Transition Roundup: Several Confirmation Hearings Set; House Takes Up Impeachment Again
Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The House passed a resolution on Tuesday night calling on Vice President Mike Pence to convene the Cabinet and use the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove President Trump from office. However, before the vote was cast Pence sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying he would not invoke the amendment. As a result, on Wednesday the House will take up Articles of Impeachment, which charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol last week. Several Republicans already said they would support impeachment.
“The 25th amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” Trump said during a speech in Texas on Tuesday. “The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country, and it is causing tremendous anger and division and pain.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
Biden announced on Wednesday he will nominate Amb. Samantha Power to be U.S. Agency for International Development administrator. He will also elevate her to be a member of the National Security Council. Power previously served as permanent representative to the United Nations from 2013 to 2017. Biden also announced additional members of the White House’s Office of the Chief of Staff, Office of Scheduling and Advance, and Office of Management and Administration, as well as the National Security Council.
Four former DHS secretaries, who served under Republican and Democratic administrations, urged the Senate to quickly confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to be DHS secretary in a Washington Post article on Tuesday. “In the wake of last week’s domestic terror attack on the Capitol...it is more urgent than ever,” they wrote.
Similarly, over 300 former ambassadors advocated on Tuesday for quick confirmations for Biden’s State Department secretary and U.N. Ambassador-designate nominees. “[Anthony] Blinken and Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s combined decades of experience in foreign affairs and national security make them more than qualified for these vital roles,” they stated. “Their deep knowledge of State Department operations has prepared them for the essential job of revitalizing a workforce that has suffered from budget cuts, unexplained attacks by foreign adversaries, and even questions about their necessity to U.S. policymaking in recent years.”
Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, Defense secretary nominee, needs a congressional waiver because he hasn’t been out of the military for the seven years required for the position, and the House is looking to fast-track the process in the wake of the Capitol riots, Politico reported on Tuesday.
The Capitol Police named Yogananda Pittman to be the acting chief of police, who is the first African American and first woman to hold the role, NPR reported. Steven Sund resigned from his position last week after the riots.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced on Tuesday it arrested a man in suburban Chicago for allegedly threatening violence on Inauguration Day. Later in the day, FBI officials gave a briefing on their investigations, arrests and prosecutions into the Capitol riots. Also, acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen released a video on Tuesday night, his first on-camera appearance, talking about the Justice Department’s response and preparations for Inauguration Day.
The Army is working with the Secret Service to determine which National Guard members deployed for Inauguration Day will require “additional background screening,” the Army Times reported on Tuesday. “The measures come in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot and after Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., spoke with Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy this weekend and expressed ‘grave concerns about reports that active-duty and reserve military members were involved in the insurrection’ at the Capitol,” said the report.
The Pentagon gave approval for the National Guard members protecting the Capitol complex before and during the inauguration to carry lethal weapons, Politico reported.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been angering diplomats and staff as he prepares to leave office, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. Many are “expressing outrage” at Pompeo for “failing to acknowledge, much less protest,” Trump’s role in the Capitol breach, said the report. Also, top diplomats have “tried mostly unsuccessfully” to slow his major policy shifts during his last days, such as “easing restrictions on Taiwan to spite China, declaring Houthi rebels in Yemen a foreign terrorist organization over the objections of diplomats and humanitarian aid workers, and putting Cuba back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.”
David Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, which represents over 400 companies that contract with the federal government, told Federal News Network he suspects the Biden administration will revoke Trump’s executive order that bans certain diversity training for federal employees, contractors, grantees and the military. “But we’ve been pointing out to them that just rescinding the executive order doesn’t remove the language from contracts, doesn’t stop the hotline investigations, doesn’t stop all the other pieces of this,” Berteau said. Last month, a federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction for the executive order as it applies to contractors and grantees.
“Operation Warp Speed” chief advisor Dr. Moncef Slaoui submitted his letter of resignation on Tuesday, but will stay for 30 more days to help the Biden team, CNBC reported.
Emails obtained by Buzzfeed News under the Freedom of Information Act show the “drama” that went on behind the scenes in the time between the news outlets calling the election for Biden and the General Services Administration ascertaining him as the apparent winner, thus letting the formal transition begin. “Biden may have struck a nonchalant tone in public,” said the report. “But behind the scenes, his team was pushing back hard, demanding that the federal government initiate the formal process of presidential transition.”
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