House impeaches Trump as Capitol riot probe continues

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0356 GMT (1156 HKT) January 15, 2021
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11:23 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

There will be no public access to the National Mall on Inauguration Day

From CNN's Alex Marquardt and Jeff Zeleny

Security fences are set up on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on January 9.
Security fences are set up on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on January 9. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

The general public will not have access to the National Mall on Inauguration Day, according to an official familiar with the discussions.

The official said there will be no big screens, no toilets, no panels where people stand, and that the public will not be able to get down to the mall.

There are ongoing discussions between the District, National Park Service and the US Department of Interior on when the shutdown will happen. There won’t be access on Jan. 20, but when exactly before that is still the subject of discussion.

President-elect Joe Biden’s advisers, who are helping plan the inaugural, say it is intended to be a virtual event. They did not object to heightened security restrictions recommended by authorities pertaining to the Mall or the area surrounding the White House.

The restrictions on the National Mall were first reported by the Washington Post.

11:15 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

Uncertain path of Senate trial underscored by chamber’s past precedent

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox

The House vote to impeach President Trump, historic as it was, has created a series of complicated questions for the looming Senate trial – nearly all of which will have repercussions for the opening days of incoming President Joe Biden.

It’s something Democratic senators and aides say they’re keenly aware of as they’ve worked through possible scenarios – keeping Biden’s team in the loop each step of the way.

Biden himself called current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Jan. 11 in an effort to attempt to map a path forward that allows his administration to start its work – both nominations and potential stimulus legislation – as soon as possible.

The stakes are enormous and will dictate how quickly Biden gets his team in place, as well as whether he and his new Senate majority can launch what are expected to be legislative efforts.

"I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation," Biden said in a statement following the impeachment vote Wednesday night, alluding to his desire to 'bifurcate" the process in the upper chamber.

The ability to solidify doing two things at once weighs heavily on what comes next. As McConnell made clear in a statement Jan. 13, Senate trials have historically not been short.

"The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials," McConnell said. "They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively."

While Democrats have been eyeing a tighter timeline, no final decisions have been announced – either on how the trial will play out or when one will actually begin.

But past trials underscore the complicated balancing act that lawmakers are grappling with. Running through this trial provides a guide, but with the caveat that everyone involved is attempting to work through alternatives.

11:27 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

Former acting Homeland Security chief again lays some of the blame for the Capitol riot on Trump

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Then-acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate on September 23, 2020.
Then-acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate on September 23, 2020. Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Former acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf expressed his dismay that the outrage following the armed insurrection at the Capitol last week was not present over the summer when there were violent protests in Portland and other cities, but again laid some of the blame for last week’s events at the feet of President Trump, saying that the “President’s words matter.”

“I think as we look back at the events of last week I think certainly the President's words matter and I think I've said that publicly on several occasions now. Obviously the individuals the stormed the capitol, the rioters, the criminals that did that, obviously have a lot of blame for their actions themselves and I think that's important to keep in mind,” Wolf said in an interview on Fox news on Thursday, echoing what he told CNN in an interview on Wednesday.

Wolf however then turned his attention to the violence over the summer.

“Actions in Portland and Oakland, areas like that where the activities of very violent individuals trying to burn down a courthouse and others, it’s very similar to what we saw here in the capital trying to disrupt the workings of the federal government. And at that time there was very few outrage, very few outspoken individuals about the attack on those federal facilities and law enforcement,” Wolf said, adding that he thinks there should be the same level of outrage across the board.

Wolf again said his decision to leave the administration early was because of legal challenges to his authority.

Wolf said that he hopes the Biden administration doesn’t immediately overhaul some of the immigration measures put in place by the Trump administration to cater “to one political spectrum or ideology, one side of the aisle or the other.”

11:31 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

Biden and McConnell talk more than people know, source says

From CNN's Gloria Borger

Getty Images
Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talk more than people know, a source familiar with the matter told CNN. 

The feeling inside, according to this person, is that people see McConnell as someone who is on the level and won't pull a quick one, an attitude that is shaped by Biden himself. And they also understand that while there is going to be GOP opposition to the size of the relief package, there is pressure on McConnell to do something on Covid-19.

Biden is cautioning strategic patience internally. There have been multiple times when folks have wanted to go harder on confirmations etc and Biden is the one who says give it a minute.

Biden has had “lots of conversations, with lots of people, including McConnell” about the size of the Covid-19 package, confirmations, and other matters, this person added. 

On the impeachment front, McConnell has rejected Democratic calls to bring the Senate back immediately to convict President Trump, a decision that is likely to allow the President to serve out his final days in office. Biden yesterday urged the Senate to conduct the impeachment trial while simultaneously working on other critical issues.

11:00 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

Congressional Gold Medal bill introduced for Capitol Police officer who lured rioters away

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

Reps. Charlie Crist of Florida, Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Nancy Mace of South Carolina have introduced a bill to award US Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman with the Congressional Gold Medal for “for his bravery and quick thinking during last week’s insurrection at the United States Capitol."

“While some will remember last Wednesday for the very worst in our country, the patriotism and heroics of Officer Eugene Goodman renew my faith and remind us all what truly makes the United States great,” Crist wrote in a statement. 

Goodman lured a group of rioters away from the entrance to the Senate chambers on Jan. 6, where lawmakers were still debating an objection to Arizona's Electoral College vote count.

10:45 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

These are the GOP senators to watch as the impeachment trial looms

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Manu Raju and the rest of the Hill Team

Sen. Mitt Romney walks though the US Capitol on Wednesday, January 6. 
Sen. Mitt Romney walks though the US Capitol on Wednesday, January 6.   Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

After the House of Representatives impeached President Trump for a second time on Wednesday, attention now turns to the Senate.  

The Senate can vote to convict Trump by a two-thirds majority. That means 17 Republican senators would have to vote "yes" to convict Trump, assuming every senator shows up to the vote and all 50 Democratic senators also vote “yes” to convict. 

All eyes are what soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell decides. Several GOP aides have told CNN that McConnell's decision will certainly have an impact on the conference.

Here's a look at some of the Senate Republicans we're watching ahead of the trial:

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska: Sen. Murkowski, who is up for reelection in 2022, is a frequent Trump critic. Last year, over the summer, she said she was “struggling” with whether to support President Trump in the election, and she was the first GOP senator to explicitly call on Trump to resign.
  • Sen. Susan Collins of Maine: Sen. Collins, who just won reelection, is a frequent critic of the President. In an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News after the Capitol attack, Collins wrote that she had texted a White House contact during the riot to urge President Trump to tell rioters to stop the violence, “but President Donald Trump completely undercut that message by repeating his grievances and telling the rioters that he knew how they felt. This was terrible, especially since he incited them in the first place.”
  • Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah: Sen. Romney was the sole Republican to vote to convict the President during Trump’s first Senate’s impeachment trial last year. Romney said recently he thinks we’ve got to “hold our breath” until Trump’s out of office, when asked his view of invoking the 25th Amendment. On whether Trump should be impeached, Romney said, “I think time is a little short for that.” 
  • Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska: Sen. Sasse, a frequent Trump critic, recently said he would “definitely consider” articles of impeachment from the House in an interview on CBS.
  • Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania: Sen. Toomey, who is retiring after his term in 2022, said that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense, but stopped short of directly calling for his impeachment. He also called on Trump to resign. "I think at this point, with just a few days left, it's the best path forward, the best way to get this person in the rearview mirror for us that could happen immediately. I'm not optimistic it will," Toomey said on CNN's State of the Union.

CNN's Ali Main and Nicky Robertson contributed additional reporting to this post.

10:40 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

Ohio governor authorizes National Guard if needed to secure state capitol: "Violence will not be tolerated"

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

In this 2019 file photo, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during an interview in Columbus.
In this 2019 file photo, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during an interview in Columbus. John Minchillo/AP

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is taking steps to secure his state capitol ahead of inauguration day next week, saying, “violence will not be tolerated.”

During a Thursday news conference, DeWine signed a proclamation that authorizes the use of National Guard – if they are needed – to help protect the state capitol. 

“I Mike DeWine, governor of the state of Ohio, hereby authorizes - as needed – in-state activity duty status those personnel and units of the Ohio National Guard as designated by the Adjutant General that are needed to assist the state and local authorities,” he read as he signed the document.

“The Ohio State Highway Patrol will be out in force in Columbus. The Ohio National Guard will be out in force in Columbus. Our guard will be there to back up local law enforcement and to back up the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Both will have a significant presence in Columbus. Also, both will be available for any place else where trouble might arise,” he said.

DeWine also closed the State house “will be closed this coming Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Further, I'm also ordering all state office buildings in downtown Columbus, to be closed on these four days as well.”

About 700 members of the Ohio National Guard will be used in the national Capitol region, at the request of the federal government, he said. 

“We have unique capabilities, we have special personnel and special equipment that has been specifically requested by the federal government for us to deploy to Washington,” he said. 

10:23 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

Key things to know about the latest developments in the Capitol riot investigation

From CNN's Evan Perez, Marshall Cohen, Katelyn Polantz and Josh Campbell

Federal law enforcement officials are warning that domestic extremists are likely more emboldened to carry out attacks on President-elect Joe Biden's upcoming inauguration and throughout 2021 after seeing the success of last week's siege on the US Capitol.

This warning comes after the FBI said earlier this week that it received information indicating "armed protests" are being planned at all 50 state capitols and the US Capitol in Washington, DC in the days leading up to the inauguration

Meanwhile, the feds continue to investigate the Capitol riot from last week as questions continue to swirl around who was involved in the attack and whether it was planned.

Here are some key things to know about the investigation: 

  • Investigators are pursuing signs the US Capitol riot was planned: Investigators are now looking into the possibility that the Capitol riot was more than just a protest that spiraled out of control. Evidence uncovered so far, including weapons and tactics seen on surveillance video, suggests the breach may have been planned. Among the evidence the FBI is examining are indications that some participants at the Trump rally at the Ellipse, outside the White House, left the event early, perhaps to retrieve items to be used in the assault on the Capitol.
  • Questions have also been raised about whether rioters had "insider" help: At least one protest organizer said he coordinated with three House Republicans. There are unverified accusations of a "reconnaissance" mission one day before the attack. And more than a dozen US Capitol Police officers are under internal investigation for allegedly helping rioters.
  • At least 32 people have been arrested on federal charges: The new arrests on Wednesday brought the total number of new federal criminal cases to at least 32 by nightfall, with hundreds more individuals still being sought or investigated. Over the past week, investigators have tracked down some of the most notable faces from the riot. Swimmer Klete Keller, who won Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008, was identifiable on video from the riot partly because of the Team USA jacket he wore, according to federal court records made public Wednesday. He was charged for taking part in the violent trespass.
  • Feds are working with police around the country ahead of possible new threats: As law enforcement prepares to respond to upcoming protests before and during the inauguration, FBI Director Chris Wray and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli held a call Wednesday with law enforcement leaders from around the country to provide a briefing on the nationwide threat picture relating to planned protests, according to a person briefed on the call.The source said the FBI briefed their law enforcement partners on intelligence reporting indicating protesters planned to conduct "peaceful, armed demonstrations" in Washington, DC, and at state capitols around the US on Jan. 17 to protest the results of the 2020 election.
10:33 a.m. ET, January 14, 2021

Delta Air Lines to ban firearms in checked bags on DC-bound flights

From CNN's Gregory Wallace and Chris Isidore

A Delta airlines plane parked at a gate at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on September 22, 2020.
A Delta airlines plane parked at a gate at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on September 22, 2020. Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines announced it will not accept firearms as checked baggage on flights bound for Washington, DC.  

"We’re going to not allow anyone to check a firearm into any of the metro DC airports starting this weekend and carrying through the next week, unless you’re law enforcement and you’re authorized to be carrying one," CEO Ed Bastian said in an appearance on CNBC Thursday.  

The measure is the latest attempt by airlines and government agencies to address concerns that the rioters who stormed the US Capitol last week may return for incoming President Joe Biden’s inauguration.  

Law enforcement agencies and the Transportation Security Administration have stepped up their efforts, including in some cases a second screening of DC bound passengers as CNN reported on Wednesday. American Airlines said it will suspend alcohol service on flights to and from the DC area around the inauguration.  

"We’re all on high alert, based on the events over the past couple of weeks up in Washington," Bastian said. "We are doing an awful lot in terms of gathering information and talking to the intelligence agencies both federal and local as well as FAA and TSA. We’ve increased the amount of security, both at airports and in the skies, seen and unseen." 

For context: Passengers, with a few law enforcement-related exceptions, are prohibited from carrying firearms, ammunition and other weapons onboard a plane. But the Transportation Security Administration does allow the transportation of an unloaded weapon in a locked and hard-sided container as checked baggage in a passenger plane belly.