By LIBBY CATHEY, JACK ARNHOLZ, LAUREN KING, MICHELLE STODDART, CATHERINE THORBECKE AND TIA HUMPHRIES, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — This is Day 12 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:
Jan 31, 9:30 pm
Biden withdraws Trump freeze to some government program funding
President Joe Biden is again undoing actions undertaken by the Trump administration. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sunday, Biden announced he was withdrawing 73 proposed rescissions previously sent to Congress by former President Donald Trump on Jan. 14.
The action would unfreeze $27.4 billion in cuts to previously approved funding for government programming.
“The withdrawals are for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the Interior, Justice, Labor, State, and the Treasury, as well as the African Development Foundation, the Commission of Fine Arts, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the District of Columbia, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Inter-American Foundation, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, the Peace Corps, the Presidio Trust, the United States Agency for International Development, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Legislative Branch,” according to a statement from the Biden administration.
Jan 31, 6:44 pm
Trump announces new impeachment legal team
A day after all five of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment legal team quit, a new team has been selected.
Trial lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor, Jr. will lead his impeachment defense team, according to a statement from Trump Sunday.
“It is an honor to represent the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, and the United States Constitution,” Schoen said in a statement.
“I consider it a privilege to represent the 45th President. The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history. It is strong and resilient,” Castor added. “A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always.”
Trump’s former team, which was led by South Carolina lawyer Butch Bowers, resigned in part because of disagreements over how to mount Trump’s defense, sources told ABC News. The lawyers had planned to argue the constitutionality of holding a trial given Trump is now a former president.
The Senate trial is scheduled to begin on the week of Feb. 8.
Jan 31, 4:38 pm
‘We may end up seeing a president eating his words’ on bipartisan COVID-19 bill: Vega
Unity was the focus of Biden’s campaign, but absent gaining even one Republican vote for his coronavirus relief package, what does that mean going forward, ABC’s This Week Co-anchor Martha Raddatz asked Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega.
“It’s something we’ve heard almost every day since he’s been in office for the last few days. He said that there would be this epiphany by Republicans if Donald Trump left. He also, on a conference call, told supporters at one point that he would — could end up eating his words but that he believed Republicans essentially would come around,” Vega said Sunday. “Martha, we may end up seeing the president eating his words on this.”
“The Biden team is at a crossroads right now. They’ve got to decide whether it is bipartisanship and unity that prevails or whether they’re going to potentially go at it alone and just forego this effort of unity,” Vega continued. “It is looking more and more like they’re going to end up going at it alone.”
Jan 31, 12:24 pm
Do Democrats have a shot at flipping retiring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s seat?
Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman’s decision to retire opened a major new battleground in the fight for Senate control in 2022. But after former President Donald Trump easily carried the buckeye state last November, do Democrats have a shot at flipping the seat?
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver gave ABC’s “This Week” an early forecast.
“Democrats have a chance, it’s just not a very good chance … it probably depends on the GOP having a really weak candidate or Democrats, a very strong one,” he said Sunday.
Jan 31, 7:14 am
Sunday on ‘This Week’: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Gov. Jim Justice, Sen. Joe Manchin
With logistical plans hampering vaccine rollout across the country, Martha Raddatz travels to West Virginia to speak with Governor Jim Justice and Senator Joe Manchin about the state’s successful vaccination launch.
Dr. Richard Besser and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson will also respond to reports of new COVID variants reaching the U.S.
Plus, as Democrats push forward on President Biden’s COVID relief bill, Martha Raddatz will go one-on-one with Sen. Bernie Sanders to discuss the prospects for bipartisan compromise, and the Powerhouse Roundtable breaks down Donald Trump’s influence on the future of the Republican Party.
Jan 30, 11:24 pm
Trump parts ways with top impeachment lawyer
President Donald Trump is parting ways with the lawyer who was supposed to anchor his impeachment trial — beginning in just a little over a week, sources told ABC News.
The former president will no longer be working with South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers and his associates, including Deborah Barbier. A source close to the former president described the change as a “mutual decision” between the parties. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who urged Bowers to take the case, had told his Senate GOP colleagues Jan. 21 that Bowers would be representing Trump.
“The Democrats’ efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country. In fact, 45 Senators have already voted that it is unconstitutional. We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly,” Jason Miller, a spokesperson for Trump, told ABC News Saturday.
It’s not clear who will be representing Trump, with several options now off the table.
Trump’s former top lawyer, Jay Sekulow, who represented him at his first impeachment trial, will not be taking part in this trial. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, also said he will not be representing the former president after appearing at the same rally that preceded the siege on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The Senate trial is scheduled to start on Feb. 9. Regardless of who represents Trump, not enough GOP senators have shown an inclination to convict him.
Read more about the tumult in Trump’s impeachment legal team here.
-ABC News’ John Santucci
Jan 30, 4:28 pm
Another quiet Saturday at the White House
It’s the second Saturday of the Biden administration, and things are again quiet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Biden does not have any public events on his schedule this weekend and does not include any mention of the work he may be doing behind the scenes amid the negotiations over his COVID-19 rescue package.
Biden’s Saturday schedule last week included that he would be meeting with his advisers in the Oval Office despite that meeting being closed to the press.
It’s not unusual for Biden’s weekends to be on the quiet side. Outside a few Saturday events toward the end of the transition or outings to go to Mass, Biden focused most of his public schedule on the traditional workweek. Still, in the midst of the pandemic and negotiations over the nearly $2 trillion proposed rescue package, it’s notable how low a profile the new administration is keeping on the weekend.
Biden’s White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain did give a short overview of the White House agenda Saturday, responding to a tweet from Sen. Amy Klobuchar expressing the odd feeling of waking up on a Saturday and not having to contend with a tweet from President Trump.
“Quick tweet to say we’re working at the WH today on next steps in the COVID response, making sure we’re ready for the winter storm, and advancing the American Rescue Package,” Klain tweeted in response.
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle
Jan 30, 3:02 pm
South Carolina GOP votes to censure Rep. Tom Rice
The South Carolina GOP voted on Saturday to censure Rep. Tom Rice, one of the 10 Republicans who supported impeaching Trump — formally rebuking one of their own in another sign that Trump continues to hold significant sway over the Republican Party.
The move, although symbolic, was approved by 43 members of the executive committee, with two abstaining and none voting against it.
“Congressman Rice’s vote unfortunately played right into the Democrats’ game, and the people in his district, and ultimately our State Executive Committee, wanted him to know they wholeheartedly disagree with his decision,” Drew McKissick, the chair of the state party, said in a statement.
Rice represents the 7th Congressional District, which stretches from the border with North Carolina to Myrtle Beach and backed Trump by nearly 20 points in the 2020 election.
After the impeachment vote, McKissick said he was “severely disappointed” in Rice, a five-term congressman.
-ABC News’ Kendall Karson
Jan 30, 2:13 pm
Biden’s executive actions reverse most ‘egregious’ Trump policies: Kate Bedingfield
White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield defended President Joe Biden’s use of executive actions on ABC’s “The View” on Friday.
“What he’s done is looked at some of the most egregious, damaging actions from the Trump administration, done by executive order, and used his authority as president to roll those back and to undo that damage and to start to get us on a better path,” Bedingfield said.
The president has been criticized for relying heavily on executive actions at the beginning of his presidency. Over the first week and a half of his term, Biden has signed addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, racial equity, health care and more.
–-ABC News’ Adia Robinson
Jan 30, 12:38 pm
Biden’s executive orders, other notable actions
Since entering office on Jan. 20, Biden has signed more than three-dozen executive actions addressing the pandemic, economy, immigration, climate crisis and more.
Some of Biden’s most notable orders include opening a three-month enrollment period to allow more Americans to sign up for health care during the pandemic, rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, stopping construction of the wall on the Southern Border of the U.S., revoking the Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and eliminating the Justice Department use of private prisons.
Jan 30, 11:12 am
Dems prepare to move ahead with ‘reconciliation’
With Republican opposition growing to the size of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal, President on Friday expressed his clearest support yet for Senate Democrats to use a fast-track budgetary tool that would allow the legislation to pass with a simple majority.
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled that Democrats are preparing to move forward with budget reconciliation: a complex, fast-track process that requires just a simple majority to pass legislation rather than the usual 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and move forward. In a Senate now split 50-50, the procedure could allow Democrats to pass legislation without a single Republican in favor, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast a tie-breaking vote.
A vote on a Senate budget resolution, which is the first step in beginning the reconciliation process, is expected next week in the Senate. It would then go to the House for consideration.
Republicans are calling foul, warning Democrats that using reconciliation to pass COVID relief will diminish Biden’s calls for unity throughout his campaign and in his inaugural address.
-ABC News’ Allison Pecorin and Trish Turner
Jan 30, 6:04 am
US needs more vaccine doses, Biden says, but experts warn it won’t be easy
When President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, ramping up the available supply of COVID-19 vaccines became one of his administration’s top priorities.
Now, the president and his team are hoping to find a way to produce even more vaccine doses at a faster pace, exceeding the quantity and timescale promised by Pfizer and Moderna as part of their contracts with the U.S. government.
But experts say it won’t be so easy, as a vaccine is not a steel part but a complex biomedical product.
Read more here.
ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos and Sony Salzman.
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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