10 things you need to know today: January 20, 2017
Trump thanks supporters on the eve of his inauguration, anti-Trump protests erupt in New York and Washington, and more
Trump thanks supporters at concert on eve of inauguration
On the eve of his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump kicked off the celebrations and ceremonies by welcoming supporters at his official inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday evening, giving them credit for his victory. "I had something to do with it," he said, "but you had much more to do with it than I did." He said he and his supporters "all got tired of seeing what was happening and we wanted change, but we wanted real change." Trump, preparing to take the oath of office at midday Friday, has vowed to swiftly undo major pieces of President Obama's legacy, including his signature health care reform law.
Anti-Trump protests erupt ahead of Friday inauguration
A-list celebrities, including Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, and Cher, joined an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 protesters and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday night at an anti-Donald Trump rally organized by Michael Moore outside of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan. In Washington, D.C., anti-Trump protesters jeered Trump supporters outside the National Press Club during the "DeploraBall," an event celebrating Trump's Friday inauguration named after Hillary Clinton's description of some Trump supporters as "deplorable." Some of the protesters called those attending the ball "racist" or "Nazi."
Obama commutes sentences of 330 federal prisoners on last day in office
President Obama commuted the sentences of 330 federal prisoners on Thursday, continuing a record-breaking push to shorten the prison terms of people convicted of federal drug crimes. The final clemency offers added up to the biggest one-day total in U.S. history, and increased the number of commutations Obama has granted to 1,716, far more than any other president. Obama has said the commutations were a necessary remedy to decades of tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes that left thousands of prisoners behind bars for too long.
Trump keeping 50 essential Obama administration officials for continuity
Arriving in Washington on the eve of his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump announced last-minute plans to temporarily retain 50 essential members of the Obama administration in the State Department and national security team. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the move was necessary to ensure "continuity of government." So far, Trump has named just 29 of his 660 executive department appointments, according to the Partnership for Public Service. That pace is far slower than the one outlined by his original transition director, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Just two of Trump's 15 Cabinet nominees have been approved by congressional committees, clearing them for confirmation votes in the full Senate.
Mexico extradites drug kingpin Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman
Mexico announced Thursday that it had extradited drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the U.S., where he is wanted for allegedly trafficking heroin, cocaine, and other drugs over the border. Guzman escaped from prison in July 2015, and Mexican authorities recaptured him last year. Guzman was moved to a prison near the border town of Ciudad Juarez in preparation for his transfer to the U.S. Mexico handed him over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in what one Mexican official described as a farewell gift on the last full day of Barack Obama's presidency.
Senegalese soldiers enter Gambia
Senegalese troops entered Gambia on Thursday threatening to forcefully remove the country's longtime repressive ruler, Yahya Jammeh, who is refusing to step down. The country's newly elected president, Adama Barrow, beat Jammeh in an election last month, and took the oath of office outside the country on Thursday, staying away from home out of fear for his life. A senior Senegalese government official said his country's forces were moving toward Banjul, Gambia's capital.
RNC elects Michigan's Ronna Romney McDaniel as new chair
The Republican National Committee unanimously elected Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel as the new RNC chair during its national meeting on Thursday. President-elect Donald Trump endorsed McDaniel for the job a month ago. She ran uncontested. Her predecessor, Reince Priebus, is moving on to become chief of staff in Trump's White House. McDaniel pledged to unite the party and make it more inclusive. "I am a mom from Michigan. I am an outsider," she said. "And I am going to do everything I can to make Donald Trump and Republicans everywhere successful."
More Trump Cabinet appointees face tough questioning
President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees continued to face sharp questioning on Thursday. Democrats grilled Steven Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs banker Trump picked to lead the Treasury Department, for foreclosing on homes in California and initially failing to disclose $95 million in real estate assets. Former Texas governor Rick Perry, nominated for energy secretary, said during his confirmation hearing that he regretted once calling for eliminating the department now that he has been briefed on its "vital functions." He also reversed course and said he believed humans were contributing to climate change, a notion he called a "contrived, phony mess" in a 2010 book.
Italian rescuers contact survivors trapped in hotel buried by avalanche
Rescuers have detected at least six people alive in a hotel buried by an avalanche in central Italy after a series of earthquakes shook the region. At least one of the survivors is a child. The Italian news agency ANSA reported that rescuers had spoken with the survivors several times. Rescuers continued digging late Thursday through early Friday in an attempt to locate 30 missing people. Three bodies have been recovered, and two people have been pulled alive from the 4-star Hotel Rigopiano.
A Dog's Purpose premiere canceled after controversial video emerges
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment on Thursday called off the weekend premiere of the film A Dog's Purpose after facing a backlash over the emergence of a video showing a stressed German Shepherd being forced to perform in artificial rapids on the set. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called for a boycott, and for a pledge from the film's director and producer to stop using animals in films. Universal and Amblin said they were still reviewing the controversial video, and canceled the premiere because they did not "want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between humans and animals.