Your Evening Briefing: Inauguration and Executive Orders


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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Inauguration week dawns in an occupied city.

The nation’s capital has been secured with checkpoints, tens of thousands of National Guard troops and miles of fencing and barricades — security at the cost of normalcy.

Thousands of troops have poured into Washington, where armored military trucks are parked in the middle of streets to block traffic, and where subway stations and roads are closed. Above, a rehearsal outside the Capitol today.

In the aftermath of the Capitol riot, the Justice Department has charged suspected members of the Three Percenters, a militia group that emerged from the gun-rights movement, and of the Oath Keepers, a militia group founded by law enforcement and military veterans, as it works to determine whether the extremist groups conspired to attack Congress.

President-elect Joe Biden has said he hopes the Senate can hold an impeachment trial while also confirming his administration nominations and moving forward with pandemic relief legislation.

Janet Yellen, Mr. Biden’s choice for Treasury secretary, will tell lawmakers on Tuesday that the U.S. needs robust fiscal stimulus measures to get the economy back on track — and that now is not the time to worry about the nation’s mounting debt burden.

Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, will not be taking part in the president’s defense in the Senate trial for his second impeachment, a person close to Mr. Trump said. It is unclear who will step in, given that many lawyers have privately said they won’t represent the president.


Environmentalists have long targeted the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline as a contributor to climate change and a symbol of the country’s unwillingness to move away from oil energy.

Other orders expected on Mr. Biden’s first day: rescinding the travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries, rejoining the Paris climate change accord, issuing a mask mandate for federal property and interstate travel, and ordering agencies to reunite children separated from their families after crossing the border.


4. Los Angeles County became the first in the U.S. to surpass one million recorded coronavirus infections, and California is the first state to have more than three million cases. Much of the state is under a stay-at-home order.

It’s part of a national picture: Nearly one year after the virus was first detected in the U.S., the country has reached 24 million cases and is hurtling toward 400,000 total deaths. Above, motorists in line for virus tests in the Dodger Stadium parking lot in L.A.

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Around the world, governments and public health organizations responded slowly and ineffectually to the outbreak, according to an interim report by a World Health Organization panel that described a yearlong cascade of failures.

5. A judge ordered the Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to be jailed for 30 days.

Mr. Navalny, who spent months abroad recovering from a near-deadly poisoning, was arrested at a Moscow airport on Sunday as he arrived back in the country, on accusations of violating the terms of an earlier suspended prison sentence. He spent the night at a nearby police station without access to a lawyer, then was ordered jailed until Feb. 15.

Labs in Germany, France and Sweden determined he had been poisoned in August by a nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union and Russia. Above, Mr. Navalny after the ruling.

Long one of the most prominent critics of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, Mr. Navalny called for protests in a video message moments after today’s order. “Take to the streets,” he told supporters. “Don’t do it for me, do it for yourselves and for your future.”


6. Since July, the Trump administration has executed 13 inmates.

That is more than three times as many as the federal government had put to death in the previous six decades, spurring the Supreme Court’s liberal justices to question the court’s role in rejecting stays of execution. Above, security fencing around the Supreme Court building.

In a dissent issued late Friday, as the court cleared the way for the last execution of the Trump era, Justice Sonia Sotomayor took stock of what the nation had learned about the Supreme Court’s attitude toward the death penalty.

“Over the past six months, this court has repeatedly sidestepped its usual deliberative processes, often at the government’s request, allowing it to push forward with an unprecedented, breakneck timetable of executions,” she wrote.


A former coach who spoke with him after his arrest said Keller was chagrined. “He kept repeating, ‘You’ve done so much for me, and I let you down,’” the coach said. “He kept saying over and over, ‘I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.’”

The Biden Transition ›

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Answers to your questions about Inauguration Day:

Joseph R. Biden Jr. will become president of the United States at noon on Jan. 20 in a scaled-back inauguration ceremony. While key elements will remain traditional, many events will be downsized and “reimagined” to better adapt the celebration to a nation battling the coronavirus. Mr. Biden will be sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on the Capitol’s West Front sometime before noon. The new president is then expected give his inaugural address and conduct a review of military troops, as is tradition. But instead of a traditional parade before cheering spectators along Pennsylvania Avenue as the new president, vice president and their families make their way to the White House over a mile away, there will be an official escort with representatives from every branch of the military for one city block.

President Trump announced Friday that he would not attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration. Mr. Biden called that decision “one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on. Still, it is a major break with tradition for a president to skip the ceremonial heart of the country’s democracy: the peaceful transfer of power.

George W. Bush, has confirmed he would travel to Washington for Inauguration Day, along with Laura Bush, the former first lady. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are also expected to attend, along with former first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. This year, tickets are not available to members of the public. Planners are urging people to stay home and participate in virtual inaugural events to prevent large crowds that could easily spread the coronavirus. Events will be live streamed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee and by The New York Times.

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution requires that the term of each elected president and vice president begin at noon Jan. 20 of the year after the election. Every president has taken the oath of office, and they cannot assume their positions without doing so. Symbolically, it marks the peaceful transfer of power from the current president to the next. Inauguration Day will be all the more important this year, as Mr. Biden ascends to the presidency at a time when political division has threatened the nation’s democratic institutions and his predecessor has gone to extreme lengths to stay in power.

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8. Scared of hip surgery?

Our Personal Health columnist, Jane Brody, says that improved surgical techniques and artificial hips that resist mechanical failure have been game changers for people with degenerated joints that are in serious need of replacement.

The essential fact of hip replacement has not changed. But computer-assisted surgery and robotic arms help doctors expose less tissue, leading to rapid discharge, faster return to function, and diminished need for pain management.

Robot-aided hip surgeries are typically not covered by insurance today. But as patients have faster and easier recoveries, with fewer complications, the economic advantages of robotic procedures are expected to change the insurance picture.


9. The mystery of the painting thieves love.

What is it about a Frans Hals painting housed at a tiny Dutch museum that has made it so popular with thieves?

“Two Laughing Boys With a Mug of Beer,” a painting by Frans Hals, went missing for the third time since 1988 when the work, conservatively valued at more than $10 million, was stolen in August.

Does its brushwork contain some clue to hidden treasure, or a secret code? Could it be coveted by some cult that worships Hals, or perhaps beer?

Probably, experts say, the answer is more pedestrian: “They know they can get money out of it from somebody,” said the founder of Art Recovery International.


10. And finally, the car races are digital, but the money is real.

Simulated racing video games, where digitized cars obey the laws of physics and race on reproductions of real tracks, have been around for a couple of years.

But after the pandemic struck, NBC and Fox experimented by replacing canceled auto races with sim races. Sponsors signed on and organizers awarded big prize money to the winners. Above, an eNASCAR race in May.

The experiment seems to be paying off in sizable TV and web audiences. Will sim race fans still be aficionados when real cars hit the pavement again? Time will tell. But Fox has scheduled five sim races for its FS1 network this year.

Have a revved-up evening.


Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

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