Biden prepares for inauguration on Trump's last full day in office

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0638 GMT (1438 HKT) January 20, 2021
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1:01 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

McConnell says Capitol riot mob "provoked" by Trump, and claims inauguration will be "safe and successful"

From CNN's Alex Rogers

Sen. Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.
Sen. Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump. Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday that “the mob” that attacked the Capitol “was fed lies.”

“They were provoked by the President and other powerful people,” McConnell said.

“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,” he added. “But we pressed on.”

McConnell said the Senate certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and that he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in tomorrow.

“We’ll have a safe and successful inaugural right here on the very front of the Capitol,” he said.

The Senate Republican leader said Congress would turn to work for the American people, and asserted that no party has a broad mandate after the 2020 elections.

“Certainly November's elections did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change,” said McConnell. “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,” said McConnell. “We’re to have a robust discussion 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 this we must always keep in mind that we're all Americans,” he added. “We all love this country. And we're all in this together.”

McConnell’s comments came as the Senate prepares to hold an impeachment trial over the House’s charge of “incitement of insurrection" against Trump.

He said on Tuesday that the Senate has received a message from the House that Trump has been impeached but noted that the House has not yet transmitted the article to the Senate.

12:57 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Yellen says raising minimum wage to $15 will not lead to widespread job loss

From CNN’s Kate Trafecante 

Janet Yellen told lawmakers on Tuesday that President-elect Biden’s plans to raise the minimum wage will not lead to widespread job loss, and will help the very workers currently keeping the economy afloat.

Responding to Republican Sen. Tim Scott's assertion that boosting the federal minimum wage will force businesses to cut jobs, Yellen said that the economic literature she has reviewed finds the impact on jobs would be "minimal, if anything."

"Right now, we have millions of American workers who are putting their lives on the line to keep their communities functioning, sometimes even working multiple jobs, aren’t earning enough to put food on the table or a roof over their heads," Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee. "Raising the minimum wage would really help many of those workers."

Yellen agreed that it is critical to help small businesses that are struggling, pledging that the Biden administration will do everything it possibly to get that aid to them effectively to help them survive the pandemic.

12:59 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Biden inaugural committee celebrates National Run For Office Day

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

President-elect Joe Biden's inaugural committee is celebrating “National Run For Office Day” on Tuesday, a holiday to meant to inspire young progressive leaders to run for office.

The day – coined by Run For Something, an organization that recruits and supports young progressives running for local office – launched four years ago as a response to President Trump’s inauguration.

Four years later, Democratic leaders and the Biden inaugural committee are including the day as part of their inaugural celebration

“Encouraging young people to consider running for office is the first step in building a strong democracy. The Biden inaugural committee is grateful to Run For Something for encouraging volunteers across the country to participate in a National Day of Service as we welcome a new, more united chapter in our nation’s history,” said Julia Krieger, spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Throughout the day Tuesday, Run For Something hopes to register thousands of candidates and encourage young progressives to run for local and state office, the organization says. 

“I think this is really important for getting the entire progressive movement united around a singular ask, which is getting people to run for office,” Amanda Litman, co-founder of Run For Something, told CNN.

“Politician is not a title you are born with,” Litman said, stressing the need for young and passionate people to run for office. 

By signing onto the Run For Something pipeline, candidates receive resources, trainings and coaching from volunteers and Run For Something alumni. 

In the past four years, Run for Something has spent about $ 2 million a year supporting candidates. The group has supported 486 young people who have been elected local office across all 50 states and their elected candidates have been 56% Black and brown, 55% women, 21% LGBTQ and all under the age of 40. 

“In 2017, I decided to run for office with no past political experience whatsoever,” Jennifer Carroll Foy told CNN. 

With the support of Run For Something, Foy – a woman of color who was pregnant with twins at the time – won her election and served in the Virginia House of Delegates. 

She is now running for governor in Virginia.

“We need you. We need more diverse voices in positions of power and every local statewide and federal seat. No matter what, if you’re a millennial, young, old, a woman, LGBTQ, trans we need everyone represented — not just to have a seat at the table, but to shake the table,” Foy said. 

A number of Democratic politicians, including former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, are expected to post about National Run For Office Day on social media Tuesday, adding their voices to the chorus calling on young people to run for office, Litman said.

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, was among those who encouraged people to run.

The day will conclude with a Zoom event at 7 p.m. ET with Run For Something co-founders Litman and Ross Morales Rocketto, as well as others who were supported by the group.

Since the insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, more than 1,400 progressive young people said they planned to run for office, according to the organization. 

Prior to that, the group has averaged about 200 signups a week since Thanksgiving, with about 4,000 progressive young people signing up since Election Day all together.

12:24 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Harris is expected to swear in 3 new Democratic senators once she's officially vice president

From CNN's MJ Lee, Jasmine Wright and DJ Judd

Mark Makela/Getty Images
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is expected to swear in three new Democratic senators tomorrow afternoon after she herself is sworn in as the new vice president, aides familiar with the matter tell CNN. 

Those three are Georgia’s Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, as well as Harris’ replacement in California, Alex Padilla.

An aide to Senator-elect Jon Ossoff says this is currently scheduled for some time in the 4 p.m. hour, although the timing could always shift. 

And on that timing, Georgia election officials have not yet certified the election results in his state, which will need to happen before Warnock and Ossoff can be officially sworn in as US senators. 

12:07 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

2 Army National Guard members removed from inauguration duty 

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Oren Liebermann 

Two Army National Guard members were removed from inauguration duty as part of the security vetting to ensure none of the troops have ties to extremist groups, a defense official confirms to CNN’s Barbara Starr.

It is not clear at this time if the two are connected or what incident triggered their removal. 

When asked by CNN’s Oren Liebermann to comment, the National Guard responded, "Due to operational security, we do not discuss the process nor the outcome of the vetting process for military members supporting the inauguration,” and referred future questions to the Secret Service. 

The Associate Press was the first to report the guards had been removed.

CNN's Barbara Starr reports:

11:56 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Bridge closures further lock down DC ahead of inauguration 

From CNN's Gregory Wallace and Pete Muntean

Ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration tomorrow, getting into and around the nation’s capital is becoming even more complicated this morning. 

Officials announced the closure of multiple bridges that connect Washington, DC, with Virginia, leaving fewer access routes between the capital city and populated suburbs.  

The closures that took effect this morning include the Memorial Bridge, Key Bridge and the 14th Street Bridge, according to the DC Metropolitan Police Department. 

Additional restrictions apply to bridges on 11th Street, South Capitol Street and the Southeast Freeway, the department said.

Local police and the Virginia Department of Transportation said some bridges will permit traffic to leave the district or will restrict what routes drivers may take when exiting the bridge.   

The US Coast Guard announced also closing parts of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers spanned by the bridges. 

The closures further restrict travel in the greater DC area. Station closures and fewer trains scheduled means the Metro public transportation network has been scaled back.

The street grid near the Capitol, White House and National Mall is closed. 

Amtrak service into the DC area is also modified. 

 

11:57 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021

An apparent leader of Oath Keepers charged with planning and coordinating breach at US Capitol

From CNN's Zachary Cohen and Katelyn Polantz

Prosecutors have levied the first significant conspiracy charge against an apparent leader in the extremist Oath Keepers movement, alleging the Virginia man was involved in "planning and coordinating" the breach, according to court documents. 

The Justice Department charged Thomas Caldwell, a 65-year-old from Virginia with a leadership role in the paramilitary right-wing group, with four counts, including conspiracy to commit an offense, obstruction of an official proceeding and "Violent entry or disorderly conduct."

Caldwell interacted in the riot alongside a group of eight to 10 people wearing Oath Keeper-emblazoned gear, who according to a law enforcement affidavit, "moved in an organized and practiced fashion and forced their way to the front of the crowd gathered around a door to the US Capitol."

Prosecutors also describe his interactions with two other charged right-wing militants, Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, who also allegedly sought to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election and were part of the siege.

"We are concerned that the arrests for the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol include some U.S. military reservists and veterans. Some right-wing extremist groups, particularly the anti-government Oath Keepers, have a long history of recruiting from current and former members of the military and law enforcement," Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism told CNN.

"Oath Keepers are part of the resurgent militia movement, which believes the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights. Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone as members, what differentiates them from other anti-government extremist groups is their explicit focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first responder personnel," he added.

CNN’s Mallory Simon contributed reporting to this post.

12:19 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Yellen: Spending on public health is "biggest bang for our buck" in helping the economy

From CNN’s Kate Trafecante

Janet Yellen speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington DC, on January 19.
Janet Yellen speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington DC, on January 19. Pool

The "biggest bang for our buck" in helping the economic recovery is spending on public health, Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Treasury Department, told lawmakers.

Speaking of government spending in the immediate term, Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee that spending on public health ensures "we have widespread vaccinations quickly so schools can reopen and we can get past the pandemic and reopen businesses and the economy safely."

Yellen also said it is critical to provide relief first to those in the greatest need and small businesses, noting the effectiveness of extended unemployment insurance and snap benefits.

12:04 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Biden's DHS secretary nominee cautions it will take time to undo Trump's immigration policies

From Priscilla Alvarez

Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on January 19, in Washington, DC.
Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on January 19, in Washington, DC. Bill Clark/Pool/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas echoed other members of Biden’s team in cautioning that it will take time to undo Trump’s immigration policies.  

Republican Sen. James Lankford asked Mayorkas what message he’d send to migrants traveling to the US-Mexico border. According to Guatemala's official immigration agency, an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 US-bound migrants have crossed into Guatemala from Honduras since Friday. 

“The phenomenon of a caravan is something that we have confronted in the Department of Homeland Security for many years,” Mayorkas said.  

“I think President-elect Biden, and people who will be joining his incoming administration have spoken about the fact that there's a commitment to follow our asylum laws to enforce our asylum laws, and that means to provide humanitarian relief for those individuals who qualify for it onto the law. That cannot be accomplished with just the flick of a switch and turned on and day one, that it will take time to build the infrastructure and capacity, so that we can enforce our laws as Congress intended. And that would be the message I would send,” he added. 

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney followed up on Lankford’s questioning, asking what Mayorkas intended to do with the migrants currently coming to the US. 

 “When people present themselves at our border, we apply the laws of our nation to determine whether they qualify for relief under our humanitarian laws or whether they don’t,” Mayorkas said.