On the national front

Inauguration Day – Unless it falls on a Sunday, January 20th has been Inauguration Day since the ratification of the 20th Amendment in 1933. Today, at noon eastern time, Joseph R. Biden will become the 46th president of the United States and Kamala Harris will become the nation’s first female vice-president as they take the oath of office on the U.S. Capitol’s West Front.

The theme for the event will be “America United,” reflecting the “beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together and creates a path to a brighter future.” 

As part of the events leading up to the inauguration, President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris last night presided over a national memorial ceremony for the 400,000+ Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. In a solemn 40 minutes, the National Cathedral bells tolled 400 times in their honor.

Final Actions – At almost 1 am, President Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of 143 more people, including Elliot Brody, the former Deputy National Finance Chair, Steve Bannon, his former campaign strategist, Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona who was convicted of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering and racketeering and former North Carolina Congressman Robin Hayes. Many of the pardons and commutations were for drug-related offenses. 

He also revoked his own executive order from four years ago that prohibited employees of the executive branch from lobbying within five years of leaving the government.

President Trump, who released a 20-minute farewell video last night, left the White House around 8:20 am EST, without meeting with incoming president Biden. His departure from Andrews Air Force Base was not attended by outgoing Vice-President Mike Pence, who is attending the inauguration and can’t logistically do both. The top Republicans in the House and Senate – Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Mitch McConnell were not there to see Mr. Trump off, either. They were attending church with Mr. Biden.

Signaling the Senate? – Senator Mitch McConnel has not publicly announced how he will vote on the upcoming impeachment trial, but yesterday, he flatly said that the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6th was “fed lies.” “They were provoked by the President and other powerful people,” he 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. But we pressed on,” he said. “We stood together and said an angry mob would not get veto power, even for one night.” Could it be that he was letting Republican members know that they could vote to convict when the Article of Impeachment reaches the Senate? We shall see.

Georgia makes it official – The U.S. Senate is now 50-50, with soon-to-be Vice-President Harris as the tie-breaker, when necessary.