December 19, 2017

Republicans plan to pass their $1.5 trillion tax plan starting Tuesday, with the House approving the bill first and the Senate clearing it later in the day or on Wednesday. No Democrats are expected to vote in favor. The tax bill would be the first big legislative win for Republicans this year. It slashes the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, lowers the top rate for the richest Americans, and gives more modest, temporary tax cuts to everyone else. By 2023, families making under $30,000 would start seeing tax increases, the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said Monday, and by 2027, average taxes would go up for everyone earning up to $75,000. The bill is projected to add $1.46 trillion to the deficit over those same 10 years.

In a new CNN poll, 55 percent of U.S. adults oppose the tax bill while 33 percent support it, a 10-point deterioration in support from early November.

The bill's unpopularity is largely due to the perceived winners and losers in the package; 66 percent said it will do more to help the wealthy than the middle class, 37 percent said their own family would be worse off under the bill, and only 21 percent say they would be better off. The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS Dec. 14-17 among 1,001 adults, and it has a margin of sampling error of ±3.8 percentage points. Peter Weber

6:05 a.m.

President Biden was sworn in as America's 46th president on Wednesday, and former President Donald Trump retired to Florida. The Late Show captured the mood on late-night television.

"It was a bright, sunny day in Washington, and now we finally have a president who knows not to stare directly at the sun, Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Seriously, anyone else feel like they just lost 280 pounds?"

Jimmy Kimmel Live, like The Tonight Show, chose Steam's "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye" as Trump's exit song.

"Watching the inauguration today, I recognized just how worried I've been for my country," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. "Today felt like a return to normalcy, even though so much about the day was abnormal." For example, in Biden's inaugural address, he added, it was "so strange to hear somebody say that we're a great nation without then hearing about which of us are radical socialist antifas intent on destroying our heritage with low-flow toilet flushes."

"Trump's last day in office wasn't all just whining and stealing silverware," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Trump pardoned a ton of shady people in the last hours of his presidency," too. And as for Biden, Noah said, he "went straight to work — and let's just say the White House bathrooms aren't the only place Biden is looking to wipe out any trace of Donald Trump."

Biden signed "an unprecedented 17 executive actions to dismantle his predecessor's legacy," Colbert said. "He's reversing everything from the last four years, even taking Puerto Rico off Craigslist and getting rid warning label on bleach that says 'Yum Yum.'" But "while he was at the Resolute Desk, Biden found a surprise from his predecessor," a "generous" letter, he added. "We here at The Late Show have acquired a copy of the letter, and it is very generous: 'Dear Joe, I'll give you 10 million dollars for a pardon. Also, can I borrow 10 million dollars?'"

"Former President Trump today ... oh God, wow, you wait so long to say those words and then when you finally can, you don't know how to react," Seth Meyers marveled at Late Night. "Former President Trump concluded his remarks at this morning's sendoff at Joint Base Andrews by telling the crowd, 'We'll see you soon.' 'We were about to say the same thing,' said the Southern District of New York." Peter Weber

4:24 a.m.

Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations and training — and brother to disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — did participate in a critical Jan. 6 meeting to discuss deploying the National Guard to the besieged Capitol, The Washington Post reports. The Army had denied several times that Flynn was involved in the conference call at the Pentagon with Washington, D.C., officials and Capitol Police, the Post notes, but both Flynn and the Pentagon confirmed his presence on Wednesday.

During the tense meeting, D.C. officials and the Capitol Police chief had pleaded for the National Guard to help protect and clear the Capitol of violent rioters pushing to keep former President Donald Trump in office, but the Pentagon officials had stalled, worrying about the "optics" of having the National Guard at the Capitol. Charles Flynn told the Post he had "entered the room after the call began and departed prior to the call ending as I believed a decision was imminent" from Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy "and I needed to be in my office to assist in executing the decision." The National Guard arrived at the Capitol three hours after the call.

It made sense for Flynn to be in the meeting, given his position, but "the episode highlights the challenge for the Army in having an influential senior officer whose brother has become a central figure in QAnon, the extreme ideology that alleges Trump was waging a battle with Satan-worshiping Democrats who traffic children," the Post reports. Flynn had also urged Trump to declare martial law and was involved in the Jan. 6 events.

"Charlie Flynn is an officer of an incredibly high integrity," McCarthy told the Post on Jan. 12, eight days before he left office Wednesday. "This guy has given a lot to this country. It is incredibly awkward for this officer every day for what is going on with him and his brother, but he puts his head down in, and he is locked in to serve the Constitution." Peter Weber

3:30 a.m.

Almost 12 hours after former President Donald Trump issued a raft of pardons to friends, allies, rappers, GOP lawmakers and fundraisers, and others, he slipped in one last pardon for Albert Pirro, the ex-husband of Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, less than an hour before President Biden was sworn in, ABC News reports. "What was possibly Trump's final act as president reflected a recurring theme in his final months in office: delivering clemencies to scores of personal friends and political allies."

Pirro, 73, was convicted in 2000 on 34 counts of tax evasion and conspiracy for improperly deducting more than $1 million in personal expenses as tax write-offs for his New York real estate law businesses. He and Jeanine Pirro, one of Trump's favorite Fox personalities, were married at the time. Albert Pirro donated about $2,000 to Trump's 2020 campaign and the Republican National Committee, ABC News notes, citing campaign finance records.

During his tabloid-like trial, "prosecutors suggested that Albert Pirro lusted for money in much the way that Richard Nixon lusted for power," The New York Times reported in June 2000, after his guilty verdicts were handed down for Pirro and his accountant brother. "Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that by improperly deducting $1.2 million of Albert Pirro's personal expenses as business write-offs, thereby reducing Albert Pirro's taxes by $413,000, the brothers had brazenly violated a fundamental tenet of the American tax system: that every taxpayer must pay his or her fair share, regardless of wealth or influence." Peter Weber

2:37 a.m.

President Biden administered the oath of office to about 1,000 new appointees on Wednesday evening, offering words of encouragement, a sharp warning, and, more than anything, a mission statement on how he views government service.

"You're engaged in and you're working with the most decent government in the world, and we have to restore the soul of this country — and I'm counting on all of you to be part of that," Biden told the new White House hires. "The only thing I expect with absolutely certitude is honesty and decency in the way you treat one another, the way you treat the people you deal with. And I mean that sincerely. Remember, the people don't work for us, we work for the people. I work for the people. They pay my salary. They pay your salary. They put their faith in you. I put my faith in you."

"History is gonna measure us, and our fellow Americans will measure us, by how decent, honorable, and smart we've been in terms of looking out for their interests," Biden said. "I'm not joking when I say this: If you're ever working with me, and I hear you treated another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot, no ifs, ands, or buts. Everybody, everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That's been missing in a big way in the last four years."

"The proof is can you perform, but just a different tone from an incredibly different president that the one we just watched leave town today," CNN's John King said in response to Biden's talk. "Treat each other with respect, treat each other with dignity, I'll fire you on the spot if you don't. We've been reading tweets every morning for four years now in which the former president of the United States violated what we just heard from the new president of the United States. So it is a very important new ethos, if you will, for public service." Peter Weber

1:36 a.m.

When President Biden was sworn in Wednesday with ample pomp and little drama, much of America sighed in relief. But the lack of a last-minute military takeover and mass arrests of Democratic lawmakers — no prophesied "Storm," no "Great Awakening" — threw adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory into disarray, according to reviews of their reactions on Telegram, Gab, and other social media. The Proud Boys, a far-right group that formed in 2016 and quickly became some of former President Donald Trump's most militant supporters, "also started leaving his side," The New York Times reports.

After Trump lost his re-election bid in November, QAnon influencers, the Proud Boys, and other far-right groups stuck by his side, echoing Trump's false claim that Biden stole the election. "Hail Emperor Trump," the Proud Boys wrote in a private Telegram channel. As December turned into January, several Proud Boys urged Trump to "Cross the Rubicon." QAnon boards started promising Trump would declare martial law and seize back control for a second term, first on Jan. 6, then Inauguration Day.

The sentiment started to turn when Trump, on Jan. 8, released a video denouncing the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, in which QAnon believers, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, America First militants, and the Three Percenters participated. One Proud Boys Telegram channel lamented Trump's "betrayal" and called him "extraordinarily weak."

On Monday, the Proud Boys posted, "Trump will go down as a total failure." Then Trump declined to pardon any of the Proud Boys arrested for the Capitol insurgency. After Biden was inaugurated, the Proud Boys Telegram group shrugged: "At least the incoming administration is honest about their intentions."

Followers of the cultish pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy, meanwhile, "grappled with anger, confusion, and disappointment Wednesday," The Associated Press reports. While hope of martial law and restoring Trump through violent overthrow sprang eternal for some Q believers, others — including early Q channeler Ron Watkins, believed by many to be the pseudonymous Q himself — threw in the towel. Yet others appear ripe for recruitment by the Proud Boys and other white supremacist and neofascist groups.

"I think these people have given up too much and sacrificed too much in their families and in their personal lives," Mike Rothschild, author of a forthcoming QAnon book, told AP. "They have believed this so completely that to simply walk away from it is just not in the realm of reality for most of these people." Peter Weber

1:32 a.m.

Debra Ferrell turned her birthday into a day of service, asking her friends and family to suggest 53 acts of kindness she could perform in honor of her 53 years of life.

Ferrell, a resident of Roanoke, Virginia, told The Associated Press it's "one of the hardest times in my history, so I figured why not make other people smile." Soon, friends and relatives began sending Ferrell their ideas, with one pal asking her to send a gift basket to a doctor working in a COVID-19 unit, and another wondering if she would send a note of encouragement to her daughter as she navigates virtual learning.

Along with her granddaughters, Ferrell also painted signs to leave in people's yards, reminding them that "The world needs your light" and they should "Let your awesome out." Ferrell told AP if "one random act of a yard sign can make someone smile at this time, then ... it's more than worth it."

Ferrell has long enjoyed doing random things to make people happy, including dropping off books at children's hospitals and leaving teddy bears in public places for people to find. "I just feel that if we live our life trying to make other people smile, I'm the one who gets the most out of it," she said. Catherine Garcia

1:02 a.m.

Brayden Harrington has found the confidence to speak up — and he hopes to inspire other kids like him who stutter.

Harrington, 13, met President Biden last February during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. Biden grew up with a stutter, and he offered Harrington some advice: "Don't let it define you. You are smart as hell." Harrington and Biden remained in touch, with the teen speaking at the Democratic National Convention and again during Wednesday's "Celebrating America" inaugural special, when he delivered JFK's iconic inaugural line: "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

Harrington will soon share his story in a picture book, Brayden Speaks Up, set to be published on Aug. 10. It won't be his only book — next year, Harrington will release a second title for older kids. In a statement, Harrington said he was "so nervous" during his speech at the Democratic National Convention, but "what got me through and helped motivate me was knowing I could be a voice for other children who stutter as well as anyone else who has faced challenges. I only hope my story provides a little extra support and motivation for those that need it." Catherine Garcia

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