Senate held five nomination hearings in a rapid effort to confirm Biden’s national security Cabinet nominees by the end of Inauguration Day, according to the Washington Post. The hearings included Avril Haines for director of national intelligence, Alejandro Mayorkas for homeland security secretary, Antony Blinken for secretary of state, Janet Yellen for treasury secretary and Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin III for defense secretary. Austin, whose military service ended in 2016, requires a waiver from both the House of Representatives and the Senate before he can step into civilian leadership at the Pentagon. The candidates spoke about the threat posed by China, pledged to confront domestic extremism and fielded questions on immigration issues, among other topics.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that China has committed “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” through Beijing’s campaign of repression against Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang region, writes the Times. The statement, made on Pompeo’s last full day in office, is likely to increase tensions between Washington and Beijing just as the Biden administration takes over. “It’s an indication of serious concern, but that it’s coming literally less than 24 hours to go in this administration—so that in some ways undermines that message,” said Sophie Richardson, a specialist on China issues at Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. has surpassed 400,000 deaths due to the COVID-19 virus, reports the Journal. The death toll matches a loss of American life not seen from a single event since World War II, which resulted in the deaths of 405,399 Americans.

A caravan of about 2,000 migrants seeking to enter the US. has been blocked by Guatemalan officials in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, according to Politico.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Susan Hennessey and Rohini Kurup argued that the vote on whether to grant Gen. Austin a waiver to serve as the next secretary of defense, despite his retirement from the military in 2016, will have lasting consequences for civilian control of U.S. armed forces.

Jeff Kosseff shared his paper titled “Online Service Providers and the Fight Against Child Exploitation: The Fourth Amendment Agency Dilemma,” the latest publication in Lawfare’s Digital Social Contract Series.

Shamiran Mako assessed the Baghdad-Erbil Sinjar agreement, a joint security agreement with Iraq’s government and the Kurdistan Regional Government negotiating peace in disputed territories.

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