Two of Rudy Giuliani's associates were arrested late Wednesday, suspected of violating campaign finance laws, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, reportedly worked with Giuliani in an effort to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Though there's little information about their nationalities, "both were believed to have been born in former Soviet republics," writes the Journal.
Both Parnas and Fruman are major donors to a pro-Trump fundraising committee. The Daily Beast reported that the super PAC they support, America First Action, may have improperly paid former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) after he pushed for the removal of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Sessions alleged Yovanovitch was biased against the Trump administration, something Giuliani and other Trump allies have repeatedly claimed as well. Yovanovitch was recalled in May, the same month Parnas and Fruman gave $325,000 to America First Action through a company called Global Energy Producers. Giuliani has alleged Yovanovitch was blocking important corruption investigations in Ukraine, namely an investigation into Biden's son, Hunter Biden, and his work on a Ukrainian energy company board.
America First Action said in a statement it put the $325,000 donation in a separate account after a complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The two men, who are reportedly Florida businessmen, have been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, reports the Journal, and were detained in Washington just before they were due to receive House subpoenas in the impeachment probe. They are expected to appear in court on Thursday. Summer Meza
Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton on Wednesday encouraged Americans to reach out to friends and family members who don't necessarily agree with their political beliefs, saying this is an important step in getting the country to heal.
During a taped message that aired during the "Celebrating America" inaugural special, Bush said he thinks "the fact that the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country."
Obama agreed, saying that Americans have to "not just listen to folks we agree with, but listen to folks we don't. One of my fondest memories of my inauguration was the grace and generosity that President Bush showed me and Laura Bush showed Michelle. It was a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other's common humanity, and as Americans we have more in common than what separates us."
Bush implored viewers to "love their neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves," as that would cause "a lot of division in our society" to end. With President Biden now in office, it's "a new beginning," Clinton said, adding that the first step to unity is everyone getting off their "high horse" and reaching out to friends and neighbors.
The three former presidents also delivered messages to Biden, with Bush saying he is "pulling for your success. Your success is our country's success." Clinton said he is "glad" Biden is in the White House, and "we're ready to march with you." Obama told his former vice president he is "proud" and wants him to know that the trio is "rooting" for him and "will be available in any ways that we can as citizens to help you guide our country forward. We wish you Godspeed." Catherine Garcia
One of former President Donald Trump's last acts in office was issuing a directive extending free Secret Service protection to his four adult children and two of their spouses for the next six months, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.
It's not just his adult children benefiting — Trump also directed that former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and former National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien continue to receive Secret Service protection for six months, two people familiar with the matter told the Post. This 24-hour security, funded by taxpayer money, is expected to cost millions.
Under federal law, only Trump, former first lady Melania Trump, and their 14-year-old son, Barron, are entitled to Secret Service protection now that they have left the White House; while Donald and Melania can receive protection for the rest of their lives, Barron is only entitled to it up until his 16th birthday.
The Post notes that presidents have the ability to order Secret Service protection for anyone they want, but it is extremely unusual for an outgoing president to order this type of security for their children who are well into adulthood. It is also unclear if there is precedent for ordering security for former aides. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush requested security extensions for their daughters, who were in college when their presidencies ended. Once former President Barack Obama was out of office, his daughters — one in high school, the other on a gap year from college — received a short extension of security.
During Trump's presidency, his adult children took more than 4,500 trips, including vacations and business travel for the Trump Organization, the Post reports. Taxpayers paid millions of dollars for Secret Service agents to accompany them on those jaunts. Catherine Garcia
President Biden addressed the nation during the "Celebrating America" inaugural special Wednesday night, saying that to "overcome the challenges in front of us," the country must find "the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity."
Speaking from the Lincoln Memorial, Biden said the United States has learned that "democracy is precious, and because of you, democracy has prevailed." Americans are "good people," Biden said, and he called on the country to unite in favor of "opportunity, liberty, dignity, and respect" and against "common foes" like "hate, violence, disease, and hopelessness."
The only way the U.S can "get through the darkness around us" is by coming together, Biden said. There are moments, like the Civil War, when "more is asked of us Americans," he added. "We are in one of those moments now. The pandemic, economic crisis, racial injustice, the climate crisis, and threats to our very democracy. The question is: Are we up for it?"
Biden said he has no doubt that people will unite, adding, "You the American people are the reason why I've never been more optimistic about America than I am this very day. There isn't anything we can't do if we do it together." Catherine Garcia
Haines is the first woman to serve as head of the intelligence community, and is also the first member of President Biden's Cabinet to receive Senate confirmation. She served as deputy national security adviser and deputy CIA director in the Obama administration.
During her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Haines said "when it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics, ever." After Biden announced in November that he wanted Haines to serve as director of national intelligence, Haines declared she would "speak truth to power" and knew Biden valued "the perspective of the intelligence community." Catherine Garcia
The Biden administration held its first press briefing on Wednesday evening, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki promising that every weekday, there will be a news conference.
"There are a number of ways to combat misinformation," Psaki said. "One of them is accurate information and truth and data and sharing information, even when it is hard to hear." She added that her daily briefings will include COVID-19 updates from health officials.
Psaki said President Biden's first call with a foreign leader will be on Friday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and she expects "they will certainly discuss the important relationship with Canada as well as the decision on the Keystone pipeline that was announced today." Shortly after taking office on Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order halting construction on the pipeline, meant to transport crude oil from Canada to the Midwest.
Biden is expected to spend the next several days calling "partners and allies" of the United States, Psaki said, because "he feels that's important to rebuild those relationships and address the challenges and threats we're facing in the world."
Psaki was also asked about the letter former President Donald Trump left for Biden, which he earlier described as being "very generous." Biden said because it was "private," he will "not talk about it until I talk to him." Psaki reiterated that the letter was "generous and gracious," but she does not believe a call from Biden to Trump is imminent. Catherine Garcia
Several world leaders on Wednesday sent their congratulations to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, with some also getting in a final jab at former President Donald Trump.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Biden represented "victory of democracy over the ultra-right. Five years ago, we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realized he jeopardized nothing less than the world's most powerful democracy."
His comments were echoed by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said he was "greatly relieved" by Biden's win. Referring to the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Steinmeier added: "Despite all the joy we feel today, we must not forget that even the most powerful democracy in the world has been seduced by populism. We must work resolutely to counter polarization, protect and strengthen the public square in our democracies, and shape our policies on the basis of reason and facts."
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that he was thrilled Biden brought the U.S. back into the Paris Agreement on climate change, stating that by working together, "we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet." Catherine Garcia