By LIBBY CATHEY, JACK ARNHOLZ, LAUREN KING, MICHELLE STODDART and CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — This is Day 10 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:
Jan 29, 5:32 pm
White House ASL interpreter under scrutiny
The background of an American Sign Language interpreter who appeared during a White House press briefing Monday is raising questions about the Biden administration’s vetting process.
Members of the deaf community identified Heather Mewshaw on social media posts Monday, highlighting her previous work interpreting right-wing videos. She is also an organizer of Hands of Liberty, a group that provides ASL interpretation for right-wing videos, many of which contain misinformation.
While no public complaints have been made about Mewshaw’s interpretation of Monday’s briefing, questions arose among the deaf community about whether Mewshaw could be trusted to accurately convey the Biden administration’s message, given her apparent political bias.
Mewshaw did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News on Friday, nor did the White House. She has not interpreted for a White House briefing since Monday.
-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky and Ben Gittleson
Jan 29, 4:10 pm
Biden recalls late son Beau’s last days during Walter Reed visit
As Biden visited the Walter Reed Military Medical Center to meet with wounded service members on Friday, the president reflected on the time he spent at the same hospital with his late son, Beau Biden.
“You’ve been a great gift to my family,” Biden said to staff members, including the hospital’s director, Col. Andrew Barr.
“My son, Beau, after a year in Iraq came back with stage four glioblastoma,” he added. “You took care of him in his final days with great grace and dignity.”
The president went on to speak about his experiences at the “old” Walter Reed and how much he loved the nurses.
Biden also received a tour of the COVID-19 vaccination site at the hospital, which currently has 20 vaccination stations set up.
The president walked from station to station and briefly chatted with people along the way.
At the final station, Biden thanked the workers and chatted with one service member about to receive his first dose of the vaccine.
“Thanks for what you’re doing. I really mean it,” the president said. “You’re making a big difference. We’re going to make sure that everybody has enough. We’re going to get the supply up.”
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle
Jan 29, 2:30 pm
Biden says no ‘ifs, ands or buts’ for COVID-19 relief bill before departing for Walter Reed
Biden left for Walter Reed Military Medical Center Friday to visit wounded service members.
The president took his first trip on Marine One to visit Walter Reed and briefly took questions from reporters before he boarded the chopper.
Biden said that he was going to Walter Reed meet with service members there, as well as look at their vaccination distribution plan. He noted that he spent quite a bit of time at Walter Reed for his own treatment.
Biden also spoke of his economic rescue package, saying that he supports passing it “with support from Republicans if we can get it.”
“But COVID relief has to pass,” he added. “No ifs, ands, or buts.”
The comments are the first from Biden opening the door to passing the measure however Democrats can, despite his preference for working with Republicans.
Biden departed the Oval Office with his wife, Jill Biden, and walked hand-in-hand with her before they both lowered their masks and share a quick kiss before he departed.
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle
Jan 29, 12:51 pm
Biden names Rob Malley special envoy for Iran
The State Department has confirmed that Rob Malley will return as the Biden administration’s Special Envoy for Iran. Malley served in the Obama and Clinton administrations, including as a key architect of Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
That’s exactly why some GOP members advocated against his appointment, which 12 former Iranian hostages and human rights activists said, “would send a chilling signal to the dictatorship in Iran that the United States is solely focused on re-entering the Iran nuclear deal and ignoring its regional terror and domestic crimes against humanity.”
The State Department is pushing back on that, saying Malley will lead “a dedicated team, drawing from clear-eyed experts with a diversity of views,” and bring “a track record of success negotiating constraints on Iran’s nuclear program,” according to spokesperson Ned Price.
Jan 29, 12:30 pm
Biden reacts to new vaccine, urges economic action
During brief remarks Friday, Biden shared his first reaction to news of Johnson & Johnson’s new COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m waiting to hear from my team on the details,” the president said. “I saw it was reported on the news this morning.”
“I haven’t had a chance to speak with Dr. Fauci,” he added.
His comments came after a meeting to discuss the economy with his Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Biden claimed that economists left, right, and center agree this is a unique moment in the crisis as he touted his economic rescue package.
“The cost of inaction is high, and it’s growing every day,” Biden said. “The choice couldn’t be clearer. We have learned from past crises, the risk is not doing too much. The risk is not doing enough.”
The president emphasized that his plan will actually grow the economy — in apparent response to GOP arguments that the minimum wage increases could hurt small businesses or that increasing the national debt could hamper the economy in the future.
“Let’s get this straight — it’s not only that people will be badly, badly hurt if we don’t pass this package, not only in terms of increased death, in terms of poverty, a whole range of things. But, we will also be hurt long-term economically,” he said. “We need to make these investments so the economy can grow the remainder of this year and next year.”
Yellen added what is becoming a common refrain for her, saying that, “The price of doing nothing is much higher than the price of doing something, and doing something big.”
“The benefits of acting big will far outweigh the costs in the long run,” Yellen added.
Jan 29, 12:30 pm
Immigration task force, executive actions delayed by Mayorkas’ confirmation holds
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Friday that Biden is planning to launch a task force dedicated to migrant family reunification on Tuesday, which will be led by incoming Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Psaki blamed the delay of Biden’s planned immigration actions from late this week to early next week on Senate Republicans’ efforts to block Mayorkas’s confirmation.
“We had planned to do it this week because we had hoped that Ali Mayorkas would be confirmed by the end of this, but because of the filibuster of his nomination, we expect him to be confirmed on Monday evening and the president will sign it on Tuesday and then secretary Mayorkas will be overseeing that moving forward,” Psaki said during her press briefing Friday.
In addition, Psaki confirmed reports that First Lady Jill Biden will be personally involved in the family reunification efforts.
Jan 29, 11:06 am
Psaki says Biden ‘encouraged’ by Johnson & Johnson vaccine news
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki shared Biden’s reaction to headlines this morning that Johnson & Johnson said its vaccine is 85% effective against severe COVID-19 disease.
“The president is encouraged by positive data on a potential new vaccine,” Psaki said. “He also knows that this is just new data and now is the time for the FDA to do its job of evaluating the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.”
NEW: WH Press Sec. Jen Psaki says Pres. Biden is “encouraged” by Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine data, adding: “He also know that this is just new data and now is the time for the FDA to do its job of evaluating the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.” https://t.co/KtvihSOIaa pic.twitter.com/8h2XAH8m3i
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 29, 2021
In the wide-ranging briefing, Psaki also took multiple questions about the controversy surrounding GameStop stock that upended Wall Street and drew swift reactions from lawmakers this week.
“I know the SEC issued a new statement earlier this morning,” she said. “I’d certainly point you to that and others to that.”
“We of course respect the role of regulatory agencies, they are closely monitoring the situation, but it’s under their purview at this point in time,” she added.
Psaki distanced the White House from the saga, adding, that “part of our education can be conveying to people that the SEC is the regulatory body that would oversee this and can speak to it further.”
Jan 29, 9:18 am
Biden to visit wounded service members at Walter Reed
President Joe Biden ends a busy week with a visit to wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday.
The afternoon visit will also mark the first time the new president will ride Marine One, and it’s unclear whether he will stop to take questions from reporters the way his predecessor did before boarding the chopper on the White House South Lawn.
Earlier Friday, Biden and Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at the Oval Office as well as an economic briefing with the new Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Biden is not expected to sign any new executive orders Friday, though he has been churning them out since he entered office.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold a briefing this morning at 10 a.m. ET.
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