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January 07, 2021

🇺🇸 Good Thursday morning. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,195 words ... 4½ minutes.

In the wee hours this morning, recovering from the Capitol invasion by a pro-Trump mob, Congress certified President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

  • At 3:44 a.m., Vice President Pence banged the gavel to dissolve the joint session.

1 big thing: Republicans enabled Trump. Then, a few strangled him

An explosion from a police munition. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

It is an ironic, poetic ending to the raucous reign of Donald J. Trump: Enabled — and enabling — Republicans put the final knives in their beloved, besieged, beaten president:

  • It was often conservative judges appointed by Trump who rejected his desperate lawsuits to overturn the election results state by state.
  • It was Trump appointees on the Supreme Court, who he assumed would do his bidding, who rejected his pleas for Supreme salvation.
  • It was the Georgia governor he almost single-handedly helped put in office, and Trump supporters below him, who refused his unprecedented pressure to flip the state his way.
  • It was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who turned a blind eye and silent mouth to countless Trump actions he privately ridiculed, who took to the Senate floor to insist that Congress certify President-elect Biden's victory.
  • It was Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a key Trump ally on the Hill and a 2024 contender, who loudly condemned what Trump is doing — a sign that some believe Trump, as ex-president, won't be the scary political threat he hopes to be.
  • It was scores of Republicans, most of whom sucked up to Trump for four-plus years, who voted against final pleas to reject the election of Joe Biden. (At 3 a.m., the House voted 282-138 against an objection to Pennsylvania's electoral votes; the Senate shut down the same objection, 92-7, just after midnight.)
  • And it was his own vice president, Mike Pence, who will go down in history as one of the most loyal supplicants to serve in his office, who rejected intense pressure to violate the Constitution to deny Biden his office.

The big picture: There are no heroes here — just a few people who watched the system bend, but in the end did not allow it to fully break. Only in time will we learn the reward or consequences of their actions.

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Go deeper: "Inside the chamber," a first-person account by Axios' Alayna Treene and Kadia Goba, who were in the Capitol when it was stormed.

  • Latest reporting from Jonathan Swan, Margaret Talev: "Republicans consider drastic options to stop Trump."

2. Right-wing media blames cops, Antifa, police

Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP

You can't understand America, 2021, without watching how right-wing media explained a mob storming the U.S. Capitol for the first time since the early 19th century.

  • Sara Fischer, our expert on media, watched conservative TV, websites and social networks. Here's the version of events a good chunk of America got:

The right's favored media offered an alternate reality in which everyone but pro-Trump rioters were to blame for the mayhem at the Capitol:

  • Instead of condemning the pro-Trump mobs that stormed Washington, right-wing media outlets mostly blamed left-wing activists, the media, Vice President Pence — and even police officers — for the riots that some suggested were the start of a "civil war" in America.
  • Hosts on One America News Network and Newsmax went so far as to suggest that the unlawful protestors at the Capitol may have been members of Antifa.
  • Conspiracy theorist Lin Wood tweeted to his over 1 million followers before having his account suspended: "Mike Pence @VP @Mike_Pence is a TRAITOR, a Communist Sympathizer & a Child Molester. Lock him up."

Even when it became obvious that the riots were becoming destructive, right-wing networks downplayed the severity of events, calling those marching on the Capitol mostly peaceful protestors.

  • Presenters on OANN argued the riots were nothing compared to racial-justice protests over the summer.
  • One meme that was posted to, a fringe-right alternative social network, featured a cartoon of a police officer telling a Black Lives Matter protester, "Please stop, we can work this out" — while holding a police shield, but holding a gun up against a white MAGA protestor.

The bottom line ... Tucker Carlson ended the monologue at the top of his Fox News show by saying: "We got to this sad, chaotic day for a reason. It is not your fault. It is their fault."

People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the chamber. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

3. Trump, alone

President Trump speaks at noon on the Ellipse. Photo: Jim Bourg/Reuters

President Trump enjoys the fervent support of tens of millions of Americans. But his closest friends and paid White House officials — many of the Trumpiest Trumpers we know — are avoiding him like the plague.

  • His final days in office will be lonely ones.
  • Some stalwart aides and confidants — after years of enduring the crazy, and trying to modulate the chaos — have given up trying to communicate with him, considering him mentally unreachable.

After Congress certified President-elect Biden's victory, Trump declared in a statement tweeted at 3:49 a.m. by aide Dan Scavino: "Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th."

  • Behind the scenes: The statement was the product of hours of efforts by aides trying to get him to grapple with reality.
The National Mall, outside the security perimeter for Trump's rally. Photo: Brendan Smialowski via Getty Images

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff and a former White House press secretary, resigned. Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, social secretary Rickie Niceta and deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews also resigned, officials told AP.

  • More departures are expected.

Trump banned Pence chief of staff Marc Short, among the last loyalists, from the White House yesterday.

  • Trump blames Short for the vice president's decision to follow the Constitution as he presided over the Electoral College certification session.

4. State by state: Serious COVID infections mount

Data:  COVID Tracking Project, Harvard Global Health Institute. Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data:  COVID Tracking ProjectHarvard Global Health Institute. Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Deaths and severe illness from the coronavirus continue to set new records almost every day, especially in the South and West, Axios' Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon report.

  • More than 130,000 Americans are in the hospital today with COVID.

Share this graphic.

5. Axios interview: Fauci sees greater China role in COVID spread

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Ira L. Black/Corbis, Getty Images

A lack of transparency by Chinese officials played a significant role in allowing COVID to spread globally, Anthony Fauci tells Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly.

  • If China had revealed its asymptomatic spread earlier, it would have "changed everything" for guidance around masks, social distancing and contact tracing, Fauci said.
  • China also refused to allow foreign scientists to investigate the virus on the ground "for a considerable period," he added.

Keep reading.

6. Growth of "pharmacy deserts"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Neighborhoods in New York, Chicago and other cities are rapidly becoming places where people can't fill prescriptions locally because their drugstores have shuttered or don't accept Medicaid, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

  • Why it matters: The pandemic has accelerated the growth of "pharmacy deserts" as unprofitable and less-profitable stores have closed.

Keep reading.

7. Social media platforms muzzle Trump

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook and Twitter both took their strongest actions yet to block President Trump after his messages egged on misinformation-fueled mobs storming the Capitol, Sara Fischer and Ina Fried report.

  • Many critics say the companies should have reined in Trump sooner.

Twitter removed three posts from the president, including a video in which he urged rioters to "go home" but also told them: "We love you — you're very special."

  • Twitter locked Trump's account until the offending tweets were permanently removed, and banned him from posting for 12 hours.

After 4 p.m. PT, Mark Zuckerberg said in an internal message that Facebook was "treating this situation as an emergency," and implementing additional measures to keep people safe.

  • Roughly an hour later, the company announced a 24-hour ban on Trump.

Keep reading.

8. Split screen that'll live in history

Via Fox News

President Trump goads followers during a 70-minute speech on the Ellipse, while Vice President Pence begins his constitutional duty of certifying President-elect Biden's victory.

  • Trump said during the rally: "If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election."

9. 🗞️ Time capsule

AP-US-APNewsAlert Jan 06, 2021 11:05PM (GMT 04:05) - 21 words

  • WASHINGTON (AP) — DC Police: 4 people died as Trump supporters occupied Capitol; 1 woman shot by police, 3 in medical emergencies.
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

10. 1 last thing

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