'FED LIES': Trump denounced by his own party’s top leader


The US Studies Centre's Dr Gorana Grgic says Donald Trump's legacy will ultimately be determined by the events which have occurred in the last few weeks.

It is President Donald Trump's last full day in office, and the US is bracing for a flurry of last-minute pardons from the White House.

Mr Trump is expected to announce as many as 100 pardons and commutations before the end of the day.

The President's official public schedule is empty, save for this line, which has appeared on the schedule pretty much every day this month: "President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings."

Vice President Mike Pence is using his last full day in office to chair a meeting of the White House's coronavirus task force.

Incoming president Joe Biden is going to hold a sombre ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial's reflecting pool in Washington D.C. this evening, to honour the 400,000 Americans who have died from the virus.

Meanwhile, the most senior Republican in Congress has blamed Mr Trump for the violence on January 6, saying he "fed lies" to his supporters.

"The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor of the chamber.

"But we pressed on, we stood together, and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation."

That remark directly blaming the President is significant. Mr McConnell is reportedly open to convicting the President in the upcoming impeachment trial, and as the most senior Republican in Congress, his opinion carries weight.

12 National Guard members removed from inauguration duty

Earlier we shared an Associated Press report that two National Guard members had been removed from security for the inauguration due to their ties to fringe right-wing militia groups.

That number has now risen to 12, some of whom are linked to such groups, while others have posted "extremist views online".AP's sources still say there is no threat to Joe Biden.

Biden chokes back tears in farewell address

Joe Biden has just spoken in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware before leaving for Washington D.C., where he will be sworn in as president tomorrow.

"It's kind of emotional for me," Mr Biden said of farewelling the state.

"Look, you've been with me my whole career, through the good times and the bad. And I want to thank you for everything. To my fellow Delawarians, on behalf of the entire Biden family, I want to express how much you mean to me. To every one of us.

"You know, in our family, the values we share, the character we strive for, the way we view the world - it all comes from home. It all comes from Delaware."

Mr Biden was speaking at the Major Joseph R. 'Beau' Biden National Guard Reserve Centre, named after his late son, who died in 2015 at the age of 46.

Beau Biden was a military veteran, and a Delaware attorney-general. His father has often said he would have made a better politician, and a better president.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I only have one regret. He's not here. Because we should be introducing him as president," he said.

"But we have great opportunities. Delaware's taught us anything is possible. Anything is possible in this country."

US officially accuses China of committing 'genocide'

Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declared that China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in its treatment of the Uighurs and other minority ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

The Uighurs are a Muslim minority group native to the supposedly autonomous region, situated in China's northwest.

The Chinese government has been systematically targeting them and incarcerating them en masse in facilities it describes, in Orwellian terms, as "vocational training centres".

These centres are actually gulags where torture and other human rights abuses are rife. More than a million Uighurs are believed to have been incarcerated.

You can about the issue in more depth here. Be warned, the details are unpleasant.

"After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the People's Republic of China, under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party, has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang," says Mr Pompeo.

"I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party state.

"The governing authorities of the second most economically, militarily and politically powerful country on earth have made clear that they are engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader."

McConnell signals willingness to work with Biden

There's another moment worth mentioning from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's speech, where he signalled a willingness to cooperate with the incoming Biden administration.

"November's elections did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change," he said.

"Americans elected a closely divided Senate, a closely divided House, and a presidential candidate who said he'd represent everyone.

"So our marching orders from the American people are clear. We are to have robust discussions and seek common ground. We are to pursue bipartisan agreement everywhere we can, and check and balance one another respectfully where we must.

"Through all of this, we must always keep in mind that we are all Americans. We all love this country. And we are all in this together."

It is, of course, much easier to say these things about bipartisanship than to follow through on them.

Republican Senate leader blames Trump for violence

The two parties' Senate leaders, Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer, have spoken on the floor of the chamber.

Mr McConnell praised his colleagues for resuming their joint session after the violence on January 6 and proceeding to certify Joe Biden's election victory.

"The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like," Mr McConnell said.

"But we pressed on, we stood together, and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation."

That remark directly blaming Donald Trump for the violence is interesting. Mr McConnell is reportedly open to convicting the President in the upcoming impeachment trial, and as the most senior Republican in Congress, his opinion carries weight.

Mr Schumer identified that trial as one of three priorities for the Senate after Mr Biden takes power tomorrow.

"There will be an impeachment trial in the Senate. If the President is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again," he said.

"Donald Trump is a threat to our constitutional order, whether he's in or out of office. Even now, he has not accepted responsibility for what he has done.

"Donald Trump should not be eligible to run for office ever again."

The other two priorities are the confirmation of Mr Biden's nominees for Cabinet and other government positions, and the passage of another coronavirus relief package.

Hearings for several of those nominees have been happening today.

Two troops with right-wing links removed from inauguration security

Two National Guard members have been removed from their role protecting tomorrow's inauguration after they were found to have ties to fringe right-wing militias, the Associated Press reports.

The FBI has been vetting the thousands of troops sent to Washington D.C. ahead of the inauguration, fearing the potential for an insider attack.

The two National Guard members in question here were not found to be plotting against Joe Biden. AP's sources did not reveal which fringe group they belonged to.

Hillary Clinton floats baseless Capitol riot theory

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who lost to Donald Trump in 2016, has interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her podcast.

As you'd imagine, given this was a conversation between two politicians from the same party, it wasn't exactly hard-hitting. But there is one moment worth mentioning.

During a discussion of the Capitol riot, Ms Clinton floated the baseless theory that Mr Trump may have spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 6.

"We learned a lot about our system of government over the last four years, with a President who disdains democracy, and as you have said numerous times, has other agendas," said Ms Clinton.

"What they all are, I don't think we yet know. I hope, historically, we will find out who he's beholden to, who pulls his strings.

"I would love to see his phone records, see whether he was talking to Putin the day the insurgents invaded out Capitol.

"But we now know that not just him but his enablers, his accomplices, his cult members, have the same disregard for democracy."

She went on to suggest establishing a 9/11-style commission to figure out exactly what happened that day.

In her response, Ms Pelosi did not push back on Ms Clinton's Putin theory - in fact, she bolstered it.

"I don't know what Putin has on him politically, financially or personally, but what happened last week was a gift to Putin, because Putin wants to undermine democracy in our country and throughout the world," the Speaker said.

"And these people - unbeknownst to them, maybe - are Putin puppets. They were doing Putin's business when they did that at the incitement of the President."

Biden invites Republican leaders to church

President-elect Joe Biden has reportedly invited the top congressional leaders, including Republicans Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, to join him for mass at St Matthew's Cathedral in Washington tomorrow morning.

A small gesture of bipartisanship, it seems, a few hours before the official handover of power.

Quiet start to Trump's last full day in office

It has been a rather quiet start to the day here in the US - Donald Trump's last full day as President.

We are expecting an announcement at some point on one last barrage of pardons from Mr Trump. US media reports there may be as many as 100 pardons and commutations, with some controversial names among the recipients.

The President's official public schedule is empty, save for this line, which has appeared on the schedule pretty much every day this month: "President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings."

Vice President Mike Pence is using his last full day in office to chair a meeting of the White House's coronavirus task force.

Meanwhile, incoming president Joe Biden is going to hold a sombre ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial's reflecting pool in Washington D.C. this evening, to honour the Americans who have died from the virus.

The country's death toll is set to pass 400,000 today.

Inauguration rehearsal evacuated after scare

Staff attending an inauguration rehearsal were evacuated and rushed into the US Capitol visitor centre after the lockdown was announced via intercom.

Police said in a statement that Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman ordered the shutdown out of an "abundance of caution."

The statement said the fire took place under a bridge nearby, adding: "There are currently no fires on or within the Capitol campus."

The DC fire department said it had responded to an outside fire in the 100 block of H St SE that had been extinguished. "There were no injuries. This accounts for smoke that many have seen," said the fire department.

Police are understandably jumpy as security staff work to ensure there is no repeat of the deadly riots with the inauguration just days away.

Capitol put in lockdown after warning of 'external security threat'

The US Capitol has gone into lockdown after police issued a warning of an "external security threat."

"All buildings within the Capitol Complex: External security threat, no entry or exit is permitted, stay away from exterior windows, doors. If outside, seek cover," Capitol Police said in a message sent to all staff.

The West Front of the Capitol was evacuated by security officials as smoke was seen rising near the Capitol building in Washington, DC.

A law enforcement official told NBC News that the evacuation was prompted by what turned out to be a fire at a homeless encampment.

US authorities prepare for inauguration trouble

The theme of January 20, when Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, is "America United".

But less than a fortnight after a raging mob of Trump supporters overran the US Capitol, leaving five dead, the preparations for Mr Biden's inauguration - after which he'll officially commence his long-pledged restoration of the "soul of America" - suggest anything but.

With extremist groups vowing there'll be chaos on Wednesday, mass reinforcements have been shipped into Washington D.C., where there are more troops right now, Democratic congressman Seth Moulton told The Guardian, than in Afghanistan.

Gun store owners across the nation say they cannot keep up with demand, with outlets running out of ammunition and running low on guns.

And the National Guard has been activated across at least 19 states, where heavily armed protesters are calling on extreme groups from both ends of the political spectrum to unite against the US government, hoping for a "second civil war" as they continue to refute Mr Biden's victory in last November's presidential election.

China lashes 'lunatic' Mike Pompeo

China lashed Mike Pompeo as a "lunatic" in a blistering editorial in its state tabloid after the US Secretary of State called for an investigation into the possibility that COVID-19 was a lab leak.

The Global Times piece said Mr Pompeo appeared to have gone "insane", referring to his tweets over the weekend in which he claimed China lied about and hid the virus and said he had cracked down on the country's influence in America.

The news outlet published by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Monday said the Trump administration had been "aggressive in its China relations" while China had been "defensive and restrained".

It called Mr Pompeo's "crazy" behaviour a "manifestation of the extreme, irrational and irresponsible China policy of the US" and warned that the new administration needed to undo the latest "anti-China decisions" to salvage the strained relationship between the two countries.

Trump denied military farewell

Donald Trump will not receive the extravagant military goodbye he hoped for after the Pentagon denied the outgoing president's request.

According to CNN, Mr Trump was hoping for a major send-off before the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20.

The outlet spoke to a person familiar with Mr Trump's departure, who revealed he wanted a "military-style sendoff and a crowd of supporters".

However, two senior defence officials confirmed to Defense One late last week that no military farewell is being planned for the commander-in-chief.

Mr Trump was impeached for a second time last week after hundreds of his supporters stormed the US Capitol.

More than 20,000 National Guardsmen are stationed around Washington DC ahead of the inauguration next week.

Melania and Ivanka's relationship in ruins

It's not just "Javanka's" fantasies of future political power that have been fractured throughout Donald Trump's term.

Sources close to the outgoing President's eldest daughter, Ivanka, have declared her bond with her stepmother, First Lady Melania Trump, is also in ruins.

Four year ago, the pair "both were aware and respectful of one another's turf", a report by CNN pointed out.

Now, the tension between the two is so bad, one source told the publication, there is little desire by either to even be in the same room.

"There's been some finger-pointing," someone with knowledge of the situation told the publication, in regards to the President's behaviour over the last fortnight.

Rumours of the two women's ongoing feud have gained momentum since Mr Trump was elected President, with a book by Melania's former friend, Stephanie Wolkoff, detailing how she thwarted Ivanka's campaign to be the White House's most important female.

Melania reportedly mockingly nicknamed her ambitious stepdaughter "Princess" behind her back, and the relationship is both strained and competitive, with aides working overtime to keep the two apart, Wolkoff claimed.

There have also long been reports that Ivanka tried to poach her stepmother's duties as First Lady and her staff.

Wolkoff, who is Melania's former former senior adviser, even went as far as calling the President's 39-year-old daughter "the serial poacher".

"And I mean that, in a sense like she poached individuals that we were - for the East Wing - that we were vetting to have, Kayleigh McEnany, Mercedes Schlapp," she said in an episode of The Daily Beat's podcast The New Abnormal.

"I mean, these were people Melania was looking to bring in. We called [Ivanka] the serial poacher."

FBI investigating woman who potentially stole Pelosi's laptop

The FBI is investigating evidence that a woman who entered the US Capitol on January 6 stole a laptop or hard drive from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, with the intention of selling it to Russians.

Politico reports that the FBI have emphasised the bizarre claim remains under investigation, and was included in an affidavit describing the criminal case against Riley June Williams, who was seen in footage of the siege near Ms Pelosi's office.

"It appears that WILLIAMS has fled," the affidavit, signed on Sunday and posted to the public at 9pm local time, reads.

"According to local law enforcement officers in Harrisburg, WILLIAMS' mother stated that WILLIAMS packed a bag and left her home and told her mother she would be gone for a couple of weeks. WILLIAMS did not provide her mother any information about her intended destination."

It's not clear if a laptop or hard drive was actually stolen.

However, a witness who spoke to authorities claimed to have seen footage of Ms Williams "taking a laptop computer or hard drive from Speaker Pelosi's office", an FBI agent told the publication.

"(Witness 1) stated that WILLIAMS intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service," they said.

"According to (Witness 1), the transfer of the computer device to Russia fell through for unknown reasons and WILLIAMS still has the computer device or destroyed it.

"This matter remains under investigation."

Twitter suspends QAnon-backing Republican

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican congresswoman who last week wore a mask claiming she was being "censored" while giving an address during impeachment proceedings on national television, has been suspended from Twitter.

Ms Greene, from the state of Georgia, is the first candidate who has expressed support for the baseless, far-right conspiracy group QAnon to win a US House seat.

After posting a clip from an interview in which she condemned Georgia election officials and expressed support for theories of widespread presidential election fraud, Twitter temporarily suspended her account, saying her claims posed "a risk of violence".

Ms Greene said in a statement that the action occurred "without explanation".

The suspension means she'll be prohibited from interacting with content on the site for 12 hours.

Giuliani won't be on impeachment defence team

Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has told ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl he won't be on the outgoing President's impeachment defence team.

Mr Trump last week made history as the first President in US history to be impeached twice, following claims he incited a riot at the Capitol earlier this month that ended in five deaths.

Mr Giuliani, who earlier told the publication he was involved in the defence - which would likely include allegations of widespread voter fraud - has since backtracked on the claims.

"Because I gave an earlier speech (at the January 6 Trump rally), I am a witness and therefore unable to participate in court or Senate chamber," he told Karl.

Big sign the Trumps are really scared

Less than three days from resuming life as private citizens, Donald Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, are facing a cold new reality after the violent January 6 storming of the Capitol.

The couple, who have acted as senior advisers to the outgoing president, are no longer perceived as the liberal, moderating influences they were at the beginning of the 74-year-old's term in 2016.

Instead, they've spent their final months in the White House "trying to keep the President from saying too little or too much, throwing themselves on a grenade they aren't certain will detonate but not able to take the chance either way", CNN White House correspondent Kate Bennett wrote late last week.

"They're trying to keep what little is left for them in terms of sellable currency as Trumps," one source told the publication, adding the change from "before insurrection" - when there were whispers of Ms Trump considering a future run for president herself - to "after insurrection" has "moved the needle on the state of the Trump empire from perilous to dire".

"The proof here about how worried (the family) is is how quiet they are," another source said, noting not just Ms Trump's, but her brothers', "dialed-back bravado".

Originally published as Pentagon's final blow to Trump