The latest on Biden's inauguration and security threats

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 9:56 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021
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6:05 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

No plans to test most National Guard members for Covid-19 before they deploy across DC

From CNN’s Keri Enriquez and Zachary Cohen

The overwhelming majority of 20,000 National Guard members expected in Washington for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will not be tested for coronavirus before they are deployed from states around the country or upon their arrival in the nation’s capital, a National Guard spokesperson tells CNN.  

Testing for National Guard members sent to DC is “case dependent” but not widely required, the spokesperson said, noting there are some screening procedures, such as temperature checks, in place.

“Incoming Guard men and women are screened upon departure from their individual states and upon arrival to the DC Armory according to CDC guidelines. Temperature checks and screening questions are in place; masks and social distancing are required where the mission allows,” the DC National Guard said in a statement to CNN Friday. 

The National Guard encourages coronavirus testing to personnel who are symptomatic or exposed to coronavirus.

But as CNN has consistently reported, coronavirus can be spread by people who have no symptoms and without testing, it is impossible to know whether any of the thousands of Guard members are carrying the virus. And they are being deployed with little warning.

“I’ll just remind you — that these National Guard folks that we're bringing on duty were doing something else just a couple days ago and had no idea they'd be coming here,” National Guard Maj. Gen. John Harris said at a news conference.

The troops are also arriving in large numbers as the US has had its deadliest 14 days in the pandemic. More than 3.2 million new cases have been reported in the first two weeks of 2021, according to John Hopkins University data.

“Bringing these folks together collectively — it is a real concern for us,” Harris said.  

The National Guard follows guidance issued by the Department of Defense in April that urged personnel “to follow CDC guidelines on the use of cloth face coverings in public settings or where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” Additional steps are being taken to ensure the safety of Guard members, including appropriate personal protective equipment and housing arrangements that allow for distancing, a National Guard spokesperson told CNN. 

But it would be difficult to maintain Covid-19 social distancing precautions if there is an event similar to the riot on at the Capitol last week, a spokesperson noted.

National guard troops deployed at the state level by governors follow the health guidance of that particular state, including coronavirus testing protocol. As the District of Columbia is not a state, the gubernatorial role is assumed by the Secretary of the Army under the federal umbrella of the Department of Defense. 

 

9:13 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Biden says his may be the "most unusual" inauguration in American history

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Workers install security fencing near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on January 15.
Workers install security fencing near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on January 15. Susan Walsh/AP

During a fundraiser Friday evening, President-elect Joe Biden said that his may be the "most unusual" inauguration in the nation's history.

“This may be the most unusual inauguration in American history. Maybe not the most consequential, but the most unusual,” he said.

According to pool reports, Biden said his swearing-in ceremony would not look like previous inaugurations, but did not provide more details. He said it would be an “event that the American people will be proud of.”

5:53 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Facebook imposes additional special restrictions ahead of inauguration

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Facebook will prevent repeat violators of its policies from being able to stream live videos or create new events, groups or pages on its platform through Inauguration Day, the company said Friday evening.  

In addition, Facebook is banning the creation of new event pages tied geographically to Washington, DC, and state capitols, the company announced in a blog post. 

The move is intended to "further prevent people from trying to use our services to incite violence," Facebook said in an update to a blog post. 

Facebook is currently reviewing existing Facebook events and removing those linked to the inauguration that violate company policies, it added.

5:50 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Pentagon authorizes 25,000 National Guard members for inauguration

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

National Guard soldiers prepare for their guard shifts at the US Capitol building on Friday, January 15, in Washington, DC.
National Guard soldiers prepare for their guard shifts at the US Capitol building on Friday, January 15, in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The Pentagon has authorized up to 25,000 National Guard members for the inauguration, the National Guard Bureau said in a news release Friday. That's an increase from the 21,000 troops authorized a day earlier.

"Every state, territory and the District of Columbia will have National Guard men and women supporting the inauguration," the statement said.

As of Thursday, there were 7,000 members in DC from more than a dozen states and the DC National Guard. That number will more than triple in the next few days.

5:43 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Women's March founder Vanessa Wruble: "This is not the time to march"

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Wruble is one of the co-founders of the Women’s March on Washington in 2017.
Wruble is one of the co-founders of the Women’s March on Washington in 2017. Mario Tama/Getty Images/File

In response to the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, Vanessa Wruble, one of the co-founders of the Women’s March on Washington in 2017, told CNN, “This is not the time to march.”

Wruble’s warning comes as states across the country brace for what the FBI has warned are “armed protests” being planned at all 50 state capitols in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

Following the Women’s March in 2017, Wruble went on to found March On, a political organization composed of activist groups that grew out of the Women’s March. She currently serves as the group’s executive director.

While Wruble is not worried about a major protest from the left in Washington, DC, next week, she is worried about demonstrations at the state level, given that “people want to defend democracy and their state capitols,” she said Friday. 

In 2017, Wruble helped lead millions of Americans across the country – and the world – in a counter-protest to the inauguration of President Trump.  

At the time, those who marched were protesting misogyny, bigotry and racism, Wruble said. 

“When we organized the women’s march, it was a true uprising of the people, we were registering our refusal to allow our country to descend into fascism and a place where White supremacists feel comfortable,” Wruble told CNN. 

Four years later, Wruble said the behavior of the insurrectionists “does not warrant a response in the streets.” 

“It’s on a whole different level,” Wruble said Friday.

“What we did is a perfect example of what can happen in a democracy, and what they’re doing is basically an assault on our democracy,” Wruble said.

 

4:50 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Delaware governor activates National Guard to assist with the inauguration

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Delaware Gov. John Carney signed an executive order today, activating the Delaware National Guard to assist state and local authorities with activity around the presidential inauguration, a release from the governor’s office said. 

The guard will be able take “proactive or responsive action” at the direction of the director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), in consultation with the secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS).

“Members of the Delaware National Guard have continued to step up – time and time again – to support their communities when that support is needed most. This time is no different,” Carney said. “I want to thank all of our Delaware guardsmen and guardswomen for their selfless service to our state and country.”
5:54 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Biden says "yes" when asked if he feels safe about Inauguration Day

From CNN's MJ Lee

Matt Slocum/AP
Matt Slocum/AP

President-elect Joe Biden said "yes" when asked if he felt safe about Inauguration Day, based on the intelligence he has seen, when exiting a televised address to this country this afternoon. 

As he was leaving the podium after finishing his remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, a reporter shouted the question, "Do you feel safe about Wednesday based on the intelligence you’ve seen?"

"Yes," Biden said.

Some context: Domestic extremists pose the most likely threat to the presidential inauguration, particularly those who believe the incoming administration is illegitimate, according to a joint bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and eight other agencies obtained by CNN.

The assessment, dated Jan. 14, also noted that since the attack on the US Capitol, Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have "seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition," adding that there's a lack of specific, credible information indicating that they are seeking to commit violence.

3:47 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

US Capitol Police banned building tours on day of riot after Democrats raised security concerns

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Dana Bash

Barbed wire is installed on the top of a security fence surrounding the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Friday, January 15.
Barbed wire is installed on the top of a security fence surrounding the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Friday, January 15. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Days before the violent insurrection at the US Capitol, the then US House Sergeant-at- Arms sent a memo to members of Congress banning tours of buildings on Jan. 6, the day lawmakers gathered inside to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, according to a copy of the memo obtained by CNN. 

The lockdown was in response to alarm from some Congressional members who were growing concerned about seeing large groups of pro-Trump supporters walking around the Capitol the week around the swearing in of the new Congress leading up to the Jan. 6.

It was a level of traffic that had not taken place since officials tightened access to the building in March of last year to limit spread from the coronavirus pandemic, multiple Democratic lawmakers and aides told CNN.   

Tours of the building in the days leading up to the violent insurrection of the Capitol have become a flashpoint in the fallout from last week’s riots, with some Democrats openly accusing some Republican members of aiding the President’s supporters in reconnaissance on the Capitol by providing tours.  

No proof has been provided so far, but investigators are looking at the possibility that some members of Congress unwittingly provided tours in the days before the rally to people who later were part of the mob that stormed the Capitol, a US law enforcement official said.  

No evidence so far has emerged to show complicity by members of Congress, but prosecutors are examining whether some people may have used tours to familiarize themselves with the Capitol building layout, the official said. 

The ban on tours also stemmed from concerns about who Republicans might bring in that day, a senior Democratic aide told CNN.   

Prior to the pandemic, the public had wide-ranging access to the Capitol complex, including the tunnels connecting the member office buildings to the Capitol itself. 

After, the Sergeant-at- Arms banned all tours of the Capitol grounds at the start of the pandemic, but members of Congress were able to ignore the guidance. Lawmakers or staff led tours have never had to register visitors with Capitol Police, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of overall protocols told CNN. 

Capitol police don’t keep security logs either, two current US Capitol Police officers told CNN.  

One police said, “Rules don’t apply to the members. Never have, never will.”  

Another officer said, “(Members) can just waive people through. If they do that, we’re advised to notify the Sergeant-at-Arms. We can’t stop them.”  

The Jan. 4 letter obtained by CNN went further and banned all tours. In it then-US House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving explicitly wrote, the Capitol and the Capitol Visitor Center “remain closed to all tours, including Member, staff-led and public tours” on January 6.” 

CNN was only shown part of the letter because the remainder contained pertinent security information.  

Irving stepped down last week after the riots. CNN has reached out to Irving, the Acting House Sergeant at Arms, US Capitol Police, and former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund about why there was a need to ban tours on Jan. 6. 

 CNN’s Ryan Nobles, Peter Nickeas and Mark Morales contributed reporting to this post.

3:26 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

"Several" people under investigation in death of Capitol Police officer

From CNN's Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz

Officer Brian D. Sicknick 
Officer Brian D. Sicknick  USCP

The FBI is investigating "several" people in the death of Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, according to two law enforcement officials.

Earlier today, Steven D'Antuono of the FBI's Washington Field Office said investigators are "making progress" on the investigation into the death of the officer.

Sicknick died last Thursday night "due to injuries sustained while on-duty," Capitol Police said in a statement. He was one of five people who died in the violence.

D’anuono said investigators are looking at "anyone and everyone" who may be involved, but did not give specifics on the scope of the investigation.

The New York Times was first to report multiple people were being looked at in the probe.