Pelosi Seeks Fines for Security Rule Violators: Inaugural Update
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seeking to impose fines of as much as $10,000 for representatives who violate new security screening rules. Oklahoma lawmakers and their staffs are being told to stay away from the state capitol building in Oklahoma City over potential protests. Washington is temporarily shutting some subway stations near the Capitol to deter travel while security is on high alert.
There are seven days until Biden’s inauguration.
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Pelosi Seeks Fines for Security Scanning Violations (8:40 p.m.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to impose fines on representatives who don’t adhere to new security screening measures put in place after last week’s attack on the Capitol.
“The fine for the first offense will be $5,000 and $10,000 for the second offense,” Pelosi said in a statement on Wednesday night. “The fines will be deducted directly from members’ salaries by the chief administrative officer.” She added that the House would vote on a rule change mandating the penalties later this month.
The heightened safety precautions at the Capitol included a new metal fence and National Guard troops surrounding the building, as well as magnetometers at the doors used by lawmakers heading into the chamber that were implemented by the Democratic majority.
Some Republicans, however, bristled at being scanned before entering the House floor. Pelosi said that “many House Republicans” had been verbally abusive to Capitol Police officers.
“It is tragic that this step is necessary, but the Chamber of the People’s House must and will be safe,” Pelosi said. -- John Harney
Oklahoma Lawmakers Told to Avoid State Capitol This Weekend (7:07 p.m.)
Oklahoma lawmakers and staff are being told to steer clear of the state capitol building this weekend after law enforcement officials warned of potential protests.
Internal memos sent Wednesday to state lawmakers and personnel underscored news reports about the latest FBI bulletin and warnings of armed protests at the U.S. Capitol and state capitols nationwide.
“Due to these warnings, federal state and local law enforcement are preparing for such a possibility of protests at the Oklahoma state capitol,” Senate Chief Operating Officer Arnella Karges wrote in an email. The advisory to stay away follows consultation with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the state public safety, senate security coordinator and sergeant-at-arms, she said.
“We have been told not to go to the capitol over the weekend,” Republican Representative Marcus McEntire confirmed via text message.
Oklahoma Senate spokesman Aaron Cooper said the memo was sent “out of an abundance of caution and not in response to any particular information.” Some people may have had plans to work from their offices this weekend in advance of next week’s legislative filing deadline before the lawmaker’s session begins Feb. 1. -- Paul Stinson
Washington to Shut Subway Stations For Security (6:40 p.m.)
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced plans to close 13 subway stations in the nation’s capitol beginning on Friday for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
The agency said the stations would remain closed through Thursday, Jan. 21 in an effort to “accommodate the expanded security perimeter that will be in effect for Inauguration.”
“We are working closely with our regional and federal partners to keep the public safe during this National Special Security Event and to discourage travel within the secure zone,” WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement.
The agency also said 26 bus routes will be detoured around the expanded security perimeter in downtown Washington beginning on Friday. -- Keith Laing
FAA Cracks Down on Unruly Passengers (5:51 p.m.)
Federal aviation regulators are stepping up enforcement against unruly passengers after a “disturbing increase” in incidents following last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol and fears that more disruptions could occur during Biden’s inauguration next week.
The FAA said in a press release Wednesday that it will forgo the usual warnings it gives for violators of federal laws that prohibit interference with an airline flight crew and move directly to seek penalties.
It’s against the law to disobey a flight crew. People who physically assault or threaten members of flight crews or other passengers are subject to prison and fines as high as $35,000, the FAA said.
“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” FAA Administrator Steven Dickson said.
There were multiple instances in the past week in which people associated with the sacking of the Capitol and associated demonstrations were involved in unruly behavior on flights, according to airlines, unions and reports on social media. -- Alan Levin
Biden Calls for Quick Confirmations on National Security (5 p.m.)
Citing the recent attack on the Capitol, Biden repeated his plea Wednesday that the Senate should move quickly to confirm his national security Cabinet nominees.
In a statement, the Biden transition team said the president-elect was pleased that his choice for Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, had his confirmation hearing moved up, saying it would help ensure a “smooth hand off in power.”
The campaign is also pushing for quick confirmations of secretaries of Defense and other top posts at the Pentagon. So far, four nominees -- Mayorkas, secretary of state pick Antony Blinken, defense secretary pick Lloyd Austin and Janet Yellen, Biden’s choice for the Treasury Department, are scheduled for hearings on Jan. 19. But it’s not clear how quickly the Senate will vote on their nominations.
Some Democrats have criticized Senate Republicans for not holding hearings on Biden nominees earlier to allow for faster confirmations. Democrats will not take control of the upper chamber until Biden is sworn in and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris can cast the tie-breaking vote.
National Guard Heading to Minnesota Capital (4:13 p.m.)
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Wednesday activated the Minnesota National Guard to assist state and local law enforcement in the capital, St. Paul, in the run up to Inauguration Day.
The action was taken as a result of “possible armed protests at state capitol buildings” across the country, Walz said in a statement. A National Guard spokesman would not disclose the number of personnel being activated but said the mission would be carried out by military police.
“We will always support Minnesotans’ First Amendment rights to peacefully protest, but anyone involved in violent, illegal activity will be held accountable,” Walz said. “We are tracking reports and monitoring the situation closely to enhance our response and change tactics as needed.”
State patrol officers have increased their presence to respond to various threats and prevent unlawful entry into the building, according to the statement.
A fence was erected around the Minnesota Capitol over the summer following protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in the custody of Minneapolis police. -- Stephen Joyce
More Than 20,000 Troops Expected in D.C. for Inauguration (12:42 p.m.)
As the U.S. Capitol fills with security personnel, the number of National Guard members authorized to be in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration has grown to more than 20,000, according to city officials.
Speaking at a news conference with Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday, Acting Police Chief Robert Contee said that another 5,000 members of the National Guard may be added to earlier plans to deploy about 15,000 personnel.
“I think you can expect to see somewhere upwards of beyond 20,000 members of the National Guard that will be here in footprint the District of Columbia,” he said.
Contee added that the final number would be determined by the Secret Service because the inauguration has been designated a special security event. -- Keith Laing
Capitol Has Heightened Security One Week Out (10:20 a.m.)
The U.S. Capitol resembled an armed camp as lawmakers prepared to vote on impeaching President Donald Trump, with soldiers bearing rifles standing an arm’s-length apart around the building that was attacked last week.
Roads around the Capitol complex in Washington were closed, with military units at street corners and heavy trucks blocking some streets. Many of the usual entry points to the Capitol were blocked off, funneling people to closely watched doors.
Scores of National Guard personnel had slept on the floor of the Capitol Visitor Center, which before the pandemic was usually crowded with tourists and school groups awaiting a tour.
With ongoing threats of possible attacks, the U.S. Secret Service began what it calls National Special Security Event operations for the 2021 Inauguration today, rather than the earlier scheduled date one day before the Jan. 20 inauguration. -- Todd Shields
Tom Hanks to Host Biden-Harris TV Special (9:45 a.m.)
Actor Tom Hanks will headline a prime-time television event to celebrate his inauguration next Wednesday as the Biden team looks to replace the traditional balls with at-home entertainment.
Performing will be singers Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons and Jon Bon Jovi, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced.
The 90-minute special, called “Celebrating America,” will air on major broadcast networks and streaming services beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
It replaces the inaugural balls that have been a fixture in Washington’s social scene since President James Madison’s inauguration in 1809.
Biden’s Presidential Inaugural Committee canceled those events because of the coronavirus pandemic, and security concerns are also a factor in downsizing inaugural events following last week’s deadly riot at the Capitol. -- Gregory Korte
--With assistance from Gregory Korte, Todd Shields, Keith Laing, Flynn McRoberts, Stephen Joyce, Alan Levin, Paul Stinson and John Harney.
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