Vice President Mike Pence will attend the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, even as President Donald Trump intends to skip it.
The decision came a day after Trump announced he would decline to watch his successor sworn-in, breaking with more than 150 years of tradition. A source familiar with the decision speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed Pence’s expected attendance.
Pence is facing considerable blowback from some Trump supporters – and significant praise from others – for defying the president’s demand that he somehow reject the results of the election as Congress met Wednesday to count Electoral College votes and formalized Biden’s win. Despite Trump’s protestations, Pence noted he had no power to reject the votes.
Biden dismissed Trump’s decision not to attend the inauguration, telling reporters on Friday that it was “one of the few things he and I ever agreed on.” But of Pence, Biden said that he was “welcome to come” and that he’d “be honored to have him there.”
Trump will be the first sitting president to decline to attend an inauguration of his successor since 1869, when President Andrew Johnson stayed in the White House while Ulysses S. Grant was sworn in as the 18th president.
– John Fritze
‘I don’t care if it’s one hour left, let’s impeach him,’ Clyburn says of Trump
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said Saturday that as long as President Donald Trump is in office, he should be impeached over the riot in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
“I don’t care if it’s one hour left, let’s impeach him,” Clyburn said in an interview with USA TODAY. Trump has 11 days left in office before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
House Democrats said Saturday that they will introduce an article of impeachment Monday, charging Trump with inciting insurrection at the Capitol, for the riot Wednesday that caused five people to die, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said in a letter that the Senate couldn’t hold a trial before Trump’s term ends on Jan. 20 at noon.
“I don’t think that the House should predicate what it’s doing based upon whether or not there’s a possibility of a conviction,’’ he said. “Has he committed impeachable offenses? Yes, he has.”
Clyburn pointed to the Georgia telephone call where Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to reverse his loss to Biden in Georgia and Trump’s Wednesday speech, saying there should be two articles of impeachment for each offense.
He said it’s like saying I saw this guy shoot someone, but I’m not going to indict him because I don’t think he can get convicted. “We heard this man … ,” he said, referring to Trump’s taped call.
Clyburn said it will be up to senators to act.
“If they don’t convict him, that’s on them, but I think it would be on us if we did not impeach him.”
— Rebecca Morin and Deborah Barfield Berry
Trump to visit U.S.-Mexico border to laud border wall
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is expected to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday to highlight his administration’s work on the border wall, the White House said Saturday.
Trump will travel to the town of Alamo, Texas. He will mark the completion of 400 miles of border wall and his administration’s efforts to reform what the White House described as the nation’s broken immigration system.
Trump’s campaign for the presidency in 2016 focused extensively on the president’s desire to construct a border wall. He also promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, but it has been paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
While most of the wall went up in areas that had smaller barriers, the government has built hundreds of miles of fencing as high as 30 feet in a short amount of time – most of it this year.
The visit will likely be the president’s first public appearance since he addressed supporters on Wednesday, riling up a crowd that later staged a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol. He is anxious to highlight accomplishments as his presidency winds down.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the House are pushing for an impeachment vote next week and are planning to formally introduce their proposal Monday with a vote possible by Wednesday.
– Associated Press
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said Saturday that President Donald Trump “committed impeachable offenses.”
“I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” Toomey said during an interview on Fox News.
In regards to the articles of impeachment, Toomey shared concerns about “whether the House would completely politicize something.”
“But I don’t know what is going to land on the Senate floor – if anything,” he added.
Toomey, who opposed efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, has previously said he will not seek re-election in 2022.
An article of impeachment will be introduced Monday, House Democrats said Saturday. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said in a letter that the Senate couldn’t hold a trial before Trump’s term ends on Jan. 20 at noon.
— Rebecca Morin
Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky criticized President Donald Trump and blamed him for inciting the riot on Jan. 6 that led to the seize of the Capitol.
“I think Trump is at fault here,” Massie told The Dispatch. “I watched almost all of his speech. I felt like it was inevitable.”
The Kentucky representative also said that Trump, among others, misled his supporters.
“People did mislead the folks that came here, and Trump was among them,” Massie said. “He insinuated that states wanted their electors thrown out, which was not true. I kept a spreadsheet of every document every state produced, and in no case did a majority of any legislature even put their name on the letter.”
Massie, who was publicly against the efforts to contest the 2020 election results, also said that some of his colleagues believed Trump’s claims while others did not but feared the ramifications of not backing the president.
“There were a whole host of my colleagues who were just frankly terrified of the base that Trump had misled. It was much easier to go along than to explain to them that Trump was misleading them,” Massie said.
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
House Democrats said Saturday they will introduce an article of impeachment on Monday to charge President Donald Trump for a second time before the end of his term Jan. 20, although the prospects for a Senate trial or conviction are unclear.
Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland are members of the Judiciary Committee coordinating the effort. The three were also leaders of Trump’s previous impeachment in late 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Cicilline drafted the latest article charging Trump with inciting insurrection at the Capitol, for the riot Wednesday. The effort has 180 co-sponsors in a chamber where 218 votes could approve an article of impeachment.
The article charges Trump with foreseeably encouraging violence at the Capitol, where rioters rampaged through the building, a rioter was shot to death, and a police officer died from wounds from the melee. The article charged that Trump repeatedly sought to decertify the election of President-elect Joe Biden, whose Electoral College victory was confirmed early Thursday after the riot.
The article said if Trump “acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has circulated a letter showing that the Senate couldn’t possibly hold a trial before Trump’s term ends at noon Jan. 20.
The Senate will meet next in pro forma session on Jan. 19. Even if the chamber received an article of impeachment by then, the next step it could take under its rules would be at 1 p.m. Jan. 20, according to McConnell’s memo.
But advocates of impeachment have argued it is worth pursuing because a conviction could prevent Trump from ever holding federal office again. The House article suggests that Trump’s punishment warrants “removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.” But the Senate would decide what punishment to mete out only after at least a two-thirds majority voted to convict Trump.
The Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump of the previous impeachment in February 2019 when only one Republican – Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah – voted with Democrats in the minority to convict him. A two-thirds majority is required for conviction in a chamber likely to be evenly divided with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.
— Bart Jansen
Ex-Capitol chief: Feds should add interim leadership to help with inaugural plan
With the inauguration looming, a former U.S. Capitol police chief said authorities should consider adding interim leadership to a besieged department reeling from a cascade of security failures that left five dead, including one officer, in Wednesday’s stunning breach of the Capitol.
Terrance Gainer, who headed the department for four years in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, said “more experience” is needed as the agency contends with an avalanche of questions about its failed response to Wednesday’s riot, preparations for President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration and the mourning of fallen officer Brian Sicknick.
“The department only has so much bandwidth,” Gainer said. “More experience might make sense for everybody.”
Within 24 hours of the assault, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund announced his resignation, part of a clean sweep of Capitol Hill law enforcement officials that included the House and Senate sergeants at arms.
The departure of all three officials leaves only one permanent member of the Capitol Police Board – the architect of the Capitol – which oversees the 2,300 member U.S. Capitol Police Department.
The Secret Service leads preparations for inaugural security, one of the country’s most challenging security operations, but Capitol police are an integral part of the plan as the heart of the ceremony is staged at the Capitol.
Only days ago, some in the mob that stormed the Capitol used the temporary bleachers recently-erected to accommodate inaugural guests to gain entrance to the building.
“There is going to be a lot of time spent answering questions about what went wrong, and there should be,” Gainer said. “There also is a lot more to do, including the large task of preparing for the inauguration.”
Biden has voiced confidence in security for the inauguration, citing the Secret Service’s lead role on Friday.
“A totally different entity is in charge of the inauguration than it was in charge of protecting the capitol, the Secret Service. I have great confidence in the Secret Service,” Biden told reporters at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. “I have great confidence in their ability to make sure that the inauguration goes off safely, and goes off without a hitch.”
Earlier this week, the Secret Service said plans have been in the works for more than a year to include “all possible contingencies at every level.”
Yet Gainer said Wednesday’s security breakdowns remain difficult to comprehend.
The former chief said Sund once served as his chief of staff and formerly headed the Special Operations Division at D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, the unit that manages major special events in the city.
“It’s so hard to understand how this happened, given the experience,” Gainer said.
– Kevin Johnson
GOP attorneys general group sent robocall promoting Capitol march
An arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association sent out a robocall encouraging people to join the pro-Trump march to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which eventually turned into a deadly riot.
“The march to save America is tomorrow in Washington, D.C. at the eclipse in President Park,” the robocall from the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a fundraising arm of the Republican Attorney General Association said. “At (1 p.m.) we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue the fight to protect the integrity of our election.”
Watchdog group Documented posted audio of the call.
Several Republican attorneys general have condemned the call, saying it was sent out without their knowledge, including Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who oversees the RLDF.
“I was unaware of unauthorized decisions made by RLDF staff with regard to this week’s rally,” Marshall said in a statement. “Despite currently transitioning into my role as the newly-elected chairman of RLDF, it is unacceptable that I was neither consulted about nor informed of those decisions. I have directed an internal review of this matter.”
Marshall also condemned the violence in his statement, saying, “Those who chose to engage in violence and anarchy should and will be held accountable under the law.”
A spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, who is also Chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, said he had “no knowledge or involvement in this decision.”
Attorneys Generals Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Aaron Ford of Nevada, the co-chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, criticized Republican attorneys general and the RLFD for the robocall, saying that they “have no legal or moral ground on which to stand here: The organization paid for robocalls to recruit attendees” in a Jan. 8 statement.
The DAGA co-chairs also stated that “It is not enough for Republican Attorneys General to denounce the violence at the Capitol; they must publicly distance themselves from the Republican Attorneys General Association and its leadership.”
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
Pentagon appoints panel to scrub Confederate names and symbols
Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller appointed a four-member commission on Friday to change the names of military bases that venerate Confederate generals.
President Donald Trump last month vetoed the legislation that directed Miller to name the panel charged with ridding the military of Confederate idolatry. Congress, for the first time in his presidency, overrode Trump’s veto by commanding majorities and approved the National Defense Authorization Act.
One of Trump’s principal complaints with the act was the provision to scrub the names of Confederate generals from military installations.
“The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars,” Trump tweeted in June. “Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations. Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!”
Ridding the armed forces of honors – such as streets and barracks named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee – has taken on new urgency within the Pentagon in the last year. Each of the services has moved to ban the display of symbols such as the Confederate Battle Flag, acknowledging that their racist association is offensive and incompatible with the diversity of their forces.
There are 10 military installations across the south from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Fort Hood in Texas that bear the names of generals for the Confederacy who committed treason by fighting against the United States to preserve slavery.
– Tom Vanden Brook
N. Korea threatens to build more nukes
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to expand his nuclear arsenal as he disclosed a list of high-tech weapons systems under development, saying the fate of relations with the United States depends on whether it abandons its hostile policy, state media reported Saturday.
Kim’s comments during a key meeting of the ruling party this week were seen as applying pressure on the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has called Kim a “thug” and has criticized his summits with President Donald Trump.
The Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying the “key to establishing new relations between (North Korea) and the United States is whether the United States withdraws its hostile policy.”
Kim said he won’t use his nuclear weapons first unless threatened. He also suggested he is open to dialogue if Washington is too, but stressed North Korea must further strengthen its military and nuclear capability to cope with intensifying U.S. hostility.
He again called the U.S. his country’s “main enemy.”
“Whoever takes office in the U.S., its basic nature and hostile policy will never change,” he said.
Biden, who will take office on Jan. 20, is unlikely to hold direct meetings with Kim unless the North Korean leader takes significant denuclearization steps.
– Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press