US elections

HIGHLIGHTS: Road to Joe Biden’s inauguration as US president

HIGHLIGHTS: Road to Joe Biden’s inauguration as US president


Just one last formality, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will become the next president and vice-president of the United States.

However, the road to their inauguration on January 20 is a rocky one, with rival Donald Trump stubbornly refusing to admit defeat – and his supporters storming the US Capitol on January 6.

What developments will occur as America winds its way to a brand-new Commander-in-Chief?


Internal watchdog to probe how Justice Department prepared before Capitol riots


The US Justice Department’s internal watchdog will review how the FBI and other law enforcement agencies prepared and responded to the storming of the US Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said on Friday, January 15.

The inquiry will be coordinated with other federal agencies whose law enforcement arms were also involved in responding to the Jan. 6 assault, including the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security and Department of the Interior.

The Pentagon’s inspector general, meanwhile, said on Friday it was going to review the Pentagon’s role and responsibilities related to the attack on the Capitol.

The review comes after many media outlets, including Reuters, reported that the FBI office in Norfolk, Virginia circulated a bulletin a day before the events at the Capitol warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war.”

A law enforcement source who spoke anonymously to Reuters said the bulletin was widely circulated among law enforcement agencies planning for possible demonstrations on Jan. 6, but it was considered to be “raw open source” material, meaning it was not validated by the FBI or other government investigators.

Steven D’Antuono, the FBI’s Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington field office, previously told reporters the bureau was aware of the memo and did take steps to address intelligence gathered ahead of the Capitol riots.

At the same time, however, d’Antuono said the FBI could not take action based on mere social media chatter, due to First Amendment guarantees of free speech.

“We have to separate the aspirational from the intentional and determine which of the individuals saying despicable things on the Internet are just practicing keyboard bravado, or they actually have the intent to do harm.”

The information in the bulletin “was a thread on a message board,” he said, noting his office provided a brief to law enforcement partners within 40 minutes of reading it.

D’Antuono also noted that arrests were made ahead of the rally based on intelligence-gathering, including of far-right Proud Boys leader Enrique Barrio.

Biden taps former deputy CIA director Cohen for spy agency again


President-elect Joe Biden on Friday, January 15, named former Deputy CIA Director David Cohen to reprise his role at the US intelligence agency as he continued to fill out top roles for his administration.

Cohen previously served as the deputy director for the Central Intelligence Agency from 2015 to 2017 under Democratic then-President Barack Obama, when Biden served as vice president. Cohen would serve under longtime US diplomat William Burns, Biden’s nominee for CIA director.

“Cohen is a national security, finance and legal expert,” Biden’s transition team said in a statement, noting his work leading “special projects on new technologies and how best to work with companies to advance the CIA’s mission.”

The former lawyer also previously served as Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the US Treasury Department, where he dealt with terrorism financing and oversaw sanctions against countries such as Iran, Russia and North Korea.

The president-elect’s transition team also said New York City’s emergency coordinator, Deanne Criswell, would lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversees the federal government’s response to wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters.

Biden also picked one of his most closest confidants from his presidential campaign, Anita Dunn, to join the White House as a senior adviser.

Dunn, who helped Biden prepare for debates and was a key influence on the campaign’s planning and communication strategy, will be one of several political strategists with long personal ties with Biden who will now surround him in office.

The transition also named deputy-level officials for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Management and Budget.

It also separately announced several more top leaders to help with Biden’s COVID-19 response, including former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler to help lead the vaccine effort.

Biden chooses former FDA chief Kessler to help lead US vaccine drive


US President-elect Joe Biden has chosen David Kessler, the ex-head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to help lead the COVID-19 vaccine push, his transition team said on Friday, January 15.

The news came as Biden was due to outline his plans to ramp up vaccinations amid soaring infections and an early rollout by the Trump administration that Biden has called “a dismal failure.”

Kessler, a pediatrician and lawyer who headed the FDA under presidents George Bush senior and Bill Clinton, will be Chief Science Officer of the administration’s COVID-19 Response.

That expanded role will include replacing Moncef Slaoui as the chief adviser for the vaccine distribution effort the Trump administration called Operation Warp Speed. Kessler is expected to provide advice on vaccine manufacturing, distribution, safety and efficacy.

Slaoui, meanwhile, is expected to stay on as a consultant during a transitional period, with Warp Speed chief operating officer and US Army General Gustave Perna staying on the team during the new administration.

Kessler has been a co-chair of Biden’s advisory board on the pandemic. As head of the FDA, Kessler cut the time needed to approve drugs to treat AIDS and moved to try to regulate the tobacco industry.

His move comes at a critical point for the government’s effort to speed up the development and distribution of shots and treatments for the coronavirus in a country that has been particularly hard hit by the virus.

Biden has vowed to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses injected into Americans in his first 100 days in office. That pace is more than double the current rate but still would leave most of the country without the shot by the end of April.

US President Donald Trump’s administration had aimed to give vaccine doses to 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 – but only 11.1 million shots had been administered as of Thursday, January 14, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a bid to expand vaccination efforts, the Trump administration said Tuesday, January 12, it was releasing millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses it had been holding back for second shots.

The move was a departure from an earlier strategy to stockpile enough doses to ensure that required second doses of the vaccines are available.

Shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, whose vaccines were approved by the US last month, come in the form of two doses.

Pence vows to honor US history, ensure safe inauguration of new president


US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, January 14, vowed to uphold American history and ensure a safe transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden, 8 days after supporters of US President Donald Trump laid siege to the US Capitol.

Pence made the remarks before a security briefing at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and during a meeting with National Guard troops guarding the US Capitol, where Pence was among top US officials forced into hiding during last week’s attack.

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Trump administration takes final swipes at China and its companies


The Trump administration in its waning days took another swipe at China and its biggest firms on Thursday, January 14, imposing sanctions on officials and companies for alleged misdeeds in the South China Sea and imposing an investment ban on nine more firms.

The moves will further increase tensions with China, Washington’s strategic rival in Asia, days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday. The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Inside Trump’s final days: Aides struggle to contain an angry, isolated president


“We are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” President Donald Trump exhorted his screaming supporters before they marched on the US Capitol last week, saying he’d go with them. He did not – and what unfolded was a deadly breach of the citadel of American democracy that has left Trump’s world crumbling in the final days of his presidency.

Trump had wanted to join the thousands of hardcore followers who assembled at Capitol Hill on January 6. He told aides in the days leading up to the rally that he planned to accompany them to demonstrate his ire at Congress as it moved to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s November election victory.

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Biden unveils plan to pump $1.9 trillion into pandemic-hit economy


President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9-trillion stimulus package proposal on Thursday, January 14, designed to jump-start the economy and speed up the United States response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Man who threw fire extinguisher at police in US Capitol is arrested


A Pennsylvania man who allegedly threw a fire extinguisher at police during the riots at the US Capitol has been arrested, a US Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday, January 14.

The arrest of retired firefighter Robert Sanford of Chester, Pennsylvania, was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

Sanford will face 3 federal felony charges, including assaulting a police officer, according to the newspaper.

The Wall Street Journal said that Sanford is not the same person who is suspected of killing Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick last week.

Reuters could not immediately verify the details of the charges he will face.

The FBI has not yet provided the public with any information about possible suspects in Sicknick’s death, saying the investigation remains ongoing.

4th US lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19 after US Capitol attack


US Representative Andriano Espaillat on Thursday, January 14, said he had tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the fourth member of Congress to announce they had contracted the coronavirus following a mob attack on the US Capitol last week.

“I am following guidance from my physician and quarantining at home after having tested positive for COVID-19,” he wrote on Twitter.

Espaillat is the latest lawmaker to test positive for the coronavirus in what has become a partisan issue, with Democrats blaming Republicans for not wearing masks while sheltering in secure areas on January 6, as violent supporters of Republican President Donald Trump stormed the building.

But only Democrats have reported testing positive as a result of the emergency so far.

The 66-year-old New York City Democrat said he received a second dose of coronavirus vaccine last week but noted that vaccinations take time to become effective.

“I have continued to be tested regularly, wear my mask and follow the recommended guidelines,” Espaillat wrote on Twitter. “I will continue my duties representing New York’s 13th congressional district remotely until I have received clearance from my doctor.”

Top US Justice Dep’t antitrust official to resign effective January 19


The top antitrust official in the US Justice Department, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, told the White House he will resign effective January 19, a day before the administration of Joe Biden takes over.