10 things you need to know today: January 17, 2021
Statehouse across U.S. brace for potentially violent demonstrations, Ron Klain memo reportedly details Biden's initial 10-day plan, and more
Statehouses across U.S. brace for potentially violent demonstrations
Statehouses across the United States are bracing for demonstrations in support of President Trump and his unfounded allegations of election fraud on Sunday. Security officials have pegged Sunday as a potentially "major flashpoint," Reuters reports, prompting more than a dozen states to activate National Guard troops to help protect their capitol buildings. Some states have put up fences or other barriers around their statehouses while also boarding up windows, and others, including Kentucky and Texas, have simply closed their capitol grounds to the public. The nationwide measures come after a pro-Trump mob forced its way inside the United States Capitol earlier this month, and the FBI quickly warned of the potential for subsequent violence, though it's possible increased security will deter larger gatherings. Per Reuters, some militias and extremist groups have already told followers to stay home this weekend.
Ron Klain memo reportedly details Biden's initial 10-day plan
President-elect Joe Biden is planning to spend his first 10 days in the Oval Office issuing dozens of executive orders, a memo circulated by incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Saturday and obtained by The New York Times revealed. The memo appears to back up earlier reporting about how Biden envisioned the early stages of his presidency. On his first day alone, Biden will reportedly rescind President Trump's travel ban on several majority Muslim countries, rejoin the Paris climate change agreement, extend pandemic-related limits on evictions and student loan payments, issue a mask mandate for federal property and interstate travel, and reunite children who were separated from their families while crossing the United States-Mexico border. He will also reportedly send Congress immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people.
Biden expected to deliver optimistic inaugural address
President-elect Joe Biden's inaugural address will outline how he plans to handle the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout while in office, and he will also urge Americans to move on from their current political divisions and unify, advisers and allies told Bloomberg. Although those sources anticipate Biden to acknowledge the difficulties of the moment, they expect the overall tone of the speech to be optimistic in contrast to President Trump's "American carnage" speech in 2017. "People want to know someone is in charge, help is on the way, chaos is behind us now," said Matt Teper, who served as Biden's chief speech writer at the beginning of his tenure as former President Barack Obama's vice president. "There's a recognition that things aren't great right now, but there's definitely hope that they're going to get better."
Biden introduces White House science team
President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday officially introduced members of his administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy, headlined by his nominee to lead the team, Eric Lander, who will be a presidential science adviser, a position Biden is elevating to be a member of the Cabinet for the first time. "In a way ... this is the most exciting announcement that I've gotten to make in the entire Cabinet, raising this to a Cabinet-level position in one case," Biden said. Lander, who is considered a pioneer in the field of genomic science, is the president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and was an adviser to the Obama administration. Biden also introduced Alondra Nelson, his pick to be the OSTP deputy director for science and society, as well as Maria Zuber and Frances Arnold, who will be co-chairs of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
Kremlin critic Navalny departs Berlin for Moscow months after poisoning
Alexey Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and fierce Kremlin critic, departed Berlin on Sunday and is headed for Moscow several months after he was nearly killed following an alleged poisoned by Russia's FSB spy agency. It's likely Navalny, who has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, will be taken into custody when he lands, The Guardian reports. Moscow's prison service says it has orders to detain Navalny for violating conditions after he was convicted for embezzlement and received a suspended sentence. He could face up to three-and-a-half years in prison. Navalny has continually dismissed the case as politically motivated, and he says he never considered not returning home. He's called on his supporters to greet him at the airport, although Russian police said they've begun detaining people traveling to Moscow for the "illegal" rally.
Harris to be sworn-in by Sotomayor
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will swear in Vice President-elect Kamala Harris during Wednesday's inauguration ceremony. A source with knowledge of Harris' thinking told ABC News that she was inspired by Sotomayor, who, like her, once served as a prosecutor. Harris will make history as the first female, Black, and South Asian vice president in the U.S., while Sotomayor was the first Hispanic and third female justice to sit on the Supreme Court. Other details of Harris' swearing-in have become available, as well, including the report that she will take her oath of office using two bibles — one belonging to a former neighbor and family friend, Regina Shelton, and the other to the late civil rights icon and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Iran calls on UN watchdog to avoid 'providing unnecessary details' about nuclear program
Iran on Sunday called on the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to "avoid providing unnecessary details and prevent paving ground for misunderstanding" about Tehran's nuclear program. The statement did not elaborate, but it comes a day after France, Germany, and the United Kingdom urged Iran to retreat from its plan to develop uranium metal. "Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal," the European powers said in a joint statement, hinting at fears Tehran is preparing to build a nuclear weapon. "The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications." Iran denies it's developing a bomb, and on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the accusations as "absurd nonsense" and, in turn, criticized the European countries for destabilizing the Middle East.
Pentagon chief orders NSA director to install former GOP operative as agency's top lawyer
Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller ordered National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone to immediately install Michael Ellis, a former Republican Party political operative, as the NSA's general counsel, a career civilian post. Miller gave Nakasone until 6 p.m. on Saturday to follow through, The Washington Post reports, but he did not act and is reportedly not in favor of Ellis' selection, leaving it unclear as to how the Pentagon will proceed. Ellis was tapped for the position in November after pressure from the White House, where he used to work. The Trump administration has been criticized for naming Ellis, and Miller's recent order is considered troubling, as Nakasone and others reportedly consider it an attempt by the White House to "burrow" him into the job before the Biden administration takes over.
2 female judges assassinated in Afghanistan
Unidentified gunmen killed two female judges from Afghanistan's Supreme Court in Kabul on Sunday morning. The victims have not been named. The attack took place as the judges were driving to their office in a court vehicle. Two gunmen riding a motorcycle ambushed them. The driver of the judge's car was wounded. Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban for the attack, though the group denies involvement. The shooting is the latest in a series of assassinations that have taken place across Afghanistan in recent months, even as the government has been engaged in peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
Packers, Bills advance to conference title games
The NFC's top-seeded Green Bay Packers are headed back to the conference championship for the second consecutive season after defeating the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 on Saturday. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a leading MVP candidate, put together a typically efficient, mistake-free performance, throwing for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers will host the winner of Sunday's showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints next week at Lambeau Field. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills beat the Baltimore Ravens 17-3 to advance to their first AFC title game since 1993. They await either the Cleveland Browns or Kansas City Chiefs who square off Sunday afternoon.