Good morning! It’s Monday, January 18, 2021. Inauguration Day is 2 days away. Election Day 2022 is 659 days away. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Have questions or comments? Email me.
Trump prepares to leave a city on edge
After four tumultuous years, President Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House is in its final days.
The Trump era has created a number of surreal moments in Washington, D.C. — but perhaps none more so than the one it is ending during, as the city fortifies itself in response to security threats ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Streets are shut down across the capital; so are restaurants (both for security reasons and due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemics) and the National Mall (which will no longer be the gathering place it has been for past inaugurations.)
After arriving in D.C. for my spring semester this weekend, I navigated through the maze of street closures now known as Washington’s “Green Zone” on Sunday, prepared to cover a planned “armed march” by far-right agitators.
But no one showed. I went through a Secret Service checkpoint (metal detector and all) to find Pennsylvania Avenue speckled with journalists, curious onlookers, and National Guardsmen, but no protesters in sight. The situation was the same in other state capitals, as the threat of mass protests on January 17 largely fizzled.
The scene outside the U.S. Capitol itself — less than two weeks after the building was attacked by pro-Trump rioters — was eerily quiet, as troops stood guard at newly constructed barbed wire fencing, waiting for demonstrations that never materialized.
And so Trump’s time in Washington comes to a close, not with a bang but with a whimper. The rarely camera-shy president has mostly retreated behind closed doors in the days since the Capitol attack, opting against participating in a series of legacy events that his advisers had been planning.
Instead, Trump is quietly planning his final dramatic act in office: a flood of pardons that are expected to come on Tuesday, his final day in office. According to CNN and the Washington Post, the president and his shrinking circle of aides are preparing a list of more than 100 pardons and commutations; per Reuters, Trump is so far not planning to pardon himself, after flirting with issuing an unprecedented self-pardon.
Trump is also gearing up for a historic post-presidential impeachment trial, which is likely to kick off in the Senate later this week. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney and a lead promoter of his baseless election fraud claims, hinted this weekend that he might represent Trump at the trial — before telling ABC News that he won’t be a member of the president’s defense team after all.
Meanwhile, more details are emerging about the assault at the Capitol that Trump was charged by the U.S. House with inciting. More than 100 rioters have been arrested in connection to the attack, as authorities investigate several more. The FBI is also reportedly probing more sinister aspects: whether rioters planned to capture or kill lawmakers, whether foreign governments or organizations provided financial support to the attackers, and whether a woman who stole a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office intended to sell it to Russians.
But even as January 17 came and went without much activity — only a handful of arrests in Washington were made — threats continue to mount for Inauguration Day on January 20. According to the Associated Press, U.S. defense officials are “worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members” involved in inauguration security, prompting the FBI to vet all 25,000 National Guard troops who will be stationed in D.C. (Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP that officials are conscious of the potential threat, but had seen no evidence of anything serious or any red flags arising from the vetting.)
Unlike Vice President Mike Pence, President Trump will not be in attendance for the inauguration, planning a farewell ceremony for Wednesday morning before he flies to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to begin his post-presidency. President-elect Biden is preparing a flurry of executive orders to be signed on Day One of his presidency, including a repeal of Trump’s “travel ban” and a return to the Paris climate accords.
Biden is also at work on his inaugural address, which is expected to be a paean to national unity much like he focused on in his campaign. Although some commentators have called for the inauguration to be held inside due to the security threats, Biden’s team appears determined to broadcast the symbol of an outdoor ceremony at the Capitol.
“I think that will send an incredibly important visual image to the world about the resilience of American democracy,” incoming White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said in an ABC News interview on Sunday. “And so our plan and our expectation is that President-elect Biden will put his hand on the Bible with his family outside on the west side of the Capitol on the 20th.”
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled. According to the White House, he will “work from early and in the morning until late in the evening” and “make many calls and have many meetings,” although none of them were specified.
Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.
President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will mark the MLK National Day of Service by volunteering at Philabundance, a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The president-elect will meet with transition advisers later in the day.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff will mark the MLK National Day of Service by volunteering in Washington, D.C. The vice president-elect will meet with transition advisers later in the day.
- Harris is expected to resign from her Senate seat today ahead of her swearing-in as vice president later this week.
The House and Senate are not in session.
The Supreme Court is closed for MLK Day.
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