The Road to Jan 6 Final

Don't Make Your FBI Director Pass a Loyalty Test, Donald Trump Was Told

In this daily series, Newsweek explores the steps that led to the January 6 Capitol Riot.

With the issue settled and the Electoral College vote concluded, all of Washington seemed to sigh with relief on December 16.

General Services Administration administrator Emily Murphy spoke with the Federal News Network. "I wasn't picking or certifying the winner of the presidential election. Instead, it's the administrator's role under the Presidential Transition Act to determine ... what resources and services should be made available to the apparent successful candidate to assist in the event of a presidential transition," she said in her first public interview since the election.

"The actual winner of the presidential election is clearly determined by the electoral process outlined in the Constitution," Murphy added, clearly relieved that her outsize role in the presidential race was over.

That same day, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that the official ceremony for the Inauguration would take place on January 20, 2021. Because of COVID, the ceremony would have limited live attendance, but at least there was no longer any dispute about who would be sworn in.

It was also reported that the White House Counsel's Office "strongly" advised President Donald Trump against firing FBI Director Christopher Wray, whom he had been taking potshots at. The Counsel's Office, according to NBC News, said that such a firing would risk "creating the perception that a 'loyalty test'" is required for a job that "traditionally has maintained independence from the White House."

Donald Trump 2020 Presidential Campaign Joe Biden
White House lawyers advised Donald Trump not to make the FBI Director pass a loyalty test. President Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, January 7, 2020. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI announced it was beginning investigations to collect intelligence and identify, disrupt, and pursue SolarWinds hackers.

Operation Warp Speed, a COVID vaccine pursuit that many doubted, was also yielding fruit, with Pfizer vaccines starting to move across that country and be widely available to health care workers. The Food and Drug Administration said that the Moderna vaccine "was highly effective"; it was on track to be the second to be authorized for emergency use. And Congressional leaders said that they were close to a deal on a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package.

The country seemed to be getting back to normal. And yet President Trump still had not officially conceded the election, and COVID was raging.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) announced that he would lead the effort to overturn the Electoral College by challenging the certification of the vote. The Pentagon's statement that it was taking a "holiday pause" on all transition meetings until January 1 was immediately denounced by the Biden camp. "There is no time to spare," said Yohannes Abraham, executive director of the transition team.

In both a backhand recognition of Biden's victory and a shot across the bow of the new administration, Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reportedly urged career employees to "be the resistance" when the new administration came in.

And Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of the critical care unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, said half of his staff was saying that they would not get the COVID vaccine "for political reasons," the harbinger of things to come.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Capitol Police intelligence shop completed its first Special Event Assessment for January 6. The Assessment (Number 21-A-0468) said that there were "no specific known threats related to the Joint Session of Congress - Electoral College Vote Certification."

"NO social media indications for specific threats or concerning comments directed at the Joint Session of Congress," the Assessment said. It acknowledged that "the threat of disruptive actions or violence cannot be ruled out."

"At this time," the Assessment said, the Capitol Police were aware of only two planned protests, one by a pro-Trump group and the other by a pro-Biden group.

The December 16 assessment would be updated on three occasions before January 6. Each update including recently collected intelligence and new information about approved demonstrations. But the Congressional investigation would later find that Capitol Police intelligence "did not convey the full scope of known information to USCP leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners."

Social media was filled with threatening information and calls for violence. The Congressional investigation concluded that though the intelligence division "possessed information about the potential for violence at the Capitol on January 6 [it] did not convey the full scope" of the threat to the bosses.