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Larry King, legendary talk show host, dies at 87

Larry King, legendary talk show host, dies at 87

(CNN)Larry King, the longtime CNN host who became an icon through his interviews with countless newsmakers and his sartorial sensibilities, has died. He was 87.

His son, Chance, confirmed King’s death Saturday morning.
King hosted “Larry King Live” on CNN for over 25 years, interviewing presidential candidates, celebrities, athletes, movie stars and everyday people. He retired in 2010 after taping more than 6,000 episodes of the show.
    A statement was posted on his verified Facebook announcing his passing.
    ‘Welcome Back America’: Newspapers around the world react to Biden’s inauguration

    ‘Welcome Back America’: Newspapers around the world react to Biden’s inauguration

    London (CNN)The culmination of Joe Biden’s journey to the Oval Office was seen far beyond Washington DC on Thursday, with images of his inauguration splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the world.

    Papers in most countries marked the dawn of the Biden era with pictures of the new US President taking the oath of office, and many highlighted the slew of executive orders he signed on his first day.
    Some front pages also reflected on the end of the tumultuous Trump era, and a handful took a parting swipe at the former President — a decision indicative of the relief much of the international community felt as his time in office drew to a close.
    But for the most part, it was Biden who commanded the spotlight. Here’s a selection of front pages from various parts of the world.

    Canada

    Trump departs Washington a pariah as his era in power ends

    Trump departs Washington a pariah as his era in power ends

    (CNN)Donald Trump’s era in Washington is over.

    The all-consuming, camera-hungry, truth-starved era that fixated the nation and exposed its darkest recesses officially concludes at noon Wednesday. The President, addled and mostly friendless, ended his time in the capital a few hours early to spare himself the humiliation of watching his successor be sworn in.
    “We will be back in some form,” Trump told a modest crowd of supporters who gathered to see him off at Joint Base Andrews. “So have a good life. We will see you soon.”
    As Air Force One lifted off for a final time with Trump aboard, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” blared in the background.
    He departed a city under militarized fortification meant to prevent a repeat of the riot he incited earlier this month. He leaves office with more than 400,000 Americans dead from a virus he chose to downplay or ignore.
    For his opponents, Trump’s departure amounts to a blissful lifting of a four-year pall on American life and the end to a tortured stretch of misconduct and indignities. Even many of Trump’s onetime supporters are sighing with relief that the White House, and the psychology of its occupant, may no longer rest at the center of the national conversation.
    At least some of the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump in November are sad to see him go. Scores of them attempted an insurrection at the US Capitol this month to prevent it from happening at all. The less violent view him as a transformative President whose arrival heralded an end to political correctness and whose exit marks a return to special treatment for immigrants, gays and minorities.
    One thing Trump’s presidency undoubtedly accomplished: revealing in stark fashion the racist, hate-filled, violent undercurrents of American society that many had chosen previously to ignore. It became impossible to overlook as Trump’s presidency concluded with violent riots of White nationalists and neo-Nazis at the Capitol.
    The violent mob attack on the citadel of American democracy capped a presidency built upon disregard for democratic norms, antagonizing government institutions and willful ignorance of the far right’s violent and racist tendencies. It will amount to the lasting legacy of a President whose blatant neglect of the truth, in ways both casual and immense, drove the nation to the brink.
    There is no evidence the President has reckoned with the consequences of his actions; the opposite appears to be true. He came to regret a concession video he had recorded at the urging of his family and advisers, who told him he was seriously close to being removed from office. In his first comments after the riot, he refused blame for it and insisted, falsely, that nobody believed his words ahead of it were at fault.
    The events caused an already reclusive President, who had mostly given up running the country after losing the election, to retreat further. His near-silence was helped along by a permanent ban from Twitter, his long-preferred method of communication, a move that propelled him to rage.
    He emerged for a final time on Wednesday, discarding tradition and boycotting his successor’s inauguration. Aides said he did not like the thought of leaving Washington an ex-president, nor did he relish the thought of requesting use of the presidential aircraft from Biden.
    The ceremony was modest in scope, though it did include a red carpet, cordons of troops and a 21-gun salute. Before departing the White House, he offered a wave from his Marine One helicopter.
    In a subdued, discursive speech on a windy tarmac, Trump made glancing references to his accomplishments in office but seemed bitter at his loss.
    “I hope they don’t raise your taxes, but if they do, I told you so,” he said.
    Aides had prepared a speech for the President that included references to the incoming administration and more gracious language about a peaceful transition, according to a person familiar with the matter.
    But Trump discarded the speech, and teleprompters were removed from the stage before he arrived at Joint Base Andrews.
    A person familiar with the matter said the decision was made after Trump read the remarks this morning at the White House.
    “I wish the new administration good luck and great success,” Trump said. “I think they will have great success.”
    He is expected to be ensconced in his South Florida club when he officially becomes an ex-president at noon.
    Before he left, Trump did write the traditional handoff letter to Biden of the same type his predecessors wrote the men who replaced them. And he greeted residence staff at the White House who saw him off.
    Trump is the first president in 150 years to stage such a boycott. While Pence will attend Biden’s swearing-in, other members of Trump’s family, including wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, will be absent. The decision is emblematic of a presidency animated by Trump’s highly fragile ego and run by officials whose chief concern was managing Trump’s feelings.
    Freshly impeached for a second time, this time with support from a few Republicans, Trump ends his term with the lowest approval rating of his tenure. Republicans remain divided on whether he represents the future of their party. He’s been shunned by senior leaders in Congress, who were left aghast at his incitement of a mob that sent them running for safety inside the Capitol.
    In his final days, Trump has been surrounded by a shrinking circle of associates, many of them decades younger. Old friends who used to speak with him regularly said they can no longer reach him — both literally, because he is refusing their calls, and figuratively, because those who are patched through describe a man lost in denial and detached from reality.
    He even had a falling-out with his vice president, Mike Pence, whose characteristic fealty was severed after he heard nothing from Trump while mobs appeared to be hunting him during the insurrection attempt. The two men went for days without speaking after Trump uttered a vulgar curse because Pence refused to unilaterally overturn the election results.
    Trump enters his post-presidency facing swirling legal matters and with the fate of his business empire in doubt. He will retreat for now to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he has established residency, though there are questions of whether he’ll be allowed to live there permanently.
    Without some of the protections afforded him by the presidency, Trump will become vulnerable to multiple investigations looking into possible fraud in his financial business dealings as a private citizen. He faces defamation lawsuits sparked by his denials of women’s allegations that he assaulted them. And then there are claims he corrupted the presidency for his personal profit.
    Even as he exits the White House, there is little question that Trump’s shadow will cloud the capital for the foreseeable future. The matter of his impeachment still lingers in the Senate, which will begin a trial after Biden is sworn in. And Trump’s influence on his party’s direction going forward will amount to a reckoning for conservatives, who now must decide whether theirs is the party of a president who incited an insurrection on his way out of office.
    Trump has left the Republican Party in civil war. Its leadership remains handpicked by the outgoing President and many of its newest faces are acolytes and beneficiaries of Trump’s willingness to break with political norms. But others — including both those who worked for him and those who have long warned of his dangers — would rather Trump disappear forever, relegated to fringe politics and zoning disputes in Palm Beach.
    The likelihood that happens seems slim. Trump has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in a leadership PAC formed after the election that he will be able to use for future political activity, including boosting candidates. There are few restrictions on how the money can be used.
    Whether he runs again himself also remains an open question; when he lost in November he signaled to those around him that he was likely to attempt a return to the White House in four years. But since then, officials have cast doubt on his intentions, suggesting instead he was more interested in keeping the potential 2024 GOP field in limbo rather than seriously contemplating another run.

    Legacy in tatters

    The results of Trump’s presidency are not particularly mixed. While there have been some achievements — a reshaped Supreme Court, a dismantled regulatory state and the brokering of diplomatic achievements in the Middle East — Trump’s overarching legacy is one of division and rancor capped by the catastrophic events of January 6, when he had 14 days left in his term.
    From nearly the day he entered office, aides wondered whether he actually enjoyed the job of being president, its mundane daily tasks hardly a fit for a man who had never served in government, did not have much of an attention span and had previously expressed little interest in, say, health care policy or nuclear arms treaties.
    “This is more work than in my previous life,” he told Reuters 100 days into the job. “I thought it would be easier.”
    Trump had spent his previous decades cultivating a public profile as a savvy businessman and larger-than-life New York City mogul, despite a succession of bankruptcies and collapses. His second act as a reality television star with a penchant for race-baiting conspiracies (such as questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace) led into his third act as president, and along with it an eye toward artifice and spectacle.
    Trump’s experience as president was regularly frustrated by the limitations of the executive branch; steps he wanted to take were either illegal or met resistance from Democrats, who took control of the House of Representatives two years into his term.
    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia proved an immense distraction that preoccupied both the President and his White House. It resulted in the convictions of several Trump associates, many of whom he pardoned.
    Instead of rising to the difficulties, Trump amended the job to fit his own liking. He mostly skipped reading lengthy intelligence documents, preferring in-person briefings that on some occasions left out important information about which Trump would later claim ignorance.
    After attending most of the yearly world leader summits his first year in office and finding them a bore, Trump skipped the ones he deemed skippable in subsequent years, including the ASEAN summit at which America’s presence had been traditionally seen as a counterweight to China.
    Most tragically, Trump showed little interest in leading the nation through the coronavirus pandemic, self-styling himself a “wartime leader” for a few days before reverting to downplaying the crisis and eventually pretending it did not exist. Even his own serious bout with the disease, which left him struggling to breathe and hospitalized, only seemed to strengthen his resolve to ignore it.
    The more colorful trappings of the job interested him more. A fateful invitation to attend Bastille Day in Paris in 2017 turned Trump on to the thrills of a military parade, which he unsuccessfully lobbied for in Washington for another three years. He produced political spectacles at the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore and on the White House South Lawn, trampling presidential norms along the way.
    But as he ran a dark and bitter campaign for reelection last year, even many of his advisers wondered whether he really wanted to serve another four years in office. He ignored entreaties on adjusting his political approach to better appeal to women and seniors, insisting throughout that what propelled him to power in 2016 — anti-immigrant race-baiting, stoking of class grievances and general fear-mongering — would work again.
    He never adjusted to the reality that “Make America Great Again” lost its luster when uttered by an incumbent who’d already had four years to deliver. And amid a life-altering pandemic, he did not seize the opportunity to actually lead the nation through its most trying stretch in memory.
    Now, the capital and the country, led by President Joe Biden, go about the work of picking up the pieces.
    Don’t delay key medical appointments in the pandemic — advice from Dr. Wen

    Don’t delay key medical appointments in the pandemic — advice from Dr. Wen

    (CNN)As many people postpone necessary medical care due to the pandemic, medical professionals are worried that their patients will get sick or even die from other causes.

    Some 25% of Americans said that they or someone in their household had delayed medical care in the past month due to coronavirus, according to a December Kaiser Family Foundation study. An earlier report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 41% of Americans delayed medical care, including 12% who postponed urgent or emergency care.
    We talked to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, to get her advice on which appointments can be postponed and which cannot, and what precautions people should be taking when going to their doctor.
    CNN: Why are some people postponing their medical care? Is this a problem?
    Dr. Leana Wen: I certainly understand why some people have postponed their medical appointments. In many parts of the country and around the world, there are very high levels of coronavirus spread. People may be concerned about contracting coronavirus when they go out. Also, some hospitals overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients have postponed elective surgeries and some doctors have even canceled routine appointments. Patients may not always know when the coronavirus surge is over and their appointments can resume.
    This could be a problem. I’m concerned that many patients may be going without the care that they need for their ongoing medical issues so it’s important for people to check in with their doctors’ offices. Many conditions require ongoing monitoring, like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. If they are not monitored as closely, they could worsen and lead to worse problems that could have been prevented. It’s not good for children to fall behind on their immunization schedules. Those who do not get cancer screenings could end up with later diagnosis and worse outcomes. Keeping up with routine medical appointments is important.
    CNN: How can people go about deciding whether they could postpone an appointment?
    Wen: Here are a few things to consider. Is there an alternative to going in person? Many doctors’ offices are offering telemedicine as an option. You may be able to speak with your doctor without physically going into the office. A lot could be done virtually. For example, you can monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar at home and report what you find to your doctor, and they can adjust your medications or other treatments by phone or via a telehealth visit. A lot of mental health visits can be done entirely via telemedicine.
    If there are things you have to do in person, see if you can combine the visits. Perhaps you are due for a breast exam, bloodwork and a pneumonia vaccine. You can get them all done at the same time. It reduces your overall risk if you can have fewer visits.
    You may live in a part of the world that’s going through a particularly difficult time with coronavirus. If that’s the case, talk to your doctor about what’s essential to do now versus important things that could wait a couple of months. For each person, that could be different. Someone who needs to get a lot of testing for a heart condition may need to get that done now, but perhaps that person could wait on getting a colonoscopy that could be done when numbers drop. Someone else may have a history of colon cancer, and the colonoscopy should not be delayed. It’s a good idea to initiate these conversations with your doctor now.
    CNN: Are there medical visits or procedures that shouldn’t be postponed?
    Wen: This will depend on the individual and their own medical conditions as well as their risk tolerance. In general, I would say that childhood vaccinations and other routine vaccinations like the flu vaccine should not be postponed. Treatment of conditions that could become life-threatening should also not be postponed.
    I also cannot emphasize this enough: Do not delay emergency care. If you have chest pain, difficulty breathing, sudden weakness in arms or legs, and other such concerning symptoms, you should go to your local hospital’s emergency room. If you would have normally gone to the ER if it weren’t for coronavirus, go to the ER now. Hospital emergency rooms have triage protocols and also infection control protocols. Do not hesitate to go if you need emergency care. It would be tragic to have people avoid the ER because they’re scared of contracting coronavirus, only to die at home.
    Remember, too, that Covid-19 causes more severe disease in individuals with underlying medical conditions. Getting those conditions treated and optimized should be a priority in and of themselves, but also not getting them treated could predispose you to even more severe effects from Covid-19. That’s another reason to continue to seek medical care even with a lot of coronavirus around.
    CNN: What precautions should people take if they’re going to their doctors’ office?
    Wen: You should ask in advance of going as to what procedures the doctors’ office has in place. Many places have multiple protocols in place, requiring masks and social distancing; mandating symptoms checks in advance; not allowing other visitors; and enforcing physical distancing.
    Ask about what happens when you go in. How does waiting work? Ideally, the time in the waiting area while you’re in an enclosed space with others will be as short as possible. Some doctors will have you wait in your car or outside until they are ready to see you, and then usher you quickly into an exam room. Others have waiting rooms that have enforced physical distancing and good ventilation.
    Make sure you are wearing a good quality mask the entire time, at least a three-ply surgical mask or an N95 or KN95 mask. Bring your own water but try not to take off your mask unless absolutely necessary. The office should have lots of hand sanitizer, but bring your own and use it after touching frequently used surfaces like doorknobs.
    Also ask if the in-person visit is absolutely necessary. Can a lot be done over the phone, including speaking with the doctor? Maybe all you need to do when you show up is to get a blood draw or a procedure. Can your registration be done in advance to minimize in-person contact?
    CNN: What do you say to people who would rather wait until they’re vaccinated before going to the doctor?
    Wen: This might be a reasonable decision, depending on why you’re going to the doctor and how long you might need to wait until you’re vaccinated.
    Let’s say that you don’t have anything urgent going on right now, and you can get almost everything taken care of through telemedicine. Maybe all you need is a routine dental cleaning and your annual cholesterol check. Let’s say also that you’re an essential worker, you are over 65, and you probably can get the vaccine in the next couple of months. If that’s the case, you should discuss with your doctor, but it might make sense to get vaccinated first and then go for your routine appointments.
    If you’re not likely to be vaccinated until the late spring or early summer, that’s a bit long to put off your regular appointments. It’s probably better to go now and consolidate all the in-person tests and procedures into one visit.
    In general, if you have ongoing medical conditions that require an in-person visit, and certainly if you have an urgent issue, you should go to your doctor. Follow all precautions to reduce your risk. Coronavirus is one of the reasons people could get sick and suffer ill health outcomes, but you must also watch out for your health in all other ways, too.
    Trump’s turbulent and lawless presidency will end with historic second impeachment

    Trump’s turbulent and lawless presidency will end with historic second impeachment

    (CNN)The fateful moment when the House of Representatives on Wednesday impeaches President Donald Trump for a second time will rank among the defining moments of America’s story long after the citizens enduring these harrowing, tragic days are gone.

    Fast-moving developments in the run-up to the vote have left Trump more politically vulnerable than he has ever been.
    At least a handful of House Republicans plan to vote with Democrats to impeach.
    In another startling sign that Trump’s incitement of a mob assault on Congress has shattered rigid political alignments right at the end of his term, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled he believes that impeachment will make it easier to rid the party of Trumpism.
    By the end of the day, Trump will be saddled with a stain he will never be able to erase, as the first President to be impeached twice after his refusal to admit his election defeat shattered assumptions on the unassailability of stable government and the previously unbroken chain of peaceful US transfers of power. Save for the fracturing of the union before the Civil War, this country’s system of political checks and balances has never before been under the kind of strain imposed by an autocratic President desperate to cling to power.
    A sense of unfolding history is magnified by growing evidence that America is fighting for democracy itself in a struggle that will endure after Trump leaves office next week at the latest. New warnings of violence by pro-Trump extremists in 50 states and militias on the march toward Washington are instigating the most oppressive sense since 9/11 that the homeland is under threat. But this time the danger to US freedom comes not from a foreign terrorist group but radicalized Americans.
    The sole article of impeachment that the House is expected to pass Wednesday charging Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors is damning. Its simple clarity explains why this impeachment is no mere futile partisan ritual in the waning days of the most aberrant presidency in history.
    “Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law,” the article reads
    It is an extraordinary mark of turbulent times and a lawless term that Trump will become the first president to be impeached twice — only 13 months after the House first resolved that his abuses of power merited removal from office.
    In a poetic twist, the vote will take place in the very same chamber that lawmakers fled a week ago in fear of their lives from an invading mob seeking to harm Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and to thwart the transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden.
    In time, the events of this disorienting week will take their place alongside milestones — including the Declaration of Independence, the abolition of slavery, Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President John Kennedy — that make up America’s sweeping narrative. But history is experienced in retrospect. Current events are lived forward in all their alarming intensity and are frightening because no one knows how they will end. And the country’s nerves were already at a breaking point nearly a year into a once-in-a-century pandemic that has brought death and sickness and further deepened stark political divides.

    ‘Armed combat’ in the Capitol

    The formal impeachment vote in the House is far from the only barely believable twist leading up to Biden’s inauguration in seven days.
    The horror of last week’s events and their grave implications are becoming even clearer as more details emerge about the day when a sitting President incited partisans to assault another branch of government in the act of finalizing his election defeat.
    The idea that the rampage in which five people died was just a political outburst that got out of control was debunked Tuesday by the serious tone of a news conference held by the acting district attorney in Washington.
    “I think people are going to be shocked with some of the egregious contact that happened within the Capitol,” Michael Sherwin said, referencing “mind-blowing” cases and charges including sedition and conspiracy. He said that some of those charged had military backgrounds.
    One federal law enforcement official said the videos and other information viewed by investigators paint a scary picture of events inside the Capitol as police and federal agents battled to save lawmakers and staff.
    “It was armed combat in that building,” the official said.
    Some of the hardening of opinion among lawmakers against Trump may be attributed to briefings on those events and the pending threats to the inauguration.
    After emerging from an all-senators briefing on inauguration security, Sen. Chris Van Hollen raised the specter of a “million militia march” on Washington.
    “We have no idea how many will come. We need to be prepared,” the Maryland Democrat said.

    A warning to the troops

    In another unfathomable moment on Tuesday, America’s most senior military leaders warned there was no place for extremism in the ranks and that the troops must support and defend the Constitution. The statement was remarkable in itself. But that the Joint Chiefs decided it needed to be issued in the first place was one of the more frightening events of recent days.
    In a simultaneous political earthquake, McConnell, who tethered his now-destroyed Republican majority to the bucking bronco of Trump’s presidency, made it known he was glad the President would be impeached.
    McConnell’s unexpected move, first reported by The New York Times, came amid his disgust at the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters and in the belief that another impeachment would help Republicans purge the stain of this presidency from the party.
    McConnell didn’t say how he would vote in a Senate trial. But his shift keeps open the long-shot chance that sufficient Republicans could join a two-thirds majority to secure the first-ever conviction in a presidential impeachment.
    In the House, Wyoming’s Rep. Liz Cheney, a staunch conservative, announced that she would vote for Trump’s impeachment, enshrining the split with her fellow members of the GOP House leadership.
    “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said.
    Two other Republicans, Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and John Katko of New York, also said they would vote to impeach, with a number of their GOP colleagues expected to follow suit in a vote that will echo through history, sources told CNN.
    In another development that exacerbated the feeling of history unspooling at a breakneck pace, Pence wrote to the House to formally refuse to join the Cabinet in invoking the 25th Amendment to declare Trump no longer able to fulfill the duties of his office.
    “I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence wrote, after Democratic leaders had warned that an intervention by the vice president would be the only step that could hold off Wednesday’s impeachment vote.

    Trump delivers an ominous warning

    Action inside the Capitol came as security forces poured into Washington to secure Biden’s inauguration and Trump noticeably dodged an opportunity to cool tensions.
    While he said he never wants violence, the President used a trip to his border wall in Texas on Tuesday to reinforce the falsehoods and inflammatory language that ultimately led to his second impeachment.
    He branded the process “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics” and warned it was “causing tremendous anger” and was “dangerous” for America at a “very tender time.”
    In more ominous comments, Trump said talk of using the 25th Amendment to oust him from office bore no peril for him but could come back to haunt Biden.
    “Be careful what you wish for,” the President warned.
    Trump also defended his remarks last week at a rally close to the White House that ended with his crowd marching on the Capitol.
    With only seven days left in office, the President’s mind is also turning again to a controversial raft of pardons that would constitute yet another abuse of power.
    CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Pamela Brown and Kara Scannell reported Tuesday that the President is continuing to discuss pardons for himself and his adult children. One source said such a move was considered even more likely since last week’s events, although there was concern among some aides and allies about the public perception of pardons after the deaths of five people in the riot.
    Such a move by the President would be seen in the United States and around the world as yet another insult to democracy. The historic damage that Trump has already inflicted upon America’s reputation in this regard is incalculable.
    But the stakes surrounding Wednesday’s vote and what will be a prolonged struggle during the Biden administration to bolster US political institutions can be seen in remarks coming out of authoritarian Russia — the American adversary that interfered in the 2016 election in a bid to help Trump.
    “Following the events that unfolded after the presidential elections, it is meaningless to refer to America as the example of democracy,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian Parliament and a supporter of President Vladimir Putin.
    “We are on the verge of reevaluating the standards that are being promoted by the United States of America, that is exporting its vision of democracy and political systems around the world. Those in our country who love to cite their example as leading will also have to reconsider their views.”
    Trump’s disastrous end to his shocking presidency

    Trump’s disastrous end to his shocking presidency

    (CNN)President Donald Trump is leaving America in a vortex of violence, sickness and death and more internally estranged than it has been for 150 years.

    The disorientating end to his shocking term has the nation reeling from a Washington insurrection. The FBI warned Monday of armed protests by pro-Trump thugs in 50 states, which raise the awful prospect of a domestic insurgency. Health officials fear 5,000 Americans could soon be dying every day from the pandemic Trump ignored. Hospitals are swamped and medical workers are shattered amid a faltering rollout of the vaccine supposed to end the crisis.
    It took 200 years for the country to rack up its first two presidential impeachments. Trump’s malfeasance has led the country down that awful, divisive path twice in just more than a year. With House Democrats expected to formally impeach the President for inciting a mob assault on Congress on Wednesday, he will rely on the Republican enablers who refused to rein in his lawlessness to save him from conviction again.
    Millions of Americans have bought into the delusional, poisoned fiction that an election Trump lost was stolen, and there are signs that some police and military forces have been radicalized by the grievance he stokes.
    The city Trump has called home for four years is being turned into an armed camp incongruous with the mood of joy and renewal that pulsates through most inaugurations. In a symbol of a democracy under siege, the people’s buildings — the White House and the US Capitol — are caged behind ugly iron and cement barriers.
    This is the legacy President-elect Joe Biden will inherit in eight days when he swears to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution — an oath that Trump trampled when inciting the Capitol attack last week from behind a bulletproof screen while buckling the cherished US chain of peaceful transfers of power.
    With unintended irony, Biden’s team has picked “America United” as the inaugural theme — a motto that is now more apt in defining Biden’s hoped for destination rather than the splintered land he will begin to lead.

    Trump’s pattern of violence

    It is becoming ever more obvious that the horrific scenes on Capitol Hill on Wednesday were not a one-off. Instead, they now look part of a pattern including the White supremacist marches in Charlottesville that Trump refused to condemn, and the gassing of peaceful anti-racist protesters in the square outside the White House so he could hold an inflammatory photo-op.
    In a chilling new warning, the FBI revealed the possible next stage in this now nationwide wave of radicalization, saying armed protests were planned at state Capitols in all 50 states between January 16 and Inauguration Day, January 20. Even as a nationwide sweep widens for the perpetrators of last week’s outrage, the bureau said new protests were planned for Washington for three days around the inauguration.
    There are threats of an uprising if Trump is removed by way of the 25th Amendment. The FBI said it was also tracking threats against Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In Washington, two Capitol Police officers were suspended and more are under investigation for allegedly helping the mob.
    Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was shocked by the magnitude of the bureau’s intelligence on possible new violence.
    “I don’t think in the entire scope of my career working counter terrorism issues for many, many years, I don’t think I ever saw a bulletin go out that concerned armed protest activity in 50 states in a three- or four-day period,” McCabe said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
    Biden told reporters that despite the warnings, he was not afraid of taking the oath of office outside next week — but the combination of a massive security effort to protect him from Trump’s supporters and social distancing amid the Covid-19 pandemic mean his will be the most hollowed out inauguration in years.
    Trump’s acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf resigned on Monday, in a yet another sign that the country lacks effective government at a moment of stark danger. By contrast, senior officials from the outgoing Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration worked closely together in the Situation Room on January 20, 2009, when there was concern about the authenticity of terror threat to the inauguration.
    So far, after a massive domestic terror attack on the citadel of US democracy, there has been no major public briefing by any major federal law enforcement agency or the White House, an omission that fosters a sense of an absent government.
    The current atmosphere of fear and wild political insurrection are a lesson in what happens when a figure as powerful as a President deliberately tears at America’s deep racial and social fault lines as a tool of his own power. Trump’s presidency revealed a new insight about the all-powerful modern presidency — the character of the person in the Oval Office chair really matters.

    A Congress that can’t constrain a President

    Momentum towards impeachment is now all but unstoppable in the House after Pelosi rejected a suggestion from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of some kind of censure motion.
    McCarthy did acknowledge to Republican caucus members Monday that the President bore some responsibility for last week’s insurrection, according to a person familiar with the call. But some of his other responses to the outrage — an overhaul to the electoral certification process and legislation to promote voter confidence — hinted at the insincerity of the Republican approach.
    With a few exceptions, Republicans — who indulged and in many cases supported Trump’s blatantly false claims of electoral fraud for weeks — have responded to the uproar over last week’s Capitol attack by complaining that by pushing impeachment, Democrats are fracturing national unity. It’s as if the last four years never happened.
    There are also questions over whether Republicans understand the seriousness of last week’s events. Remarks by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt are still reverberating through the Capitol.
    “My personal view is that the President touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again,” Blunt said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
    His comment eerily recalled the rationalizations of Republicans who declined to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial after he tried to get Ukraine to interfere in the election to damage Biden.
    America has emerged from many dark periods since the Civil War. The country was torn by resistance to the Civil Rights movement. And the Vietnam War turned generations against one another. But the fact that millions of people now appear to deeply mistrust the electoral system that is the basis of US democracy means that the country’s internal political cohesion is now being tested as it has rarely been in the last century-and-a-half.
    And the Republican indulgence of the President’s repeated political arson has revealed a massive constitutional blind spot. When one party’s lawmakers are in thrall to a strongman leader, their duty to ensure checks and balances to constrain presidential power is soon forgotten.

    Trump to reemerge

    rump has not appeared in public for days. And the suspension of his social media accounts amid concern that he could stir up more violence mean the country has been unable to assess his mood.
    But the President is due to make a trip to visit the border wall that he said Mexico would pay for but instead saddled the taxpayers with the bill. White House sources said that the President is determined to spend his last full week in office touting his achievements and is expected to release another round of controversial pardons. CNN reported Monday that former Attorney General William Barr and White House counsel Pat Cipollone have advised the President not to attempt what would be yet another epic abuse of power — an attempt to pardon himself.
    The virus is meanwhile running rampant. Eleven states and Washington, DC, just recorded their highest 7-day average of new cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. For the first time, the country is averaging over 3,000 deaths from the pandemic per day. Trump’s outgoing head of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield warned in a recent interview with McClatchy newspapers that the pandemic would get worse for the rest of January and parts of February and that the country could see 5,000 deaths a day.
    And hopes that the nation could soon turn a corner are being tempered by the glitches in the vaccine roll out. Just as with the early stages of the crisis, poor coordination between federal and local and state authorities and the overall lack of a broader distribution plan are hampering the effort.
    Like everything else, it will be up to Biden to fix it.