Bits ‘n’ Pieces: January 28, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling, still pivoting around the U.S. Capitol:

Newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden quickly got to work. His first actions, according to a variety of media, included: requiring the federal government to reduce purchases from overseas, in favor of made-in-the-USA products, to boost employment; rejoining the Paris Climate Accords; revoking the Keystone XL pipeline permit; rejoining the World Health Organization; repealing the Muslim and African travel ban; offering Russian President Vladimir Putin a five-year extension of the New START Treaty, which limits the U.S. and Russia to no more than 1,550 strategic offensively deployed nuclear weapons, each; stopping border wall construction; planning for citizenship for Dreamers; ending the band on transgender soldiers in the military; reorganizing the coronavirus response, such as a mask mandate on buses and planes, on federal property and by federal employees (the response will include using the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to deliver 100 million vaccinations in Biden’s first 100 days); and overturning aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants. 

The Biden administration is already reversing the rollback of vehicle emission standards; reversing the downsizing of several national monuments; ensuring that people who refuse jobs due to COVID-19 safety concerns are not denied unemployment benefits; re-establishing a working group on the social costs of greenhouse gases; continuing a pause on federal student loan interest and principal payments; urging a federal moratorium on evictions; ordering all executive branch employees to sign an ethics pledge; and putting a freeze on all new regulations put in motion by former-President Donald Trump so they can be reevaluated. Actions made via executive order do not require Senate approval though other plans, such as some involving immigration, will.

Former President Donald Trump, in one of his last official acts, pardoned 143 people. Those pardoned included Steven Bannon, who is accused of defrauding Trump’s own supporters, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Before exiting his position as Senate majority leader, Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell told his colleagues that Trump was a central figure in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, which resulted in the deaths of five people, noting that “the mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful interests.” House Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has stated that the House-approved impeachment of Trump — the second such action against his presidency — will begin “soon.”

To impeach Trump again 67 Senate votes are needed. The Washington Post reports that, as of last weekend, 62 senators were in support and others were either opposed or had not made their positions known. Conviction for incitement of an insurrection could bar Trump from ever running for public office.

Court documents filed last week showed that “self-styled militia members” from several states planned to breach the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, aiming to disrupt Biden’s confirmation but also to make “citizens arrests” against certain lawmakers. So far those charged in the Capitol breach face federal counts of conspiracy, including obstructing government proceedings, impeding or injuring government officers, and destroying U.S. property. According to The Post, the FBI’s “aggressive” investigation is attempting to determine if the Capitol event was a concerted conspiracy or if rioters “got caught up in the moment.” Conversations by the insurrectionists, recovered by the FBI from a two-way radio app, included instructions to seal Congress members in the tunnel where they had sheltered from the rioters and, “Turn on the gas.”

The Proud Boys, participants at the Jan. 6 D.C. riot, sent a welcoming telegram to Biden, commending his administration for being “honest about their intentions.” In a New York Times interview, Proud Boy leaders said they were not happy that Trump had denounced the Jan.6 Capitol violence. They said Trump had “betrayed” them, and would not grant them pardons for their actions in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Justice attorney Jeffrey Clark plotted to help Trump overturn election results, The New York Times reported. Clark’s last-minute plan to derail election results was thwarted by revelations that Trump pressured Georgia elections officials to change their vote count, as well as by top DOJ officials, who vowed to resign en masse if Trump installed Clark as acting attorney general.

Blast from the past: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Zora N. Hurston, 1891-1960, American author, anthropologist and filmmaker.

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