with Mariana Alfaro

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao stood at President Trump’s side in August 2017 in the lobby of Trump Tower when he insisted that there were some “very fine people” among the mob of white-supremacist demonstrators who had brought mayhem to Charlottesville a few days earlier. Moments after praising Chao for doing a “fabulous job” on infrastructure, the president said that “both sides” deserved blame for the violence in Virginia, during which an avowed neo-Nazi rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one of them.

Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who both announced their resignations on Thursday, stayed loyal to Trump during scores of other controversies. They kept their heads down as Trump separated children from the arms of their parents at the border, pressured Ukraine’s president to announce an investigation into his presidential rival Joe Biden, demanded that minority congresswomen “go back” to countries where they were not born and violently cleared peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square for a presidential photo op.

Instead, they quietly enacted their agendas. Chao weakened greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and SUVs, held back from imposing rules on self-driving cars and made it easier for companies to experiment with airborne drones. DeVos promoted the use of taxpayer dollars to support charter schools; rolled back many civil rights initiatives from the Obama administration, including protections for transgender students; enacted a regulation giving more rights to students accused of sexual harassment and assault; and publicly defended proposed funding cuts to the Special Olympics that the White House had insisted on before they reversed course.

Thirteen days before Trump will leave office, Chao announced that she will resign effective next Monday, just a week before Biden’s inauguration – because of the “traumatic and entirely avoidable” storming of the Capitol by “supporters of the President … following a rally he addressed.” 

“As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside,” Chao wrote in an email to her staff at 1:32 p.m. Thursday.

A few hours later, DeVos called the violence at the Capitol “unconscionable” in an open letter to Trump. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” she wrote. “Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgement and model the behavior we hope they would emulate.”

Resigning now feels a little like eating all but the last bite of a piece of cake at a restaurant and then asking for a refund. A directive was even emailed yesterday to all agency heads that political appointees must resign effective Jan. 20. “The order was issued by Chris Liddell, the deputy White House chief of staff who has been leading transition arrangements with the Biden team,” Lisa Rein and Eric Yoder report.

Critics of the administration say Chao and DeVos deserve no credit. “At this point you’re not resigning, you’re just taking the rest of your vacation days,” said Bakari Sellers, a former Democratic state legislator in South Carolina. Former NFL wide receiver Donté Stallworth compared Cabinet members stepping down now to a quarterback throwing six interceptions and fumbling four times in his own territory “with 5 seconds left in the game while the other team has the ball and is taking a knee to run out the clock.” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers union, issued a two-word statement: “Good riddance.”

That is not to say that officials are not authentically horrified by Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen and other efforts to sow distrust in democracy. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said – even before the pro-Trump mob took control of the chamber – that certifying Biden’s victory would be the single most important vote he’s cast during 37 years in office.

“McConnell, who has been estranged from the president in recent weeks, has told fellow senators and other confidants that he does not plan to speak with Trump again,” Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report

More Trump administration officials also resigned in protest on Thursday, including Matt Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser; Tyler Goodspeed, the acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; and John Costello, the deputy assistant secretary at the Commerce Department. 

“Acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf called on Trump to denounce the violence carried out by ‘some supporters’ of the president. Wolf said he does not plan to quit,” Anne Gearan and Mike DeBonis report. “Former attorney general William P. Barr called Trump’s conduct ‘a betrayal of his office and supporters.’ … Former homeland security secretary and Trump chief of staff John F. Kelly, now a Trump critic, urged the Cabinet to meet and discuss Trump’s removal, telling CNN that he would vote for that if he were he still a Cabinet member. Former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster tweeted that the main reason for the attack on Congress ‘is the sad reality that President Trump and other officials have repeatedly compromised our principles in pursuit of partisan advantage and personal gain.’”

After being out of sight all day, Trump posted a video on Twitter last night in which he said there will be a smooth transition. “Now tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” he said. He also tweeted this morning that he will not attend Biden’s inauguration. 

With the remaining members of the Cabinet very unlikely to invoke the 25th Amendment to put Vice President Pence in charge, many House Democrats are discussing a second attempt to impeach Trump during his final days. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the No. 4 in House Democratic leadership, said this morning on CNN that the chamber could vote to impeach Trump by the middle of next week. Their caucus will hold a conference call early this afternoon to discuss next steps. “Donald Trump needs to be removed from office,” Clark said. “And we are going to proceed with every tool that we have to make sure that happens to protect our democracy.”

Following the Jan. 6 pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol, politicians began calling for invoking the 25th Amendment or the impeachment of President Trump. (The Washington Post)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) became the first Republican member of Congress to come out in favor of Trump’s removal on Thursday, saying in a video that the time has come to “end this nightmare.”

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Spectrum News that he would not oppose using the 25th Amendment if it was invoked: “If the Cabinet decided to do that, I would not oppose it.” 

“I hold the president responsible for sending those people to the Capitol,” Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) said in a statement.

Even if the House impeached Trump, though, it remains hard to imagine Senate Republicans breaking decisively with the president in his final days. Partly, that is a function of the calendar. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who opposed impeachment last year, said today that Trump has “acted shamefully” and that he would “definitely consider” any articles of impeachment approved by the House. “The president had a rally hours before this happened where he is telling them to go to the Capitol and go wild,” Sasse told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “The guy is addicted to division. This is a deep brokenness in his soul.”

Some of Fox News’s Trump supporters now declare his political career is done. The president’s role in and reaction to the assault on the Capitol has soured Stuart Varney, Brit Hume and others who once favored him. “If Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board. “This would be the cleanest solution since it would immediately turn presidential duties over to Mr. Pence. And it would give Mr. Trump agency, a la Richard Nixon, over his own fate.” 

On NBC’s “Today” show this morning, former secretary of state Colin Powell called on Trump to “just do what Nixon did” and step down. “What he is responsible for is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen in all my years as a government employee here in the United States of America and in Washington, D.C. He should be totally ashamed of himself and he should take that shame and turn it into a resignation as quickly as possible,” said Powell, who was the nation’s chief diplomat under George W. Bush. Asked about Trump’s access to the nuclear launch codes for the next 12 days, Powell sought to reassure: “I was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I can tell you for sure if something like this ever happened, and someone suddenly said, ‘We want to use the nuclear weapon,’ they would never get near it.”

Meanwhile, Biden is in danger of having no confirmed secretaries on Day 1. 

“Delays in Congress, caused primarily by runoff elections in Georgia for Senate seats that Democrats flipped this week and the arcane procedures needed to get the new chamber up and running, have sparked deep concern among Biden’s top advisers. They are now mapping out contingency plans to install acting secretaries in most, if not all, Cabinet posts, in case Biden’s nominees are unable to secure Senate backing by Jan. 20,” Paul Kane, Karoun Demirjian and Anne Gearan report. “For decades, Senate Republicans and Democrats have shelved their political differences to ensure a seamless transition between administrations, especially in the departments responsible for safeguarding the country against foreign and domestic threats. … [But] to date, the Senate Republican committee chairs — who will remain in control until Jan. 20 — have scheduled only one confirmation hearing for a Biden nominee: that of Lloyd J. Austin III, the president-elect’s choice for defense secretary.” That hearing is set for Jan. 19.

Biden has picked Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to be secretary of commerce and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) to be secretary of labor. “In pairing the two Cabinet picks, Biden balanced Raimondo, who has often been at odds with major labor unions, with Walsh, who enjoys strong support from leaders of the AFL-CIO and earned his union card in 1988 when he joined Laborers Local 223. Before becoming mayor, Walsh was the head of Boston’s Building and Construction Trades Council," David Lynch, Jeff Stein, Eli Rosenberg and Andrew Freedman report. “Biden is also preparing to name Isabel Guzman, director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, to take charge of the U.S. Small Business Administration … Biden will also nominate Don Graves, who advised him on economic issues during his tenure as vice president and later served at the Treasury Department, as deputy commerce secretary.”

More fallout from the insurrection

Capitol Police were unable to stop a breach of the Capitol. Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig and a former Senate Sergeant at Arms describe the events. (The Washington Post)
Inside the U.S. Capitol, the rioters were in charge.

“Capitol Police had not asked other law enforcement agencies for help until their building was surrounded by a mob seeking to overturn the election results,” Peter Hermann, Carol Leonnig, Aaron Davis and David Fahrenthold report. “Top congressional leaders, hidden in secure rooms, were calling the governors of Maryland and Virginia directly to plead for help. At last, reinforcements arrived: D.C. police officers, who wear an image of the Capitol building on their department’s official patch, but rarely enter the building itself. … Late Thursday, a Capitol Police officer died of injuries he sustained in the attack. Officer Brian D. Sicknick, a 12-year veteran on the force, was ‘injured while physically engaging with protesters,’ the department said in a statement, and collapsed after returning to his division headquarters. He later died at a hospital.. … Three of Congress’s top security officials — Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund, House Sergeant at Arms Paul D. Irving and Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael C. Stenger — had resigned or were set to. … 

“By early Wednesday afternoon, Sund made an urgent plea for backup from the D.C. National Guard during a call with top Pentagon and city officials But Defense officials balked, concerns about the ‘optics’ of soldiers inside the Capitol building, two District officials said. During the melee, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said he got a call from House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who was in a secure location under police protection. … But the governor said he was … repeatedly rebuffed by the Defense Department. … It wasn’t until about 90 minutes later that the secretary of the Army called asking the Maryland guardsmen to ‘come as soon as possible,’ the governor said. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said he also got a call on his cellphone Wednesday. ‘It showed up, ‘Nancy Pelosi,’’ he said, recalling his surprise. … ‘She said, ‘Ralph, there’s glass being broken around me. I’ve heard there’s been gunfire. We’re just very, very concerned right now.’"

Quote of the day

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said he worries the lack of preparedness was rooted in police’s perception of the crowd: “They see Black Lives Matter and go ‘Oh my God, we’ve got to be ready.’ But, hey, these people have their blue lives matter flags all over the place. And that bias and that false sense of security bit them.”

The man who posed at a desk in Pelosi’s office said he was prepared for a violent death. 

“Last Saturday, Richard Barnett of Gravette, Ark., criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a Facebook post for using the description ‘white nationalist’ as a ‘derogatory term,’” Jon Swaine reports. “‘I am white. There is no denying that. I am a nationalist. I put my nation first. So that makes me a white nationalist,’ Barnett wrote on a page he maintained under a pseudonym, before adding that people who were not nationalists should ‘get the f--- out of our nation.’ Just four days later, Barnett was photographed sitting with his feet up on a desk in Pelosi’s office at the U.S. Capitol — an image that quickly became emblematic of the chaotic storming of the complex by a pro-Trump mob. Barnett, who is 60 and goes by the nickname ‘Bigo,’ identified himself as the intruder in Pelosi’s office to [a] New York Times reporter … In a Dec. 28 Facebook post, … Barnett announced he would be attending Wednesday’s rally and urged fellow Arkansans to make sacrifices to join him there. … In a separate post the same day, Barnett wrote that he ‘came into this world kicking and screaming, covered in someone else’s blood,’ adding, ‘I’m not afraid to go out the same way.’”

  • One of the rioters says a Capitol Police officer gave members of the mob directions to Schumer's office. (NYT)
  • “The Capitol Police made more arrests on each of the first three days of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in September, 2018, than they did Wednesday,” the New Yorker notes. “The protesters at those hearings — most of them women, many self-identified survivors of sexual assault — were arrested for transgressions such as shouting out from the gallery, ‘Kavanaugh can’t be trusted!’”
  • Biden denounced the racial inequalities reflected in the lenient response to the mostly White attackers. “You can’t tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said in Wilmington, Del., before beginning to hammer his fist against the lectern. "We all know that is true. And it is totally unacceptable." (Annie Linskey, Chelsea Janes and Amy Wang)
  • Shattered glass still litters the Capitol’s floors, as crews try to clean up the mess. (Paul Schwartzman)
Several dozen people make their first court appearances.

“In D.C. Superior Court, 40 defendants were charged with unlawful entry of public property and were notified that prosecutors are reviewing evidence of an additional charge of curfew violation,” Keith Alexander, Spencer Hsu and Paul Duggan report. "Most of the defendants came from outside of the Washington region — including Oregon, Florida, Wyoming, Connecticut and Pennsylvania — though some were from the District, Maryland and Virginia. One person arrested was charged with possessing a ‘military style automatic weapon’ and 11 molotov cocktails, prosecutors said. Another defendant was charged with assaulting a police officer with a hockey stick. Yet another, who needed a Russian interpreter, told a judge, ‘I don’t know what unlawful entry you are referring to.’ … 

“As of early Thursday evening, four other people, charged with federal crimes, appeared in U.S. District Court, including a Maryland man accused of possessing a firearm after curfew on Capitol grounds just outside the Capitol Visitor Center — a 9mm handgun with a round in the firing chamber. Prosecutors said he also was carrying two fully loaded 12-round magazines, wearing a bulletproof vest, and carrying a gas mask and pocket knife in his backpack. … Meanwhile, D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III vowed that his department would arrest ‘each and every one of the violent mob.’ … He said the department is offering a $1,000 reward for any tip leading to the arrest of a rioter. … The FBI also said that it is asking people in areas where explosive devices were found whether they would share any video recordings of surroundings with investigators. …

“At a news conference, Michael R. Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District, voiced ‘concern’ at the relatively small number of rioters who were detained by police in the Capitol. As a result, he said, federal authorities face the daunting task of identifying, locating and obtaining arrest warrants for a large number of suspects, which he said could occupy investigators for months. … He said a large amount of government paperwork along with electronic devices and other items were stolen from congressional offices during the disturbance, which ‘could have national security implications.'"

The top federal prosecutor in D.C. also said Trump is not off-limits in his investigation of the events surrounding Wednesday’s riot, saying “all actors” would be examined to determine if they broke the law, Devlin Barrett reports. Asked if federal agents and prosecutors will look at the incendiary statements made by speakers at Trump’s rally shortly before the mob sacked the Capitol, Sherwin replied: “Yes, we are looking at all actors here, not only the people that went into the building, but . . . were there others that maybe assisted or facilitated or played some ancillary role in this. We will look at every actor and all criminal charges.” Asked if that might include Trump himself, who urged the crowd to “fight like hell” before the rioting began, Sherwin replied: “We are looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role, if the evidence fits the element of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”

Trump is said to have discussed pardoning himself. “In several conversations since Election Day, Mr. Trump has told advisers that he is considering giving himself a pardon and, in other instances, asked whether he should and what the effect would be on him legally and politically,” the New York Times reports. “No president has pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of prospective self-clemency has never been tested in the justice system, and legal scholars are divided about whether the courts would recognize it. … The questions would be whether the Justice Department under another president would honor the pardon and set aside any potential prosecution of Mr. Trump and, if he were prosecuted, whether the judicial system would ultimately decide whether the pardon insulates Mr. Trump from facing charges.”

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen vowed that pro-Trump rioters who entered the U.S. Capitol would ‘face the full consequences of their actions under the law,’ and those consequences could include being charged under Trump's executive order [from this summer] authorizing up to 10 years in prison for ‘injury of federal property,’” Fox News reports. “The order directs the Department of Justice to ‘prosecute to the fullest extent permitted under federal law’ those who vandalize government property."

Internet sleuths are identifying scores of the rioters. “As he strolled past gold-framed portraits of past Congressional leaders, one rioter who stormed the Capitol in a pro-Trump mob on Wednesday wore a red Trump hat, a commemorative sweatshirt from the president’s inauguration and a lanyard around his neck. When a photo of him went viral, it didn’t take Internet sleuths long to realize that the lanyard held his work badge — clearly identifying him as an employee of Navistar Direct Marketing, a printing company in Frederick, Md. On Thursday, Navistar swiftly fired him,” Jaclyn Peiser reports. “While police and the FBI work to identify and arrest members of the mob, online detectives are also crowdsourcing information and doxing them — exposing the rioters to criminal prosecution, but also more immediate action from their bosses.”

Airlines and airports in the D.C. area tighten security. “Officials with American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines said they also were taking additional security measures in the Washington region. American and United increased staffing and said they were working closely with law enforcement,” Ian Duncan reports.

Democratic control of the Senate – and the Capitol breach – put D.C. statehood front and center. “At a Thursday news conference, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) grew impassioned as she sought to frame the stakes of the statehood cause against the backdrop of Wednesday’s insurrection: D.C. residents, she said, risked their lives to defend a Congress that affords them no voting representation,” Meagan Flynn and Fenit Nirappil report.

Aside from Trump, no Republican has taken more blame than Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

“Supporting Josh and trying so hard to get him elected to the Senate was the worst mistake I ever made in my life,” former senator John Danforth (R-Mo.), who for years has been described as Hawley's biggest mentor, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

As he walked into the Capitol on Wednesday, Hawley cheered on pro-Trump protesters gathering outside the building with a thumbs up and fist pump,” the Associated Press reports. ”GOP state Sen. Shamed Dogan of Ballwin in suburban St. Louis, like Danforth, said late Wednesday he regretted supporting Hawley. ‘I have never regretted a vote as much and as quickly as my vote for @HawleyMO in 2018,’ he tweeted. … The student bar association at the University of Missouri law school, where Hawley taught, issued a statement calling for his resignation. … 

Simon & Schuster canceled publication of Hawley’s upcoming book, ‘The Tyranny of Big Tech.’ The publisher said it values publishing diverse view points. ‘At the same time, we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom,’ it said in a statement. Hawley responded by calling the decision a 'direct assault on the First Amendment.' ‘I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have. We’ll see you in court.’”

  • At least six state-level GOP lawmakers were among the mob, including Tennessee’s Terri Lynn Weaver, Virginia’s Amanda Chase and Michigan’s Matt Maddock. (The Independent
  • A chorus of Democratic lawmakers, including moderate Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), called on Hawley and Cruz to resign. So did Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (Tex.). (Kansas City Star)
  • One of Hawley's major donors called on the Senate to censure him. David Humphreys, president and CEO of Tamko Building Products, said his patron provoked the riot with “irresponsible, inflammatory, and dangerous tactics," adding that Hawley has “shown his true colors as an anti-democracy populist.” (Missouri Independent)
  • Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) leads a nonprofit that helped organize the Save America march. “Marshall leads the Republican Attorneys General Association’s dark-money nonprofit Rule of Law Defense Fund, which is listed as a participating organization for the March to Save America on the march’s website, as are the groups Stop the Steal, Tea Party Patriots and Turning Point Action,” per the Alabama Political Reporter. “Marshall on Wednesday issued a statement condemning the violence at the Capitol but did not mention his role leading a group that helped organize the march.”
  • Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against lawyer Sidney Powell, demanding more than $1.3 billion in damages for havoc it says Powell has caused by spreading “wild” and “demonstrably false” allegations. (Emma Brown)
Combat veterans in Congress took heroic action.

“On Wednesday, after chemical irritants were fired in the Capitol to repel a pro-Trump mob, Rep. Ruben Gallego thought of the moment years ago when he entered a Marine Corps gas chamber,” Alex Horton reports. “The training was suddenly relevant for the Iraq veteran and Arizona Democrat after an announcement blared to don gas masks stored under the seats. Gallego looked over the panicked faces of fellow lawmakers and explained to them some of the most potent lessons from boot camp. Trust your mask. Take measured, shallow breaths. Don’t panic. … Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, also soothed colleagues on the balcony and compared the moment to flashes of combat.  ‘I haven’t felt that way in over 15 years since I was a Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan,’ Crow said.”

Rioters attacked a journalist covering the scene. 

“I ran upstairs to be out of the way of the crowd, and to get a better vantage point to document what was happening. Suddenly, two or three men in black surrounded me and demanded to know who I worked for,” Times reporter Erin Schaff writes. “Grabbing my press pass, they saw that my ID said The New York Times and became really angry. They threw me to the floor, trying to take my cameras. I started screaming for help as loudly as I could. No one came. People just watched. At this point, I thought I could be killed and no one would stop them. They ripped one of my cameras away from me, broke a lens on the other and ran away.” 

Authorities have shared few details on the deaths of the three “medical emergency” victims.

The three were identified as Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Ga., Kevin Greeson, 55, of Athens, Ala., and Benjamin Philips, 50, of Ringtown, Pa. “Relatives of two of the three said they had not gone to Washington expecting to participate or be caught up in violence. But the social media posts of one advocated that people take up arms, and posts by another showed a belief in the false allegations of election fraud," Rebecca Tan, Steve Thompson and Antonio Olivo report. "Greeson’s wife, Kristi Greeson, said her husband’s only goal was to show support for Trump. … Her husband, who worked as a salesman in the steel and aluminum industry, ‘had a history of high blood pressure, and in the midst of the excitement, suffered a heart attack,’ she added. But Greeson appeared to have an account on the right-wing social media site Parler filled with recent obscene and violent posts, fueled by misinformation spread by right-wing radio host Mark Levin, the Proud Boys and others. …

“Atlanta TV stations on Thursday night quoted Boyland’s brother-in-law, Justin Cave, who blamed Trump for inciting a riot that led to the death of Boyland, who he described as ‘very passionate about her beliefs.’ A Facebook page belonging to a Rosanne Boyland in Kennesaw features several pro-Trump posts and includes a false assertion that D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ordered hotels and other businesses to close in advance of Wednesday’s rally. … Philips, the 50-year-old from Pennsylvania, was a computer programmer and an ardent Trump supporter. He had helped to organize transportation for dozens of people traveling from Pennsylvania to D.C., the Philadelphia Inquirer reported … but after arriving in the city on Wednesday, he left the group. When it was time to drive back home, people who had traveled with him said they received a call from D.C. police informing them that Philips had suffered a stroke and died at George Washington University Hospital … ‘It seems like the first day of the rest of our lives,’ Philips told an Inquirer reporter while traveling to D.C. on Wednesday morning. ‘They should name this year Zero because something will happen.’”

The coronavirus

Adding insult to injury, scientists fear the riot was a superspreader event.

“The coronavirus thrives indoors, particularly in crowded spaces, lingering in the air in tiny particles called aerosols. If even a few extremists were infected — likely, given the current rates of spread and the crowd size — then the virus would have had the ideal opportunity to find new victims, experts said,” the Times reports. “Hundreds of rioters shouting in crowded rooms and hallways for extended periods of time can infect dozens of people at once. … Infected members of Congress and law enforcement could have spread the virus to one another as they sheltered from the violence … Rep. Jake LaTurner, Republican of Kansas, announced on Twitter early Thursday morning that he had tested positive for the virus. Mr. LaTurner was cloistered in the chamber with other members of Congress for much of the day. At least a dozen of the 400 or so lawmakers and staff who were huddling in one committee room refused to wear masks even after being offered one, or wore them improperly below their chins, said Representative Susan Wild, Democrat of Pennsylvania.” 

Researchers point to asymptomatic cases as major spreaders.

“As the United States marked another grim milestone Thursday with more than 4,000 covid-19 deaths reported in a single day, federal disease trackers said research suggests that people without symptoms transmit more than half of all cases of the novel coronavirus,” Brittany Shammas and Ben Guarino report. “The findings, which came from a model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demonstrate the importance of following the agency’s guidelines about wearing a mask and maintaining social distance. … In the past seven days, U.S. infections, hospitalizations and deaths have hit record highs. Cases reached a record 277,135 on Saturday. And by Thursday, more than 132,000 people were hospitalized in the nation with covid-19 … 

"There is no evidence that the surge is being driven by the more contagious strain, known as B117, because if it were, it would have turned up in more of the genomic sequences analyzed by researchers in recent weeks. But health officials fear the variant could make a bad situation worse … On Thursday, three statesConnecticut, Pennsylvania and Texas — reported detecting B117, joining California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and New York. … ‘We are in a race against time,’ said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. … As of Thursday, more than 21 million doses of coronavirus vaccine had been distributed to states, and just under 6 million had been administered, according to CDC data.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears to protect against the new variants. 

“Both the U.K. and South African variants contain a mutation of the spike protein that is commonly referred to as N501Y, and may be the key factor that makes both variants especially transmissible. In a study that has not yet been peer-reviewed, scientists from Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch took blood samples from participants who had received the vaccine during clinical trials and found that the vaccine effectively neutralized the virus with the N501Y mutation,” Antonia Farzan reports. “But as the study’s authors note, there are numerous other mutations found in the new variants that the vaccine has not yet been tested against. They conclude that ‘continuous monitoring’ is necessary, as a future mutation could prove resistant to the vaccine. Even if that is the case, it’s not necessarily as alarming as it sounds. BioNTech’s chief executive said in December that it would only take the company about six weeks to retool the vaccine to protect against a new strain if necessary.”

  • “The human body typically retains a robust immune response to the coronavirus for at least eight months after an infection, and potentially much longer, researchers said in a study published in the journal Science. About 90 percent of the patients studied showed lingering, stable immunity, the study found,” Joel Achenbach reports
  • Researchers in Brazil said a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech was 78 percent effective in Phase 3 trials. (Eva Dou)
  • The discovery of a single case of the U.K. variant in otherwise virus-free Brisbane has prompted a three-day lockdown in the Australian city of 2.5 million people. (Farzan)
  • A growing outbreak in Shijiazhuang prompted authorities to impose a strict lockdown and ban people from entering or exiting the Chinese city of 10 million. The cluster of 123 confirmed cases in neighboring Hebei province represents the regime's worst outbreak in two months. (Farzan)
  • A largely empty, 18-hour flight from Dubai to New Zealand led to four infections. The September case is offering researchers, and airlines, an opportunity to study in-transit contagion. (NYT)
  • Counties where large universities held in-person classes experienced an average 56 percent rise in coronavirus infections in the 21 days after classes began, according to new CDC data, while those counties where online learning was the only option registered an 18 percent decrease on average. (Farzan)

Other news that should be on your radar

  • The economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, as the recovery makes a U and the unemployment rate holds at 6.7 percent. (Eli Rosenberg)
  • The Justice Department said Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to resolve a charge that it conspired to defraud the FAA during its review of the 737 Max, the airliner involved in a pair of deadly crashes that killed 346 people. (Ian Duncan, Lori Aratani and Michael Laris)
  • The judge overseeing the criminal charges for George Floyd's killing heard arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys, who asked to postpone the March trial until summer, citing concerns that the proceedings and expected protests outside the courthouse could create a “superspreader event.” (Holly Bailey)
  • Andrei Tyurin, the highly skilled Russian hacker for hire who breached the networks of JPMorgan Chase, the Wall Street Journal and other major institutions, was sentenced to a dozen years in federal prison. Tyurin personally made $20 million targeting financial institutions, brokerage firms and publishers of financial news on behalf of the partners he worked with between 2007 and 2015. (Shayna Jacobs)
  • A Missouri woman believed to be the last Civil War widow died. Helen Viola Jackson's 1936 marriage to Union soldier James Bolin was unusual: He was 93 and in declining health, and she was a 17-year-old schoolgirl. She was 101 when she died last month at a nursing home. Bolin offered to marry Jackson so that she could receive his soldier’s pension after his death, but she never sought the money. (AP)

Social media speed read

Police honored their fallen comrade:

Compare this note that President George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton after losing reelection to how Trump has treated Biden:

Michelle Obama called Trump’s behavior “infantile and unpatriotic”:

When a Post reporter noticed that rioters left behind a can of Axe body spray, the company responded by condemning the attack:

Videos of the day

As Trump supporters gathered for the “Save America” rally, the Trumps danced backstage to “Gloria” by Laura Branigan:

Seth Meyers said Hawley, Cruz and the “rest of the sedition caucus” should be removed from Congress: 

Stephen Colbert called the rioters “violent idiots” for looking directly into cameras and giving their contact information to reporters: