👋 Good Thursday morning!
An insurrection. A day like no other. A day that won’t be forgotten. “This temple to democracy was desecrated,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said from the Senate floor last night. “This will be a stain on our country not so easily washed away.”
Jewish Insider’s congressional reporter Marc Rod arrived at the Capitol building early yesterday morning and remained there for more than 17 hours. Below he provides a first-hand account of yesterday’s events.
Following the unrest, several White House staffers submitted their resignations, including Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to Melania Trump, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, Social Secretary Rickie Niceta and Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger.
After Congress officially confirmed the Electoral College votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win shortly before 4 a.m., a statement from President Donald Trump acknowledged there would be an “orderly transition on January 20th.”
There’s another MOT in the Senate. Democrat Jon Ossoff was the declared the winner over Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in this week’s runoff election in Georgia, clinching control of the Senate for Democrats. Once sworn in, Ossoff will be the first Jewish senator from Georgia as well as the youngest currently serving senator.
In an interview on CNN yesterday, Senator-elect Raphael Warnock reflected on the dual wins of the first Black and first Jewish senators from Georgia: “I think Abraham Joshua Heschel, the rabbi who said when he marched with Dr. King he felt like his legs were praying, I think he and Dr. King are smiling in this moment and we hope to make them proud.”
Bidenwill nominate federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland today as attorney general (more below). Biden is also expected to announce that former Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco will become deputy attorney general.
According to a report in Politico, Biden is selecting career intelligence official Anne Neuberger, currently the National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, for a newly created cybersecurity role on the National Security Council. (Disclosure: Neuberger is related to JI’s publisher.)
Reporting in the Capitol under siege
When Jewish Insider’s congressional reporter Marc Rod headed to the Capitol yesterday morning, he joined other reporters buzzing about the Georgia election results and prepared for a long night ahead covering the Electoral College vote certification. But what unfolded inside the building later that day sent him running for safety, as the Capitol was overrun by violent rioters in the worst U.S. government security breach in more than 200 years. Here is Marc’s first-person report from inside the halls of Congress during a day that will live in infamy.
Quiet start: “Due to a series of warnings from local authorities, I knew that the Capitol was likely to be surrounded by a large and aggressive group of the president’s supporters who’d traveled from around the country to rally against the outcome of the November 3 election. I knew the Capitol could end up under lockdown — but I never imagined that the rioters would actually make it inside what is, in theory, one of the most secure complexes of buildings in the country. But soon after I arrived, a small group of protesters began to gather along the fence on the eastern side of the Capitol. Aside from a slightly larger-than-normal police presence within the Capitol complex on Wednesday morning, there was little sign that Capitol Police were prepared for the expected protests.”
Breach: “Shortly before the vote counting was scheduled to begin, crowds around the Capitol had grown significantly. At 2 p.m., I watched in real-time through a window as several rioters breached the east side fence. A small group of rioters rushed over the downed fence, while others initially hung back. It wasn’t long before a mob of people surged toward the Capitol. Minutes later, I watched from another window alongside stunned Hill staffers and a congressman, who pushed himself up out of his wheelchair to gaze out at the crowd. By that point, the crowd had made its way to the top of the front steps of the Capitol building and had climbed on top of the police vehicles stationed around the entrance.”
Mad dash: “A few minutes later, there was a flurry of movement from the police officers in the room, who instructed a group of us to head to the tunnels on the House side of the Capitol. My heart began to pound in my chest. The next few minutes — a mad dash down the stairs, across a hallway and lobby and down another flight of stairs into the Senate-side tunnels — were the most terrifying moments of my day. In the rush out of the chamber, I became separated from the group of aides. I had no idea if the exterior door that I had to run past had been breached. I didn’t know if the rioters had already entered the building. For all I knew, I was running into their waiting arms.”
Reaching safety: “Making my way through the tunnels, I passed several injured Capitol Police officers. One was clutching her arm and asking a colleague, ‘Can you see where I’m bleeding from?’ Another’s face was stained completely red, as if splashed with paint. It took me a few moments to process that he was covered in blood. I eventually reached the Longworth House Office Building, and was shepherded into the building cafeteria, where, in hushed silence, a group of reporters gathered around the TVs. I scrolled in stunned horror through tweets showing members of Congress and the press barricaded inside the House chamber. I saw reports of shots fired and I took in the photos of rioters rampaging through the same halls I had wandered sedately through just hours earlier.”
Read the full dispatch here.
Bonus: The Los Angeles Times‘s Sarah D. Wire, The Washington Post‘s Paul Kane and The Boston Globe‘s Jazmine Ulloa also described their own first-hand accounts of yesterday’s harrowing events.
On the scene
Lawmakers speak out after escaping Capitol siege
Clutching still-humming emergency gas masks, members of the House of Representatives flooded the Longworth House Office Building on Wednesday afternoon fleeing a mob of violent protesters. Earlier, many members of Congress were forced to take shelter on the House floor after the pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building during a joint session of Congress to count Electoral College votes. JI’s Marc Rod was on the scene to speak to legislators fleeing the melee.
Stand down: Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), who told Jewish Insider that he was the last House member to leave the floor when it was evacuated, said Trump erred in telling supporters to “fight” the election results. “He needs to tell people to do it in a peaceful manner. That’s what he should have done,” Burchett said. “The president needs to call off the dogs. He needs to get on the airwaves, he needs to call a press conference and say, ‘Everybody stand down, let Congress do its job.’” He continued, “I realize people are comparing this to 1776. It is not 1776. This is disorder. This is anarchy.”
On the other hand: “[Trump] has certainly accomplished what he wanted to. If this doesn’t establish that he’s a reckless president, I don’t know what does,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA). “He’s also been aided and abetted by Republicans who wanted to make a travesty of the Constitution and our obligations under that document,” she continued. “We have no authority but to open those votes and count them. If they’re all originalists, as they promote themselves to be, they have violated that by even having this debate.”
Too far: “This is crossing the line. People are going to get hurt and possibly die,” Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) told JI. “This is not the way to exercise your first amendment rights.”
Elsewhere: In The Atlantic, both David Frum and Yoni Applebaum penned appeals to immediately remove Trump from office — as did The Washington Post editorial board. The New York Times editorial board opined that “the president needs to be held accountable — through impeachment proceedings or criminal prosecution,” for his role in inciting the yesterday’s violence.
How Merrick Garland’s former law clerks view his attorney general appointment
The news on Wednesday that President-elect Joe Biden had chosen Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general was inevitably overshadowed by the violent storming of the Capitol. But it was in many ways appropriate that the appointment flew under the radar. Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is a stoic jurist known for his devotion to applying the law without fanfare. “He does what’s right, even when it’s difficult, and he holds himself to the highest standards, even when no one is watching,” said Nora Freeman Engstrom, a Stanford Law School professor who clerked for Garland in the early 2000s — and one of several former clerks who spoke admiringly of their old boss yesterday to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Keeping it cool: Garland’s cool temperament may be just what the deeply polarized country needs right now, according to Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale University who clerked for Garland around 15 years ago. The 68-year-old judge, Driver believes, will help restore morale among career attorneys in the Department of Justice who have been worn out by the past four years as President Donald Trump has sought to bend the department to his will. “He’s a judge who is broadly admired for his commitment to the rule of law,” Driver told JI. “I’m sorry to say that the current Justice Department — that commitment hasn’t always been in clear evidence.”
Personal touch: Eric Berger, a former Garland clerk who is now a professor at the Nebraska College of Law, praised the judge’s exacting approach, always rounded out by his personal warmth. “He’s extremely smart and extremely hard-working and he expects a lot from his clerks, but he also treats them with kindness and compassion,” Berger said of Garland, for whom he clerked between 2003 and 2004. “I remember when I decided to go into the law teaching market, I didn’t even ask him to do this and I found out that he had made a bunch of calls to various schools that were considering me.”
Upbeat attitude: Matthew Etchemendy, an appellate practice attorney at Vinson & Elkins LLP who clerked for Garland between 2012 and 2013, told JI that he was impressed by Garland’s ability to instill a sense of optimism in his underlings. “They say that the longer you work in D.C., the more cynical you get,” Etchemendy mused. “I would say that’s probably true. But clerking for Judge Garland was a rare exception: When I finished my clerkship, I felt better about the federal courts, and about the government, than when I started.”
Redemption song: Garland, of course, would have ample justification for feeling cynical given that Senate Republicans stonewalled his nomination to the Supreme Court five years ago — denying him a lifetime appointment that would have served as an extraordinary capstone to a distinguished career. But attorney general, on the other hand, isn’t exactly playing second fiddle — and his former clerks fully expect that the Chicago-born son of Jewish parents will perform virtuosically now that he is on the national stage. “This is a great way for history to have sorted itself out,” said Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former Garland clerk who is now running for Manhattan district attorney.
🐏 Blown Up: In Religious News Service, Yonat Shimron examines how the blowing of the shofar has emerged as a tool of American political demonstrations of all stripes, including at the Capitol yesterday. “I don’t even know if they know it is a distinctly Jewish symbol or a Judaic-Christian symbol,” said historian Dan Hummel. [RNS]
🎬 Hollywood: Actor and activist Sacha Baron Cohen told Variety’s Brent Lang that he was driven to make a “Borat” sequel because of his feelings that Trump was damaging democracy. “I felt democracy was in peril, I felt people’s lives were in peril and I felt compelled to finish the movie.” [Variety]
🕯️ Remembering: In The New York Times, Farah Stockman reflects on the 19 years that have passed since the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl. Stockman and Pearl were both in Pakistan on reporting trips at the time he was kidnapped, which Stockman describes as “the moment I realized that this thing we do called journalism contained dangers I hadn’t contemplated before.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🇸🇩 New Ties: Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed a deal with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin yesterday paving the way for the African nation to fully normalize relations with Israel.
🇮🇱 View from Jerusalem: In Jerusalem this morning, Mnuchin condemned the riots in the Capitol and called to “respect the democratic process,” alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the events “disgraceful.”
🎤 Play the Tape: Newly sworn-in Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) faced a wave of condemnation after she was caught on tape earlier this week telling a pro-Trump rally: “Hitler was right on one thing: He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’”
💉 New Doses: The first Israel-bound shipment of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is slated to touch down in Tel Aviv today.
😷 Not Over: Despite Israel’s vaccination successes, fears of the British COVID-19 mutation and rising numbers of cases have led to a new severe lockdown, which takes effect tonight.
📉 Heavy Price: The Bank of Israel predicts that Israel’s new COVID-19 restrictions will cost the economy more than $1 billion a week.
⏪ Round 2: Netanyahu aides are reportedly concerned that Biden will surround himself with “Obama people,” who will influence him as he seeks to return to the 2015 Iran deal.
💥 On Alert: Damascus has accused Israel of striking several sites in southern Syria yesterday, identified as Iranian military bases.
🤝 Moving On: At the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Saudi Arabia this week, Saudi officials were seen as eager to set aside a feud with Qatar and focus on aligning with the Biden administration against Iran.
📺 Media Watch: The BBC has tapped former banker Richard Sharp as its new chairman. A BBC report described Sharp, who is Jewish, as “considered by those who know him broadly pro-Israel.”
🎥 Silver Screen: The Lebanese film “1982,” which takes place against the backdrop of the 1982 war between Israel and Lebanon, has been picked up for North American distribution.
Gif of the Day
Model and activist Karlie Kloss, who is married to Joshua Kushner — the brother of Jared Kushner — responded to a Twitter follower yesterday amid the violent riots at the Capitol.
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