Ex-General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt on guiding the company through crisis and why leaders need to be ‘masters of chaos’

jeff immelt
Former GE CEO Jeff Immelt.

  • Jeff Immelt succeeded Jack Welch as the CEO of General Electric just after 9/11.
  • With Welch known as one of the best CEOs in the history of business, Immelt had big shoes to fill.
  • Immelt shared how he overcame challenges and what he would have done differently with The Profile.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jeff Immelt’s first day as CEO at General Electric was on September 10, 2001. The next day, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon shook the world, the financial markets, and GE’s business. The airplanes, one of them powered by GE engines, crashed into the WTC towers, which were insured by GE Capital.

At the time, GE was heavily invested in commercial aviation, insurance, and media – all three of which were rocked by September 11.

“It was the first terrorist event I had ever seen – that most Americans of my generation had ever seen,” Immelt told The Profile. “I think what you learn in a crisis is that good leaders absorb fear. They’re not accelerators of fear – they know how to manage a sense of calm while still being really clear about the challenges ahead.”

And unbeknownst to Immelt at the time, the challenges ahead were many. The terrorist attacks would be the first of a number of crises that Immelt had to grapple with in his time as CEO. He was at the helm of the company through the bursting of the dot com bubble, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the fall of Enron, and the 2008-09 financial crisis.

“You learn to hold two truths,” Immelt said. “You learn to say, ‘Things can always get worse, but here’s a dream that I have for the future, and I’m not going to give up on that.’ You learn how to make decisions even when you don’t know all the facts. In a crisis, you just got to make decisions.”

Read more: Wall Street legend Jim O’Shaughnessy talks Bitcoin, the psychology of stocks, and what young people should know about investing

Unfortunately, many of the decisions that Immelt made in his 16 years at the helm of GE did not pan out in his favor nor were they particularly popular. At one point during his tenure, he characterized his role as CEO in this way: “I feel like I want to vomit all the time.”

“I never felt sorry for myself, but it was just the pressure and the consequences of all the decisions, how little was known,” he said. “That period of time – it was just relentless.”

Immelt succeeded Jack Welch, who was largely considered to be one of the best CEOs in the history of business. He had led GE through two decades of extraordinary corporate prosperity, so when he named Immelt as his successor, the pressure to perform was immense.

Even though Welch was no longer CEO, his legacy loomed. He was regarded by many as the greatest leader of his era by people both inside and outside the company.

During the summer of 2001, Immelt went on a golf trip with his friends before it was publicly announced he was CEO. In the locker room, a member asked him what he did for work, and he simply said, “I work at GE.” The man looked at him and said, “GE, huh? I feel sorry for the poor son of a bitch who’s taking Jack Welch’s place.”

Shareholders blamed Immelt for his inability to turn the company around and for allowing GE to lose $150 billion of market value under his watch. In his new book, “Hot Seat: What I Learned Leading a Great American Company,” Immelt doesn’t make excuses: He takes responsibility for his missteps and lists the thorniest mistakes he regrets making in his time as CEO. They include failing to generate more shareholder value from GE Capital, missing an opportunity to reset the company in the early 2000s, and not developing a deep enough bench of rising leaders.

“It’s a complicated story, and I didn’t want to seem defensive, so I wanted to let the reader be the judge,” he said. “I thought it was important for people to see the totality. That’s why I decided to write the book.”

In this conversation, Immelt shares what he’s learned about leading in crisis, how he’s taken responsibility for the consequences of his decisions, and why he believes the next generation of founders and CEOs need to be masters of chaos.

(Below is an excerpt of the interview, but I encourage you to listen and watch the full interview here)



Just to paint the picture here: Your predecessor Jack Welch was largely considered to be the best CEO in history.

IMMELT: Fortune magazine had named him the best manager of the previous century in the year 2000. That’s a pretty tough act to follow, but he was just very well known. He was a celebrity CEO – kind of like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos all wrapped up into one. He had done a good job, and he’d done it for a long time. He was very charismatic, and so that was a pretty daunting task. That was the person whose shoes I was stepping into. That was my task in 2001.

When you were offered the job as CEO, did you ever think, “Those are really big shoes to fill. Maybe I’m not the right person for this?”

You know, I was a realist. There was no way not to think that his image would cast a shadow. That’s just the real world. But I never really wanted to be him. I was a very different person, and I felt like that the job that the company needed was going to be different, and you have to make a choice of how much to honor the past versus how much to push forward.

So when I was at GE, I was never critical of him for over really 16 years, but I always wanted to do things my way and work on things I felt were gaps inside the company. You just have to be really comfortable with that judgment without dwelling on it for too long.

I was in Tokyo in 2014, and I was being interviewed in front of 2,000 people by the Nikkei press. We were in the green room, and the person interviewing me says, “What was it like following Jack Welch?” And I was like, “I’ve been asked that question in 100 languages, 30,000 times over the last few years.” We kind of laughed about it, so we go out on stage, and the first question was, “What was it like following Jack Welch?” So you just get used to making it part of your repertoire even though I never really carried it as a burden in terms of what I thought was important to the company.

What was your relationship to Welch when you became CEO?

I had immense respect for Jack, but when someone’s that powerful inside the company, it’s hard to have a mentorship relationship. I had other mentors, but not him. We had about eight months of overlap where I got a chance to ask him a ton of questions, and he was very helpful then. And then I think over the first four or five years, we had a good relationship, but I think the financial crisis kind of changed the nature of our relationship and made it a little more difficult.

Even through the arc of my career, every tough problem I ever encountered, I would ask his opinion – even when I didn’t really like him that much or when he didn’t really like me that much. I would always ask him for his opinion because he had great judgment, and he knew the company. We both cared about the company in different ways.

From the outside, things looked great. Under Welch, GE had been the most valuable company on earth for a period of time. Can you discuss the reality of the business that you inherited?

The business model was kind of an old-line industrial company that generated a lot of cash. That cash would go to a financial service company. We had a 50% stale industrial company, and 50% financial.

The perception didn’t quite match reality. We understood that as we were taking over, and I had conversations with the board. And that’s what we said about re-investing in the industrial company to try and rejuvenate the business while still growing financial services. That’s the decision we made. That’s one of the challenges that every leader runs into – it’s how do you match perception with reality?

Looking back now, do you wish you had been more clear and transparent about the reality of the business at the time?

There was a window of time after 9/11 when I think people after a crisis have a chance to reset their companies and their narrative. There was probably a window at that time when I had a chance to kind of reset: lower earnings, less financial services, and a really clear path of how much our industrial businesses needed to be invested in in order to get them positioned for the 21st century.

It’s a long-winded way to answer your question, but the answer is yes. There was a window. I do look back on that as something I wish I had done.

The 2008 financial crisis shook GE to the core. You had missed your earning numbers three weeks after you promised to hit them. And then Welch went on CNBC, where he said that if you missed earnings again, he would “be shocked beyond belief, and get a gun out and shoot you.” What was your reaction in that moment and how did you handle that?

Yeah, I was really hurt because, in 2008, I had very carefully never looked backward or pointed a finger at him. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing, there are like five moments in your life when you just need a friend. You screwed up, you know you screwed up, and you need somebody to give you their hand and not smack your butt. And he chose to smack my butt, not give me his hand – and you remember that.

I never thought it would be a good thing for the company to see us bickering in public, so I never did that, but we had a very direct, private conversation. It was a line of demarcation in our relationship for sure. Even after that, when I had a really tough decision to make, I always called him – even when we weren’t friends. I thought he had a good perspective that I could learn from and listen to.

Let’s be clear – I knew I goofed up. I knew that, but I was trying to recover, and I needed a friend. I just needed a hand. And what he did was just the opposite of that. He made a two- to three-day story become a one-month story. It was unnecessary roughness.

In your time as CEO, it was crisis after crisis after crisis and a lot of turbulence in your professional life. How did you manage to have a solid personal life?

I’ve always been good at compartmentalizing. I’ve always been good at focusing on staying in the moment to focusing on what needs to happen and trying to separate that from other things that I’m working on.

The fact of the matter is that I have a really great wife and a great daughter. And they were always really unaffected by what I was doing. Clearly, they read things and heard things, but they were always into the person and not the business person. That was a blessing.

There were days when hundreds of thousands of people hated me, but one person loved me, and that was enough to keep persevering into the future.

Shares plunged nearly 30% since you took over the company. How do you respond to the people and the shareholders who feel genuinely angry at you for the decisions you made as CEO?

Look, the share price is important. It was $38 when I started as CEO, and it was $30 when I left. I understand that. I completely understand that, and I don’t run from that.

What I try to point out is that we generated almost $300 billion of cash and earnings over those 16 years. We had great businesses. We generated good leaders. In other words, the team really worked hard through different crises and did their best. That’s the best I can offer – a more complete story of what happened.

In the book, you have a section in which you list several of the thorniest mistakes you believe you made during your time at GE. Can you share the one mistake you regret the most?

We had good leaders, many of which are CEOs of companies today, but we ran the company for efficiency. We had eight big P&Ls. Having lived in Silicon Valley for a period of time, what I would’ve done differently is run the company with 100 P&Ls to give leaders more focus, accountability, and to make them more innovative earlier on.

A question from a Profile reader: “Although Jeff takes public responsibility for the overall volatility during his tenure at GE, if given the chance to do it over, what 3 things would he have done differently?”

I would’ve simplified the company even further, faster. I would’ve shed more businesses and doubled down. I would’ve made the company deeper. I would’ve actually driven the digital initiative even harder. I would’ve been even more determined and more dogmatic in that regard.

In this uncertain world we live in, you advise a lot of young founders in your capacity as a venture partner at NEA. How do you advise them to learn to become masters of chaos?

There’s this notion of holding two truths at the same time. Knowing that the world is unfair, that it’s really tough, and that just when you think things can’t get worse, they can. You also need to keep your head up and know that the best opportunities may come your way during COVID, or after 9/11, or during the financial crisis. What every young leader can do is understand that you can hold two truths at the same time. You must hold two truths at the same time. But only a select few can do that.

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Biden says it’s ‘time to end America’s longest war’ as he reveals plans to bring US troops home from Afghanistan

US President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

  • Biden officially announced plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan after two decades of war.
  • “It is time to end America’s longest war,” he said on Wednesday.
  • All American troops could be out of Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday officially announced his plans to end America’s longest war and bring US troops home from Afghanistan.

“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan,” Biden said, stressing that he “will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”

The president said that “we went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago,” adding that this tragedy “cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021.”

“We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives. Bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is degraded in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “It is time to end the forever war.”

The Biden administration plans to have all US forces out of the country by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack that led the US to war in 2001, a senior official said on Tuesday. The full withdrawal is expected to begin on May 1.

Official estimates put the number of US troops in Afghanistan at 2,500, though the number may be slightly higher, and there are another 7,000 NATO troops in the country. NATO is expected to withdraw its forces in coordination with the US.

As of the end of last year, American military operations in Afghanistan had cost $824.9 billion, the Pentagon estimated. The overall cost of the war has been substantially higher. More than 2,400 US troops have been killed in Afghanistan, and over 20,000 have been wounded in action.

“Regardless of how the war ends, their sacrifice has not been diminished one bit,” retired US Navy Adm. William McRaven, the former Navy SEAL who led the Osama bin Laden raid in 2011, said on Wednesday.

Concerns have been raised that with the end of US military support, the Taliban may seize the opportunity to undo the efforts of the past two decades. The US intelligence community argued in a new report released on Tuesday that “the Afghan Government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.”

Biden stated on Wednesday that “while we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.” He added that “we will continue to support the government of Afghanistan” and “keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.”

“They continue to fight valiantly on behalf of their country and defend the Afghans at great cost,” Biden said. Tens of thousands of Afghan troops have been killed in conflict with the Taliban.

One driving factor behind the decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan is shifting priorities, especially as the US shifts its focus to growing threats from Russia and China.

“Afghanistan just does not rise to the level of those other threats at this point,” a person familiar with the administration’s withdrawal plans told The Washington Post on Tuesday, adding that the US would “remain committed diplomatically” in Afghanistan.

Biden has determined “that the best path forward to advance American interests is to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years so that we can address the global threat picture as it exists today, not as it was two decades ago,” the official said.

Biden explained on Wednesday that “we have to focus on the challenges that are in front of us.”

One important question hanging over the withdrawal decision is how the Taliban will react, especially considering that a September withdrawal date is past the May 1 date agreed to by the Trump administration.

The Taliban said on Wednesday that it wants all foreign military personnel out of Afghanistan “on the date specified” in the agreement. It added, “If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded.” The insurgent force said that those who “failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable.”

A senior official said on Tuesday that the US has “told the Taliban in no uncertain terms that any attacks on US troops as we undergo a safe and orderly withdrawal will be met with a forceful response.”

Biden said he made the decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan in consultation with members of Congress, his vice president, US military leaders, intelligence officials, diplomatic professionals, and experts, as well as US allies and partners.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday, “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan respects the US decision and we will work with our US partners to ensure a smooth transition,” adding that “Afghanistan’s proud security and defense forces are fully capable of defending its people and country.”

He said that he has spoken with Biden and that his government will continue to work with the US and NATO as the country pursues a peaceful resolution to conflict.

The Biden administration’s decision has had mixed reviews in Congress, ranging from support to concerns about the unconditional nature of the withdrawal.

“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” Biden said on Wednesday. “It is time to end America’s longest war. It is time for American troops to come home.”

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Andrew Cuomo’s ‘hero’ rise and fall is a lot like Rudy Giuliani’s


Rudy Giuliani Andrew Cuomo
Rudy Giuliani/Andrew Cuomo

  • Andrew Cuomo, like Rudy Giuliani after 9/11, was a nationally-acclaimed “hero.”
  • But after a series of revelations and disastrous pressers, the bloom is off Cuomo’s rose. 
  • Both men sullied their reputations simply by being themselves — arrogant, bullying, and unaccountable.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Andrew Cuomo and Rudy Giuliani have more in common than they’d probably care to admit. 

The Italian-American heritage, the outer-borough New York City roots, and the way they both parlayed their legal backgrounds into elected executive positions are among the more obvious comparisons. 

Cuomo and Giuliani also followed similar paths to nationally-acclaimed “hero” status.

And both men soon sullied their ascendant reputations simply by revealing the disagreeable, narcissistic tendencies that were there all along. 

Like Cuomo, Rudy was once briefly considered a national “hero” 

Rudy Giuliani was always a media heat-seeking missile, going back to his days as a crusading federal prosecutor taking on the New York mafia. 

He rode that “tough on crime” persona to two terms as mayor at a time when New York City was emerging from decades of mismanagement, high crime rates, and blight. 

Giuliani was the face of the city’s turnaround, but he was also the same face that presided over a New York Police Department rife with allegations of systemic abuse. And he was the “no-fun” mayor who enforced archaic “cabaret laws” that criminalized dancing. He was also a would-be censor for his efforts to shut down the Brooklyn Museum over an art exhibition that offended him

When New York magazine ran an ad mocking declaring the publication “‘possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn’t taken credit for,” Giuliani tried to have the ads removed

As the end of his second term approached, New York was clearly ready to move on from Giuliani. 

Then 9/11 happened. 

It’s hard for people under the age of 30 to believe, but I swear it’s true: Rudy Giuliani deserves the credit he got for being “America’s Mayor” on 9/11 and the immediate weeks thereafter. 

Giuliani was in the shadows of the twin towers when they came crashing down. 

He emerged as a picture of calm, steady, authoritative leadership. He helped tamp down on panic by refuting unfounded rumors. He demonstrated empathy for the loved ones of “the missing” – while grieving for many of his own friends. 

As an unflappable conduit of information to a traumatized nation, and later as “mourner-in-chief,” Giuliani presented an image of stoic resilience.  

Read more: New York City as we knew it is dead. Long live New York.

But over time the bloom came off his rose, and his tenure as mayor received overdue scrutiny that dented his overstated reputation as the guy who “saved” New York.  

And thanks to his years of service as Trump’s legal surrogate, Giuliani’s become a central figure in two impeachments. He also bears the shame of propagating baseless election fraud conspiracy theories that have poisoned the brains of millions of voters. 

Ultimately, the image of Giuliani’s bug-eyed head-melting press conference will probably outlive the image of him marching up Broadway covered in dust on 9/11.

Cuomo reveals the real Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo was never as divisive a figure as Giuliani, but he has developed a reputation for being personally disagreeable, vindictive, and autocratic. 

All of that receded into distant memory at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

With then-President Donald Trump spreading dangerous misinformation, the New York  governor’s daily press conferences became a national balm. 

Like Giuliani post-9/11, Cuomo presented as a thoughtful leader, tamping down on rumors and false information, while also not condescending to the public. When relaying the horrifically tragic death tolls, he gave it to you straight, no filter.

Cuomo filled the leadership void, and for that he was feted across the talk show and nightly news show circuits. He hopped on planes for a “victory” tour. And he wrote a book about “leadership” during the COVID pandemic. 

There was speculation that Cuomo might replace Joe Biden atop the Democratic presidential ticket. Cuomo’s press conferences earned him an Emmy award. And “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah declared himself a “Cuomosexual.”  

Like Giuliani 19 years prior, Cuomo was on top of the world. 

So confident in his own greatness was Cuomo that he blithely dismissed calls for an independent investigation into his administration’s order that nursing homes accept COVID-positive patients as dirty Republican trickery. For months Cuomo was able to maintain this posture to little media scrutiny, even though many Democrats demanded greater transparency from the governor.  

But then last week a bombshell report from New York’s attorney general Letitia James revealed that the state had been deliberately undercounting its COVID nursing home deaths, by approximately 50%. 

And on Wednesday, a state Supreme Court justice ruled the Cuomo administration’s Department of Health inappropriately stonewalled a Freedom of Information Law request into the state’s data regarding COVID nursing home deaths. As a result, New York state taxpayers will have to pay the complainant’s legal bills. 

Cuomo, put simply, had finally been revealed as a liar and the worst kind of “leader,” one who couldn’t even acknowledge he had made a mistake.  

Read more: Cuomo lied, and now we know it

Take Cuomo’s handling of bars and restaurants during the pandemic. 

These are typically small businesses that turn just-modest profits even during boom times. They’re also often the lifeblood of communities. But at every turn Cuomo has shown a clumsy indifference to actually helping people. 

The governor arbitrarily added minimum food requirements for any establishment serving alcohol, then ordered strict crackdowns to enforce them. 

Similarly, he abruptly shut down indoor dining in New York City in December because of rising COVID rates, but now says they will reopen on Valentine’s Day, even though COVID hospitalization rates are currently about 60% higher than they were in December. 

When asked by a reporter if restaurant workers could be added to the new list of vaccine-eligible occupations, Cuomo dismissed it as “a cheap, insincere, discussion.” 

A day later, he did an about-face and said he’d allow restaurant workers to join the ranks of the vaccinated. 

And this week, The New York Times reported that nine top New York health officials had resigned as Cuomo “has all but declared war on his own public health bureaucracy.” The result has been a horribly botched vaccination rollout and morale “at an all-time low” among the state’s health agencies. 

Cuomo’s press conferences – much like Rudy Giuliani’s – are now more likely to be mocked than lauded, as he grows more comfortable revealing his arrogance, mean-spiritedness, and indifference to people suffering as a result of his own governance.

Giuliani and Cuomo both rose to national hero status despite spotty reputations and let the adulation go to their heads. And both have since sullied those reputations, simply by being themselves. 

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Mitch McConnell says conspiracy theories are a ‘cancer for the Republican Party’

GettyImages 1206480678
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said conspiracy theorists were a “cancer for the Republican Party.”

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “loony lies and conspiracy theories” are a “cancer” on his party.
  • The statement, first reported by The Hill, appears to be in reference to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
  • McConnell said conspiracy theorists like her are “not living in reality.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, has suggested that school shootings are “false flags” and that 9/11 was an inside job, while expressing support for executing top Democrats. But until Monday, leading members of her party had refused to explicitly condemn her – House Republicans, instead, appointed to her to a committee that oversees education policy.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, is expressing disgust. In a statement first reported by The Hill, the Kentucky Republican called the embrace of conspiracy theories a “cancer for the Republican Party.”

McConnell fell short of calling for anyone to be expelled from Congress, with members of his Senate caucus having themselves embraced false claims of election fraud that helped stoke a riot at the US Capitol. But he did go further than most of his fellow Republicans.

“Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” McConnell said, as reported by The Hill. “This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”

A spokesperson for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrats have been even more forceful in their condemnations. Last month, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, a progressive from California, introduced a measure calling for Greene to be expelled from Congress.

The parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting have also said Greene should not have a role in shaping the country’s education policy.

On Monday, Democratic leaders gave their Republican counterparts an ultimatum: strip Greene of her committee assignments in the next 72 hours, or Democrats will do it themselves.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has said that he plans to have “a conversation” with the lawmaker.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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There will be more US troops in DC for Biden’s inauguration than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, a stark reminder of the danger of homegrown extremism

National Guard
The National Guard is ramping up its presence in Washington, DC, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration following the Capitol siege on January 6.

  • In the wake of the Capitol siege on January 6, security is being ramped up in the nation’s capital. 
  • There will be up to 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington, DC, for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
  • The US military footprint in DC for Biden’s inauguration will be greater than the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. 
  • The increased troop presence in DC is a stark reminder of the rising threat of domestic terrorism, and the fact that it outweighs the dangers of foreign extremism to the US. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US military will have a larger footprint in the nation’s capital by this weekend than the total number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. 

There will be up to 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington, DC, for President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration. Comparatively, as of January 15 there were roughly 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively (about 5,000 total).

For context, there are roughly 54,000 US military personnel in Japan – the largest number of American troops in any foreign country. 

There are major concerns about security for inauguration following the pro-Trump Capitol siege on January 6, which led to five deaths and sent shockwaves through the nation.

The fact there will be more troops in DC than the two countries that have in many ways been the primary battlegrounds of the US government’s global war on terror is a stark reminder that homegrown extremism poses a greater threat to the US than foreign terrorism.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
President Donald Trump makes an unannounced visit to U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan

In the post-9/11 world, the US government has overwhelmingly treated terrorism abroad as the greatest threat to the homeland, but the country is seemingly shifting in a new direction. 

In October, the Department of Homeland Security released a report warning that violent white supremacy would remain the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.”

“Foreign terrorist organizations will continue to call for Homeland attacks but probably will remain constrained in their ability to direct such plots over the next year,” the report added.

Law enforcement in the US has increasingly taken this tone in recent years, particularly in the wake of the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. 

“A majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacy, but it includes other things as well,” FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said to Congress in July 2019.

Similarly, Wray in September 2020 told Congress that “racially motivated violent extremism,” primarily from white supremacists, accounted for the biggest chunk of domestic terror threats.  

And when it comes to jihadism, the threat has also been disproportionately domestic in nature in the years since the 9/11 attacks. As the New America think tank puts it: “Far from being foreign infiltrators, the large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents.”

The events of January 6, which Biden as well as many congressional lawmakers and experts have described as domestic terrorism, could mark an inflection point in terms of how the US approaches extremism.

A mostly white, pro-Trump mob filled with members or sympathizers of far-right extremist groups stormed the US Capitol with apparent intentions of doing harm to lawmakers and even Vice President Mike Pence. It represented a direct assault on American democracy and an unprecedented event in US history.

Congressional lawmakers are now calling for the US to treat domestic terrorism as an existential threat to the country and its political system. 

“The post 9/11 era is over. The single greatest national security threat right now is our internal division. The threat of domestic terrorism. The polarization that threatens our democracy. If we don’t reconnect our two Americas, the threats will not have to come from the outside,” Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official, said via Twitter following the Capitol siege. 

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AT&T service is down in some areas following a car explosion, impacting some 911 lines

Nashville Explosion
Plumes of smoke rise next to the Regions Building near the explosion reported in the area on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning

AT&T users near Nashville are currently experiencing some outages after facilities were damaged in a car explosion.

Early Christmas morning, a large explosion in Nashville’s downtown sent at last three people to the hospital and damaged nearby buildings. Authorities believe that the explosion was “an intentional act,” according to CNN.

Don Aaron, a spokesperson with the Metro Nashville Police Department, also told CNN that there was a “significant damage” to infrastructure in the area.

The car exploded in front of an AT&T transmission building in Nashville, according to a press release from the FBI and local authorities. AT&T users are now experiencing phone and internet outages in some areas near Nashville. DownDetector shows that Nashville, Atlanta, and Chattanooga are among the areas with the most outage reports.

“Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning. We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service,” Jim Greer, AVP for AT&T corporate communications, wrote in a statement to Insider.

Those outages are hitting some 911 emergency lines. In Tennessee, the Murfreesboro police department tweeted that “Murfreesboro’s 911 lines, and non-emergency lines, are currently down.”

Police in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, also tweeted out that their “911 and Non-Emergency Lines are down, which is likely related to a widespread outage on 12/25/2020 caused by the Downtown Nashville explosion.”

The police department in La Vergne, Tennessee also said that their emergency lines were down due to the outage.

The Tennessean has been keeping a list of impacted areas and alternate numbers.

It’s still unclear if anyone was inside the car at the time of the explosion. The Tennessean reported that the blast could be heard miles away. The FBI and local authorities have said that they are investigating the incident and had restricted vehicle and pedestrian travel in the area.

Prior to the explosion, the RV reportedly issued a warning to those in the area, the Tennessean reported. It began a 15-minute countdown after proclaiming: “Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode.” 

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Daily COVID-19 death toll in the US passes 3,000 – more than the death toll from the 9/11 tragedy

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  • According to the COVID Tracking Project, on Wednesday the US recorded its highest COVID-19 daily death toll to date, with 3,054 recorded deaths.
  • The staggering number of deaths surpasses the death toll across New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania on 9/11 when a series of terrorist attacks killed 2,977 people.

As states are registering peak numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases, and deaths, a macabre record has been passed: On Wednesday, the US’ reported daily COVID-19 deaths surpassed the number of people who died on 9/11.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, US states registered 211,027 new cases and recorded an all-time high of 102,888 new COVID-19 patients hospitalized.

There were 3,054 reported deaths related to COVID-19, which is the US’ highest single-day total to date.

An analysis by CNN, taking into account the four separate attacks on 9/11, found that 2,977 people were killed on the day. 

On Wednesday, the 7-day average for COVID-19 deaths is also at an all-time high as deaths continue to rise. Today’s toll breaks the previous single-day record for COVID-19 related deaths, which was on May 7, at 2,769 deaths.

As states initially lagged with reporting due to the Thanksgiving holiday, cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are continuing to rise, with public health experts warning that through the holiday season and winter, the US could continue to see death tolls higher than 3,000 per day.


Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told CBS News’ “Face The Nation” last week that he believes, “We’re going to see consistently probably 2,000 deaths per day and as we get into January toward the peak, we’re going to see over 3,000 deaths per day, unfortunately, and maybe get close to 4,000 deaths per day.”

Several experts who spoke to Newsweek last week echoed the same sentiment. Dr. Peter Drobac, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Oxford, said, “We might be experiencing 9/11 a day by Christmas.” 

Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and director of a COVID-19 Modeling Consortium used the CDC, told Newsweek that they are projecting that with a Thanksgiving spike, between 1,500 to over 3,000 people will die from COVID-19 each day for the rest of the year. 

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