From Jussie Smollet to the college admissions scandal, 2019 saw big names caught in embarrassing headlines and lighting up social media; Ainsley Earhardt looks back at the most scandalous stories of the year.
- The Week
Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request
When President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, there was no chief usher to greet them. He had been fired at about 11:30 a.m., half an hour before Biden was sworn in as president, The New York Times reports. Former first lady Melania Trump had hired the chief usher, Timothy Harleth, from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, after the previous chief usher, Angella Reid, was dismissed a few months into Donald Trump's term.The White House chief usher is in charge of the first family's residence, overseeing everything from personnel issues to budgets. It is typically an apolitical job, and ushers typically stay through several administrations. Reid, hired in 2011, was only the ninth chief usher since 1885, though she was the first woman hired for the job. The Bidens had communicated to the White House counsel that they intended to bring in their own chief usher, a person familiar with the process told the Times. A Biden White House official told CNN that Harleth "was let go before the Bidens arrived," though CNN reports it was the Bidens who gave him the ax.Harleth was already in hot water with Trump's team, though. He "had found himself in an untenable position" since the election, "trying to begin preparations for a new resident in the White House, even as its occupant refused to concede that he would be leaving the premises," the Times reports. And Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was "unhappy" with Harleth "for trying to send briefing books about the residence to the Biden transition team in November." Harleth "had worked with Jill Biden's staff for weeks to organize the move of household belongings," The Washington Post adds.The absence of a chief usher was one manifestation of the chaotic transition period, but it doesn't entirely explain the curious breach in protocol where nobody opened the doors for the BIdens when they arrived at the White House, the Times notes. The doors, which awkwardly stood closed for about 10 long seconds as the Bidens watched, are typically opened by Marine guards.Once the Bidens passed through the doors into the newly sanitized White House, things got better, the Post reports. "Awaiting Biden in a room adjacent to the Oval Office were two trays stacked with chocolate chip cookies, each one in plastic wrap with a gold presidential seal."More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden has stopped construction on Trump's border wall, but the fate of outstanding contracts is unclear Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office
- Associated Press
Transgender kids would be banned from playing on school sports teams for the gender with which they identify under a GOP-backed bill that advanced Thursday in Montana, one of more than a dozen states where lawmakers are proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for trans minors this year. The order immediately sparked a backlash from conservative groups, a split that reflects the deep divisions in the U.S. around transgender youth. Proponents of the Montana bill say allowing transgender athletes to compete can create an unfair playing field in middle and high schools, especially in girls' sports.
- The Telegraph
Thousands of national guardsmen were turfed out of the Capitol building on Thursday and sent to sleep in car parks, before being allowed back in late at night after complaints from lawmakers. Despite the quick reversal, two Republican governors commanded their troops home in protest. US Capitol police had ordered the reservists to vacate the building and set up camp outdoors or in nearby hotels, with thousands ending up stationed outside or in car parks. “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” one of the guardsmen told Politico. The National Guard were brought into the US capital to provide security after Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) should carry out an internal investigation into the conduct of its case against former defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos. Lopez Obrador said the investigation should look into who within DEA "fabricated" the case, after the Mexican attorney general's recent decision not to press charges against Cienfuegos. Lopez Obrador said the hundreds of pages of evidence the DEA provided, which he controversially ordered to be shared publicly, was riddled with inconsistencies.
Beau Biden, who served in the Guard, is buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church cemetery in Greenville, Delaware.
- NBC News
Southlake is known for its top-ranked public schools. But a heated fight over a diversity plan has some parents questioning their future in the city.
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden has stopped construction on Trump's border wall, but the fate of outstanding contracts is unclear
- Associated Press
The master tenant of a cluttered, dilapidated San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished in a late-night fire in 2016 is scheduled to plead guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Families of several victims told the East Bay Times last week that prosecutors told them Derick Almena, 50, will plead guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a nine-year sentence. Almena may serve little or none of that term because of time already spent behind bars and credit for good behavior.
With just over 30 minutes left in his presidency, now-former President Trump issued a full pardon to Albert J. Pirro, Jr., ex-husband of Fox News firebrand and Trump defender Jeanine Pirro.Why it matters: This was Trump's final act as president, and he issued the pardon during the inauguration of Joe Biden.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.Details: Albert Pirro was sentenced to 29 months in federal prison in 2000 on charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. * The final pardon comes after Trump issued 143 pardons and commutations just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, many of which went to his allies engulfed in corruption scandals. * The pardons include one for his former chief strategist Steve Bannon; former top Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy, and rapper Lil Wayne. Go deeper: The Swamp wins. Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
Returned Honduran migrants are directing anger against their president this week after their U.S.-bound caravan was blocked by the region's security forces, accusing him of making their county unlivable while thwarting their escape to a better life. Honduras is reeling from two back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central America in November, as well as an historic economic contraction on the back of coronavirus pandemic. President Juan Orlando Hernandez has also been under fire from U.S. prosecutors that have accused him of having ties to drug cartels, an allegation he has strongly denied.
- FOX News Videos
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., reacted to Amazon offering President Biden help to distribute the vaccine after President Trump left office.
- Associated Press
A prominent Chicago family law attorney who was charged last summer with sexually assaulting a colleague has been charged with doing the same thing to two other women, including a client who says he told her that if he didn't have sex with him, she'd lose custody of her children. Prosecutors outlined the new charges against David Pasulka, 61, during a court hearing on Wednesday that ended with Judge Susana Ortiz setting his new bail amount at $100,000 on charges of sexual assault, aggravated sex assault and criminal sexual abuse. Pasulka, who was already out on bond in the initial case, was released from custody after posting the new amount, according to the Cook County Jail.
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Telegraph
Twitter suspended an account linked to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Friday after it made a post apparently threatening former US president Donald Trump. Earlier on Friday, the @khamenei_site account shared an image of a golfer resembling Mr Trump under the shadow of an aircraft. The accompanying message threatened vengeance for the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, whose assassination Mr Trump ordered in a US drone strike in Iraq last January. The tweet in Farsi repeated comments Ayatollah Khamenei made last month that “those who ordered the murder of General Suleimani as well as those who carried this out should be punished. This revenge will certainly happen at the right time.” The unverified account is one of several believed to be run by the office of the 81-year-old leader. The tweet prompted calls for Twitter to suspend the Iranian leader's account, after the social media platform permanently suspended Mr Trump’s account earlier this month for posts inciting violence. Earlier this month Twitter removed a tweet by Ayatollah Khamenei questioning the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines from the US and the UK, saying the post violated its rules against coronavirus misinformation. "Importing vaccines made in the US or the UK is prohibited. They're completely untrustworthy," said the post in English on the unverified account @khamenei_ir, which shares the Supreme Leader's statements. That account, which has over 884,000 followers, and others associated with Ayatollah Khamenei are still online. Twitter briefly suspended several accounts belonging to Ayatollah Khamenei last March, after mistakenly identifying them as spam content.
- The Week
A Delaware News Journal reporter captured a powerful, private moment on Wednesday as Joe Biden gave his first address as president of the United States. "Poignant moment," the reporter, Patricia Talorico, captioned the photo, which swiftly went viral. "While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau."> Poignant moment: While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau. pic.twitter.com/QkCuJRHzTz> > — Patricia Talorico (@PattyTalorico) January 20, 2021As Talorico explained in a subsequent article, "Delaware is a tiny state." She described how back in 2002, when she was struggling with an assignment from her editor, Beau Biden approached her to ask if she was okay while she sat alone on a bench at an elementary school in Wilmington. "He wasn't in office at the time," she wrote. "He was just being kind. It wasn't a grand gesture, just a small one, but somehow, it made a difference that day. I never forgot that act of kindness."On Wednesday, Beau — who died of a brain tumor in 2015 at the age of 46 — was on Talorico's mind, and she decided to drive by his grave to say "a short prayer" when she saw "a lone man in a blue uniform kneeling at Beau's grave. No one else was around … In my car, I had the radio tuned to CNN. Joe Biden was being sworn in as president and was about to begin his address."As Talorico writes, "The journalist in me wanted to go back and find out [the man's] identity and ask why he was there. The person who once received a kind gesture from Beau when I needed it most knew it was a time to be respectful, and I drove away." Read her full story at Delaware News Journal.More stories from theweek.com Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request
- The Independent
Michael Flynn’s brother reveals he was involved in Capitol riot response after Army denied it, report says
Apparent U-turn by Pentagon officials could pose questions about police response
- Associated Press
The latest jackpot-winning Powerball ticket, worth $731.1 million, was sold in a struggling coal mining town whose biggest previous claim to fame was being the hometown of baseball legend Lefty Grove. The store will get a $100,000 bonus for selling the ticket to the fifth-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. An even larger Mega Millions jackpot will be up for grabs Friday night.
- The Week
President Biden has taken office, former President Donald Trump is in Florida, and the U.S. still hasn't seen a mass arrests of Democrats or a nationwide blackout.All of these facts were shocking for some followers of the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, as they thought and hoped that Trump would somehow seize permanent power on Wednesday, NBC News reports. But as Biden was sworn in without a hitch, QAnon message boards lit up with followers who realized a violent overthrow of the government wasn't about to happen, that Trump had no secret plans to somehow stay in office, and that they'd been wrong for months, if not years.> "Q was a LARP the entire f---ing time." > "There is no plan.' > "It's over and nothing makes sense... absolutely nothing..." pic.twitter.com/I2k8C7708m> > — Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) January 20, 2021> Current mood in Q circles> > "I just want to throw up" > "I'm so sick of the disinformation and false hope" > "What a waste of my life" > "I feel sick" > "Burning my flag" > "Game over" > "Where is the military" > "I'm just so confused" > "I'm just sick" pic.twitter.com/hUR2N6y1sg> > — Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) January 20, 2021Even Ron Watkins, the administrator of the extremist message board 8kun who may have even originated QAnon, posted a last-ditch call for unity that didn't acknowledge the harmful conspiracy theories he'd allowed to spread for years.> Ron Watkins, the former 8kun admin who helped keep QAnon afloat for years (and who some suspected of being Q himself), is throwing in the towel. pic.twitter.com/HJdBrOexO2> > — Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) January 20, 2021Still, just as the many flaws in QAnon's past predictions failed to dissuade supporters, some believers are continuing to make excuses for Wednesday's events and suggesting some sort of overthrow is still possible.More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden's team reportedly realized after inauguration that Trump really had no vaccine distribution plan Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office
A man who went missing while snorkelling off the Australian coast may have been taken by a shark, authorities said on Friday, after a search operation found pieces of diving equipment. The man went missing late on Thursday while snorkelling near Port MacDonnell, on the country's south coast, sparking an air and sea search, police said. "We haven't recovered any remains but there are a few remaining areas of interest that we want to explore, but the search will be scaled down," the Australian Broadcasting Corp quoted South Australia Police Limestone Coast operations manager Campbell Hill as saying.
- Associated Press
Yosemite National Park will remain closed through the weekend after high winds that battered much of California knocked down two giant sequoias and caused millions of dollars in damage. The park hoped to reopen Tuesday except for areas south of Yosemite Valley, including one entrance, that will remain shut to visitors, the park said Thursday. The winds eased Tuesday in the northern and central areas and Wednesday in the south.