Biden's Inauguration Week begins as DC security intensifies

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 10:33 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021
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5:56 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Anthony Scaramucci says he was invited to Trump's farewell ceremony

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

Anthony Scaramucci said he was invited to President Trump's farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews Wednesday, in what he says is a sign the White House is desperate for guests. 

"They’re looking for people. Trust me, that had to be a mass email if one of them got sent to me," the President's former communications director turned critic told Inside Edition Monday. Scaramucci confirmed to CNN he had received an invitation via email Sunday night. 

While the White House hasn't said how many people were invited, a few guests who were told CNN they likely would not attend, whether because of travel restrictions or the fallout from the President's involvement in the attack on the US Capitol. 

Given his public criticism of his former boss, Scaramucci said this is a sign of their desperation to have guests present. CNN has reported that that few people have RSVP'ed so far. 

6:16 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Nearly 100 young Republicans pen letter to GOP lawmakers: "We believe that there must be a change in course"

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Nearly 100 young Republicans have signed onto a letter urging Republican lawmakers to take responsibility for enabling the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. In the final days of Trump’s presidency, young Republicans are asking Republican leaders to reflect on the future of their party.  

“We believe that the viability of the Republican Party in the long term requires a complete separation from the incitement we saw from our leaders,” the group writes in its letter, titled “A Letter From the Next Generation of Republicans.”

“We are the volunteers, the campaign workers, the staff, and countless others who have invested in this Party at the grassroots level. We have grown up with plans to uplift our Party and contribute to its success, and many of us volunteer or work in positions that do just that. We are the Party’s path to the new generation of leadership, and we represent the future of an electorally-viable and morally-sound Republican Party. As young members of the Republican Party, we believe that there must be a change in course,” the group adds.

The letter has so far been signed by nearly 100 young Republicans, organizers say, including former Trump administration interns, Republican campaign interns, current and former presidents of College Republican chapters and other youth-led conservative organizations across the country, including Gen Z GOP – a group of disaffected young conservatives who, fed up with Trump and Trumpism, built a new home for young Republicans looking to chart the future of the Republican party.

“We’re having conversations about where to go from here,” Joe Pitts, the president of the College Republicans at Arizona State University and one of the signatories, told CNN.  

Pitts, along with a cohort of other young Republicans travelled to Georgia ahead of the Senate runoffs to get out the vote for former Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. 

Just weeks later, the county is at an “inflection point,” Pitts told CNN. 

The group of young Republicans say they will send the letter to every Republican member of Congress in the coming days. 

“If we are to remain a party committed to the preservation of liberty and our constitutional republic, these dangerous and radical elements must not be at the helm of our party. No matter what the short term political costs of these decisions are, the long-term upholding of our nation’s core values and norms will be worth it. We, along with the rest of the country are watching,” the group writes.

4:26 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

FBI has received nearly 200,000 digital tips from the public related to the riot at the US Capitol

From CNN's Jessica Schneider

The FBI has received nearly 200,000 digital media tips as of Monday afternoon, according to the FBI’s Washington field office.

The digital media tips are being sent in from people who have documented the rioting and violence on Jan. 6 at the US Capitol.

The FBI continues to urge people across the country to submit information, photos and videos that could be relevant to the ongoing investigation.

3:54 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Melania Trump farewell message urges "kindness"

From CNN's Allie Malloy and Kate Bennett

Melania Trump/Twitter
Melania Trump/Twitter

First lady Melania Trump tweeted a farewell video message Monday as she prepares to leave the White House, stressing “kindness” in her first on camera appearance since the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol, telling the nation to “be passionate in everything you do but always remember that violence is never the answer and will never be justified.”

“My fellow Americans it has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as first lady of the United States. I have been inspired by incredible Americans across our country who lift up our communities through their kindness and courage, goodness and grace,” the first lady begins the video.

Melania has not been seen in public since New Year’s Eve when she returned from her holiday in Palm Beach. Her only comments on the riots of Jan. 6 came five days after the attack in which she casted her herself as a victim.

“Be passionate in everything you do but always remember that violence is never the answer and will never be justified. When I came to the White House, I reflected on the responsibility I have always felt as a mother to encourage, give strength and teach values of kindness,” the first lady said.

She spent much of the seven-minute video, preaching about kindness, despite her actions in recent weeks, ending the video saying, “Use every opportunity to show consideration for another person and build good habits into our daily lives. In all circumstances, I ask every American to be an ambassador of Be Best. To focus on what unites us, to raise above what divides us. To always chose love over hatred, peace over violence and others before yourself.”

“The past four years have unforgettable. As Donald and I conclude our time in the White House, I think of all of the people I have taken home in my heart… To every service member and to our incredible military families, you are heroes and you will always be in my thoughts and prayers. I think of all of the members of law enforcement who greet us everywhere we go- at every hour of every day they stand guard to keep our communities safe and we are forever in their [debt].”

3:50 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

The Trumps' snub of the Bidens is historic in its magnitude

From CNN's Kate Bennett

On the morning of Jan. 20, Donald Trump and Melania Trump will depart the White House as President and first lady, but they will not invite their incoming counterparts, Joe and Jill Biden, inside before they do. 

The dissolving of one of America's most enduring transfer-of-power rituals – the outgoing president welcoming the incoming president on the steps of the North Portico, and then riding with them to the United States Capitol – is just one of the snubs the Trumps are perpetrating as they leave Washington. 

Instead of a president and first lady, the Bidens will be greeted by the White House chief usher Timothy Harleth, according to a source familiar with the day's events and planning. Harleth, a 2017 Trump hire from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, will likely not stay on in the Biden administration, the source said, noting the role of chief usher in all probability will be filled by someone more familiar with the incoming president and first lady.

The afternoon of Inauguration Day, then-President Biden will participate in a ceremonial wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery, joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It is during these hours the bulk of the Bidens' personal effects will be moved into the White House and unpacked, according to another source with knowledge of executive residence practices. 

By that time, all Trump paraphernalia will be gone, and a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning of the entire White House campus will have been completed. Deeper cleaning protocols were arranged via the White House with outside contractors, on top of regular cleaning done by staff, including specialized attention to rugs, carpets, curtains and surfaces, to tackle any possibility of lingering germs, of the Covid-19 sort or otherwise.

"Moving furniture and vacuuming, cleaning baseboards, vacuuming drapes, wiping down shades, cleaning chandeliers, washing windows, high dusting," are areas all covered during the traditional move-in of a new president and his family, according to the residence source. "That cleaning will start as soon as Donald Trump and Melania Trump depart."

Read more about changes to the White House here.

3:40 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Ahead of inauguration, Harris says she and Biden are “ready to do the work”

From CNN's Nick Neville

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, right, and her husband Douglas Emhoff, pack grocery bags for those in need of food while volunteering during the National Day of Service, Monday, January 18, at Martha's Table in the southeast neighborhood of Washington, DC.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, right, and her husband Douglas Emhoff, pack grocery bags for those in need of food while volunteering during the National Day of Service, Monday, January 18, at Martha's Table in the southeast neighborhood of Washington, DC. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

After volunteering at Martha’s Table in Washington, DC, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said she and President-elect Biden are going into Wednesday’s inauguration “ready to do the work."

“It's not going to be easy, as we have discussed,” Harris said. “Joe has outlined our plan for vaccinations, our plan for recovery and in particular relief for working people, for families. And there is a lot to do. Some would say that ours is an ambitious goal, but we do believe with hard work and with the cooperation and collaboration of the members of the United States Congress that we can get it done.”

Harris and future first second gentleman Doug Emhoff spent the National Day of Service preparing bags of food for families in need. 

“We are here today as part of what we collectively, all of us who are volunteering, see as our responsibility as part of Dr. King’s legacy,” she said. “And we’re here to obviously renew the commitment that we should each have to service, and to serve others, especially those in need.”

In response to a question about $1400 stimulus checks, Harris said it’s “a start,” but noted that there are other important components to the proposed Biden relief package as well.

When asked about her concern heading into Wednesday, given ongoing security threats, she responded, “I am very much looking forward to be sworn in as the next Vice President of the United States and I will walk there, to that moment proudly with my head up and my shoulder back.”

3:25 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Guests of members of Congress won't be required to undergo background checks for inauguration, sources say

From CNN's Athena Jones, Lauren Fox and Ryan Nobles

Multiple sources tell CNN that inauguration guests of members of Congress, as is typically the case, are not required to undergo security background checks this year. 

This is customary for events like the inauguration, because guests typically are spouses of members and because there are other security measures in place. But continuing the practice for this inauguration is notable given the heightened security posture at the Capitol.

Members' guests are required to take a Covid-19 test, however. And both members of Congress and their guests will be required to pass through security in order to enter the event.

The US Secret Service, which is in charge of security for the event, told CNN in a statement from spokesperson Justine Whelan: 

"In order to maintain critical operational security surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration, the U.S. Secret Service and our law enforcement partners will not be commenting on the means and methods used to conduct the agency mission, inclusive of protective intelligence matters." 
3:21 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Army secretary calls for simplifying process to call in the National Guard

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Michael Conte

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy CNN

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy says the current method of defending the nation’s capital in a crisis is "almost arcane and overly bureaucratic."

In an interview with CNN he called for overhauling the bureaucracy and for simplifying the process to call in federal authorities such as the National Guard to protect Washington, DC – which has been done twice in seven months.

McCarthy told CNN’s Barbara Starr, "There’s too many people that are involved with the decision, and ultimately no one, one single person responsible."

"It makes it very difficult and slow in the response," he added.

McCarthy described a situation of "tremendous confusion" during the Jan. 6th insurrection.

"No one really understood the situation. No specifics or clarity what the size of the crowd, where they were, did they actually breach the building," McCarthy told CNN in an interview at the Pentagon.

He said he "ran down the hall to get authority to launch" the National Guard even as he "didn’t have great understanding" of what was happening after a phone call with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Police Chief Robert Contee. 

"A lot of confusion because we weren’t asked for help" in the lead-up to the event, McCarthy said.

 

2:30 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Acting Defense secretary says "we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat" to the inauguration

From CNN's Michael Callahan

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said Monday that there is "no intelligence indicating an insider threat," but National Guard members arriving in Washington for the inauguration are being vetted by law enforcement for the inauguration.

CNN reported last week that the Army was working with the FBI for additional background screenings for guardsmen coming to Washington.

Here's Miller's full statement:

"As is normal for military support to large security events, the Department will vet National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C. While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital. This type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events. However, in this case the scope of military participation is unique. The D.C. National Guard is also providing additional training to service members as they arrive in D.C. that if they see or hear something that is not appropriate, they should report it to their chain of command. We appreciate the support of the FBI in assisting with this task and for each of the more than 25,000 Guardsmen who answered their Nation’s call and rapidly deployed to the NCR."