10 things you need to know today: January 4, 2021
Trump pressures Georgia official to 'find' votes to overturn election, Pelosi wins fourth term as House speaker, and more
Trump presses Georgia official to overturn election result
President Trump claimed in a Saturday phone call with Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that he won Georgia by "hundreds of thousands" of votes, and pressed Raffensperger to "find 11,780" ballots to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the state, according to a recording of the call obtained by The Washington Post. During the one-hour conversation, Trump repeated long-debunked conspiracy theories, insisting he "won the state" but fraud tipped it to Biden. He went from flattering to berating Raffensperger, at one point saying Raffensperger was taking "a big risk" by not stepping in, suggesting he could face criminal charges. Raffensperger and his office's legal counsel, Ryan Germany, dismissed Trump's unfounded allegations, telling Trump that his information on the election results was wrong.
Pelosi wins another term as speaker of the House
The newly elected Congress convened on Sunday, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) won election to a fourth term as speaker of the House. Pelosi got 216 votes, narrowly beating House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who received 209 votes. There were only a few defections by Democrats, with Pelosi securing the backing of several who opposed her two years ago when Democrats had a bigger majority. Several House members suffering from COVID-19 missed the session, and others voted from a plexiglass enclosure installed in the chamber's gallery as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus. With Democrats holding just 222 of the House's 435 seats, Pelosi won't be able to lose more than a few Democrats on any House votes. "Our most urgent priority will continue to be defeating the coronavirus," Pelosi said. "And defeat it, we will."
Ryan, Cheney criticize GOP push to overturn Biden win
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday joined a growing number of conservatives who have criticized fellow Republicans for their plan to challenge President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, called the effort to overturn the election result "anti-democratic and anti-conservative." Ryan was the GOP vice-presidential nominee on Mitt Romney's 2012 ticket. Romney, too, has slammed the dozen GOP senators challenging the count. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and the nine other living former defense secretaries signed a Washington Post op-ed affirming the election is over and it's time for a peaceful transfer of power. Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement Saturday that Pence "welcomes" the Republicans' plans and "shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud."
Fauci, Adams dispute Trump claim that COVID data is inflated
Dr. Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, two of the nation's top health officials, on Sunday disputed President Trump's claim that federal authorities have inflated coronavirus cases and deaths, which have surpassed 350,000. "The deaths are real deaths," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC News' This Week. He also said that reports of overwhelmed hospitals and healthcare workers were "not fake. That's real." Adams defended the accuracy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coronavirus data. Trump recently tweeted: "The number of cases and deaths of the China Virus is far exaggerated in the United States because of the @CDCgov's ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low."
Biden to get escort to White House instead of inaugural parade
President-elect Joe Biden will forgo the traditional inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day as a precaution due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Biden will get a presidential escort to the White House after he is sworn in at the Capitol building on Jan. 20, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Sunday. The escort will have representatives of every military branch, including the U.S. Army Band, a Joint Service Honor Guard, and the Commander-in-Chief's Guard and Fife and Drum Corps from the 3rd U.S. Infantry "The Old Guard." "There are many grand traditions to the inaugural, and we plan to honor them by highlighting more of our nation's people than ever before while keeping everyone safe," said Tony Allen, the inaugural committee's chief executive officer.
U.S. considers halving Moderna vaccine doses to accelerate immunizations
Moncef Slaoui, the head of the federal COVID-19 vaccine program, said Sunday that it might be possible to cut doses of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine by half to help speed up the immunization effort. "We know that for the Moderna vaccine giving half the dose for people between the ages of 18 to 55 — two doses, half the dose, which means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have — we know it induces identical immune response to the 100 microgram dose," Slaoui said. Federal officials are trying to accelerate the vaccine program after ending 2020 with far fewer doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines distributed and administered than had been projected.
U.K. judge rules on Assange extradition
A British judge on Monday refused to order the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges, saying it would be "oppressive" due to his mental health. The U.S. said it would appeal. Assange has been charged with 18 federal crimes, including conspiring to obtain and disclose classified U.S. diplomatic cables, military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, and other secret government documents. Prosecutors want Assange to be brought to Northern Virginia for trial. Assange's lawyers argued in hearings before British Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser that the U.S. is targeting Assange for "purely political" reasons. Assange had sought refuge in Ecuador's London embassy until April 2019, when he was expelled. His lawyers say his "fragile" mental health put him at risk of suicide.
Bitcoin hits record high on cryptocurrency's 12 anniversary
Bitcoin jumped to a record high of more than $34,800 on Sunday, the 12th anniversary of the cryptocurrency network's creation. Demand for Bitcoin has driven up its price over the last year as investors bet it will continue to become a mainstream payment method. Its value quadrupled in 2020, and the price broke through the $30,000 barrier at the start of the new year less than three weeks after it first surpassed $20,000. Bitcoin got a boost from PayPal last fall when it said it would allow sales using the cryptocurrency. "The number keeps going up as the market has seemingly never been more bullish," said Paolo Ardoino, the CTO of cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex. "We see a very bright future ahead for all bitcoin holders."
Pastor killed with own gun at Texas church
An intruder killed a pastor and injured two other people at a Texas church on Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said in a statement. The pastor, identified as Mark McWilliams, found the suspect in a bathroom, and was leading him out of the building when the suspect allegedly managed to grab the pastor's gun and shoot him. "He starts coming toward the front door, then he turns around and lunges at the pastor and was able to disarm the pastor, it appears at this time," Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said. "He used … the pastor's firearm is the one he used." Police said they believed the suspect hid in the Starrville Methodist Church in Starrville on Saturday night after fleeing an incident. The suspect, identified as Mytrez Deunte Woolen, reportedly stole the pastor's vehicle and fled, but was caught in neighboring Harrison County.
Cleveland Browns clinch first playoff berth since 2002
The long-struggling Cleveland Browns clinched the franchise's first playoff berth since 2002 with a 24-22 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Browns finished the season at 11-5, and they'll finish as the no. 6 seed in the AFC. "After the game we had members who wrote they sit on the couch and cry tears of joy!" said Stefan Willi, president of the Switzerland chapter of Cleveland Browns Backers Worldwide. "For some fans, it will be [their] first playoff game." Fourteen NFL teams advance to the playoffs, seven in the NFC and seven in the AFC. The Browns and the Steelers will meet again in their first game. The Kansas City Chiefs will get a bye in the AFC's first round. The Green Bay Packers will get a bye in the NFC. The other six teams in both conferences will play their first games next weekend.