An Unprecedented Transition Comes to an End
Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
After a transition marred by President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his defeat, the surging coronavirus pandemic, a barrage of lawsuits challenging the results of the election, numerous roadblocks from Trump appointees and an attack on the U.S. Capitol, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States at noon on Wednesday and Kamala Harris will become the first woman to be sworn in as vice president. Trump departed the White House early for Florida, before the Inauguration festivities began. Here are some of the headlines you might have missed.
Trump said in a video farewell address released on Tuesday, “we did what we came here to do—and so much more.” He also wished the Biden administration “luck.” As he departed Joint Base Andrews on Wednesday morning he said, “We will be back in some form.”
Trump issued 73 pardons and 70 commutations early on Wednesday. Among them, he granted full pardons to his former chief strategist Stephen Bannon and rapper Lil Wayne.
Biden planned to sign a mix of executive orders, actions and memos to address the pandemic, the economy, immigration, racial inequality and more. See the full list from the transition team here.
The transition team announced on Tuesday that the Biden administration will have a White House Council on Gender Equality. Jennifer Klein, chief strategy and policy officer at TIME’S UP, will co-chair the council with Julissa Reynoso, incoming assistant to the president and chief-of-staff to First Lady Jill Biden.
Biden is expected to name Monty Wilkinson, a longtime career civil servant at the Justice Department to serve as acting attorney general, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be Secretary of State, said during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he is “committed to advancing our security and prosperity by building a diplomatic corps that fully represents America in all its talent and diversity” through “recruiting, retaining, and promoting officers with the skills to contend with 21st Century challenges.” The department has had mixed progress in improving racial and gender representation in their workforces over the years.
Avril Haines, Biden’s nominee to be director of national intelligence, said during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, that if confirmed she’ll work with the FBI and Homeland Security Department to produce a public threat assessment on QAnon, a far-right conspiracy group. See Defense One’s full coverage of the hearing here.
Twelve National Guard members were removed from Inauguration duty after their background checks. “I don't want to get into the actual vetting and what partner organizations have found, but much of the information is—as the general mentioned—unrelated to the events taking place at the Capitol,” said Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman during a briefing on Tuesday. “These are vetting efforts that identify any questionable behavior in the past or any potential link to questionable behavior, not just related to extremism.”
Rep. Bennie Thomson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on Tuesday “it is unconscionable” the Trump administration denied Maryland and Virginia’s requests for emergency declarations for Inauguration. This was after “domestic terrorists attacked the Capitol and tried to stop the peaceful transition of power” and “assistance from Maryland and Virginia were needed that day because President Trump took too long to act.”
Biden denied outgoing acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller space at the Pentagon after Biden is sworn in, which is usually a courtesy at the department, Bloomberg News reported.
Pentagon officials outlined during the briefing on Tuesday how they will onboard Biden’s appointees. “We did virtual onboarding, obviously, due to COVID. We are processing their identity cards, their background investigations, their security clearances all virtually,” said Tom Muir, director of Washington Headquarters Services at the Defense Department. “We also are working on and will publish soon an acting and a performing the duties of transition plan that has career senior executives filling in for incoming political appointees.”
Outgoing Office of Management and Budget officials said the 1974 Impoundment Control Act, which prevents the executive branch from withholding funds for policy reasons and outlines a process if it seeks to delay funds appropriated by Congress, “is unworkable in practice and should be significantly reformed or repealed,” in a letter to the House Budget Committee chairman, Roll Call reported on Tuesday. The Government Accountability office said last year the Trump administration violated the act with its hold on funding to Ukraine last year (a key feature of Trump’s first impeachment), findings contested by the Trump administration. Last week, the president used the law to put a hold on $27.4 billion for 45 days, which Biden can cancel or modify upon getting sworn in.
Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, who Biden is expected to fire, announced new boards of directors for the agency’s networks, after firing the previous boards after taking office last June.
An Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs report issued on Tuesday shows that the Trump administration didn’t meet its goal of getting rid of two regulations for every new one issued (as mandated by an early Trump administration executive order) in fiscal 2020. Biden is expected to rescind this order. “The report shows that over the life of the Trump administration, DHS actually increased regulatory costs by $37 billion due to the many costly anti-immigrant measures it put in place,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for the nonprofit group Public Citizen. “Multiple other agencies also imposed more costs under the [order] than cost savings over the last four years.”
- The inauguration ceremony will begin at 11:15 a.m.
- Biden will sign executive orders and other presidential actions at 5:15p.m.
- Incoming Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a press briefing at 7p.m.
- Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will deliver remarks for the “Celebrating America” inaugural program at 8:48p.m.
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