WASHINGTON – Vice President-elect Kamala Harris resigned on Monday her seat as a US senator from California, while President-elect Joe Biden helped distribute food in Philadelphia, two days before their inauguration and in activities coinciding with Martin Luther King Day.
Harris formally resigned her Senate seat, which she had held for the past four years, in a letter she sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“Dear Governor Newsom,” Harris wrote. “I hereby resign as Senator from the State of California, effective January 18th, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. EST. As I assume my duties as Vice President of the United States, I would like to thank the people of California for the honor of serving them in the U.S. Senate over the past four years.”
The vice president-elect signed the letter: “Sincerely, Kamala D. Harris – United States Senator.”
On Wednesday, Harris will take the oath of office as the first woman to become a US vice president, a landmark achievement accompanied by the fact that she is also the first African-American and the first person of Asian origin to become vice president.
Harris, who was also the first African American woman to serve as a US senator representing California, won her Senate seat there in November 2016 after having been the state’s attorney general.
Newsom has tapped California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to replace Harris in the Senate, a chamber that the US vice president heads.
Harris will take the oath of office as vice president in a ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington shortly before Biden takes his own oath of office as president.
Meanwhile, Biden spent the national holiday as a volunteer working with an NGO – Philabundance – the largest organization distributing food in Philadelphia.
According to reporters accompanying him, Biden worked loading canned food and bags of rice into boxes for later distribution.
While Harris and Biden were continuing with their scheduled agendas on Monday, a false fire alarm was received near the US Capitol, where in recent days security has been reinforced against a potential attack during the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Capitol Police said that as a precaution in the face of a security threat under the bridge over I-295 and First and F Streets, Southeast, they had ordered the closure of the Capitol complex.
The police went on to say that no fire had been detected on Capitol grounds but recommended that lawmakers and staffers take measures to protect themselves while the incident was being investigated.
In an e-mail sent to lawmakers and published in the US media, the Capitol Police said that no entry or exit to the site would be allowed for the moment, asking everyone to stay away from windows and exterior doorways.
A security official quoted by NBC TV said that the fire was reported to have occurred in a nearby open-air homeless camp.
The District of Columbia Fire Department said in a tweet that it had put out a fire in the 100 block of H Street, in the southeastern part of the city.
Thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed near the Capitol and other parts of downtown Washington for the inauguration after hundreds of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump invaded Congress on Jan. 6 in a violent and chaotic incident that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer.
In addition, traffic has been restricted on many streets in downtown Washington, where barriers and concrete blocks have been set up to help thwart any potential attacks on Inauguration Day.
Regarding Trump, very little information was released about how he was spending Monday.
On Sunday night, the White House said that Trump would be working on Monday “from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings,” the identical wording for his schedule that was posted the day before, although no further clarification or details were provided.
CNN, citing three people familiar with the matter, emphasized that Trump is expected to grant 100 pardons or sentence commutations on Tuesday, his next-to-last day in office, these moves benefiting, among others, a number of people ranging from financial criminals to rappers.
The CNN sources emphasized that it is not expected that Trump will pardon himself as a preventive measure to ward off any federal lawsuits that might be filed against him after he no longer enjoys presidential immunity from prosecution.
Among those who could be granted pardons or commutations are rapper Lil Wayne, who last year pleaded guilty to carrying a firearm when he boarded a private jet in Florida, and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who was arrested last summer for fraud.