First Thing: Trump ‘deeply unnerved’ over Capitol attack investigation | US news

Good morning.

Donald Trump is increasingly agitated by the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, according to sources familiar with the matter, and appears anxious that he could be implicated in the sprawling inquiry into the insurrection even as he protests his innocence.

The former president in recent weeks has complained more about the investigation, demanding to know why his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows shared so much material with the select committee and why dozens of other aides have also cooperated.

The portrait that emerges from interviews with multiple sources close to Trump, including current and former aides, suggests a former president unmoored and backed into a corner by the rapid escalation in intensity of the committee’s investigation.

  • Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the 6 January committee, said he was not yet ready to declare the former president guilty of a crime, but that the panel was investigating the likelihood that he is.

  • The US is “closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe”, a member of a key CIA advisory panel has said. The analysis by Barbara F Walter, a political science professor, is contained in a book due out next year.

Omicron ‘raging through the world’ and travel increases Covid risks

A mobile coronavirus vaccine clinic in Manhattan
A mobile coronavirus vaccine clinic in Manhattan. In New York, authorities said 22,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has “extraordinary spreading capabilities”, the top US infectious diseases expert said on Sunday, and promises to result in a bleak winter as it continues “raging through the world”.

Dr Anthony Fauci’s warning came before the busy holiday travel period, which he said would elevate the risk of infection even in vaccinated people.

In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases urged Americans to get booster shots and wear masks.

Fauci also appeared to attempt damage control over Kamala Harris’s contention that the Biden administration “didn’t see” the Omicron or Delta variants coming. Harris’s comments on Friday were “taken out of context”, Fauci insisted, and referred to the “extraordinary number of mutations” of Covid-19 rather than any lack of readiness.

  • Doug Ericksen, a staunch conservative Washington state senator and an outspoken critic of Covid-19 pandemic emergency orders, has died aged 52. His death comes weeks after he tested positive for coronavirus, though his cause of death wasn’t immediately released.

  • The US senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have confirmed they have tested positive for Covid-19. Both reported having mild symptoms.

British prime minister under pressure over photo of gathering during lockdown

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is under pressure. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

A photograph of Boris Johnson, his wife and up to 17 staff in the Downing Street garden during the first lockdown shows people “having a drink after a busy set of work meetings” and acting entirely within the rules of the time, the British justice secretary, Dominic Raab, has said.

Raab’s defence of the events of 15 May 2020, shown in a picture shared with the Guardian, appears to differ from the Downing Street version, which stated that the image showed people still taking part in work meetings.

The pictured emerged after a string of reports about similar alleged events in Downing Street and elsewhere during a subsequent lockdown last Christmas, and suggests rules may have been broken over a series of months.

On Friday the Conservative party was dealt a blow when it lost a byelection in a stronghold seat that it had held for all but two of the last 189 years. Johnson has since been put “on notice” by his own party and could be gone within a year unless he cleans up his act, senior aides have said.

  • What were the Covid rules in England on 15 May 2020? Two days before the gathering, lockdown restrictions had been eased to allow two people from different households to meet outdoors and at a distance of at least 2 metres.

In other news …

Chile’s president-elect, Gabriel Boric, waves to supporters
Chile’s president-elect, Gabriel Boric, waves to supporters. Photograph: Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images
  • Gabriel Boric, a leftist former student leader, will become Chile’s youngest president after storming to a resounding victory in a run-off vote against his ultra-conservative far-right opponent, José Antonio Kast. With nearly 97% of the vote counted, the 35-year-old had 55.8% and a lead of 12 percentage points.

  • Joe Manchin dealt a huge blow to Joe Biden yesterday, saying “no” to the $1.75tn Build Back Better domestic spending plan. The White House issued a stinging rebuke to the senator, stoking a bitter war of words in a party sharply divided between moderates and progressives.

  • A group of attorneys and advocates have pledged to seek clemency for 110 Black soldiers who were convicted in a mutiny and riots at a military camp in Houston in 1917. They plan to ask the secretary of the army to posthumously grant honorable discharges and hope to get the men pardoned by Joe Biden.

  • Officers arriving at the scene of a Florida road accident involving an overturned truck were surprised to find that two of the “victims” were large alligators. Officers found them “hanging from the rear window of an SUV lying on its side” The uninjured driver and his passenger, aged 18 and 17, were arrested.

Don’t miss this: the Texas church fighting for abortion rights

A rally at the Texas state capitol in September
A rally at the Texas state capitol in September. Photograph: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

In the late 60s, the burgeoning movement to legalize US abortion state by state found an unlikely yet loyal ally – a contingent of women at the First Unitarian Universalist church in Dallas, Texas. In lieu of knitting sessions and bake sales, the church’s women’s alliance advocated for abortion rights and even had a hand in legally supporting Roe v Wade. The trailblazing women laid the groundwork for today’s growing pro-choice faith community movement in Texas.

… or this: behind the outrageous viral obituary that people are calling ‘a masterpiece’

Andy Corren and his mother, Renay.
Andy Corren and his mother, Renay Photograph: Andy Corren

An unusual item appeared recently in a newspaper in North Carolina: “A plus-sized Jewish lady redneck died in El Paso on Saturday,” the article announced, before careening through 1,000 words of one of the more outrageous obituaries ever written. Renay Mandel Corren, a “bawdy, fertile, redheaded matriarch” and “talented and gregarious grifter”, had “kicked it,” the obituary said. The rollicking, manic tribute delighted in subverting the respectful conventions of the small-town obituary.

Climate check: Scientists watch giant ‘doomsday’ glacier in Antarctica with concern

Satellite view of Antarctica
Satellite view of Antarctica with the Thwaites glacier marked in red. Photograph: UniversalImagesGroup/UIG/Getty Images

Ice scientists meeting in New Orleans have warned that something alarming is brewing on the West Antarctic ice sheet, a vast basin of ice on the Antarctic peninsula. Years of research by teams of British and American researchers found that great cracks and fissures had opened up on top of and underneath the Thwaites glacier, one of the biggest in the world, and it was feared that parts of it may fracture and collapse, possibly within five years or less.

Last Thing: the weirdest news stories of 2021

Shakira, Nicki Minaj, a capybara, a condor and Mark Zuckerberg
The antics of Mark Zuckerberg, Shakira, Californian condors, Argentinian capybaras and Nicki Minaj all made headlines in 2021. Composite: Alamy, Reuters, Twitter

In a year that began with the US Capitol attack, continued with the fall of Afghanistan and is ending with the rapid spread of Omicron, the global news cycle has at times felt overwhelming. But while 2021 has been another fraught year, not all the news has been negative. From Shakira’s boar brawl to Nicki Minaj’s testicle fiasco, here are a few of the funniest and weirdest stories and headlines published this year.

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