Trump Mulling Pardons On Last Full Day In Power

File photo: US President Donald Trump holds up his fist as he leaves the stage at the end of a rally to support Republican Senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia on December 5, 2020.. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

 

President Donald Trump began his final full day in the White House Tuesday with a long list of possible pardons to dish out before snubbing his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration and leaving for Florida.

On Wednesday at noon, Biden will be sworn in and the Trump presidency will end, turning the page on some of the most disruptive, divisive years the United States has seen since the 1960s.

Biden, a veteran Democratic senator who also served as vice president to Barack Obama, was set to travel to Washington on Tuesday with his wife Dr Jill Biden from their hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Together with incoming vice president Kamala Harris — the first woman ever to hold the job — Biden was due to deliver an evening address on the Covid-19 crisis, from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

By contrast, Trump has remained uncharacteristically silent as the clock ticks down to his departure to a new life in his Mar-a-Lago golf club residence in Palm Beach.

Banned by Twitter for his stream of inflammatory messages and misinformation, he has largely stopped communicating with the nation. He has also yet to congratulate Biden or invite him for the traditional pre-inauguration cup of tea in the Oval Office.

Instead, Trump has spent his time meeting with a dwindling circle of loyalists who backed him during a doomed, two-month effort to overturn the results of the November election.

That effort culminated on January 6 with Trump encouraging a crowd to march on Congress.

After the crowd broke through police, killing one officer, and trashed the hallowed Capitol building, Trump was impeached for the second time in just over a year — another first in a presidency of many firsts.

His final Gallup poll as president on Monday showed him exiting with 34 percent approval, his record low. Trump’s overall average of 41 percent since taking office is also the lowest for any presidency’s approval rating since Gallup began measuring in 1938.

Biden, meanwhile, is putting the finishing touches to an inauguration that will feature a small crowd and massive security — more fallout from the pro-Trump riot, on top of existing concerns about Covid-19.

– Pardons –
Trump issued a scattering of last-minute orders on Monday, most notably a lifting of the travel bans imposed because of the coronavirus on most of Europe and Brazil.

Under Trump’s order, borders were to have reopened from January 26, almost a week after he leaves office. Responding almost immediately, Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the measure would not stand.

For Trump, the main piece of unfinished business is now the expected slew of pardons that he is reported to be preparing.

According to CNN and other US outlets, Trump has a list of about 100 people he will grant clemency to.

After what The New York Times reports has been an intense lobbying effort, these are expected to be a mix of white-collar criminals and people whose cases have been championed by criminal justice activists.

More controversial possible pardons that have been the subject of speculation for months would be for the likes of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Trump’s influential advisor Stephen Bannon.

If Trump gave himself or his family a pardon — something currently not expected, according to latest US reports — that would likely harden anger among previously fully supportive Republicans in the Senate, which is expected to start an impeachment trial soon after Biden takes office.

– Unity and fear –
Biden’s inaugural speech is expected to focus on his appeals for Americans to reunite and to take on the Covid-19 pandemic with new seriousness.

He is also set to announce a dramatic shift away from Trump’s “America First” ideology, taking the United States back to its traditions of alliance-building. This will begin with the new president ordering the United States back into the Paris climate accord on day one.

But the 78-year-old Democrat’s fervent appeals for optimism and healing are running up against the hard reality of multiple crises.

Covid-19 is out of control, vaccine distribution is stumbling, and economic recovery remains in the balance. And after Trump’s refusal to accept the results of November’s presidential election, the country is seething.

Biden will take the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol under the protection of more than 20,000 National Guard soldiers. Checkpoints and large zones closed to ordinary citizens mean there will be only a smattering of guests.

The acting defense secretary said Monday that the military and FBI were vetting the National Guard troopers, who carry automatic weapons, in case any of them pose a threat.

– Inauguration snub –
Trump, the first president to lose reelection since George H.W. Bush was replaced by Bill Clinton, will also be the first ex-president to snub his successor’s inauguration in a century and a half.

On Wednesday, he will depart for Florida from the White House early, in order to benefit from full presidential travel privileges up to the last minute.

Marine One will take him from the White House to Joint Base Andrews to catch Air Force One — the presidential plane that, from noon, will no longer be his to use.

According to a Bloomberg report, Trump is organizing a military sendoff for himself at Andrews, watched by a crowd of invitees.

Biden Inauguration: Worries As Homeland Security Chief Quits

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 05, 2020 Acting Homeland Security Security Chad Wolf, announces measures against online sexual exploitation during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington,DC.  (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

US Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced his resignation unexpectedly Monday as worries rose over more violence during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.

Wolf’s departure as head of the body in charge of security for the January 20 event came five days after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol, hoping to prevent Biden from replacing him.

The Homeland Security Department oversees several law enforcement bodies including the Secret Service, the point agency for security for the White House and the US president.

Wolf, who said he was stepping down for procedural reasons, named Pete Gaynor, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to replace him.

But the move did not end questions over whether the US capital city would be adequately secure over the coming week.

An internal FBI document warned of the possibility that armed Trump supporters could hold protests in all 50 states between the coming weekend and January 20, according to US media.

The White House issued a statement saying that Trump had “declared that an emergency exists in the District of Columbia and ordered Federal assistance to supplement the District’s response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from the 59th Presidential Inauguration from January 11 to January 24, 2021.”

It said the order gave the Department of Homeland Security the authority to act “to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the District of Columbia.”

 

(FILES)Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, resigned January 11, 2021, amid rising worries over the possibility of more violence during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, a DHS official said. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP)

 

Meanwhile, federal and city officials continued to point fingers over who was responsible for the debacle at the Capitol last Wednesday, when the Congressional police force was overwhelmed by thousands of Trump supporters who succeeded in shutting down the legislature.

 More troops called up

The Pentagon said Monday it had authorized 15,000 National Guard troops to be deployed for Biden’s inauguration.

Already 6,200 troops are on the ground in Washington, and a total of 10,000 are planned by the coming weekend, said General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the Defense Department’s National Guard Bureau.

Another 5,000 could be deployed by the day of the inauguration, he said.

They will come equipped with riot gear and weapons, but so far they have not been authorized to arm themselves while on the streets of the US capital, he said.

Before he announced his departure, Wolf also ordered an acceleration of preparations by the Secret Service, citing “events of the past week and the evolving security landscape.”

Preparations for the event were moving quickly. A security fence has been built around the entire grounds of the Capitol, where Biden will take the oath of office as Trump’s successor.

‘Don’t come’

Still angry about last Wednesday’s violence, in which five people died, including a protester shot dead by police and a police officer who was attacked and died from his injuries, Washington mayor Muriel Bowser appealed to Biden backers to stay away from the capital on inauguration day.

Normally, hundreds of thousands of Americans — sometimes more than a million — flock to Washington for the quadrennial event.

“We are asking Americans not to come to Washington DC for the 59th presidential inauguration on January 20 and to instead participate virtually,” Bowser said.

Organizers said the Democratic president-elect would use the occasion to foster national unity, faced by a country deeply divided over politics and hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic.

He will be sworn in at the Capitol in front of the National Mall filled with flags rather than the usual hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Afterwards, he and three former US presidents — Trump won’t attend — will travel to Arlington National Cemetery, where thousands of US military war dead for veterans are buried, to lay a wreath.

But the preparations come as Democrats, accusing Trump of fomenting and applauding what they branded an “insurrection” and “coup” attempt last week, seek to force Trump from office prematurely.

That could further spark violence by Trump supporters, the FBI warned in a new internal advisory.

According to US media, the document says that far-right groups like the violent Boogaloo Boys are planning protests around the country timed to the inauguration.

One group, the FBI said, “warned that if Congress attempts to remove POTUS (Trump) via the 25th Amendment a huge uprising will occur,” ABC News reported.

Fauci Accepts Biden’s Request To Be Chief Medical Adviser, Stay On COVID-19 Team

A combo image showing Anthony Fauci and Joe Biden

 

US President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday said he had asked the government’s top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci to remain in his post and join his COVID-19 team after he takes office.

“I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents,” Biden said in an interview with CNN, referring to the expert who outgoing President Donald Trump had suggested he would fire after the election.

“And I asked him to be chief medical adviser for me as well and to be part of the COVID team.”

On Friday, Fauci told NBC’s “Today” he accepted the position.

“Oh, absolutely. I said yes right on the spot,” Fauci said when asked if he’d taken the role.

Biden also said that on his first day in office he would ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days to help reduce transmission of the virus that is again surging in a country with the world’s highest number of deaths and infections.

“I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever,” Biden said in the interview excerpts, broadcast ahead of the full interview later Thursday.

Biden’s approach to the virus stands in sharp contrast to that of Trump, who has downplayed its seriousness, mocked mask-wearing and called for reopenings despite having been hospitalized with Covid-19 himself.

The president-elect said he planned to use government authority where possible to issue a “standing order” for masking in federal buildings as well as for interstate transportation, including on airplanes and buses.

To build trust in vaccines after they are approved, Biden said he was willing to be vaccinated in public.

The United States has surpassed 14 million Covid-19 infections, with more than 275,000 deaths.

Palestinian President Urges Biden To ‘Enhance’ Palestinian-US Ties

In this file photo taken on January 28, 2020, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas gestures as he delivers a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah, following the announcement by US President Donald Trump of the Mideast peace plan. PHOTO: ABBAS MOMANI / AFP

 

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Sunday called on US president-elect Joe Biden to “enhance” relations between the Palestinians and Washington, which collapsed during President Donald Trump’s term in office.

In a statement congratulating Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris, Abbas said he hoped to work with the incoming administration “to enhance the Palestinian-American relations and achieve freedom, independence, justice, and dignity for our people.”

Abbas heads the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, which broke ties with Trump’s administration, accusing it of being flagrantly pro-Israeli.

Trump cut funding to the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

He also rejected the notion that Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem should serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state, instead of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital.”

Trump avoided criticising Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, breaking with decades of US policy that settlement expansion was an obstacle to peace.

In January, Trump unveiled a controversial Middle East peace plan made without input from the Palestinians, who rejected it outright.

AFP