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American Airlines is investigating an unruly and frightening episode on a flight to Washington, D.C., the night before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to protest the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's election.

Why it matters: Pilots and flight attendants are trained to keep passengers safe in the air and, since 9/11, to be on the lookout for potential terrorists. But in these extraordinary times, their duties have expanded to include mask enforcement and now, apparently, quelling civil unrest.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Driving the news: In a darkened airplane cabin, passengers flying from Dallas to Washington Tuesday evening are heard shouting obscenities at a fellow traveler while a large Trump logo is projected on the plane's ceiling, according to a Tweet posted by independent journalist Maranie Staab.

  • After the cabin lights come on, one man wearing a camouflage cap is clearly heard saying: "These are the guys we came to f--king wipe out."
  • Then a woman, presumably a flight attendant, can be heard over the public address system: "I'm talking to you in the aisle, have a seat please. Now."
  • American Airlines flight 1291 arrived safely at Dulles International Airport (IAD) at 9:36pm ET.

Of note: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was heckled on a flight from Salt Lake City to Washington ahead of Wednesday's certification vote.

  • Fellow passengers chanted "Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!" according to one video shared on Twitter.

What they're saying: "At American, safety is our highest priority. We are working closely with local law enforcement and airport authority partners to ensure the safety of our customers and team members on the ground and in the air," the airline said in a statement.

  • "We have also increased staffing at DC-area airports as a precautionary measure and will not be serving alcohol on flights to and from this area.
  • "We will continue to enforce policies that ensure our customers' and team members' safety and wellbeing."

Airline crews want to see the rioters banned from flying.

  • "The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area yesterday was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard. It will not happen again," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) International, in a statement.
  • "Their violent and seditious actions at the Capitol today create further concern about their departure from the DC area. Acts against our democracy, our government and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight."

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 14, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin launches test of its suborbital space system

The New Shepard takes flight. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin's New Shepard space system, designed to one day take paying customers to suborbital space, took flight from Texas on Thursday for an uncrewed test.

Why it matters: The company — founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos — is inching closer to launching its first customers.

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Tokyo Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

Of note: His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

DOJ won't investigate nursing home deaths in N.Y. and 2 other states

People who've lost loved ones due to COVID-19 while they were in New York nursing homes attend a March protest and vigil in New York City. As of this month, Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has decided not to launch a civil rights investigation into whether policies in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan contributed to pandemic deaths in nursing homes, according to a letter sent to Republicans.

Why it matters: The Trump DOJ requested data from the three states plus New Jersey last August "amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19," per AP.