Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, announced Joe Biden is taking steps to address domestic violent extremism after the attack on the Capitol earlier this month.
According to Psaki, Biden is asking the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to complete a threat assessment of domestic extremism. He has also instructed the National Security Council to ramp up its capacity to address extremism, and he is coordinating across the government to confront extremism.
The announcement comes about two and a half weeks after a violent pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol, resulting in five deaths.
Psaki said Biden called the head of the National Guard last night to thank him for overseeing the deployment of thousands of troops to Washington to provide security during the inauguration.
Jen Psaki reiterated that Joe Biden will speak to Canadian President Justin Trudeau today, and she announced the US president will also speak to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador today.
The calls to the the presidents of the United States’ neighboring nations are Biden’s first official conversations with foreign leaders since taking office.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, has now taken over the briefing, and she opened by addressing the Senate confirmation of Lloyd Austin as defense secretary.
Psaki praised the confirmation of Austin, who is the first African American defense secretary in US history.
Psaki said Austin would be sworn in today, but he will be “more ceremoniously” sworn in by vice-president Kamala Harris on Monday.
Austin arrived at the Pentagon for the first time as defense secretary earlier this afternoon.
Brian Deese was asked about the 8 million Americans who have not yet received their stimulus payments.
The National Economic Council director said most of those Americans are “non-filers,” meaning they don’t file taxes, and the government is working to locate them and get them their checks.
The executive orders that Joe Biden will sign today are expected to include a directive to expedite that process.
Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, warned that the country would be in a “much worse place” financially if the government did not take “decisive action” to buoy the US economy.
“The risk of under-shooting far outweighs the risk of doing too much,” Deese said.
The senior official said Joe Biden has made clear to his advisers that they must “make the case for the rescue and engage with” members of both parties to sell their relief proposals.
A number of Republican lawmakers have already expressed deep skepticism about passing another massive relief package.
Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, kicked off the White House briefing by outlining the executive orders that Joe Biden will sign this afternoon.
“Our economy is at a very precarious moment,” Deese told reporters. “It’s a moment that requires decisive action to beat this pandemic and support the economic recovery that Americans need.”
Deese said the orders would provide emergency relief for families affected by the pandemic and heighten workplace protections for Americans.
Specifically, one of the orders will expand the food stamps program, and the other will ensure that workers who refuse employment that jeopardizes their health will still qualify for unemployment benefits.
But Deese made clear that the orders were “not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief”. Biden has outlined a $1.9 trillion relief package, but it’s unclear that proposal can make it through the Senate, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
The White House is now holding a press briefing focused on the executive orders Joe Biden will sign today to help boost the US economy.
The briefing is led by Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, and Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council.
Later today, the president is expected to sign several executive orders aimed at aiding Americans families who are financially suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of National Guard troops who came to Washington after the Capitol attack have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.
The National Guard has struggled to implement a plan to test troops flowing into and out of Washington for Covid-19, with some Guard members being forced to find their own tests and others pressured to leave their quarantine early to report to duty.
Already, hundreds of Guard members who poured into Washington after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol have tested positive for Covid-19 or are quarantining in nearby hotels, three Guard sources said. Guard leadership has declined to release an official number of positive cases, but troops and lawmakers alike worry that the deployment is becoming a superspreader event.
‘Ideally, these guys should all be in hotels. When they’re taking rest time, they should be taking it outside the campus with an ability to be separated and socially distanced,’ Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. ‘Ultimately we’ve got to make sure that they’re not taking their extended rest time on campus, that they’re in hotel rooms.’
The problem worsened yesterday, when some National Guard troops were moved out of the Capitol and into a Senate parking lot, where they were crammed together with no social-distancing.
The move was quickly reversed amid outcry after photos surfaced of troops sleeping on concrete. In a speech this morning, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said the move had been “utterly unacceptable”.
Lloyd Austin has just arrived at the Pentagon for the first time since the Senate confirmed him as defense secretary this morning.
Austin told reporters present for his arrival, “Good to see you guys and thanks for being here. Look forward to working with you. See you around campus.”
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris also released a statement commemorating the 48th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the landmark supreme court case that ensures the right to abortion access.
“In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack. We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care – including reproductive health care – regardless of income, race, zip code, health insurance status, or immigration status,” the president and vice-president said.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.”
Donald Trump was able to confirm hundreds of conservative federal judges over his lone term in office, and Democrats are eager to approve liberal judicial nominees now that they have control of the Senate.
“As the Biden-Harris Administration begins in this critical moment, now is the time to rededicate ourselves to ensuring that all individuals have access to the health care they need,” the statement says.
The White House has just released a statement confirming that Joe Biden signed the bill granting Lloyd Austin a waiver to become defense secretary.
“On Friday, January 22, 2021, the President signed into law: H.R. 335, which provides an exception to a restriction on appointing a Secretary of Defense who, within the past seven years, had been on active duty in a regular component of the armed forces,” the White House said.
Because Austin retired from the military less than seven years ago, the former general needed a waiver from Congress before he could be confirmed as defense secretary.
The House and the Senate approved Austin’s waiver yesterday, and the Senate confirmed Austin as defense secretary this morning, in a vote of 93 to 2.
Nancy Pelosi has confirmed that she will transmit the article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.
“We are respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process, noting that the former president will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers,” the Democratic speaker said in a statement.
Pelosi added, “Our Managers are ready to begin to make their case to 100 Senate jurors through the trial process.”
The House impeachment managers will be Jamie Raskin, Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Madeleine Dean and Joe Neguse.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell had called for delaying the impeachment trial until February to give Trump more time to prepare his defense, but it seems unlikely that Democrats will follow that timeline.
It would take two-thirds of the Senate, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, to convict Trump on incitement of insurrection.
If Trump is convicted, the Senate could bar him from seeking federal office again.