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Politics live updates: Biden orders federal government to confront domestic violent extremism

  • January 22, 2021

In the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, President Joe Biden is directing the federal government to focus on domestic violent extremism, including having the National Security Council build out its capability to counter domestic threats.

Biden press secretary Jen Psaki announced a three-pronged effort aimed at confronting domestic violent extremism at a press briefing Friday. 

“The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known,” Psaki said. “The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat. The Biden administration will confront this threat with the necessary resources and resolve.”

The NSA will undertake a policy review, she said, to determine how the government can share information more effectively to address threats, support efforts to prevent radicalization and disrupt violent networks. She said this will complement work already underway among agencies

“We need to understand better its current extent and where there might be gaps,” she said.

She said the administration has also tasked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a “comprehensive threat assessment” to help shape policies to address the rise of domestic violent extremism. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security will consult on that work.

In addition, Biden has asked all relevant federal departments and agencies to “enhance and accelerate” efforts to combat domestic violent extremism, Psaki said.

Psaki said the White House is committed to developing domestic violent extremism polices and strategies “based on facts, on objective and rigorous analysis and our respect for constitutionally protected free speech and activities.”

She did not elaborate on any potential policy proposals.

Pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol this month included organizers of Proud Boys, an extremist group with ties to white nationalism, as well as other far-right organizations. 

— Joey Garrison

No timeline for national vaccine information portal

The Biden administration doesn’t have a timeline for when the public might be able to access a national website or phone center to get a coronavirus vaccine, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

But she noted that Jeff Zients, who helped get the Obamacare launch back on track in 2013, is coordinating Biden’s COVID-19 response. 

“So we’re in very good hands,” Psaki said, “and they’re certainly committed to getting more information out in a more accessible way.”

Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, said on MSNBC Thursday that the administration will try to build a “national resource” for federal vaccination centers.

Asked about that commitment, Psaki said the administration is eager to provide more public assistance.

 “I know all members of my family are also asking the same question as I’m sure yours are,” she said. “The lack of information and the disinformation … has created a great deal of confusion.”

Nearly six in 10 older Americans don’t know when or where they can get vaccinated, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report released Friday.

— Maureen Groppe and Savannah Behrmann

GOP Sen. Murkowski says she didn’t vote for Trump, won’t join Democratic Party

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she didn’t vote for Trump in the November election and instead wrote in another candidate. 

Murkowski wouldn’t say who she wrote in, only telling reporters with a laugh that her candidate “didn’t win.”

“I wrote someone in. I’ve kind of become fond of looking at individual candidates,” Murkowski said, adding she chose her own candidate because, “I don’t want to accept the lesser of two evils.”

The Alaska Republican, a key swing vote in the Senate, said despite her conflicts with the former president, which drew his wrath and even threats of a primary challenge, she would remain in the Republican Party.

“That’s a dream by some that that will not materialize,” Murkowski said of the notion of her joining the Democratic Party. “I can be very discouraged at times with things that go on in my own caucus, in my own party. I think each member feels that. But I have absolutely no desire to move over to the Democrat side of the aisle.”

She explained her thoughts on this after losing a primary challenge in 2010 and considerations to join the Libertarian Party. She later won her race in a remarkable write-in campaign. 

“I can’t be somebody that I’m not,” Murkowski said. “I said, ‘Thank you, but no, thank you.’ I don’t fly a flag of convenience. And it’s not who I am. It’s not who I am.”

— Christal Hayes

Senate confirms Lloyd Austin, making him the nation’s first Black defense secretary

The Senate on Friday confirmed Lloyd Austin as the nation’s first Black defense secretary, the second nominee of President Joe Biden to be confirmed by the chamber.

Austin is a retired four-star Army general who will be the first Black secretary of defense. He was the first Black general to command an Army division in combat and also the first to oversee an entire theater of operations as the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Austin’s confirmation process wasn’t without bumps. Controversy flared over a law barring recently retired military officers from serving as the defense secretary, but top Democrats lined up behind Austin’s nomination, citing the need for Biden to have his national security team in place after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. The law requires that troops be retired for seven years before taking the post.

The House passed a waiver from the law for Austin on Thursday afternoon, and the Senate followed suit shortly after. 

– Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes

Schumer says impeachment article coming to Senate on Monday

The impeachment article charging former President Donald Trump with inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol will be sent to the Senate on Monday, triggering the impeachment trial process, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced on the Senate floor Friday morning.

He said he had been in touch with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the timing of the article. The House impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection” on Jan. 13. 

Schumer said it was still unclear how long the trial will last and when it will begin in earnest, issues he is still discussing with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“But make no mistake, a trial will be held in the United States Senate, and there will be a vote whether to convict the president,” Schumer said.

– Nicholas Wu and Christal Hayes

Senate leaders negotiate Trump impeachment trial timing

Senate leaders continued Friday to negotiate the timing of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, who has hired a lead defense lawyer to represent him.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., proposed Thursday to start the trial in February, after preliminary statements are filed by House prosecutors and Trump’s defense team. He argued the slight delay would offer time for Trump’s legal team to familiarize themselves with the case.

“At this time of strong political passions, Senate Republicans believe it is absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency,” McConnell said in a statement.

Trump hired prominent South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers, who worked for the Justice Department during President George W. Bush’s administration, to represent him. A friend of Bowers, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told his colleagues about the hiring during a conference call Thursday.

“Solid guy,” Graham said, adding that Bowers would act as the lead attorney on a Trump team that is still being put together.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office said it received McConnell’s proposal, which aims to start the trial in the Senate chamber Feb. 13.

“We will review it and discuss it with him,” said Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she would send the article of impeachment to the Senate “soon.” Schumer, D-N.Y., said there will be a trial, but the timing is uncertain.

The House impeached Trump Jan. 13, charging him with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol a week earlier. The Senate will decide whether to convict him.

But the case raises numerous legal challenges, including whether a former president can be tried after he leaves office. The Senate must also decide whether to call witnesses or hear other evidence.

– Bart Jansen

Biden to sign 2 more executive orders Friday, more Cabinet confirmations possible

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s second day in office was focused heavily on COVID-19. 

Biden stressed science and unity in his first briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, giving Americans the “brutal truth” about the challenges the nation faces before signing a series of executive orders aimed at combating the pandemic. 

Takeaways from Biden’s COVID-19 executive orders: Experts celebrate plan, warn ‘a lot of work’ is left

On his third day as president, Biden will launch another front in his battle against COVID-19 by taking steps to provide economic relief to Americans still reeling from the effects of the deadly pandemic.

Biden is set to sign two executive orders that will give low-income families easier access to federal nutrition and food assistance programs and start the process for requiring federal contractors to pay their workers a minimum wage of $15 per hour and give them emergency paid leave. 

Also on Thursday, a few of of Biden’s Cabinet picks cleared a few hurdles. 

The House removed a roadblock to the confirmation of Lloyd Austin, Biden’s nominee to be defense secretary, granting Austin a waiver from a law barring recently retired military officers from serving as the defense secretary. 

Additionally, Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s nominee to the lead the Department of Transportation, met a favorable reception and drew praise from both sides of the aisle Thursday during his confirmation hearing. 

More:Buttigieg gets favorable reception in confirmation hearing for transportation secretary role

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