General: Pentagon hesitated on sending Guard to Capitol riot » The commanding officer of the D.C. National Guard testified Wednesday that the Pentagon hesitated for hours before sending troops to help quell the Capitol riot.
Maj. Gen. William Walker told a Senate panel that former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund called him just before 2 p.m. on January 6th.
WALKER: He informed me that the security perimeter of the United States Capitol dire emergency at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency at the Capitol.
Walker said it took more than three hours for him to get the green light to send guardsmen to the Capitol.
He said Defense officials were worried about the optics of a large National Guard presence at the Capitol. Some were concerned it could further inflame the rioters.
A senior Pentagon official said it took time for the Army to sort out what the National Guard was being asked to do, especially since the Capitol Police days earlier had not asked for any help.
Other officials told lawmakers Wednesday that threats against the Capitol persist. Acting Under Secretary of Homeland Security Melissa Smislova told senators …
SMISLOVA: We issued a bulletin last night, co-authored with the FBI about extremists discussing March 4th and March 6th.
Acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said Capitol law enforcement will not be caught off guard again. She said the department has greatly stepped up security on Capitol Hill.
Pentagon: U.S. contractor dies in rocket attack at Iraq base » A U.S. contractor died in Iraq on Wednesday when at least 10 rockets slammed into an air base housing U.S. and other coalition troops.
The Pentagon said the contractor suffered a heart attack while sheltering from the rockets and died a short time later.
No service members were injured.
At the White House on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is still investigating the incident. She said—quoting here—“if we feel further response is warranted, we take action again in a manner and time of our choosing.”
PSAKI: And the president was briefed by his national security team this morning and was of course monitoring the details overnight. What we won’t do is make a hasty or ill-informed decision that further escalates the decision or plays into the hands of our adversaries.
The attack was the first since the U.S. struck Iran-backed militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week in response to an earlier rocket assault.
No one claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack.
CDC dir. warns states may be reopening too early » CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that she worries that some states may relaxing COVID-19 restrictions too quickly.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that as of next Wednesday, the state is lifting public mask mandates. And businesses will no longer have to limit capacity.
ABBOTT: It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.
But Walensky says now is not the time.
WALENSKY: We at the CDC have been very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions. I do think the next month or two is really pivotal in terms of how this pandemic goes.
New daily cases of COVID-19 are down sharply in the United States. And hospitalizations are at the lowest levels since October. But Walensky said we risk halting our progress against the virus by reopening too quickly.
Gov. Abbott said “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility.” He added “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”
The governors of Michigan, Mississippi and Louisiana are also easing up on bars, restaurants and other businesses.
Deadly SUV crash linked to human smuggling » A deadly collision that killed more than dozen people in an SUV in Southern California Tuesday was apparently linked to a human smuggling operation.
The Border Patrol said the SUV drove through a large hole in an old section of fencing along the Mexican border. The breach occurred in a busy area for illegal crossings near the Imperial Sand Dunes.
Officials have revised the number of people killed in that collision to 13. Chief Omar Watson with the California Highway Patrol…
WATSON: There were 25 occupants in the Ford Expedition, including the driver, who was 22 years old. Twelve of the occupants including the driver succumbed to their injuries, 12 on scene and one at the hospital.
Republican Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs said it’s not uncommon for smuggling rings to dangerously pack dozens of people into a vehicle.
BIGGS: They’ll cram ‘em through, 20, 25 people in an 8-passenger Ford Expedition or some other SUV. That’s what happened yesterday. So that’s normal that we see along the border.
A semitruck smashed into the side of the SUV just north of the border after it crossed into the path of the truck. The Border Patrol said it was not pursuing the SUV at the time of the crash.
Cuomo addresses harassment claims, vows to stay in office » New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday rejected calls for him to resign following sexual harassment allegations.
CUOMO: I wasn’t elected by politicians. I was elected by the people of the state of New York.
The Democratic governor speaking publicly for the first time since three women accused him of inappropriate touching and offensive remarks.
Cuomo said he—quote—“learned an important lesson” about his behavior around women.
He added, “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.”
Two of Cuomo’s accusers rejected his latest apology. They say he’s attempting to excuse his behavior as his way of being “playful.”
New York Attorney General Latita James is overseeing an investigation of the allegations against the governor.