Transition Roundup: Biden’s CDC Pick Promises to Be Truthful; Agencies Investigate Capitol Riots
Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
On Monday night, President Trump approved an emergency declaration for the District of Columbia from January 11 to January 24, due to potential threats surrounding Inauguration Day on January 20. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser sent a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Saturday outlining more actions she would like his department and others to take. Wolf partially addressed some of them on Monday before the news broke that he was resigning. Pete Gaynor, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, took over as acting secretary. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
Wolf shared on Twitter the letter he sent his colleagues announcing his departure. “I am saddened to take this step as it was my intention to serve the department until the end of this administration,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as acting secretary. These events and concerns increasingly serve to divert attention and resources away from the important work of the department in this critical time of a transition of power.”
The Secret Service indicated it’s investigating an officer who made comments on Facebook saying that the lawmakers who voted to certify Biden’s win are treasonous and repeated Trump’s false claims about election fraud, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
About 10-15 Capitol Police officers are under investigation for their actions during the riots and at least two have been suspended for behavior that day, CNN reported on Monday evening.
Capitol Police had to respond to “a couple of incidents” of officers threatening to hurt themselves in the aftermath of last Wednesday, CBS reported on Monday. “This includes a female officer who turned in her own weapon for fear of what might happen.”
The Justice Department is pursuing at least 150 suspects from the Capitol riots, according to The New York Times.
In light of the Capitol breach, Biden is pushing to confirm his national security nominees as soon as possible, Politico reported on Tuesday.
Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and John Katko, R-N.Y., asked the Transportation Security Administration for a briefing this week on its plans to thwart security threats ahead of inauguration. This is after “federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies were completely unprepared for this domestic terror attack” last Wednesday, the lawmakers wrote in a letter on Monday.
The Transportation Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Commerce Department are the agencies with the most rules that can be unraveled under the “Congressional Review Act,” according to The George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center.
The Office of Management and Budget intervened in December to “water down” the EPA’s guidance that was “a follow up to a [toxic chemicals] rule finalized by the agency in June laying out requirements for any ‘significant new use’ of the chemical, a term that kicks off more oversight from EPA,” The Hill reported on Monday. This was amid the administration’s last-minute deregulatory push (as exemplified by a recent Health and Human Services Department action). However, this rule is outside the look-back window for the “Congressional Review Act.”
As Trump faces a second impeachment, Michael Atkinson, a former Intelligence Community inspector general Trump fired after condemning him for alerting Congress—as required by law—to the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s first impeachment, reflected about what happened in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “I did what I had to do. If I had kept quiet,” he said, “I would have spent the last year, probably the rest of my life, not sure I could live with myself.” He said he remains angry about what happened to the whistleblower, while disregarding the attacks on him from the president.
Biden is getting frustrated with his coronavirus team, which is “rooted in the rush to build the foundation for an extended inoculation effort,” Politico reported on Monday. This is “a complex undertaking that includes untangling all manner of bureaucratic obstacles — from staffing issues to technology problems and insurance coverage dilemmas — that the transition had expected to already be well underway.” This week Biden’s team will attend “Operation Warp Speed” meetings for the first time, after he was only given briefings on them, Politico also reported on Monday.
In a New York Times opinion article on Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Biden’s pick to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pledged to “tell you the truth” and restore trust in the agency. “On my first day, I will ask Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director, with 32 years of experience at the CDC, to begin a comprehensive review to ensure that all existing guidance related to COVID-19 is evidence-based and free of politics,” she wrote. Also, “I will work to address inequities that have left African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans hospitalized and dying at disproportionately higher rates from COVID-19, by focusing on the health conditions that are prevalent in communities of color.”
A “disgruntled employee” at the State Department changed the online bios for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to say their terms ended on Monday, BuzzFeed News reported. “One of the diplomats said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ordered an internal investigation into the matter, beginning with interns and employees leaving the State Department this week and next ahead of the transition to the Biden administration,” said the report.
The Internal Revenue Service submitted a report to Congress on Monday that outlines how it has implemented the “2019 Taxpayer First Act,” which was designed to improve taxpayer services, and further plans to do so that are expected to occur early in Biden’s administration. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 70,000 IRS employees, commended the report.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at transparency issues with the Capitol Police and other implications of the riots last week.
Help us understand the situation better. Are you a federal employee, contractor or military member with information, concerns, etc. about how your agency is handling the transition? Email us at email@example.com.