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Trump issues late-night pardons on eve of inauguration

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Biden inauguration upended by COVID and security threats
Biden inauguration upended by COVID and secur... 04:15

President Trump issued 143 pardons and commutations in the early hours on Wednesday, including to his former campaign chair Steve Bannon, former top GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy and rapper Lil Wayne. The list of pardons did not include any of his family members.

Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday ahead of his inauguration, heading to the Lincoln Memorial for a ceremony honoring the 400,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19. In brief remarks, Mr. Biden emphasized the need for the nation to "heal."

Before heading to Washington, Mr. Biden gave an emotional farewell to Delaware at the Major Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center, named for his late son, Beau.

Mr. Biden said he has just "one regret," that Beau Biden, who died in 2015, could not be there.  

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, released a nearly 20-minute farewell video that touted his accomplishments but did not address Mr. Biden by name. Mr. Trump is scheduled to depart the White House at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, since he is skipping the inauguration. 

The National Guard is still checking vehicles heading for the Capitol, and authorities are also watching the skies after receiving a threat that extremists could use drones to disrupt the inauguration.

Two National Guardsmen were removed from inauguration duty over possible links to extremism. Another 10 were removed not for national security reasons but because unrelated red flags showed up in background checks.

Prosecutors on Tuesday announced conspiracy charges against Thomas Caldwell, who investigators allege is a leader of the anti-government group the Oath Keepers. Prosecutors said that he was involved in the planning and coordination of the January 6 assault on the Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reconvened the Senate for the first time since the counting of the Electoral College votes was disrupted when a mob of angry Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. McConnell said Tuesday the mob was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Senate committees held confirmation hearings for five of Mr. Biden's key Cabinet nominees: Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin, Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and director of national intelligence nominee Avril Haines. 

Mr. Biden will take office with none of his Cabinet confirmed.

Biden
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden are joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff to participate in a COVID-19 memorial event at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci / AP
 

Steve Bannon, Elliott Broidy, Lil Wayne among 143 pardons and commutations

In the early hours on Wednesday, his last day in office, President Trump pardoned his former campaign chairman Steve Bannon, prominent fundraiser Elliott Broidy and 71 others. He also commuted the sentences of an additional 70 people.

There were no pardons issued for his family members, as was speculated. 

Bannon, who was charged in August with defrauding investors in a scheme to build a border wall, was granted a "full pardon," the White House said. "Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen," the White House's statement said.

Broidy, the RNC's former deputy finance chair, was charged in October for his alleged role in a covert scheme to lobby the Justice Department and Trump administration on behalf of undisclosed foreign entities. Broidy resigned as the GOP's top fundraiser in 2018 after admitting to paying off a Playboy Playmate.

Mr. Trump also pardoned the rapper Dwayne Michael Carter Jr, also known as Lil Wayne. Carter pleaded guilty in December to a federal gun charge. 

Mr. Trump commuted the sentence of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor Detroit who has served approximately 7 years of a 28 year sentence for racketeering and bribery. "This commutation is strongly supported by prominent members of the Detroit community, Alveda King, Alice Johnson, Diamond and Silk, Pastor Paula White, Peter Karmanos, Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo of the Michigan House of Representatives, Representative Karen Whitsett of the Michigan House of Representatives, and more than 30 faith leaders," the White House statement said. 

By Caroline Linton
 

Woman investigated for allegedly stealing laptop from Pelosi's office during Capitol riot faces new charges

Riley Williams, the woman who was accused by a former romantic partner of stealing a computer from Nancy Pelosi's office during the U.S. Capitol riot, is facing new charges, according to court documents released Tuesday. The amended criminal complaint cites a video from that day in which Williams allegedly instructs a man to put on gloves before he touched Pelosi's laptop, and claims she can be seen entering and leaving Pelosi's office. 

Williams is now charged with "Aid Abet Others to Embezzle, Steal, Purloin" and "Obstruct, Influence or Impede any Official Proceeding." She is still facing her initial charges of "Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority" and "Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct on Capitol Grounds." 

Williams surrendered to authorities in Pennsylvania on Monday, after a person who identified themselves as her former romantic partner called the FBI multiple times in the days after the riots to report they had seen her in videos inside the Capitol, according to court documents.

Read more here

By Victoria Albert
 

Trump finalizing list of pardons, source says

A senior administration official said late Tuesday that President Trump is still finalizing his list of pardons. The official said he's still considering a pardon for Steve Bannon, even though he's being advised against it. A pardon for Rudy Giuliani is less likely. 

These could still come late Tuesday  or early Wednesday.

By Sara Cook
 

Defense Secretary nominee vows to root out enemies who "lie within our own ranks"

General Lloyd Austin, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be defense secretary, testified Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the eve of Mr. Biden's inauguration. If confirmed by the Senate, Austin will be the first Black man to lead the Pentagon.

Austin said Tuesday that he has "confidence" in the National Guard soldiers deployed to Washington, D.C., after two were removed from inauguration duty due to possible ties to extremism. Another 10 were removed due to red flags in their background checks that were unrelated to national security.

"I think the Secret Service is in charge of the overall effort," Austin said. "I have every reason to believe they will do a very credible job and provide for our security. I have confidence in our Guard. The fact that we are screening people and making sure that we don't have the wrong kinds of people in the formation I think is a credit to their efforts."   

Biden Defense Secretary Nominee Lloyd Austin Testifies At Senate Hearing
President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Defense, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin testifies at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at the U.S. Capitol on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Greg Nash / Getty Images

Austin did not directly address the arrests of U.S. service members in connection to the assault on the Capitol in his opening remarks, but he did say, "the job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies.  But we can't do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks." 

Read more here


By Eleanor Watson
 

National Guardsmen pulled from duty at inauguration over possible extremist ties

At least a dozen National Guard members have been removed from President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, with one of them having ties to right-wing extremist group. Jeff Pegues has the latest.

 

Biden and Harris honor COVID-19 victims on eve of inauguration

Biden Inauguration Memorial
With the Washington Monument in the background, President-elect Joe Biden with his wife Jill Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris with her husband Doug Emhoff listen as Yolanda Adams sings "Hallelujah" during a COVID-19 memorial, with lights placed around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. Evan Vucci / AP

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris attended a memorial service honoring the 400,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19 at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday.

The ceremony, hosted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, featured 400 lights turned on around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. 

"To heal, we must remember. It's hard, sometimes, to remember. But that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation," Mr. Biden said in brief remarks, before taking a moment of silence before the array of lights set up alongside the pool.

Read more here.

By Grace Segers
 

White House releases Trump's farewell address

Trump releases farewell speech 19:59

The White House released Mr. Trump's farewell address to the nation on Tuesday afternoon just after at 4 p.m., with just hours left in his presidency.

In his remarks, Mr. Trump said his administration "did what we came here to do."

"This week, we inaugurate a new Administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous," he said. The president did not acknowledge he lost the election until earlier this month, after a mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol.

"I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices — because that's what you elected me to do," Mr. Trump said. "Our agenda was not about right or left, it wasn't about Republican or Democrat, but about the good of a nation, and that means the whole nation."

Mr. Trump has been an incredibly divisive figure in American politics, and leaves office with record-low approval ratings. In his speech, he also addressed the violence at the Capitol earlier this month, but said that the "movement" that elected him was far from finished.

"All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated," Mr. Trump said. "Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning."

Read more here.

By Grace Segers
 

Biden's inaugural address to last between 20 and 30 minutes

After Chief Justice John Robert administers the oath of office to the president-elect, Mr. Biden will deliver his first speech as president, with remarks expected to last between 20 and 30 minutes, a source familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Biden spent the weekend working on his inaugural address, and he is expected to speak of the need to unite the country during this moment of crisis, according to advisers to the president-elect. The speech is centered on the theme of unity, and his remarks will offer "a forward-looking vision for his presidency," advisers said.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Biden bids emotional farewell to Delaware before heading to Washington

Biden bids emotional farewell to Delaware 06:21

A visibly emotional Mr. Biden bid goodbye to his home state of Delaware for a final event before he is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, thanking the state and its residents for serving as the launchpad for his decades-long career in public service that is now capped with his ascension to the nation's highest office. 

"I want to express how much you mean to me, to every one of us," Mr. Biden said during remarks at a send-off event at the Major Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III National Guard /Reserve Center, named for the president-elect's late son. "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."

Calling himself a "son of Delaware," Mr. Biden said the state "gave me a chance when I was just a kid," electing him to the United States Senate after he served in local government.

"When I die, Delaware will be written on my heart and the hearts of all of us, all the Bidens," he said, a nod to the words of the Irish poet James Joyce. "We love you all, you've been there for us in the good and the bad, you've never walked away, and I am proud, proud, proud, proud to be a son of Delaware." 

Read more here.

By Melissa Quinn
 

2 National Guard members removed from inauguration duty over possible ties to extremist groups

At a Pentagon briefing, General Dan Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that two members of the National Guard have been sent home for possible ties to extremist groups. One was discovered as the result of a call to a tip line and one was reported by other soldiers in the unit. 

Hokanson said 10 other members of the Guard have been removed from duty because the background check turned up other types of questionable behavior unrelated to extremism.  

Neither Hokanson nor Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman would describe the "inappropriate comments" that caused the two soldiers to be sent home, although Hoffman said that as soon as they were flagged they were sent home, no questions asked.  

The military and/or law enforcement will now investigate to determine if further action — i.e., expelling them from the Guard — is taken against the two soldiers.

The Associated Press first reported the removal of two troops due to possible extremist ties Tuesday morning.

By David Martin
 

Pence won't attend Trump's send-off before inauguration

Vice President Mike Pence is not expected to attend Mr. Trump's farewell event at Joint Base Andrews before the president departs for Florida on Wednesday morning, a senior administration official tells CBS News. Pence has committed to attending inaugural events, and the official said the farewell event would conflict with those commitments.

By Ben Tracy
 

McConnell says mob that attacked Capitol was "provoked by the president"

Signaling a continued break with Mr. Trump the day before he leaves office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed the president in part for the assault on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, saying the pro-Trump mob that overran the building was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

McConnell says Trump "provoked" Capitol attac... 07:35

In a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell noted the Senate was convening for the first time since voting to accept the election results following the attacks on January 6, which resulted in the deaths of five people. Congress met that day to tally the Electoral College votes for Mr. Biden, a count that was interrupted by the riots that afternoon. Despite the ransacking of the Capitol earlier that day, more than 100 Republican lawmakers still voted to object to the Electoral College results of Arizona and Pennsylvania when Congress reconvened hours after the assault.

"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," said McConnell, who had urged his Republican colleagues to vote to affirm Mr. Biden's victory in keeping with the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.

Earlier on January 6, Mr. Trump had addressed his supporters in a rally near the White House, urging them to "fight like hell" to overturn the election results. Mr. Trump had repeatedly spread lies about the election and falsely claimed that there was mass voter fraud, a conspiracy theory shared by many of his supporters in Congress.

McConnell also said it was time to "move forward," arguing that the election "did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change."

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

By Grace Segers
 

Harris expected to swear in 3 new Democratic senators after inauguration

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is expected to swear in three new Democratic senators Wednesday afternoon following the inauguration, a Harris aide tells CBS News.  

The swearing-in of the three senators — Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia, and former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who is replacing Harris — will give Democrats control of the Senate. The upper chamber will be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Harris providing the tie-breaking vote in her role as president of the Senate.
Tim Perry

By Tim Perry
 

Avril Haines, Biden's pick for intelligence chief, vows to "speak truth to power"

Avril Haines Confirmation Hearing For Director Of National Intelligence Before Senate Intelligence Committee
Avril Haines, director of national intelligence nominee, swears in before a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. Joe Raedle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to lead the U.S. intelligence community vowed to keep politics out of intelligence and to focus on building "trust and confidence" in the 18 agencies that would fall under her purview, according to her public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.     

Avril Haines, 51, told the panel that there was "no place for politics" in intelligence.  

"To be effective, the DNI must never shy away from speaking truth to power," she said in her opening statement." "[E]ven, especially, when doing so may be inconvenient or difficult." 

Read more here.

By Olivia Gazis
 

Watch Live: Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden's homeland security pick, fields questions at confirmation hearing

CBSN Live

The Senate faces intense pressure to approve Mr. Biden's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, two weeks after the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is slated to holding a hearing on Mayorkas' nomination Tuesday morning. It is one of five confirmation hearings senators have scheduled on the day before Mr. Biden is inaugurated.

The government's third largest department, created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, handles issues ranging from counter-terrorism and border security to immigration policy and disaster management. If confirmed, Mayorkas, the son of Cuban immigrants, would take the helm of a highly politicized 240,000-person agency that has seen a succession of temporary leaders during the Trump administration — six in four years, two who were Senate-confirmed, four acting.

Read more here.

 

Biden invites congressional leaders to church on morning of inauguration

Mr. Biden invited the four congressional leaders — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — to attend church with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral on the morning of his inauguration. President John F. Kennedy's funeral was held at the historic church in downtown Washington.

Aides to Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and McCarthy all confirmed they were invited and will attend the service with Mr. Biden.

Nancy Cordes and Bo Erickson

 

Anti-government militia group suspects charged in U.S Capitol attack

New suspects charged in assault on the Capito... 05:42

The FBI is closing in on alleged members of anti-government militia groups tied to the assault on the Capitol. CBS News has learned the latest suspects are affiliated with the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers. CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge joins CBSN's Elaine Quijano to discuss the latest on the investigations into the riots.

 

Woman investigated for allegedly stealing computer from Pelosi's office to give to Russia surrenders to authorities

An alleged Capitol rioter accused by a former partner of stealing a laptop or hard drive from Nancy Pelosi's office has surrendered to authorities, two sources confirmed to CBS News. The former partner of Riley Williams told authorities that she planned to give the device to a friend who would sell it to Russia's foreign intelligence service, a claim that authorities are investigating but have not yet confirmed. 

The former romantic partner, referred to as Witness 1, said the plan "fell through for unknown reasons," adding that Williams either still has the device or she destroyed it.

The complaint does not offer additional evidence to support the theft allegations beyond the witness' allegations, but says the claim "remains under investigation." 

According to court documents, Williams appears multiple times in footage of the assault on the Capitol, including by a staircase near Pelosi's office. She is not currently facing any theft charges, and is instead accused of "Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority and Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct on Capitol Grounds." 

Read more here.

By Catherine Herridge
 

Trump expected to grant up to 100 pardons and commutations on last full day in office

President Trump is expected to issue up to 100 pardons and commutations on Tuesday, a senior administration official and a senior White House official tell CBS News. Tuesday marks Mr. Trump's final full day in office. 

Neither source disclosed any of the recipients, although the president isn't currently expected to attempt to pardon himself, one source said. CNN first reported the expectation of up to 100 acts of clemency this week. 

The White House has invited guests to an 8 a.m. Wednesday send-off ceremony for the president at Joint Base Andrews, four hours ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. 

Read more here.

Ben Tracy and Fin Gomez 

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