👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Pence rejected Trump’s demand to block certification of Biden’s win, saying only lawmakers can decide whether to accept or reject the Electoral College votes. On Tuesday, Pence told Trump that he does not have the authority to reject the electoral votes from states he lost. The meeting came hours after Trump inaccurately tweeted “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.” This statement is not true and the vice president does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent to Congress. On Wednesday, Pence informed lawmakers that he was rebuffing Trump’s demand as lawmakers gathered for a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes, saying “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.” (Politico / CNN / New York Times / Axios / USA Today)
- Trump-Biden Transition Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / ABC News / CBS News / USA Today / The Guardian / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNN
2/ Mitch McConnell rebuked his Republican colleagues’ efforts to block the certification of the Electoral College, saying that overturning the results of the election “would damage our republic forever” and risked sending democracy into a “death spiral.” McConnell’s speech came after an objection was raised to the certification of Arizona’s 11 electoral votes to Biden and Harris by Rep. Paul Gosar and 60 other House colleagues minutes into the proceeding. McConnell denounced Trump’s “sweeping conspiracy theories” about election fraud and said he “will not pretend” voting to overturn the election would be a “harmless protest gesture.” (Axios / USA Today / ABC News)
3/ Trump encouraged thousands of supporters during a rally at the Ellipse to protest the count of electoral votes at the Capitol, saying “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol […] because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.” Trump, speaking about an hour before the start of the joint session of Congress, told his fans: “We will never give up. We will never concede. You don’t concede when there is theft involved. Your country has had enough. We will not take it anymore. We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.” Trump added: “We will stop the steal […] I’m going to be watching because history is going to be made.” During the rally, Trump urged Pence to take action, saying “If not I’m going to be very disappointed in you” and vowed to “primary the hell out of” members of Congress who didn’t go along with his bid to overturn the election results, calling them “pathetic” and “weak Republicans.” (NBC News / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)
4/ The U.S. Capitol went into lockdown as a mob of Trump supporters surrounded and then stormed the building, forcing Congress to abruptly pause the constitutional process to affirm Biden’s win. Shortly after 1 p.m. ET, House offices were evacuated as Trump’s supporters stormed Capitol barriers and dozens of people breached the building while the constitutional proceedings continued inside. Lawmakers inside the House chamber were told to shelter in place and put on gas masks as tear gas and smoke grenades were fired in the Rotunda. Several House office buildings were evacuated due to potential bomb threats. Pence, meanwhile, was evacuated. At least one person was shot and taken to a hospital. As the mob engulfed the Capitol, Trump did not call for calm but instead tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” The Army activated the entire District of Columbia National Guard – 1,100 troops – in response to a request from Mayor Muriel Bowser, who also declared a citywide curfew starting at 6 p.m. It was the first time the Capitol had been breached since the British attacked and burned the building during the War of 1812. Lawmakers, meanwhile, will resume counting Electoral College votes late Wednesday night. (Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / Politico / Wall Street Journal / USA Today / Bloomberg / CNBC / Associated Press)
5/ Trump blamed his opponents for the violence and praised the mob that stormed the Capitol as “very special,” saying “we can’t play into the hands of these people.” In a televised speech Biden condemned Trump for stoking the violence and demanded that the president call on his supporters to end the “unprecedented assault” on democracy. “This is not dissent. It’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition, and it must end now,” he added. “I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward.” Moments later, Trump tweeted a one-minute video – more than two hours after the mob overtook the building – repeating his lie that “the election was stolen” while advising the group to “go home now. We have to have peace.” He added: “We love you.” Trump later reiterated his false claim that the election was stolen, tweeting for his supporters to “remember this day.” (New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post / The Guardian / CNBC / Axios)
6/ Democrats won control of the Senate with victories in Georgia’s two runoff elections, assuring slim majorities in both chambers of Congress for Biden. Raphael Warnock defeated Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff won his race against David Perdue. With the Senate split, Kamala Harris will break 50-50 ties, putting Democrats in charge of the legislative agenda, committee chairmanships, and Congress’ confirmation and investigative powers. Some Republicans blamed Trump’s weeks of baseless claims that Georgia’s electoral system was rigged for the Democratic sweep. (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Politico)
7/ The Trump administration is attempting undo some civil rights protections for minority groups. The Justice Department submitted a change to how it enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act for White House approval. (New York Times)
8/ Russian hackers behind the cyber espionage campaign accessed the Justice Department email accounts. About 3,500 employees’ emails accounts were accessed. There is no indication that classified systems were affected. (Politico / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / ABC News)
9/ Trump administration officials auctioned off oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge despite a number of banks saying they would not finance Arctic energy projects due to flat oil prices. The sale of 11 tracts on just over 550,000 acres for $14.4 million was a fraction of what Republicans predicted it would yield. (Washington Post)
10/ Biden plans to nominate Merrick Garland for attorney general. Biden selected Garland over former Sen. Doug Jones and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates. Republicans blocked Garland’s Supreme Court nomination in 2016. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / USA Today / Axios)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~86,949,000; deaths: ~1,878,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~21,226,000; deaths: ~360,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
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