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EXCLUSIVE Rebeka Stewart, 28, says she will shower Codie-Leigh, four, Mya-Lou, three and Harper-Jae, one, with love, but very few gifts as she supports our Save a Kid’s Christmas appeal helping children living in poverty
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No Large Protests In D.C., On Morning Of Biden's Inauguration
Some 25,000 National Guard members are in the city where insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol just two weeks ago.
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Biden Is About to Fulfill His Life’s Dream. What He Inherits Is More Like a Nightmare
This article is part of the The DC Brief, TIME’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to get stories like this sent to your inbox every weekday. Good morning from a chilly Washington. We’re coming to you early on this Inauguration Day. The U.S. capital city looks like a city at war. Military equipment is parked…
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U.S. allies "relieved," but wary as Biden takes over
Most of America's oldest allies on the world stage are embracing the incoming Biden administration as a chance to reengage, but as CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports, they're under no illusion that a sudden 180 in relations is coming immediately, and they're wary that a new Trump, or even the old one, could be coming down the road.
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How Do the Musical Performers at Joe Biden's Inauguration Compare to Those at Donald Trump's?
Biden's big day will feature performances from artists like Lady Gaga and John Legend—a stark contrast from the performers who took part in Trump's inauguration four years ago.
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Elon Musk’s ‘Not A Flamethrower’ is landing people in legal trouble
The cheeky name Elon Musk gave his flamethrower hasn’t convinced cops that it’s not dangerous. The fire-shooting torches that Musk’s Boring Company sold as a lucrative publicity stunt have created legal headaches around the world for people who bought them, a new report says. The billionaire Tesla chief’s tunneling startup marketed its propane-powered flamethrower as...
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More than 1.6M passengers screened at airports nationwide over weekend
More than 1.6 million people have passed through airports nationwide over the past three days, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  On Monday, more than 878,000 passengers were screened while more than 1.5 million people were screened over Saturday and Sunday, according to the agency’s latest figures.  Checkpoint volume has steadily dropped since the holidays when Americans traveled...
Read the Full Text of Donald Trump's Final Farewell Speech at Joint Base Andrews
"I wish the new administration great luck and great success," said the outgoing president.
Get to know Kamala Harris's family
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Shep Smith breaks his silence about why he left Fox News
Shep Smith, who left Fox News in October 2019 while in the middle of a three-year contract, has remained largely silent about his departure -- until an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour that aired Tuesday.
Stocks near records on hopes Biden will act on economy, virus
Stocks opened near record highs Wednesday ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration on hopes that a new administration will provide another dose of support for the economy.
Jonathan Turley: Trump's final list of pardons -- the good, the bad and the ugly
I have admittedly been a critic of President Trump’s record of pardons from his first foray into presidential clemency.
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President-elect Joe Biden's granddaughters are looking to their friends, Sasha and Malia Obama, for guidance as their grandfather assumes office.
President Donald Trump departs the White House
President Donald Trump departs the White House one last time before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
America's emerging designers take center stage at the US presidential inauguration
America's fashion industry was given a boost of confidence on inauguration day as President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and future First Lady Jill Biden attended the day's events wearing designs from the country's emerging designers.
Trump’s presidency ends where so much of it was spent: A Trump Organization property
On average, Trump visited one of the properties his company owns on two days of every week of his presidency.
Tiffany Trump’s 13-carat engagement ring is worth up to $1.2M
Tiffany Trump has quite the sparkler.
Chinese Communist Party Apparatchik Demands Progress on Taiwan 'Unification'
The Chinese government's top political adviser called on Taiwan affairs staff to produce "outstanding achievements."
Biden's 100-day sprint to undo Trump's 4 years
Wednesday marks Joe Biden's first day as US president, but you're going to hear a lot about his first 100 days as he takes the reins, particularly when it comes to Covid.
Trump defends his record and says "we'll be back" in farewell speech
President Trump told his family members and supporters present at Joint Base Andrews to "have a good life."
Nearly 12,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses ruined on way to Michigan
Twenty-one shipments of the vaccine sent Sunday by a Texas-based distributor, McKesson Corporation, were deemed unusable after falling below the federal recommended range of minus 13 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Taxonomy of Donald Trump’s Facial Expressions
Of the many head-benders of the Trump era, the dialectic between absurdity and extreme gravity has been one of the hardest to manage. We have been obliged to take an unserious person very seriously indeed. It has hurt our brains. It has reminded us, again and again, that the 45th president of the United States is simultaneously a reality-television star and an aspiring despot.Is it possible to separate his hammy entertainer’s chops from his raw political efficacy? Or his charisma from his incoherence? No, it is not. But we can begin an analysis. And we can start by classifying some of his major modes as an orator and a performer: the masks of Trump.ATLAS SHRUGSHe’s got the whole world in his hands. Why not just drop it and let it bounce a couple of times?GettyTOASTMASTER GENERALIn Trump’s speeches, the horrible little prose-y bits that Stephen Miller wrote were always just padding. The rambling, the ad-libs, the lurching sensation of his mind in motion: That’s what the people were there for. GettyIMPERIAL POUTClownish dismay at the nastiness of all the nasty, nasty people. With perhaps an obscenity building behind it.GettyGOLDEN BOYBasking in the regard of the world: I am adored, I am despised, I am the nucleus. gettySTAGE WHISPERERI shouldn’t say this but ... that’s exactly why I’m saying it.gettySERIOUS PERSONPretending to consult notes. This is what “presidential” looks like: bored. gettyHISTORY MANThe glower of the autocrat, the strongman scowl. Off camera, you can hear the tap-tap of the sculptor’s chisel.gettyWHITE POWERA curiously zestless, heavy-bodied gesture, this slouchingly raised fist nonetheless gets the point across.gettyMERRY PRANKSTERHe never laughs, Trump. Too risky. The joke he is perpetrating is so enormous that if he allowed himself to laugh he might burst.getty
A more violent union
Armed protesters, who identified themselves as Liberty Boys, pose for pictures outside the Oregon Capitol in Salem on January 17. | Noah Berger/AP Trump is leaving. The threat of right-wing violence he helped cultivate remains. At noon on Wednesday, Donald Trump will no longer be president of the United States. But after the storming of the Capitol by Trump loyalists, one aspect of his legacy is clear. The specter of political violence hangs over the young Biden era. Last week, FBI Director Chris Wray said there was an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter” from militants once again aiming to attack the Capitol. A joint bulletin from the FBI, the Homeland Security Department, and the National Counterterrorism Center warned of serious risks in DC as well as all 50 states during the inaugural period and beyond — calling the right-wing extremists behind them “the greatest domestic terrorism threats in 2021.” Downtown DC, typically full of revelers on Inauguration Day, is currently occupied by 25,000 National Guard troops, a deployment deemed necessary to prevent a repeat of the events of January 6. Federal agents have been warning of a surge in far-right violence since at least 2009, but Trump’s malign influence supercharged the threat. The Trump years have seen a flurry of deadly right-wing violence: the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville; 16 pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats and media figures; the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue; and now the Capitol assault, a literal attack on the democratic process by an armed mob fueled by bigotry and conspiracy theories. As Trump exits the stage, Americans are faced with the possibility that we are entering a new era of political violence — one that he and his party have stoked for years. There’s no way to know what’s coming, of course. Experts on terrorism and political violence disagree sharply among themselves on just how dangerous things could get. But there are clear reasons for concern. Matthew Busch/AFP via Getty Images Scenes from an armed pro-Trump protest in Austin, Texas — one of many outside state capitols held on January 17. “We haven’t really seen what I would call a sustained terrorist campaign in this country since the 1970s. [Today, there’s] probably a higher risk than any time since the 1970s,” says J.M. Berger, a fellow at the EU’s VOX-Pol research network. “I think after the last four years ... our capacity for resilience might be wearing thin.” In some ways, the fact that we’re even asking the question — are we entering a new era of political violence? — says it all. Sustained campaigns of political violence don’t happen in a vacuum; they become plausible only when societies are rent by deep and serious cleavages. The GOP’s willingness to play with rhetorical fire — stoking racial resentment, delegitimizing the Democratic Party and the democratic process, and even indulging in naked appeals to violent fantasies — has created an environment that can encourage the outbreak of right-wing violence. This is already doing concrete damage to our democracy: Several Republican legislators have said they would have supported impeachment if doing so did not pose a threat to their families’ lives. This specter of violence hanging over our politics may prove to be one of Trumpism’s most enduring legacies, and a steep challenge for a Biden administration already facing crises on multiple fronts. A new era of political violence? To understand the risks America is facing right now, it’s worth unpacking Berger’s note about the 1970s — perhaps the closest historical analogue to what could happen in the coming months and years. Few today appreciate just how violent the 1970s were. The failures of 1960s radical movements drove a faction of the left toward political violence, leading to an era pockmarked by bombings, kidnappings, and other violent acts. According to the University of Maryland’s START database, there were more terrorist attacks in the US in the 1970s (1,471) than there were in the next 36 years combined (1,323) — averaging out to about three attacks per week for an entire decade. High-profile targets included the Capitol and the Pentagon. In 1976, a California-based radical group placed a bomb in a flower box outside Dianne Feinstein’s daughter’s bedroom (at the time, the now-senator was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors). Sixty-eight percent of these attacks were attributable to left-wing militants. Some of the most prominent and violent organizations included the upper and middle-class radicals of the Weather Underground, the Marxist Puerto Rican separatists in the Armed Forces of National Liberation, and a Black Panther splinter group called the Black Liberation Army. Today, the principal domestic terrorist threat is on the right, not the left. While there certainly has been violence by left-wing individuals — like the 2017 attack on the Republican congressional baseball team’s practice where then-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was shot — repeated assessments from US officials and independent experts rank the far right as a greater threat than the left or even jihadists. Ryan M. Kelly/AFP via Getty Images Pro-Trump demonstrators at a rally near the Virginia Capitol in Richmond on January 18. Stephen Zenne/AFP/Getty Images Members of the Ohio “boogaloo” movement gather near the statehouse in Columbus on January 17. “That the far-right poses the most salient terrorist threat is no longer up for debate,” scholars Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware wrote in a November piece on Lawfare. As in the 1970s, the threat today is not one large al-Qaeda-style enemy but a series of diffuse groups and individually radicalized perpetrators, all of whom are frustrated with mainstream politics’ inability to get them what they want — be it a white ethnostate or a second Trump term. You have outright white supremacists and neo-Nazis, like Atomwaffen. You have anti-government armed groups, like the Three Percenters or Oathkeepers, who see themselves as defending Americans from perceived federal tyranny. You have some “boogaloo” movement members and “accelerationists,” who see violence as a means to destabilize and ultimately collapse the American state. You have the misogynist violence arising out of the incel subculture. And then there are some harder-to-categorize groups, like the street-brawling “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys or the QAnon conspiracy theorists. These groups simultaneously have deep disagreements and some overlap; individual radicals may not “belong” to an organized group but find elements of multiple different ideologies attractive. Were there to be a ’70s-style sustained terrorist campaign from such militants, the results would likely be deadlier. According to UMD-START, though there were about eight times as many terrorist attacks in the 1970s as between 2010 and 2016, that disparity isn’t reflected in the fatalities (172 versus 140). This is partly the result of tactical choices by the 70s militants themselves, some of whom preferred symbolic bombings of unoccupied buildings over actual killing. Today’s far right favors bloodier tactics. The past few years of right-wing shootings — like the 2015 attack on Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the 2018 attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, and the 2019 attack on an El Paso Walmart with a heavily Latino clientele — were designed for maximum casualties, the perpetrators aiming to kill as many people from the groups they hate as possible. The Capitol Hill rioters bludgeoned a police officer to death and allegedly aimed to do more; prosecutors’ court filings warn of plans to take members of Congress hostage and perhaps even execute them. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images Funeral services for Ethel Lance, one of the nine parishioners of the historical Emanuel AME Church in Charleston killed in 2015. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images Caskets outside the Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh, where the funeral for brothers Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal — victims of the 2018 Tree of Life shooting — were held. Mario Tama/Getty Images Pallbearers wheel the casket of Angelina Englisbee, 86, a victim of the 2019 mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart. The idea of a steady drip of right-wing violence in the years ahead seems almost too awful to contemplate. And, to be clear, it’s not inevitable — experts are divided on just how likely it is. Yale political scientist Stathis Kalyvas said that “I don’t think there will be much” violence in the coming years. University College London’s Kate Cronin-Furman, meanwhile, warned that we were in the midst of a “one-way ratchet” toward higher levels of far-right killing. There’s evidence for both perspectives. On the one hand, the internet gives authorities a powerful new set of surveillance tools that can be used to monitor extremist groups. Moreover, the post-9/11 security state is very well practiced at disrupting terrorist plots as compared to the FBI of the 1970s. On the other hand, the internet also allows for individuals to self-radicalize by reading extremist content to a degree impossible in the pre-internet age. In addition, the Trump administration has systematically deprioritized right-wing radicalism (as compared to jihadism) for years — to the point where right-wing radicals have successfully infiltrated law enforcement agencies and the armed forces. The day before Biden’s inauguration, two members of the National Guard were removed from DC security duties after investigators discovered ties to right-wing extremism. The Capitol Hill attack itself could go both ways — finally leading US law enforcement to take the threat of far-right domestic actors seriously, but also helping the far right organize and inspiring its adherents to future violence. But perhaps the biggest outstanding question is the degree to which the far right gets encouragement from the political mainstream. Only a tiny proportion of Americans are members of neo-Nazi organizations or Three Percenter militias. But Trump has proven uniquely effective at mainstreaming far-right politics. Whether calling the Charlottesville demonstrators “very fine people,” ordering the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” at a presidential debate, or telling the January 6 rioters that “we love you” as they ransacked the Capitol, the president has made it clear that violent fringe groups are a part of his coalition. There is no doubt that this has galvanized the far right, promoting recruiting and encouraging those who are already radicalized to be more violent. In the days following the January 6 assault on the Capitol, Politico reporter Tim Alberta tweeted that “the stuff I’ve heard in the last 72 hours—from members of Congress, law enforcement friends, gun shop owners, MAGA devotees—is absolutely chilling. We need to brace for a wave of violence in this country. Not just over the next couple of weeks, but over the next couple of years.” The question now is how the mainstream Republican Party handles this threat of violence. On this score, we have few reasons for optimism. The Republican Party’s delegitimization of Democrats and the mainstreaming of political violence In 1964, right-wing radical Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination for president — and the endorsement of both the Georgia and Alabama chapters of the Ku Klux Klan. When asked for comment, Republican National Committee Chair Dean Burch welcomed the Klan’s support: “We’re not in the business of discouraging votes,” he told the Associated Press. Though Goldwater eventually overrode Burch and disavowed the Klan, he did little to distance himself from other far-right supporters — like the viciously anti-Semitic minister Gerald L.K. Smith, who praised Goldwater because “every Jewish journal is against him.” Library of Congress/Getty Images Ku Klux Klan members supporting Barry Goldwater’s campaign for the presidency at the Republican National Convention on July 12, 1964, in San Francisco, California. Stan Wayman/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images A Goldwater supporter in Lima, Ohio, in 1964. In a 2019 paper, the political scientists Sam Rosenfeld and Daniel Schlozman find that the Goldwater campaign’s approach to extremism “presaged a half century of Republican politics to come.” The conservative movement, and the Republican Party it has long dominated, was so preoccupied with its eternal quest to defeat its liberal enemies that it had no interest in seriously policing its own right flanks. “The goal to smash liberalism came first,” Rosenfeld and Schlozman write, leading to “a politics devoid of ... internal checks on extremism.” These two factors — the GOP’s all-consuming hatred of liberalism and its attendant unwillingness to police its own members — have not only pushed the party further and further to the right. They have created a climate in which Trumpism and its mainstreaming of the violent fringe can thrive. For decades now, the Republican Party and the right-wing media echo chamber have been telling its faithful that mainstream Democrats are not just political rivals but an existential threat. Just think about the things that have been said on Fox and talk radio in the past decade: Glenn Beck arguing that AmeriCorps would become Obama’s SS, Rush Limbaugh claiming that Obama’s America was a place where white children would be beaten while Black ones cheered, and — of course — the spread of Donald Trump’s claim that Obama wasn’t born in America, something 56 percent of Republicans still believe. The defining essay of the Trump era is a 2016 piece called the “The Flight 93 Election.” Written by Michael Anton, a conservative academic who would later serve on Trump’s National Security Council, it compared the election to the single disrupted 9/11 hijacking — United Flight 93, in which brave passengers stormed the cockpit and forced the plane to crash before hitting its target (the Capitol). If Trump loses, Anton argued, America as we know it would collapse: “Charge the cockpit or you die.” That call to action in the face of an existential threat has animated conservative discourse for years. In their 2009 book Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea, gun policy experts Joshua Horowitz and Casey Anderson argue that calls to violence have become — via debates about the Second Amendment — an integral part of modern right-wing thinking. Republicans explicitly argue “that our constitution guarantees every American the right to prepare for armed confrontation with the government.” They note: In Heller v. DC, a [2008] challenge to the District of Columbia’s gun laws, the NRA, appearing as an amicus curiae, contended that one purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect an individual right to arm against the ‘depredations of a tyrannical government.’ The vice president of the United States and 305 members of Congress asked the Court to support that view. And in fact, in a landmark decision striking down parts of the District’s gun laws, the Court found that the Second Amendment includes an individual right to insurrection. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that citizens acting on their own are entitled to arm themselves and connect with others ‘in a citizen militia’ to counter government tyranny. For many conservatives, this is merely an issue of originalist jurisprudence: The founders believed this, and, like it or not, it’s how we must think about our gun laws, too. But if you live in right-wing spaces, told constantly by politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and media figures like Limbaugh that Democrats are tyrants in the making, why wouldn’t you conclude that the time for insurrection is nigh? Some Republicans make this linkage more clearly. In 2016, for example, then-candidate Trump suggested that “Second Amendment people” might be justified in using force to resist rulings from judges appointed by Hillary Clinton. In December, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) posted a tweet comparing coronavirus lockdowns to the “tyranny” opposed by the founders, following it up with an interview in which she said the Second Amendment is for “hunting tyrants.” Trump and legislators like Boebert, a QAnon supporter, are not the type of people that the Republican establishment ideally wants to put forward. But in both cases, the party’s leadership could have repudiated the candidates after their respective primary victories and chose not to — because beating Democrats was more important than beating extremism. The Republican Party’s inability to self-police is one of the big reasons to be pessimistic about America’s ability to head off a coming violent wave. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO, center in dark blue) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA, center in red) stand with other newly elected Republican House members for a group photo on January 4. It’s not just that Trump is unlikely to be fully repudiated by his party; it’s that his extremist allies will remain party members in good standing. Sens. Cruz and Josh Hawley (MO), who helped legitimize Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election results, and the majority of House Republicans backed this effort; the most extreme ones, like Boebert and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), have only gotten more prominent since the Capitol Hill attack. “We’ve got previously fairly mainstream-ish GOP politicians emboldened to directly undermine the Constitution; we’ve got MAGA fools feeling empowered to make more and more explicit threats,” Cronin-Furman says. “In the current climate, they’re deriving increasing benefits from their actions and paying basically no costs.” Democracy under attack The most successful terrorist campaign in American political history took place after the Civil War. Ex-Confederate soldiers and ordinary Southerners unwilling to give up on white supremacy formed a series of violent cells aimed at undermining Reconstruction. Their attacks, the most infamous of which were lynchings of recently freed Black people, aimed to disrupt racially egalitarian governments and impose costs on the North for continuing to occupy Southern land. The violence increased after Reconstruction ended, working to intimidate local Black populations while Southern states created new regimes that would render them second-class citizens. Southern lynch mobs did not strike at random; they often targeted Black Americans in ways calculated to depress their political activity and empower the anti-Black Democratic Party. The journalist Ida B. Wells, writing in 1900, saw this clearly. “These advocates of the ‘unwritten law’ boldly avowed their purpose to intimidate, suppress, and nullify the Negro’s right to vote,” she wrote. “In support of its plans, the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Shirts, and similar organizations proceeded to beat, exile, and kill Negroes until the purpose of their organization was accomplished.” Harold Valentine/AP Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, pictured above, was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1989 to 1992. He twice endorsed Trump for president. Modern statistical evidence bears out Wells’s observation. A 2019 paper in the journal Perspective on Politics found that the numbers of lynchings in a given county went down significantly after state-level imposition of Jim Crow statutes; in other words, the violence only declined after it had accomplished its ends. Political violence is not part of a healthy democracy; it is its antithesis, used to accomplish ends that cannot be reached at the ballot box alone. But, perversely, such violence can be used by political actors in a democracy to get what they want — even if they do not have formal links with the violent groups, just a shared ideological affinity. This was part of the story of the South after the Civil War; it has been part of America’s story in the Trump era. Last week, Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) said that the threat of violent reprisal was a major reason more House Republicans weren’t voting to impeach Trump in the wake of the attack on the Capitol. “The majority of them are paralyzed with fear,” Crow said on MSNBC. “I had a lot of conversations with my Republican colleagues last night, and a couple of them broke down in tears — saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment.” Alberta, the Politico correspondent, found in his own reporting that “Crow was right.” “I know for a fact several members *want* to impeach but fear casting that vote could get them or their families murdered,” Alberta writes. “Numerous House Republicans have received death threats in the past week.” This fear did not only affect the impeachment vote. Rep. Pete Meijer (R-MI) has said that he personally knows several House Republicans who wanted to vote to certify Biden’s 2020 electoral win but were afraid for their lives if they chose to do so. We do not actually need a huge spike in far-right violence for it to be politically impactful. The mere threat of future violence can poison a democracy. Winslow Townson/AP Armed Trump supporters stand in front of the New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord on January 17. Noah Berger/AP Self-described Liberty Boys, an anti-government group, stand outside the Oregon Capitol in Salem on January 17. And the problem is self-replicating. If more moderate Republicans are afraid to speak up, extremists will increasingly speak for the party. The more the extremists speak for the party, the more they will push Republicans voters to the far right and embolden violent far-right actors, further intimidating moderate voices from speaking out. This is one key difference from the political dynamics of the 1970s. Back then, no significant faction of the Democratic Party was aligned with the violent radicals. Today, large sections of the far right see themselves as acting on behalf of or in conjunction with the Trumpist forces in the Republican Party. In footage of Capitol Hill mobbers ransacking the Senate floor, one attacker justifies his actions by saying “[Ted] Cruz would want us to do this.” “There seem to be enough guns, political support, and rhetorical space to sustain at least some degree of mobilization by violence-curious radicals,” says Paul Staniland, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. “It’s a lot easier to unleash carnage than to pack it back away.” A new presidency will not end the threat to American democracy from violent radicals. In fact, there’s a real chance it could get worse from here.
Donald Trump Leaves Letter for Incoming President Joe Biden
President Donald Trump continued a presidential tradition by leaving a letter for incoming President Joe Biden at the Oval Office on Wednesday.
Trump says goodbye, vows to 'be back in some form'
President Donald Trump delivered his final remarks as the nation's 45th president from Joint Base Andrews Wednesday before boarding Air Force One for a flight to his Florida home. As he departed, Trump promised he'll "be back in some form." (Jan. 20)
Netherlands proposes curfew and bans flights from UK, South Africa, and South America
Donald Trump wishes new administration well in his farewell speech at Joint Base Andrews
Donald Trump wished Joe Biden and Kamala Harris "great luck" and "great success" in his farewell speech.
The worst of Trump's pardons
Elie Honig writes that Donald Trump offered up one last burst of cronyism and self-dealing on his last full day in office, doling out free passes to an unseemly lineup of criminals who apparently have been granted mercy based largely on their personal connections to Trump, their wealth and access or their status as celebrity objects of fascination. (He also pardoned several people who had been rightly advocated for by criminal justice reform groups.)
Linda Holliday’s Instagram rant adds drama to Tom Brady-Bill Belichick divorce
Bill Belichick’s girlfriend appears to have heard enough from Tom Brady fans. Linda Holliday responded to a troll on instagram who commented, “Too bad Bill let Tom go” on one of her posts. “And you have all the answers evidently? Holliday replied. “Tom didn’t score last night … not once! Defense won that game. Were...
Several injured in Madrid as explosion rocks Spanish capital
Several people have been injured in an explosion in Madrid, Spain's capital, the city's emergency services said Wednesday.
Several injured in Madrid as explosion rocks Spanish capital
Several people have been injured in an explosion in Madrid, Spain's capital, the city's emergency services said Wednesday.
Russia Optimistic That Joe Biden Will Extend New START Nuclear Weapons Deal
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "it is only possible to welcome" a U.S. move to extend the arms reduction treaty, which expires on February 5.
Bow Wow apologizes after crowded Houston club backlash
Bow Wow has apologized for taking the stage in a packed nightclub in Houston over the weekend.
Bow Wow apologizes after crowded Houston club backlash
Bow Wow has apologized for taking the stage in a packed nightclub in Houston over the weekend.
Bow Wow apologizes after crowded Houston club backlash
Bow Wow has apologized for taking the stage in a packed nightclub in Houston over the weekend.
Kayleigh McEnany’s cowardly exit
An abrupt departure from the briefing room and a cowardly departure from the public eye.
Review: Uplift or minstrelsy? A novel asks hard questions about early Black entrepreneurs
Ladee Hubbard's second novel, "The Rib King," features a Black servant who finds himself on a sauce label — and another who controls her own destiny.
This is more than a change of presidents
In just about every position of government, we are trading up.
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The classic French boeuf bourguignon takes time but pays dividends in warm, wintry comfort.
Trump says he’ll be back in ‘some form’ at farewell speech
​President Trump​ told a crowd of supporters at Joint Base Andrews that he will return in “some form,” alluding that he will stay involved in politics as his presidency comes to an end.  “I wish the new administration great luck and great success​.​ Goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form​,” Trump said...
How Biden can claw back Trump’s influence on the courts
Joe Biden stands with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor after taking the oath of office during his second swearing-in ceremony as vice president on January 20, 2013, at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. | Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images Trump reshaped the judiciary. That’s a huge problem for Biden’s ambitions. The federal judiciary will soon be the last bastion of Republican power in the federal government. President-elect Joe Biden takes office at noon on Wednesday. He’ll be joined by a Democratic House of Representatives and, at least after Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) take their seats, a narrowly Democratic Senate. But Republicans absolutely dominate the highest levels of the federal judiciary, where they have a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. It appears likely, moreover, that the GOP-controlled judiciary will be a thorn in Biden’s side. Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch, for example, is already laying the groundwork to strip federal agencies of much of their power to regulate after Biden takes office, and Gorsuch almost certainly has the five votes he needs to make this happen. The Republican Party dominates the federal judiciary in no small part due to six years of work by outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. When Justice Antonin Scalia died nearly a year before President Barack Obama left office, McConnell announced almost immediately that Obama’s Supreme Court nominee would get the cold shoulder from a Republican Senate. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died shortly before the 2020 election, McConnell ensured that her conservative replacement, Amy Coney Barrett, would be confirmed just days before the nation voted to cast Trump out of office. During the final two years of Obama’s presidency — the only two years of his presidency that Republicans controlled the Senate — McConnell imposed a near-total blockade on new appointments to the federal courts of appeals (often referred to as “circuit” judges). The result was that now-outgoing President Donald Trump got to fill nearly all of the judicial vacancies that came open during his presidency, plus nearly all of the appellate court seats Obama should have filled in his final two years. Despite the fact that Obama served for twice as long as Trump, there are currently 53 active circuit judges appointed by Trump and only 50 appointed by Obama. (Obama’s judicial confirmations also got off to a fairly slow start, although they picked up considerably once the Senate changed its rules in 2013 to make it easier to confirm judges.) One consequence of the narrow incoming Democratic majority in the Senate is that McConnell won’t be able to impose a new blockade on Biden’s judicial nominees. And Biden, a former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is signaling that he hopes to move quickly to confirm new judges. Biden, who has more pre-presidential experience with judicial confirmations than any recent president, appears to already have a robust sense of who he wants to put on the bench: Inlate December, incoming White House counsel Dana Remus sent a letter to Democratic senators asking them to help identify diverse candidates for federal judgeships, including public defenders, civil rights lawyers, and attorneys for the poor. But even with a Democratic Senate, Biden faces a long, difficult fight if he hopes to erase Republican dominance of the judiciary. What Trump did to the courts Measured simply by the number of people he placed on the Supreme Court, Trump did more to shape the Court than any president since Ronald Reagan — and more than any one-term president since Herbert Hoover. One-third of Supreme Court seats are held by Trump appointees, even though Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 and Republicans held a Senate majority during Trump’s term only due to malapportionment. Trump owes this influence, moreover, to McConnell’s willingness to play Calvinball with the rules and norms governing Supreme Court appointments. When Scalia’s death resulted in a vacancy nearly eight months before the 2016 election, McConnell announced a new rule — when a vacancy arises so close to a presidential election, the vacancy must be filled by the “next president.” Yet when Ginsburg died just weeks before the 2020 election, McConnell’s Republican-led Senate raced to confirm her replacement before voters had a chance to officially repudiate Trump. Trump’s last appointment to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, took her seat eight days before the election. As the Supreme Court sits at the apex of the judiciary, it plays an outsized role in shaping American law. But that’s no reason to discount the impact of other courts. In a typical year, the Court may hear between 60 and 80 cases that receive full briefs, oral arguments, and a written opinion. Federal trial courts, meanwhile, heard nearly 400,000 cases in 2019, and circuit courts heard close to 50,000 appeals. With circuit nominees, Senate Republicans played games similar to those that helped them maximize GOP control of the Supreme Court. In the final two years of his presidency, Obama successfully appointed only two federal appellate judges — and one, Kara Farnandez Stoll, was confirmed to a specialized court that deals mostly with patent cases. By contrast, a Democratic Senate confirmed 10 federal appeals court judges during the final years of Republican George W. Bush’s presidency. And, according to the Federal Judicial Center, the Senate confirmed 24 appellate judges during Trump’s final two years in office. One consequence of McConnell’s determination to confirm Republican judges and block Democrats is that Biden takes office with very few judicial vacancies to fill, at least on the court of appeals level. Just two appellate court seats are currently vacant — one on the First Circuit and one on the Seventh Circuit. (A total of 43 seats on less powerful federal district courts are vacant.) Another consequence is that Trump’s judges have an outsized amount of influence on the federal judiciary. Over the course of his presidency, Trump appointed 54 individuals to the federal appellate bench. Obama, meanwhile, appointed a total of 55 appellate judges — even though Obama was president for four years longer than Trump. The following chart represents all current United States courts of appeals judges who remain on active status — older judges may take “senior” status, a form of semi-retirement where they typically hear a reduced caseload. Ninety-seven active federal appellate judges were appointed by Republican presidents, while only 81 were appointed by Democrats. Tim Ryan Williams/Vox Although senior judges retain a great deal of authority, circuit judges who take senior status are stripped of one very important power — they typically do not sit on “en banc” panels, a special process that appeals courts can use to overrule their own precedents. Thus, whoever controls a majority of the active seats on a federal appeals court has tremendous power to shape federal law within the states overseen by that court. There are 13 federal appellate courts, and Republican appointees make up a majority of active judges on the Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuits. That means that an enormous landmass that includes New York, Pennsylvania, and most of the South and Midwest, is overseen by appeals courts with a Republican majority. United States Courts Moreover, on several of these courts, including the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Circuits, Republican appointees have such lopsided majorities that it is unlikely that Biden could eliminate those majorities even if he serves for two terms and shares power that entire time with a Democratic Senate. The incoming president, in other words, has a great deal of work ahead of him if he hopes to reverse Trump and McConnell’s influence over the federal bench. So what can Biden do? To date, the Biden transition team’s most detailed statement about how it plans to approach judicial nominations is incoming White House Counsel Dana Remus’s late December letter to Democratic senators. While that letter primarily deals with district court nominees — the lowest rank of federal judge who receives a lifetime appointment — it does offer some hints that Biden hopes to move as rapidly as he can on judges. Home-state senators historically have played an outsized role in selecting district and circuit judges in their home states (although federal appellate circuits typically stretch over multiple states, each seat on circuit court is traditionally assigned to a particular state, and senators can be quite protective of these traditional assignments). For many years, lower court judgeships were often treated as patronage appointments — with senators doling out these jobs to their friends and allies. And, even now that much of the old patronage system has been dismantled, presidents often rely on home-state senators to identify strong candidates to fill judicial vacancies. After all, the president is unlikely to know who the best lawyers in Oregon are without some help from people from Oregon. But home-state senators can just as often frustrate a president’s attempt to swiftly fill judicial vacancies, even that senator belongs to the same party as the president. If a senator is slow to recommend potential nominees to the president, the vacancy may sit open for months, and the president may be reluctant to antagonize a senators by nominating a new judge without the senator’s input. Remus’s letter, however, suggests that Biden plans to avoid such delays. The letter instructs Democratic senators who “choose to use judicial nominating commissions” to evaluate potential district judges “to set up these commissions immediately.” And the letter warns senators that they should “forward names to us within 45 days of any new vacancy being announced.” The clear implication is that, if senators do not recommend nominees quickly, Biden could name someone without their input. Biden also appears to have been influenced by an emerging debate within the legal profession about the morality of certain kinds of lawyering. Historically, work at a corporate law firm or in a prosecutor’s office was viewed as a political neutral credential — in part because influential lawyers in both parties tended to seek out such jobs. While President Obama placed a great deal of emphasis on racial and gender diversity when he selected federal judges, he also elevated many judges who worked as prosecutors or as law firm partners. Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, is both a former prosecutor and a former law firm partner. Meanwhile, Obama largely neglected lawyers who worked for advocacy organizations focused on the public interest. A 2014 report by the liberal Alliance for Justice found that only 3.6 percent of Obama’s lower court nominees worked for public interest organizations. And, while 43 percent of his district court nominees and 38 percent of his circuit court nominees had worked as prosecutors, only 15 percent of his district nominees and 7 percent of his circuit nominees had been public defenders. Yet while these sorts of career choices might have been viewed as politically neutral under Obama, an increasingly vocal segment of the legal profession — and of legal advocacy groups — no longer holds such a view. Neal Katyal, a former acting Solicitor General of the United States under Obama who is now a partner at a large law firm, was widely criticized for representing two corporations accused of aiding and abetting child slavery. Demand Justice, a young, well-funded advocacy group seeking to move the judiciary to the left, called for a ban on Democratic judicial nominees who have achieved “partner status at a corporate-law firm — such as the large firms known collectively as Big Law — or who serves as in-house counsel at a large corporation.” As Demand Justice’s Brian Fallon and Christopher Kang wrote in The Atlantic, “the federal bench is wildly unrepresentative of the legal profession as a whole.” It overrepresents lawyers who pursued lucrative firm jobs, and it underrepresents lawyers who devoted their careers to the least fortunate. Though it’s far from clear that Biden will go as far as to deny judicial appointments altogether to lawyers with certain backgrounds, the Remus letter asks senators to identify potential nominees “who are public defenders, civil rights and legal aid attorneys” — a clear sign that Biden’s been influenced by groups like Demand Justice. The fate of many of Biden’s nominees, meanwhile, will be determined by how incoming Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) approaches an antiquated tradition known as the “blue slip.” Briefly, when the president names a judicial nominee, the senators from that nominee’s home-state are send a blue sheet of paper asking them whether they approve of that nominee. Yet, while the tradition of asking home-state senators whether they approve of a nominee stretches back many years, the significance of a senator’s decision to disapprove of a nominee has varied wildly depending on who chairs the Judiciary Committee and whether that chair wants the sitting president’s nominees to be confirmed. Unfortunately for President Obama, and for Obama’s nominees, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) took an unusually rigid stance on the blue slip during Obama’s first six years in office, when Leahy chaired the Judiciary Committee. Under Leahy, a single senator of either party could veto any nominee from their home state that they disapproved of. Republicans took ruthless advantage of Leahy’s approach — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), for example, effectively held a appeals court vacancy open for eight years until Trump could fill it. Then, after Trump became president, then-Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stripped Democratic senators of their ability to block circuit court nominees from their home state. For the moment, moreover, it’s far from clear how Durbin plans to approach the blue slip. I emailed Durbin’s office multiple times asking about how he will use blue slips once he takes over the Judiciary Committee, and did not receive a response. Sources at multiple liberal advocacy groups that work on judicial nominations also told me that they do not yet know how Durbin will use blue slips. If Durbin repeats Leahy’s error, he could give Republicans a great deal of power to sabotage Biden’s nominees. McConnell will not be able to blockade Supreme Court nominees The most high-profile judicial nomination that Biden is likely to make during his presidency is a replacement for Justice Stephen Breyer. Though Breyer’s been coy about whether he plans to retire soon, he’s also 82 years old. And a Biden presidency combined with a Democratic Senate gives the elderly Clinton appointee an opportunity to retire and be replaced by a like-minded judge. Biden, who promised to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court if given the opportunity to do so, already appears to be laying the groundwork to replace Breyer. By nominating Merrick Garland to be his attorney general, Biden is likely to open up Garland’s seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Biden is also reportedly considering Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Black federal trial judge who clerked for Breyer, to fill Garland’s seat. Three of the Supreme Court’s current members are former DC Circuit judges, so, by placing Judge Jackson on that powerful court, Biden would make her into a strong candidate to replace Breyer (though it’s worth noting that there are other strong candidates as well, such as California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger). In any event, a Democratic Senate majority, even a very narrow one, means that Biden has a real shot at filling any vacancies that arise on the Supreme Court — provided that the justices do not all hold onto their seats until after that majority could be lost.
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