Early Wednesday morning, Donald and Melania Trump will depart the White House, but they will not invite their incoming counterparts, Joe and Jill Biden, inside before they do. Instead, the Bidens will be greeted by the White House chief usher, CNN reports.
It's all in keeping with President Donald Trump's refusal to the very end to concede, admit he lost or extend the slightest courtesy or communication to his successor. It's not unusual for a departing president to have a farewell ceremony after a successor's inauguration, but Trump, who is boycotting Biden's swearing-in, has been arranging an elaborate salute to himself four hours earlier, at 8 a.m.
Trump is expecting a military-style send-off from Joint Base Andrews — complete with a military band and a red-carpet walk flanked by troops and even possibly a flyover by Air Force fighter jets — as he boards Air Force One for the last time to fly to Florida, according to ABC News. His plans on the way out also include plotting revenge against Republicans who supported his impeachment or held him at least partly to blame for the U.S. Capitol violence.
The White House is scrambling to round up a big crowd to cheer for Trump. Aides and allies have been told they can bring up to five guests, but some aren't interested in attending after Trump's incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection, The Washington Post reported. Anthony Scaramucci, briefly a communications aide and later an outspoken Trump foe, said he received an invitation for the send-off. "Trust me, that had to be a mass email if one of them got sent to me," Scaramucci told "Inside Edition." (He's not going.)
Melania Trump is winding up her White House days on a frosty note. Breaking with a 100-year-old tradition for first ladies, she did not invite Jill Biden for a walk-through of the private living quarters on the second and third floors. (Not to worry for the Bidens; their friends the Obamas can fill them in, and CNN reports one reorganization they plan is that, unlike the Trumps, the new first couple won't sleep in separate bedrooms.) However, The Washington Post reports that Melania quietly has been working with chief usher Timothy Harleth to facilitate the Bidens' move-in while she focuses on moving on.
Melania Trump released an essay Monday about the restoration projects she oversaw, some of which were controversial, such as the Tennis Pavilion built during the pandemic. Others include renovations of various rooms and the Bowling Alley, where she had the balls redone with lettering "The President’s House," not "The People’s House," according to CNN.
Also Monday, Melania Trump issued a farewell video. While she did not directly mention the Capitol attack, she urged Americans to "be passionate in everything you do, but always remember that violence is never the answer and will never be justified." Referring to the causes she took up, such as combating opioid abuse and online bullying, she said "it is my sincere hope that every American will do their part to teach our children what it means to ‘Be Best.’ "
Dealing get/stay-out-of-jail cards
Trump is finalizing a list of pardons and sentence commutations he will grant Tuesday — at least 60 and perhaps more than 100. Preemptive pardons for himself and family members were not planned, but those decisions won't be final until the last minute, The New York Times reported. Advisers have counseled against preemptive self-pardons.
Names under consideration, according to the Times, include Sheldon Silver, the former Democratic New York Assembly speaker who went to prison last summer for corruption, and the rapper Lil Wayne, who pleaded guilty last month to a gun charge.
Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who prosecuted Silver, tweeted: "People who say Trump has no empathy are wrong. He has the utmost empathy for degenerate, corrupt, disgraced politicians who perhaps remind him of himself."
Another person under consideration for clemency is Sholam Weiss, the recipient of what is believed to be the longest-ever white-collar prison sentence — more than 800 years, the report said — in a $450 million fraud scheme. Weiss has attracted support from people with ties to Trump, including lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he didn't expect a preemptive pardon, and chances are looking dimmer for Steve Bannon, the Trump loyalist indicted on a charge of allegedly defrauding donors in a private fundraising effort for the border wall, the report said.
Accused rioters: Where's ours?
Several Trump supporters charged with crimes in the Capitol insurrection want the outgoing president to pardon them. They contend their actions were legal because they entered the Capitol at the "invitation" of Trump, following his direct order, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"I would like a pardon from the president of the United States," said Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate agent charged in the storming of the Capitol, in an interview with CBS News late last week. "I think that we all deserve a pardon. I’m facing a prison sentence. I think that I do not deserve that."
An attorney for Jacob Chansley — the man who entered the Capitol wearing a horned, furry headdress and carrying an American flag attached to a spear — said on CNN that his client also deserved a pardon, as the Arizona resident was in the Capitol only because he had "hitched his wagon" to Trump and felt he was answering a "call" from the president.
Scholars and legal experts told the Los Angeles Times that the notion that their fealty to Trump should get them leniency in return reflect a deeply rooted sense of entitlement among many supporters of Trump, who has a penchant for pardoning loyalists.
Janison: Two riot acts
Younger voters can be forgiven if they know little of the so-called "Brooks Brothers riot" in Miami from 20 years ago, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Unlike the recent Capitol siege, that pro-GOP demonstration in 2000 was neither lethal nor blatantly seditious. But the two events do warrant comparison.
The presidential election count in Florida was close in late November 2000. Many ballots were disputed by the opposing camps of George W. Bush and Al Gore. GOP activists piled into an office area where the counts took place. There was pushing and shoving and hostile contact, prompting a police response. The counting in that famously flawed ballot process was halted and never resumed because of a court deadline. After it went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Bush came out on top.
Why "Brooks Brothers"? Because the middle-aged male protesters were wearing blazers and dress shirts. Unlike the recent blowup, none were photographed sporting combat equipment or animal skins. The Trump siege, in contrast, led to five deaths and major property damage. Trump's Washington mob gathered under the slogan "Stop the steal!" — two months after the election — under the false pretense that he'd really won.
Some other differences: Roger Stone, the GOP dirty-trickster, claimed a big role in the Brooks Brothers disturbance. Pardoned by Trump for misdeeds in the 2016 election, Stone told a Jan. 5 Trumpster rally that Democrats "stole" the 2020 election, but said he had no role in the Jan. 6 rioting and was at his hotel when it happened. The bottom lines after all the tumult: Bush won. Trump lost.
No regard for stealth
Most of the more than 100 people charged in the Capitol insurrection made federal investigators' jobs easier by boasting and posting about their exploits on social media. Such is the alleged case of Thomas Fee, a retired FDNY firefighter from Freeport, reports Newsday's Michael O'Keeffe.
Authorities say that Fee sent a selfie and a video to his girlfriend's brother — who happens to be a special agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. Not yet arrested, he was charged, in papers filed Saturday, with entering the Capitol illegally, violent entry and disorderly conduct. Fee sent a text that said he was "at the tip of the spear," and people could be heard in the background of the video yelling "tyranny" and "Pelosi," a reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Meanwhile, federal authorities announced Monday night that they arrested a woman, Riley June Williams, whose former romantic partner alleged she took a laptop from Pelosi’s office during the riot. The caller alleged that Williams intended to send the device to a friend in Russia who planned to sell it to that country’s foreign intelligence service, but that plan fell through and she either has the device or destroyed it.
According to a federal affidavit, Williams, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was identified in video from the British broadcaster ITV News, on which she was seen yelling "upstairs, upstairs, upstairs" and pushing people in the direction of Pelosi's office.
The Washington Post reports the FBI investigation has begun to zero in on potential key figures in the chaos, including some self-styled militia members who in some videos and photos appear to be planning or urging further violence.
Filling the Cabinet
Senior Democrats are optimistic that Biden will see at least two of his top national security officials confirmed either on Inauguration Day or shortly thereafter, particularly because the Capitol insurrection has escalated concerns over violent extremists, Politico reported.
Top priorities are to approve Alejandro Mayorkas for homeland security secretary and retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary. Democrats also hope to make Janet Yellen the new treasury secretary and Tony Blinken the new secretary of state in the coming days.
They're not coming
Trump on Monday issued a proclamation to end coronavirus travel restrictions for air travelers from Europe and Brazil as of Jan. 26. Biden's team said that won't happen.
"With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel," Biden's incoming press secretary, Jen Psaki, tweeted Monday.
" … In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
The travel restrictions put in place last year barred most people without U.S. citizenship or residency from traveling to the U.S. from the affected regions. If Trump's move was to go through, the travelers would still have to show negative COVID-19 tests.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments by Newsday's Bart Jones and Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- A Biden immigration plan to be unveiled on Inauguration Day will ask Congress to approve an eight-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal status and an expansion of refugee admissions, along with an enforcement plan that deploys technology to patrol the border, The Washington Post reports.
- Former Attorney General William Barr told Britain's ITV News that questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election result "precipitated the riots" at the Capitol. Axios reports that Barr told Trump on Nov. 1 that his conspiracy theories about a stolen election were "bull[expletive]," but Trump wouldn't let go. "You must hate Trump," the president said, according to Axios' account.
- A news helicopter from West Palm Beach's WPTV shot video of moving trucks arriving and getting unloaded at Mar-a-Lago.
- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced he won't attend Biden's inauguration because of the potential for violent demonstrations by Trump die-hard supporters in Albany. "I think my place is to stay in New York State given this possible circumstance," he said.
- Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their spouses participated in Martin Luther King Jr. Day service events on Monday. Joe and Jill Biden helped pack food boxes in Philadelphia while Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, put together bags of food at a Washington pantry for the poor.
- Trump is leaving office with his worst-ever approval rating in the Gallup Poll — 34%. His 41% average approval rating throughout his presidency is 4 points lower than for any of his predecessors since Gallup began polling the question in 1938.
- Trump is particularly upset that Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks and other stars agreed to perform as part of Biden’s inaugural celebrations after A-list entertainers largely shunned Trump's inauguration in 2017, The Washington Post reports.