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Trump declines to condemn supporter accused of murder in Kenosha: "He was trying to get away"

President Trump declined at a press conference Monday to condemn Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old supporter of his charged with murder for the shooting deaths of two people during protests in Kenosha last week.

What he's saying: "That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape that I saw it. He was trying to get away from them, it looks like it. He fell and then they very violently attacked him. It was something that we're looking at right now and it's under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble, he probably would have been killed."

The backdrop: Rittenhouse is accused of traveling to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois, to protect local businesses from violent protests that erupted in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

  • Video footage from the night shows Rittenhouse, armed with semi-automatic rifle, turning and firing on two separate occasions at groups of people who were chasing him.
  • Rittenhouse has been charged on six counts, including first degree reckless homicide and first degree intentional homicide.
  • Asked whether he thinks armed private citizens should be responding to protests, Trump said he thinks "everything should be taken care of by law enforcement." He then pivoted to defending police and attacking "this horrible left-wing ideology that is permeating our country."

The big picture: Trump spent much of the press briefing attacking Joe Biden for his response to violent protests. Biden has issued several statements condemning the violence and spoke out against it in a major speech in Pittsburgh on Monday, but Trump demanded that his opponent specifically call out "left-wing violence" like antifa.

  • Asked whether he would condemn his own supporters who were filmed firing paintballs at protesters in Portland this weekend, Trump defended them as "peaceful" and claimed that the paintballs were a "defensive mechanism."
  • He then pointed out that one of the men who had traveled to Portland for a pro-Trump rally had been shot and killed, calling it "disgraceful" and falsely claiming to a CNN reporter that it was "your supporters" who shot him. The investigation in that case is ongoing.

Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program. The key question is whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

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U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

The United Kingdom became on Wednesday the first Western country in the world to license the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use.

What they're saying: "Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19," said Albert Bourla, the chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, per the Guardian.

  • "This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK."

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Biden tells NYT he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

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Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Conress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

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The walls close in on Trump

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

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Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.

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Trump applies extreme pressure on Bill Barr to release so-called Durham Report

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

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CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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