Day 56: "Exacerbating divisions."
1/ Putin authorized operations to interfere in the 2020 election by conducting an influence campaign aimed at “denigrating” Biden and the Democratic Party, while “supporting Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the U.S.,” according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. No foreign government, however, attempted to change votes or alter ballots. Putin used proxies linked to Russian intelligence services to promote “influence narratives – including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden – to U.S. media organizations, U.S. officials, and prominent U.S. individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration.” The U.S. intelligence community also found that Iran conducted influence operations and that China “considered but did not deploy influence efforts” intended to change the outcome of the election. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Axios / NBC News)
2/ The Army initially rejected Washington, D.C.’s request for the National Guard ahead of the Jan. 6 rally that led to the Capitol riot, saying the military shouldn’t be needed to help police with traffic and crowd management, unless more than 100,000 demonstrators were expected. The Army ultimately approved the mission and provided 340 members of the National Guard to help with street closures and crowd control as requested. (Washington Post / CNN)
3/ The U.S. is on pace to see the largest number of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in two decades. The surge has created a backlog in Border Patrol stations, with more than 4,200 children in custody and 2,943 of those children being held over the 72-hour legal limit. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, however, insisted that the “difficult” situation was under control. Mayorkas defended the administration’s policy of allowing unaccompanied teens and children to remain in the country – rejecting the Trump-era policy of immediately sending children back to Mexico or other countries – but said “We are expelling most single adults and families.” As the Biden administration struggles to find space for the surge in migrant children and teenagers, many are being forced to sleep on gym mats with foil sheets and go for days without showering. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Associated Press)
4/ Mitch McConnell threatened to go “completely scorched earth” if Democrats weaken or eliminate the filibuster. McConnell promised to “break the Senate” and turn the chamber into a “100-car pileup” with procedural delays if Democrats nix the 60-vote threshold for most legislation. Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, meanwhile, said the filibuster was “making a mockery of American democracy” and holding the Senate “hostage” by turning “the world’s most deliberative body into one of the world’s most ineffectual bodies.” Democrats need 51 votes to kill off the filibuster, but Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have said they oppose to changing the rules, as has Biden. Democratic priorities, including voting-rights legislation, background checks for gun purchases, a national $15 minimum wage, and immigration overhaul, will all likely face Republican filibusters. (New York Times / Axios / Bloomberg / CNN / Wall Street Journal)
5/ A Democratic senator suggested that the FBI’s 2018 background check of Brett Kavanaugh may have been “fake.” During his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and several other women. Trump agreed at the time to order the “FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation” into the allegations against Kavanaugh. Then-FBI Director Christopher Wray, however, told the Senate that the White House had limited the Kavanaugh investigation. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse called on the newly-confirmed attorney general, Merrick Garland, to facilitate “proper oversight” into questions about how thoroughly the FBI investigated Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. (The Guardian)
6/ The Senate confirmed Deb Haaland to lead the Interior Department, making the congresswoman the first Native American ever to serve as a Cabinet secretary. Haaland will oversee the agency that manages the federal government’s relations with tribes, as well as 20% of U.S. land, and nearly a quarter of the nation’s oil and gas production. (Politico / ABC News)
7/ U.S. intelligence assessed that North Korea could be preparing to carry out their first weapons test since Biden took office. Kim Jong Un’s sister, meanwhile, warned the U.S. to “refrain from causing a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the next four years. The Biden administration had tried to reach out to North Korea through multiple channels since last month to start a dialogue on Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs. The U.S. never received a response. (CNN / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)
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