WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Trump’s Final Hours In Office

In this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 file photo, President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Air Force One upon arrival at Valley International Airport, in Harlingen, Texas. Alex Brandon / AP Photo
In this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 file photo, President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Air Force One upon arrival at Valley International Airport, in Harlingen, Texas. Alex Brandon / AP Photo

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Trump’s Final Hours In Office

Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and it takes 90 staff members at the White House about five hours to move one president out and another one in. I wish moving in Chicago were that easy. Here’s what you need to know today.

(By the way, if you’d like this emailed to your inbox, you can sign up here.)

1. Almost half of Americans say Trump is one of the worst presidents, poll finds

President Donald Trump will leave office tomorrow with a 38% approval rating, near the lowest of his presidency. And most Americans say Trump will be remembered as a subpar president, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

The survey, taken after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, found that 47% of respondents said Trump will be seen as one of the worst presidents in history, while 13% say he’ll be remembered as below average. Nearly half of Americans surveyed believe Trump changed the country for the worse. [NPR]

In a separate poll from CNN, 70% of respondents said they disapprove of Trump’s performance during the presidential transition while 66% approve of President-elect Joe Biden’s handling. [Politico]

As the hours count down on Trump’s presidency, he is considering a wave of pardons and commutations. Among the names mentioned are Sheldon Silver, a former New York State Assembly speaker twice convicted on corruption charges, and rapper Lil Wayne. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, some rioters are defending their actions in court by basically saying “the president made me do it,” which could undercut Trump’s defense whenever the Senate holds an impeachment trial. [New York Times]

That could be soon. ABC News reports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to send the article of impeachment to the Senate later this week. [ABC News]

It remains to be seen if Senate Democrats can convince enough Republicans to join them in convicting Trump. Their hopes received a boost today after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell publicly said the mob was “provoked by the president and other powerful people.” [Washington Post]

2. Biden is expected to unveil immigration overhaul on first day in office

The plan includes an “eight-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal status and an expansion of refugee admissions,” reports The Washington Post. According to the newspaper, millions of eligible immigrants will be given temporary status for five years and then be given a green card. They can then apply for citizenship three years later.

The Post reports that so-called “dreamers” — immigrants who were brought to the country when they were young — could apply for a green card immediately. [Washington Post]

Biden is also planning to sign a series of executive orders within his first 10 days in office. Among them is rejoining the Paris climate change accord, reuniting migrant children who were separated from their families and extending pandemic protections on evictions and student loan payments. [New York Times]

As you probably already know, Biden will be sworn into office tomorrow. WBEZ will air live special coverage beginning at 10 a.m. CT, and you can listen online or at 91.5 FM. [WBEZ]

3. Indoor dining could resume within days, Chicago officials say

Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner, said today that bars and restaurants may reopen indoor service within days or a week. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has sought to position herself as a friend to businesses, also said she is hopeful indoor service will resume any day now.

According to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard, Chicago’s average positivity rate is 8.1%, down from last week’s 10.3%. The number of cases is also falling in Chicago, with an average of 953 cases compared to last week’s 1,042. [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, Arwady also said today that the city will formally begin vaccinating frontline essential workers and residents 65 and over next Monday. The city is aiming to start vaccinating the general population in June. [WBEZ]

The news comes as Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration announced it will relax some coronavirus restrictions in Chicago. That means museums and other cultural centers can reopen, fitness classes can resume with up to 10 people and recreational sports can restart with some restrictions. [Block Club Chicago]

Nationwide, the number of COVID-19 deaths has now surpassed 400,000. Biden’s incoming chief of staff said that total could grow to half a million Americans by the end of February. [New York Times]

4. Will the U.S. economy rebound this year? Economists see signs of hope in Biden’s relief plan

Economists are revising their outlooks for the year after President-elect Biden last week unveiled a $1.9 trillion plan to tackle the pandemic and boost the economy.

Goldman Sachs estimates that unemployment will fall to 4.5% by the end of the year. For a comparison, the unemployment rate last month was 6.7%. Goldman Sachs also predicts the economy will grow this year thanks to an increase in disposable income and more government spending.

The news comes as investors debate whether inflation is right around the corner, which could cause businesses to raise prices and jeopardize the economic recovery. [Axios]

Meanwhile, Janet Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair and Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary, urged lawmakers “act big” when it comes to economic relief.

During her confirmation hearing today, Yellen said the federal government should send more aid to people hit hardest by the pandemic by expanding unemployment insurance and food stamps benefits. [AP]

5. Chicago Teachers Union could call for a strike vote this week

The union could vote as soon as this week on its second strike under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s tenure, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The newspaper reports the union’s governing body, called the House of Delegates, is scheduled to meet tomorrow and could discuss holding a strike or some other work stoppage action. If that happens, it would set in motion a series of events that could ultimately end with a strike starting as soon as next Monday, the Sun-Times reports.

The news comes as the union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration are locked in a debate over whether it’s safe to reopen the city’s public schools to in-person classes. Some students returned to classrooms this month, and it’s not clear how many have showed up. Chicago Public Schools has not yet released attendance figures. [Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • President-elect Biden today nominated Dr. Rachel Levine for assistant secretary for health, potentially making her the first openly transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation. [NPR]
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., gave a tour to a “large” group of people the day before the rioters stormed the Capitol, according to Democratic lawmakers. [CNN]
  • Thousands of Honduran migrants are hoping to reach the U.S. [NPR]
  • A California man allegedly lived in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for three months. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

You’re not alone if you experienced days without mail last month. The U.S. Postal Service’s performance last month fell to its lowest levels in years, reports The New York Times. Only about 64% of first-class mail was delivered on time around Christmas, according to the newspaper.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it in at least the last 10 to 20 years that I can recall,” said Angelo Anagnostopoulos with GrayHair Software, which tracks mail for large companies.

The situation is so bad that some types of mail, like magazines and marketing material, had a one in 10 chance of being delivered on time in some parts of the country.

The delays came after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy faced a public outcry last summer over policy changes that critics feared would jeopardize mail-in ballots for the presidential election. As a result, some of those policy changes were abandoned. [New York Times]

Tell me something good …

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’d like to know who is one of your favorite Black authors.

I really value Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which follows a Black woman escaping from a slave plantation in Georgia through a literal, not symbolic, underground railroad. Whitehead’s use of magical realism amplifies the horrors or slavery in a way I didn’t see coming.

Feel free to email me at therundown@wbez.org or tweet me at @whuntah.

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