Curating the day’s top stories so you don’t have to.
1. Coronavirus by the numbers:
- 5.9 million: Number of Americans who have received one of the two coronavirus vaccines
- 365,400: Number of coronavirus deaths in the United States
- 4,112: Number of coronavirus deaths yesterday, marking a new record high
- With cases, hospitalizations, and deaths on the rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project in their most recent forecast that there will be between 405,000 and 438,000 deaths by the end of the month.
Other coronavirus news of note: Sweden—previously considered by some to be a model for handling COVID-19 without lockdowns—has recorded 7,187 new cases and now suffers a death rate per capita several times higher than their Nordic neighbors. As such, the Swedish parliament has now passed a law giving its government the power to close certain businesses or restrict hours and capacity.
Elsewhere, the London mayor has declared an emergency, and Cypress will enter its second nationwide lockdown on January 10th.
2. Amidst reports that Vice President Pence does not plan to invoke the 25th Amendment, and with resignation looking unlikely, House leaders formally drafted articles of impeachment, which are set to be introduced on Monday. They will proffer a single article, “incitement of insurrection,” and argue that the president “will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.”
This proceeding will differ from last year’s in that there will be no extended hearings or investigations; rather, a member will likely bring a privileged resolution to the floor and offer it during session.
What can we expect in the House?
Last year, the House voted 230-197 in favor of the charge of abuse of power and 229-198 on the charge of obstruction of Congress. Republicans voted unanimously in opposition to the charges and were joined by three Democrats. This year, the Democrats hold the majority by a slimmer margin, having lost a net of ten seats in the 2020 election. Assuming they were to suffer the same number of defections, however, the resolution could still pass by a vote of 219-214, as only a simple majority is needed. What’s more, a select number of Republicans in Congress have privately and publicly voiced support for removal, so it is less likely this year than last that House Republicans would vote strictly along party lines.
What can we expect in the Senate?
While it is unlikely that he would be removed in the Senate given the current makeup and strict time constraints, if Trump were to be impeached in the House, he would become the only president in history to have been impeached twice. If the Senate did decide to proceed with removal, whether in an effort to set an example for future presidents or to buttress their own reputations, they could also choose to disqualify the president from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States in the future. Again, unlikely, but possible.
3. Fueled by social media bans, public condemnation, and calls for his ouster, Donald Trump came as close as he has in recent months to conceding the election last night. In a video statement posted to Twitter, he acknowledged that there would be a change of administration on January 20 and committed himself to an “orderly and seamless” transition. For most, it was too little too late. But for select others, it was a welcome respite after a tumultuous nine weeks and renewed a last-ditch hope that his supporters would heed his example, accept the results, and refrain from further violence or destruction.
4. The final jobs report of the Trump administration was released this morning, with dismal returns. The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December, marking the first net decline since April, amidst a resurgent virus.
The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 6.7 percent.
5. Former Trump administration officials are speaking candidly about their experiences with Donald Trump and in the White House for the first time.
Former Chief of Staff, John Kelly, said that, were he still a cabinet member, he would support the president’s removal; that the president has been “poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the frauds;” that he is surprised that so many members of Congress “who have to look themselves in the mirror” would encourage the president’s lies; that after working very closely with the president for eighteen months, it did “not at all” surprise him to hear that Trump was borderline enthusiastic about the riots; that it is impossible to understand who he is from a distance, but when you work closely with him, it becomes evident that he is a “very flawed human being;” that “you don’t survive by telling this president the truth;” and that “when you begin to understand how flawed he is, then it’s a matter of staying in the job as long as you can stand it to try to prevent some disaster.”
Alyssa Farah, former White House Communications Director, said that the president lied about the results of the presidential election and misled his supporters; that she would feel safer if Trump resigned and Pence presided over the transfer of power; that she would not support Donald Trump again in the future, despite agreeing with many of his “America First” policies; and that the reason why so many officials stayed on despite disagreeing with the president’s positions is because they believed that it was better to be in the room than not and feared that if they resigned, they would be replaced with people who were more dangerous and who lacked their shared values.
6. Biden announced his economic and labor team, headed by Commerce Secretary nominee Gina Raimondo and Labor Secretary nominee Martin J. Walsh.
Raimondo has served as the governor of Rhode Island since 2015 and has a law degree from Yale University, a doctorate from Oxford University (where she was a Rhodes Scholar), and a background in the financial industry, having co-founded investment and venture capital firms.
Critiques: Progressive groups including the Revolving Door Project and Demand Progress have criticized Raimondo as a “corporate insider,” and others have questioned whether her background includes enough experience in technology.
Walsh has served as the mayor of Boston since 2013. The son of immigrants, Walsh dropped out of college to take a union construction job and went on to become a local official in the Laborer’s International Union of North America before ultimately winning a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. While serving in the legislature, Walsh took night classes and earned his degree at Boston College.
Critiques: Though he was never indicted, Walsh was investigated by the U.S. attorney’s office for seeking to use his influence to thwart the project of a local developer unless it hired unionized workers. He was recorded as saying that he wanted to get the project “thrown off the docket” at the city’s zoning board of approval.
7. Donald Trump announced via tweet that he will not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration. As attendance has long been seen as emblematic of our nation’s commitment to democracy, only four former presidents have chosen to skip the inauguration of their successor: Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson, John Quincy Adams, and John Adams. None have skipped since 1974, and only one has skipped since the 19th century.
8. Josh Hawley’s decision to lead the objection to Joe Biden’s victory has been widely rebuked and has drawn the ire of previous supporters.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told NPR today, “Sen. Hawley was doing something that was really dumbass and I’ve been really clear about that in public and in private since long before the announcement he was going to do this. It was a stunt, and it was a terrible, terrible idea, and you don’t lie to the American people . . . Lies have consequences.”
Former Republican Sen. John Danforth said in a statement, “Supporting Josh and trying so hard to get him elected to the Senate was the worst mistake I ever made in my life.”
David Humphreys, whose family has donated $6 million to Hawley over the years, called for him to be censured, labeling him a “political opportunist willing to subvert the Constitution and the ideals of the nation he swore to uphold” and blaming Wednesday’s riots on his “irresponsible, inflammatory, and dangerous tactics.”
But it was the St. Louis Post Dispatch who offered perhaps the most scathing reproach thus far, stating, “Hawley’s tardy, cover-his-ass condemnation of the violence ranks at the top of his substantial list of phony, smarmy and politically expedient declarations . . . Hawley’s presidential aspirations have been flushed down the toilet because of his role in instigating Wednesday’s assault on democracy. He should do Missourians and the rest of the country a big favor and resign now.”
The final blow was delivered by Simon & Schuster who announced on Thursday that they would no longer distribute the book that they were set to publish with Hawley, explaining in their statement, “We take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat.”
9. United States Capitol Police revealed the identity of the officer who died due to injuries sustained during Wednesday’s riot. Brian D. Sicknick joined the force in 2008 and became just the fourth member of the force to be killed in the line of duty since its founding two centuries ago. Law enforcement sources say that Sicknick was struck over the head with a fire extinguisher and later succumbed to his injuries. His passing brings the total number of fatalities stemming from the Capitol riots to five.
10. David Perdue officially conceded to Jon Ossoff in what used to be routine procedure but now feels oddly refreshing.