Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 6, 2021

Harold Maass
Senator-elect Raphael Warnock.
Megan Varner/Getty Images

1.

Warnock wins, Ossoff leads in Georgia Senate runoffs

The Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler in one of Georgia's two Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, The Associated Press projected. Warnock will be the first Black senator in the state's history. Loeffler did not concede, but Warnock has a 50,000-vote lead and votes left to be counted are largely from Democrat-leaning areas. Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly led Republican Sen. David Perdue in the other race, but that remained too close to call. If both Democrats win, their party will take control of the Senate, which would be divided 50-50 with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. If Republicans hold on to one of the seats, they will retain a narrow majority, giving Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell the power to block votes on President-elect Joe Biden's favored legislation. [The Associated Press]

2.

Congress convenes to certify Biden Electoral College victory

Members of the House and Senate will convene Wednesday to vote on certifying President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College win over President Trump. Ahead of the vote, Republican opposition grew against some GOP lawmakers' plans to challenge Biden's victory based on unfounded allegations of voter fraud that courts and state election officials from both parties have repeatedly rejected. Trump has called for Vice President Mike Pence, who will preside over the proceedings, to block the certification of Biden's victory. Pence reportedly told Trump on Tuesday that he doesn't have the power to do that, although Trump denies Pence said that. Trump warned Pence that it would be politically "damaging" for him to refuse to prevent the certification of Biden's win, CNN reported, citing a source familiar with the conversation. [Politico, CNN]

3.

Wisconsin prosecutor says no charges against officers over Jacob Blake shooting

A Wisconsin prosecutor said Tuesday that police officers involved in the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting that left Jacob Blake paralyzed will not face charges. Officer Rusten Sheskey, who is white, shot Blake, a Black man, in the back. Sheskey was one of several officers who responded to a report of someone trying to steal a car. During the August confrontation with Blake, bystander footage shows Sheskey grabbing Blake's shirt from behind and firing. The Kenosha police union said Blake was armed with a knife, though Blake's attorney Ben Crump argued the knife was not visible in video of the incident. Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said Tuesday the state likely wouldn't "be able to prove" Sheskey was not acting in self-defense. Crump argued the decision "further destroys trust in our judicial system," but vowed to "press forward with a civil lawsuit." [The Associated Press]

4.

Hong Kong arrests 53 democracy advocates in raids

Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested 53 people in raids targeting elected pro-democracy officials and activists over their roles in last year's unofficial vote to choose opposition candidates in city elections. Authorities said the vote was part of a plan to "overthrow" the government in the semi-autonomous, China-ruled former British colony. The arrests amounted to the biggest roundup of democracy advocates yet under a new national security law Beijing imposed to discourage dissent. Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee said the operation targeted people "suspected to be involved in the crime of overthrowing or interfering seriously to destroy the Hong Kong government’s legal execution of duties." Victoria Hui, a Notre Dame political science professor who studies Hong Kong, called the raids a "total sweep" of opposition leaders that suggest Beijing will treat running for office as subversion. [The New York TImes, Reuters]

5.

Pompeo says 'we're leaving the world safer'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday made his strongest acknowledgement yet that the Trump presidency is coming to an end, saying in an interview with Bloomberg that "after four years, I think we're leaving the world safer." Pompeo still hasn't publicly recognized Joe Biden as president-elect. But he said he hoped "whoever the next secretary of state is" will respond to what he described as the threat posed by China, and continue the Trump administration's effort to "push back" against Iran. Biden is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20. All 50 states certified their election results three weeks ago, solidifying Biden's victory over President Trump, who has yet to concede and falsely claims he won. [State Department, The Huffington Post]

6.

Kim acknowledges economic failings in North Korea congress

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday opened the nation's first full ruling party congress in five years with an admission that his economic plans have failed. Kim said in his opening speech that "almost all sectors fell a long way short of the set objectives" in the isolated communist-run country's five-year development plan established at the 2016 congress, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency reported. "We should further promote and expand the victories and successes we have gained at the cost of sweat and blood, and prevent the painful lessons from being repeated," he said. The Workers' Party Congress is widely considered to be propaganda designed to show doubters that Kim is firmly in control despite the coronavirus pandemic and devastating problems stemming from decades of mismanagement. [The Associated Press]

7.

Judge rejects Trump effort to decertify Georgia election result

U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen on Tuesday rejected President Trump's latest lawsuit seeking to decertify Georgia's presidential election results. The state has counted the votes three times, and officially certified President-elect Joe Biden's victory over Trump in the state. Biden beat Trump by nearly 12,000 votes, a narrow win but enough to give the Democrat the once-reliably red state's 16 electoral votes. Trump's lawsuit marked the latest in a series of attempts to overturn his loss in the November election by making unfounded allegations of election fraud. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said repeatedly that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Georgia. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

8.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar reach deal to renew diplomatic, trade ties

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to restore diplomatic and trade relations after a three-year dispute, according to a Tuesday announcement by Kuwait, which has served as a mediator. Saudi Arabia and three Arab allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt — imposed a diplomatic, trade, and travel embargo against Qatar in 2017 over allegations that it supported terrorism, and was too close to Iran. Kuwait said that as part of the deal Saudi Arabia will reopen its airspace, as well as its sea and land borders with Qatar. The news came as Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, arrived in Saudi Arabia for the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit, his first visit to the kingdom since the dispute broke out. [CNBC]

9.

Alabama's DeVonta Smith becomes first receiver to win Heisman since 1991

Alabama senior DeVonta Smith on Tuesday won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first wide receiver to win college football's most prestigious award since 1991. Smith, the third Alabama player to claim the Heisman, beat out three other finalists, all quarterbacks — Alabama's Mac Jones, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, and Florida's Kyle Trask. Smith received 1,856 points. Lawrence came in second with 1,187. In a virtual ceremony, Smith thanked his parents, coaches, and teammates, and spoke of the power of self-belief. He said people used to doubt his chances of success because he's small, at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds. But he leads college receivers in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,641), and touchdowns (20). Last week he became the first receiver to be named The Associated Press Player of the Year. [ESPN]

10.

Grammy Awards postponed due to California COVID surge

The Grammy Awards have been postponed from Jan. 31 to March 14 because of the surge in coronavirus cases in California, the Recording Academy announced Tuesday. The music industry's biggest awards had already scaled down plans for the ceremony. Only presenters and performers will be allowed to attend, with nobody else in the audience. The event was set to be held in the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in California. "The deteriorating COVID situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do," said Harvey Mason Jr., Recording Academy interim CEO/president. [USA Today]