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Politics

Biden set to sign 'Made in America' executive order

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty ImagesBy SARAH KOLINOVSKY and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden is set to sign a "Made in America" executive order Monday, fulfilling a long-time campaign promise to increase the amount of federal spending that goes to American companies.

The announcement comes at a time when the government is set to spend expansively on efforts to defeat COVID-19, and after a period during which vulnerabilities in the U.S. supply chain were exposed as state and local governments resorted to foreign manufacturers to obtain desperately-needed personal protective equipment.

The federal government spends about $600 billion on contracting per year, and there are already rules in place governing how taxpayer dollars can be spent, how much foreign products can be purchased, and how many foreign components can be brought to the U.S. and assembled here. However, waivers and loopholes allow even more foreign product to be purchased than the rules state.

Biden’s executive order will aim to close those loopholes and cut down on the waivers, as well as order an increase in domestic content. It will also redefine what can count as domestic content, create a public website so U.S. companies can more easily see government contract business and determine whether they could make a more competitive bid for it.

The executive order will also create a new senior role at the Office of Management and Budget to oversee the implementation of these new efforts.

“The goal is to make sure that companies can't undermine or get around the purpose of the Made in America rules by importing largely foreign made products, making modest changes or tweaks on shore that add little value for American workers or American industry, don't actually utilize America's manufacturing capabilities, and will also close loopholes so that content rules drive new opportunities for American businesses and workers,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters.

President Donald Trump also signed an executive order in April 2017 instructing the government to review federal contracts and minimize waivers to “Buy American” requirements. But the Trump administration did not significantly increase purchases of U.S.-made goods, and a senior Biden administration official criticized the failure.

“... when you look at the outcome, there was no real material change in either the way in which domestic content was measured, the stringency of the domestic content requirements, or the utilization of waivers to the Buy America provisions. So, you know, in practice, nothing happened," the official said.

Much of Biden’s executive order closely echoes the “Buy American” portion of his Build Back Better policy launched during the general election campaign. Biden pledged to crack down on false advertising on made in America products, use of waivers and sought to support small businesses in particular to apply for contracts for procurement needs.

When pressed, however, for a specific target increase in U.S.-made purchasing the administration is hoping to achieve, administration officials did not yet have an answer. It’s up to the Foreign Acquisition Regulation Council to determine how much foreign content is allowable, and how much domestic purchasing is mandatory.

The Biden administration is pitching the “Buy American” plan as an effort to not only help U.S. businesses during the pandemic, but to begin addressing structural inequality in our economy.

“[Monday], he’s going to take a major step toward his goal of rebuilding the backbone of America, manufacturing, unions and the middle class, and it’s based on his that, making sure that we are making things in America and all of America is core to our economic strategy,” a senior administration official said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden to lift Pentagon's ban on transgender people serving in military

Ivan Cholakov/iStockBy LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Multiple people familiar with the matter confirm to ABC News that President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Monday that will lift the Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

The controversial ban was announced by former President Donald Trump in 2017 through a tweet and reversed the Obama administration’s policy to allow open service by transgender people.

New Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be on hand at the White House ceremony on Monday, where the executive order will be signed, said the individuals familiar with the matter.

“The ban will be officially lifted tomorrow,” said one of the individuals familiar with the signing of the executive order.

Biden had said during the presidential campaign that he favored repealing the ban.

In May 2020, Biden had said he would direct the Pentagon to let "transgender service members serve openly and free from discrimination in the military."

"They can shoot as straight as anybody else can shoot," he added.

At his confirmation hearing last week Austin had said he would support an effort to repeal the ban.

"I support the president's plan to overturn the ban," Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "If you're fit and you're qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve, and you can expect that I will support that throughout."

The White House and the Pentagon declined to comment on the executive order.

It is unclear how many transgender people serve in the military, though some advocacy groups have said it could be as high as 15,000 individuals.

In 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a policy that would allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military openly.

But in July 2017, Trump issued a series of tweets that immediately banned such service.

The tweets blindsided Pentagon officials, including James Mattis, Trump's first defense secretary.

He soon implemented reviews that led the Pentagon to re-institute a ban on open transgender service two years later.

The new policy required service members and those wishing to join the military to adhere to the standards associated with their biological sex.

Service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria, defined as "a marked incongruence between one's experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender ... associated with clinically significant distress and impairment of functioning," were no longer allowed to receive medical surgeries for gender transition unless they were currently in the process of receiving medical treatment.

Transgender individuals who had received hormones or medical surgery related to their transition were barred from joining the military, even if they could prove stability in their preferred gender.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden to replace White House doctor with long-time physician

TriggerPhoto/iStockBy MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden has commissioned Dr. Kevin O’Connor as his new White House physician, replacing Dr. Sean Conley in a role that became a source of controversy under former President Donald Trump’s four years in the White House.

It's not unusual for a new president to select their personal physician for their term, However, O'Connor will take on the job in the medical unit that faced a crisis of credibility under Trump following rosy readouts of physicals and misleading information about his COVID-19 treatment.

O’Connor has served as Biden’s primary care physician since 2009, when he was appointed physician to the vice president and was chosen by Biden for the new role due to their long history, and personal relationship, according to a White House official.

O’Connor served 22 years in the Army, including tours of duty with the 82nd Airborne Division, 75th Ranger Regiment, and United States Army Special Operations Command, and over a decade at the White House -- an eight-year extension at Biden’s request to what was supposed to be a three-year gig.

O’Connor retired from the military following the Obama administration and continued as Biden’s doctor while serving as the founding director of Executive Medicine at George Washington University.

According to Dr. Lud Deppisch, a retired pathologist and author of The White House Physician: A History from Washington to George W. Bush, it's standard operating procedure for a president to choose their personal physician, but it's rare that a president comes into office with a doctor that has cared for them for over a decade.

“It's difficult to get their previous personal physician to Washington for two reasons: The pay stinks, comparatively. And secondly, usually the care of the president is not all that interesting. Not much goes wrong. Under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, nothing much happened,” Deppisch said.

But Deppisch contends while it might not be the most glamorous position, it's no less important.

“They're around a lot -- it's quite a significant and tireless responsibility,” he said.

The Biden administration will be the third White House O’Connor has served. It's one that could face increased scrutiny over the president’s health, given Biden’s distinction as the oldest president ever elected.

O’Connor played a role in Biden’s campaign as well, increasingly so after Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after the first presidential debate in September. He also helped with the care of Biden’s fractured foot, which he sustained while playing with his dog over the Thanksgiving holiday.

O’Connor also conducted and released the only physical & medical report for Biden during his campaign in December 2019: a three-page summary that declared Biden “a healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency."

At the time of the report, Biden was under treatment for four different conditions, including non-valvular atrial fibrillation (A-fib) -- a type of irregular heart rhythm -- hyperlipidemia -- higher concentrations of fats or lipids in the blood -- gastroesophageal reflux and seasonal allergies.

The most notable health incident in Biden's past, according to O'Connor's report, were the two cranial aneurysms that he suffered in 1988. No additional report on Biden's health was released during the campaign.

On the campaign trail, the 78-year-old often faced questions about how he would handle the rigors of the job at his age.

“Look, it’s a legitimate thing to be concerned about my age. Just like it was a legitimate concern when I was 29 whether I had the judgment to be a U.S. Senator. I think it’s totally legitimate. The only thing I can say is watch, watch. Check my energy level, determine whether I know what I’m talking about,” Biden told voters in Newton, Iowa, in 2019.

According to Deppisch, the personal physician to the president usually departs with the change of administrations. Trump’s second White House Physician, Dr. Sean Conley, is expected to move to a faculty role at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, according to the White House.

Conley faced scrutiny for a rosy readout of the president’s condition following his hospitalization with coronavirus that was swiftly contradicted by former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Conley later said that his positive readout was "was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude" of the president when delivering the update.

"In doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn't necessarily true,” Conley said in October 2020.

Rear Adm. Dr. Ronny Jackson, who also worked in the White House medical unit under three administrations, including as Obama and Trump’s personal physician, also faced criticism after he gave a glowing readout of Trump’s 2018 physical -- an analysis that was questioned by outside experts.

But those closer to Biden do not expect similar situations to arise under O’Connor.

A source close to the president said Biden would never ask O’Connor to lie for him, and O’Connor would never offer. The two wouldn’t want to disappoint each other, the source added.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sen. Paul does not unequivocally say 2020 election wasn't stolen

Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBY: JACK ARNHOLZ, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) — Days after President Joe Biden took office and the Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., would not unequivocally say Sunday that the 2020 presidential election was not stolen and called for an investigation of fraud, without providing evidence.

"The debate over whether or not there was fraud should occur, we never had any presentation in court where we actually looked at the evidence. Most of the cases were thrown out for lack of standing, which is a procedural way of not actually hearing the question," Paul said on ABC's "This Week.”

"Sen. Paul, I have to stop you there," ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos interjected.

"No election is perfect," Stephanopoulos continued. "After investigations, counts and recounts, the Department of Justice -- led by (Trump-appointed Attorney General) William Barr -- said there's no widespread evidence of fraud. Can't you just say the words: 'This election was not stolen?'"

The Kentucky senator responded, "What I would suggest is that if we want greater confidence in our elections -- and 75% of Republicans agree with me -- is that we do need to look at election integrity."

Paul also did not acknowledge former President Donald Trump's role in sowing doubts about the election.

The majority of the court cases filed by the Trump campaign were thrown out due to lack of evidence. Across the country, secretaries of state, both Republican and Democrat, and federal officials -- including Barr -- have all said that there was no evidence of widespread fraud or security concerns in November's election.

When challenged by Stephanopoulos on Barr's denial of widespread fraud, Paul retorted, "He said that, yes. That was a pronouncement. There's been no examination -- thorough examination -- of all the states to see what problems we had and see if they could fix them."

"There were lots of problems and there were secretaries of state, who illegally changed the law and that needs to be fixed, and I'm going to work harder to fix it and I will not be cowed by people saying 'oh, you're a liar,'" Paul told Stephanopoulos.

Stephanopoulos responded, "I'm standing by facts. There are not two sides to facts. I did not say this was a perfect election, I said the results were certified, I said it was not stolen. It is a lie.”

While Paul was one of the many Republican politicians who repeated Trump's unfounded allegations of voter fraud, the Kentucky senator did not object to the certification of the Electoral College on Jan. 7 and has said previously that he thinks Congress should not overturn results.

"Now, let me say to be clear, I voted to certify the state electors because I think it would be wrong for Congress to overturn that," he said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., responded to Paul's remarks in a separate interview on "This Week."

"As I listened to Rand Paul, George, I just kept thinking, 'man, this is why Joe Biden won,'" she told Stephanopoulos.

"American people right now are struggling. They need pandemic relief," Klobuchar continued. "I thoroughly believe that we can handle this impeachment trial and -- just as the American people are doing -- juggle what we need to get done.

With less than a week since Biden's swearing in, the article of impeachment against Trump is set to be delivered to the Senate Monday and the trial is expected to begin the week of Feb. 8. Senate Democrats are trying to balance the upcoming proceedings with getting more of Biden's Cabinet picks approved and pushing forward on the president's legislative agenda.

Despite earlier reports that McConnell was pleased with the House of Representatives' impeachment efforts, a growing number of conservative legal experts and Republicans in the Senate have challenged the constitutionality of holding a trial for Trump since he is no longer in office.

Some Republican senators, including Paul, have also argued that if Chief Justice John Roberts does not preside over the impeachment trial -- which remains unclear -- the hearings could be illegitimate.

When challenged by Stephanopoulos about those process arguments, Klobuchar said, "It is constitutional. We have precedent from way back when a secretary of war was tried after he had left office and, obviously, there's a remedy that would help in the future which would ban former President Trump from running again.”

Stephanopoulos also pressed Klobuchar about whether there were enough GOP senators to vote to convict Trump.

"My colleagues have not yet committed about what they're going to do and the news we just got out of The New York Times yesterday that the president was actually actively trying to take out his own attorney general and put in an unknown bureaucrat conspiring with him. I think we're going to get more and more evidence over the next few weeks as if it's not enough that he's sent an angry mob down the Mall to invade the Capitol -- didn't try to stop it -- and a police officer was killed. I don't really know what else you need to know," the Minnesota senator added.

"Would you pursue, instead, either a censure or some kind of a resolution under the 14th Amendment to prevent President Trump from running for office again?" Stephanopoulos asked.

Klobuchar refused to rule anything out.

"We're focused on impeachment, but there are many options. Things can be looked at. But I think the thing that your viewers need to know right now, George, is that we must do many things at once," she said.

While the Senate debates the impending impeachment trial, also critical on the Democrats' agenda is passing a new coronavirus relief bill -- a key component of Biden's legislative priorities. The president is still pushing for a bipartisan arrangement, despite the fact that many in the GOP -- including moderates like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine -- have said that the overall $1.9 trillion price tag is too expensive.

Klobuchar pushed back against arguments over the size of the bill, saying "the amount that Joe Biden has proposed, that's exactly the numbers we were talking about last summer. And at some point, the (Trump) administration was talking those numbers."

ABC News' Meg Cunningham and Kelly McCoy contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden's first 100 days live updates: State Dept. condemns arrests, repression in Russia

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy LIBBY CATHEY, ADIA ROBINSON, JACK ARNHOLZ, MEREDITH DELISO, LAUREN KING, MICHELLE STODDART and CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- This is Day four of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:

Jan 24, 2:46 pm

Biden attends church with family

Biden continued his weekly routine of attending mass and chose Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown as his place of worship for his first Sunday in office.  

A pool report indicated that Biden's son Hunter, and two granddaughters, Maisey and Finnegan Biden attended mass with him. The presidential motorcade also stopped at a bagel shop. The president was not seen getting out, but a reporter was told Hunter Biden went inside to pick up food. The president and his family returned to the White House a few minutes later.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle

Jan 24, 10:52 am

Murthy on vaccine supply, distribution: There are lots of challenges

In his appearance on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Biden’s nominee for Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said that when it comes to meeting the goal for 100 million vaccines in the first 100 days of the president's administration, there are things that could go right or wrong.

"I think President Biden fully understands there's a larger goal here, as we all do, which is that we've got to vaccinate as many Americans as possible. And that's going to take a lot of work, work dispelling this disinformation, working on the supply, increasing distribution channels," he told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. "And that's some of what the vaccine plan that he announced over the last week is intended to -- to achieve."

Stephanopoulos pressed Murthy on whether there are ways to increase the supply and equitably distribute the vaccines.

"It appears, at least in these first vaccines that have gone out, they've been going largely to wealthier areas of the country, largely to whiter areas of the country," Stephanopoulos said.

"Well, it's the right question, George, because success has to be gauged not just by the number of vaccines we deliver but also by how fairly we deliver those vaccines -- how equitably we deliver them," he said in response. "What we've got to do here is not just, again, increase supply, which we can do using the Defense Production Act ... but we've also got to set up the kind of distribution channels, like mobile units, like strategically placed community vaccination centers, that can reach people who traditionally are hard to reach and don't have access to health care."

He added, "We have got to track our progress. We have got to make sure that we have data on where the vaccine is being administered, so that we can ensure that it, in fact, is being distributed equitably.”

Jan 24, 10:33 am

Can Biden unite the country? FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver answers

"I think the obvious answer is no. But I do think he has above average chances of having a successful first year or two in office if he can get the COVID pandemic under control," FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver said in response to the question, "Can President Joe Biden unite the country?”

 

Can President Joe Biden unite the country?@NateSilver538: “I think the obvious answer is no. But I do think he has above average chances of having a successful first year or two in office if he can get the COVID pandemic under control.” https://t.co/revKTaAEyP pic.twitter.com/zRlzKtVv3A

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 24, 2021

 

Jan 24, 9:53 am

Biden surgeon general nominee on 100M shots in 1st 100 days: 'That's a floor, it's not a ceiling'

“He set a goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days … that’s a floor, it’s not a ceiling,” Biden’s nominee for Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says when pressed by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on whether the Biden administration’s vaccination plan is ambitious enough.

Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Stephanopoulos also asked Murthy if he is confident the U.S. can meet the goal of opening most elementary schools in the first 100 days of the Biden administration.

"That’s a very important goal," Murthy responded. "It’s going to take a lot of work.”

Jan 24, 9:02 am

Biden national security adviser talks to Israeli counterpart

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Israeli counterpart Saturday and expressed the president's commitment to Israel's security.

Sullivan also discussed building on Israel's normalization arrangements with UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco -- negotiated under the Trump administration, according to a statement from NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne.

The president has also been making calls to officials from around the world, speaking with the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.K.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle

Jan 23, 4:49 pm
Biden speaks with Boris Johnson


United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared details of the phone call he had with Biden Saturday, as the president continues to reach out to U.S. allies and partners in the days after his inauguration.

In a post on social media, Johnson said it was "great to speak" with Biden. "I look forward to deepening the longstanding alliance between our two countries as we drive a green and sustainable recovery from COVID-19," he added, along with a photo of himself smiling on the phone.

Great to speak to President @JoeBiden this evening. I look forward to deepening the longstanding alliance between our two countries as we drive a green and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/Y4P3G74PPz

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 23, 2021



During the call, Johnson "warmly welcomed" Biden's decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization, a Downing Street spokesperson said.  

"They also discussed the benefits of a potential free trade deal between our two countries, and the Prime Minister reiterated his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible," the spokesperson said.
 
President Biden has been making his first calls to foreign leaders as president. On Friday, he spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

In previewing the president's early calls to foreign heads of state, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had said the president would first prioritize close "partners and allies," because the president "feels it's important to rebuild those relationships and to address the challenges and threats we're facing in the world."

-ABC News' Rashid Haddou, Jordyn Phelps and Molly Nagle

Jan 23, 4:29 pm
Inauguration day held many firsts


While Wednesday's Inauguration Day was steeped in tradition, it held many firsts too.

During the actual ceremony, Harris was sworn in as both the first female and person of color vice president, Amanda Gorman was the youngest inaugural poet in history, and Andrea Hall recited the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language.

But even as the official ceremony ended, the day of firsts didn't. Hours after the inaugural ceremony, Harris administered the oath of office to Rev. Raphael Warnock, the first Black senator from Georgia, and Jon Ossoff, the first Jewish senator from the South since the 1880s. Also, the White House website revised its contact form by adding gender-inclusive pronoun and prefix options including "they/them" and the gender-neutral prefix of "Mx."

-ABC News' Kiara Brantley-Jones and Robert Zepeda

Jan 23, 3:31 pm
If confirmed, Biden's cabinet would hold a record-breaking number of women


Inauguration Day was historic, with Kamala Harris becoming the first woman and person of color to become vice president. But if all of Biden's cabinet nominations are confirmed, Harris wouldn't be the only one making history.

Twelve of Biden's nominations for Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions are women, including eight women of color. If they're all confirmed, it would shatter former President Bill Clinton's record of nine women serving concurrently, which happened during his second term.

Janet Yellen, who was approved unanimously in the Senate Finance Committee on Friday, is nominated to be the first female secretary of the U.S. Treasury. Her confirmation vote is expected to take place early next week.

-ABC News' Deena Zaru

Jan 23, 3:29 pm
State Department condemns arrests of protesters in Russia


The U.S. Department of State "strongly" condemned the mass arrests in Russia of protesters in a statement Saturday.

The department called for the release of the protesters and Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, who was jailed last week after he returned to the country for the first time since recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent.

"The United States strongly condemns the use of harsh tactics against protesters and journalists this weekend in cities throughout Russia," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in the statement. "The United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners in defense of human rights -- whether in Russia or wherever they come under threat."

Tens of thousands of people joined protests across dozens of cities in Russia Saturday. By early evening, police had detained over 1,600 people, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors arrests.

In its statement, the State Department criticized the growing state of repression in Russia, from harassing protesters to threatening social media platforms, and defended Russians’ rights to protest and to free and fair elections.

It also called on Russia to explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil and to cooperate with an international investigation.
 
-ABC News' Connor Finnegan

Jan 23, 2:23 pm
Biden administration pauses most deportations


Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced a 100-day pause on deportations of most people living in the country illegally along with a new priority system for those who will still be subject to removal.

The memo makes clear that Homeland Security will not be issuing a full stop on arrests and removals, but rather focusing on those who pose a national security or public safety risk, including anyone convicted of an "aggravated felony."

"Nothing in this memorandum prohibits the apprehension or detention of individuals unlawfully in the United States who are not identified as priorities," the DHS memo reads. The announcements came as Biden also put forward his legislative immigration proposal, which provides a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

-ABC News' Quinn Owen

Jan 23, 12:57 pm
Impeachment timeline allows for more confirmations of Cabinet officials


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday that the Senate trial in Trump's impeachment would begin the week of Feb. 8 -- a timeline that gives more leeway for Biden's Cabinet officials to be confirmed.

Right now, only two of Biden's Cabinet secretaries have been confirmed.

The House will deliver an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, which will formally launch the impeachment trial against the former president, which could have begun as early as Tuesday.

The later date also allows Trump time to mount a legal defense.

-ABC News' Allison Pecorin

Jan 23, 12:04 pm
Biden spoke to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico on Friday


Biden and the president of Mexico spoke over the phone on Friday.

According to the the White House's readout, the Biden administration plans on "reversing the previous administration’s draconian immigration policies." Biden said he wants to increase the number of lawful immigration pathways, reduce migration by addressing its root causes, and improve processing asylum requests at the border. The two presidents agreed to work closely to together to both stem the flow of migration as well as coordinate the fight against COVID-19.

According to Mexico's readout, the conversation unfolded in a "cordial tone."

Jan 23, 5:13 am
Biden makes changes to Oval Office, removes controversial portrait hung by Trump


Biden's work in the White House and in the country is just beginning.

ABC reported that while Biden has been in office for only three days, he has already made significant tweaks to the Oval Office.

In a wall next to his desk he hung a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.

He also hung up portraits of former presidents Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

Apart from that, he added busts of Latino civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

The portrait of controversial President Andrew Jackson, which Donald Trump previously hung in the office, is long gone.

This Saturday, the president will hold a private meeting with advisors in his new office, according to the White House.

-ABC's Michelle Stoddart and Adia Robinson

Jan 22, 10:25 pm
Trudeau, Biden 'to work shoulder to shoulder,' Canadian PM says


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared details of his phone conversation Friday with President Joe Biden.

The two discussed "ending the pandemic, growing the middle class, fighting climate change, and creating good jobs for people on both sides of the border," among other issues, Trudeau tweeted, along with a photo of himself smiling while on the phone.

 

When it comes to ending the pandemic, growing the middle class, fighting climate change, and creating good jobs for people on both sides of the border, @POTUS @JoeBiden and I know there’s a lot of work to do together - and no time to waste. pic.twitter.com/YfYEkY07aO

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 23, 2021

 

The two leaders "agreed to work shoulder to shoulder" to address the issues, Trudeau added, before congratulating Biden -- whom he referred to as "Joe" -- on the inauguration.  

According to a readout of the conversation from Trudeau's office, the prime minister also raised Canada's "disappointment" over Biden's cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline and urged the removal of softwood lumber duties that Trump imposed.

In its own readout of the conversation, the White House said that Biden "acknowledged" Trudeau's "disappointment" about the Keystone XL pipeline, and that the president "reaffirmed his commitment to maintain an active bilateral dialogue and to further deepen cooperation with Canada."

Trudeau and Biden agreed to meet next month "in order to advance the important work of renewing the deep and enduring friendship between Canada and the United States," the prime minister's office said.

-ABC News' Kirit Radia and Benjamin Siu

Jan 22, 10:27 pm
Trump's former acting DHS secretary calls for Senate to confirm replacement


Former President Donald Trump's acting Department of Homeland Security secretary is urging the Senate to confirm Joe Biden's nominee for the post.

In a letter Friday to the Senate Homeland Security Committee that was obtained by ABC News, Kevin McAleenan argued that due to the ongoing pandemic, immigration issues and U.S. national security interests, the Senate should vote to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas.

"There has been a long-standing, bipartisan commitment to ensure that a duly-elected President receives swift confirmation of the national security positions in his Cabinet. There should be no exception to this commitment today, when multi-faceted challenges and threats face our nation, and effective responses from our Federal Government are essential," wrote McAleenan, who also noted that domestic terrorism is an "increasing concern."

McAleenan also vouched for Mayorkas' credentials in his letter.

"After serving under his leadership during the Obama Administration, I know that Ali Mayorkas has the character, intellect, and integrity to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security," he wrote. "He has the humility to listen to his operational component leaders and has the character to make difficult decisions."

-ABC News' Luke Barr

Jan 22, 4:08 pm
Senate departs for the weekend having confirmed only 2 Biden appointees


The Senate is not expected to take any additional votes on Biden appointees Friday, ABC News has learned.

That means Biden will head into his first weekend as president with only two Senate-confirmed appointees: Avril Haines, who was confirmed as director of national intelligence Wednesday, and Lloyd Austin, who was confirmed as defense secretary Friday.

The Senate left Friday without voting on the nomination of Janet Yellen to serve as treasury secretary. Her nomination unanimously passed out of the Senate Finance committee Friday morning. It's not clear why the Senate did not vote on Yellen.

The Senate will also leave for the weekend without voting on several other nominees who sat for confirmation hearings this week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer blamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for the stall.

"He's the one holding things up," Schumer said.

-ABC News' Allison Pecorin

Jan 22, 3:48 pm
Pelosi says impeachment timeline fair to Trump


In a new letter to colleagues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says former President Trump will have had plenty of time to prepare for his upcoming Senate trial, which could start as soon as next week.
Republicans have called foul over the fact that the impeachment in the House was rushed and now they want to give the former president until mid-February to mount his defense.

But Pelosi is making it clear that the article will be sent to the Senate on Monday and that the process will be fair to the former president.

"The House has been respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process. When the Article of Impeachment is transmitted to the Senate, the former President will have had nearly two weeks since we passed the Article. Our Managers are ready for trial before the 100 Senate jurors," she writes in her letter.

Once the article of impeachment is delivered to the Senate Monday, the trial must start by Tuesday at 1 p.m. unless Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell come up with an agreement that could give both sides more time to prepare.

-ABC News' Mariam Khan

Jan 22, 3:25 pm
Biden says ‘we have to act now’ to address the economy


During a remarks on Friday, President Biden highlighted the dire economic situation many Americans are facing as the pandemic rages.

“We cannot, will not, let people go hungry. We cannot let people be evicted because of nothing they did themselves,” Biden said. “I cannot watch people lose their jobs … We have to act. We have to act now.”

“It's not just to meet the moral obligation to treat our fellow Americans with the dignity and respect they deserve, this is an economic imperative,” he added, noting there is a growing consensus among top economists calling for big action to buoy the economy in this moment of crisis.

Biden touted his $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan, saying it has received broad, bipartisan support.

The president cited a Moody’s analysis that estimates the plan will result in the economy creating 7.5 million jobs this year alone.

“We have to do this, we have to move,” the president said.

“We’re going to finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in direct payments to folks,” Biden added, noting that the $600 payments that passed in late 2020 is “not enough.”

“I look forward to working with members of Congress of both parties to move quickly to get this American rescue plan to the American people,” the president said.

After his remarks, Biden signed two executive orders -- one that will provide expanded food assistance and one that will launch a process to require federal contractors to pay their workers a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave.

Jan 22, 3:05 pm
Jill Biden makes surprise visit to National Guard troops at Capitol


First Lady Jill Biden made a surprise visit to the Capitol building to deliver some sweets to National Guard troops.

The first lady, carrying a basket, thanked the guard members for their service and said the Bidens were a National Guard family, referencing the late Beau Biden.

Jill Biden also reportedly distributed chocolate chip cookies and posed for a group photo with some of the troops.

Her visit Friday comes after photos of National Guard members sleeping in a parking garage sparked outrage from both sides of the aisle on social media.

Jan 22, 2:40 pm
Psaki confirms Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act


Psaki confirmed at a press briefing Friday that Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to help combat the COVID-19 crisis.

“There was a question yesterday about whether the Defense Production Act had been invoked,” she said. “It has been invoked, so those processes are now rapidly ongoing.”

While she said she didn’t have specific companies involved, she said “those conversations are happening as we speak.”

Jan 22, 2:19 pm
Psaki says Biden has ordered a comprehensive threat assessment on ‘domestic violent extremism’


White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing Friday that Biden is taking new action to address domestic violent extremism in the wake of the Capitol raid earlier this month.

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

Psaki said the administration's initial work here will fall into three areas.

“The first is a tasking from president Biden sent to the ODNI today requesting a comprehensive threat assessment, coordinated with the FBI and DHS, on domestic violent extremism,” Psaki said.

“The second will be the building of an NSC capability to focus on countering domestic violent extremism,” she added, saying as a part of this, the National Safety Council will undertake a broad policy review effort.

“The third will be coordinating relevant parts of the federal government to enhance and accelerate efforts to address DVE,” she added. This process will focus on addressing evolving threats, radicalization, the role of social media and more, according to Psaki.

Jan 22, 1:39 pm
Biden to sign 2 economy-related executive orders Friday


Biden’s National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said at a press briefing Friday that Biden will sign two executive orders later in the day to aid Americans struggling amid the COVID-19-induced economic downturn.

Deese painted a picture of the pandemic-battered economy, saying, “We are 10 million jobs short still of where the economy was when this pandemic started.”

“Last month, the economy lost jobs for the first time since last spring,” he added. “Retail sales fell last month, and just yesterday we saw another 900,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance.”

Deese also touted Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan, saying the team hopes “that Congress will move quickly to consider this important proposal without delay.”

As previously reported by ABC News, the two executive orders Biden will sign today deal with food insecurity and raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, Deese said.

One will aim to address the 29 million Americans struggling with hunger by asking the Department of Agriculture to expand food assistance by 15% for school children missing meals due to school closures, increase emergency SNAP benefits to the lowest income homes in the country and revise the amount provided by the program to better cover the cost of a healthy diet, according to the White House.

The other executive order will put federal agencies on a path to require a $15 minimum wage for contractors.

Deese also said Friday that the administration will then turn its focus to providing equitable relief for small businesses.

Jan 22, 1:35 pm
Austin administratively sworn in as secretary of defense


After being confirmed by the Senate, Lloyd Austin was administratively sworn in as secretary of defense by Tom Muir, acting director of the Washington Headquarters Services, Friday afternoon.

Austin was greeted outside the Pentagon by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley around noon before heading inside to be sworn in and begin his first day as the head of the department. On his way in he made very brief remarks to press:

"Hello everybody. Good to see you guys, and thank you for being here. I look forward to working with you. See you around campus," said Austin, who did not take questions.

Jan 22, 1:17 pm
Some Republicans not prepared to split Senate time during impeachment


Several Republicans say they are not prepared to allow the Senate to conduct other business during the hours the impeachment trial is not going on, something that would require unanimous consent.

If a bifurcated approach cannot be agreed on, other Biden administration priorities -- like confirmation of nominees and COVID-19 relief -- will be on pause during the trial, however long it takes.

Negotiations behind the scenes are still ongoing but the trial will start Tuesday barring an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

By threatening to put other Democratic priorities on ice for the trial, Republicans are putting some pressure on Schumer to agree to McConnell's proposed delay of the trial start date.

Jan 22, 12:14 pm
Biden, Harris mark anniversary of Roe v. Wade ruling


Biden and Harris said in a statement marking the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling that their administration “is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.”

"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," their statement said.

Jan 22, 11:42 am
Pelosi confirms impeachment article will be delivered to Senate by House managers on Monday

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., confirmed plans for the House impeachment managers to deliver the impeachment article to the Senate on Monday.

Absent an agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans on the contours of the trial, the delivery of the article would trigger a start to formal proceedings the following day.

Pelosi, pushing back on GOP claims that the timeline doesn't provide former President Trump with enough time to prepare his defense, said in a statement that he "will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers."

“Exactly one week after the attack on the Capitol to undermine the integrity of our democracy, a bipartisan vote of the House of Representatives passed the article of impeachment, which is our solemn duty to deliver to the Senate,” Pelosi stated.

Jan 22, 11:11 am
Senate confirms Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense


By a vote of 93-2, the Senate confirmed Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense on Friday.

He is the second Senate-confirmed Biden appointee and now becomes the first African American to lead the Department of Defense.

Jan 22, 11:07 am
Senate Finance Committee unanimously advances Yellen's nomination


Janet Yellen, Biden’s pick for treasury secretary, had her nomination unanimously advanced by the Senate Finance Committee on Friday.

Her nomination will now go to the full Senate floor for final confirmation.

Yellen is the former chair of the Federal Reserve and, if confirmed by the Senate, would become the first woman to lead the Treasury.

Jan 22, 10:51 am
Photos of National Guardsmen resting in the parking lot sparks outrage


Lawmakers expressed outrage on Twitter Thursday night after photos of National Guardsmen allegedly being booted out of the congressional grounds and sequestered into a parking garage for their breaks went viral.

The images were first reported by Politico, which stated that thousands of National Guardsmen were forced to vacate congressional grounds and take rest breaks in a parking garage.

Tens of thousands of guardsmen were originally summoned to the nation’s capital to assist with security for Biden’s inauguration after the deadly mob attack earlier this month at the Capitol building.  

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle responded to the reports on Twitter.

“If this is true, it's outrageous,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote. “I will get to the bottom of this.”

The verified Senate Republicans Twitter handle called it “unacceptable” and said the guardsmen “should be welcomed back inside the Capitol ASAP.”

Military veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill, called the news “unreal.”

“I can’t believe that the same brave servicemembers we’ve been asking to protect our Capitol and our Constitution these last two weeks would be unceremoniously ordered to vacate the building,” Duckworth said. “I am demanding answers ASAP. They can use my office.”

On Friday morning, the Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman issued a statement assuring that, “with the exception of specific times on Inauguration Day itself while the swearing-in ceremonies were underway, the United States Capitol police did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities.”

Pittman said that the Capitol Police has worked tirelessly to identify accommodations for the guardsmen and that on Friday, “the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Office Building reached out directly to the National Guard to offer use of its facilities.”

“As of this morning, all Guardsmen and women have been relocated to space within the Capitol Complex,” Pittman added. “The Department is also working with the Guard to reduce the need for sleeping accommodations by establishing shorter shifts and will ensure they have access to the comfortable accommodations they absolutely deserve when the need arises.”

Jan 22, 10:18 am
Article of impeachment will be delivered to Senate on Monday: Schumer


The House will deliver the impeachment article against former President Trump to the Senate on Monday, formally launching trial proceedings next week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Friday.

Schumer's announcement follows a request from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to delay the trial until February to give Trump and his still-forming legal team time to prepare a defense.

Trump will be the first former president to face an impeachment trial. Some Senate Republicans have argued that the trial would be unconstitutional because the 45th president is no longer in office, a stance that could trigger a Senate debate and vote on the validity of the trial in the coming weeks.

"I have spoken to Speaker Pelosi who informed me that the articles will be delivered to the Senate on Monday," Schumer said.

"The Senate will conduct a trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump. It will be a full trial, it will be a fair trial," he added, without details on the length or format of the proceedings.

Jan 22, 7:57 am
'We're not packing our bags at 100 million shots,' Psaki says

While White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that Biden's goal of getting 100 million Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 within the first 100 days of his presidency "was bold at the time" it was set and "continues to be," she insisted their efforts won't stop there.

"When we reach that goal, and we're confident we will, we're going to build from there. So we're not packing our bags at 100 million shots in the arms of Americans," Psaki told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Friday on Good Morning America.

"We want to make sure that people know that we're going to hold ourselves accountable and we're going to do everything to make sure we're getting as many people vaccinated as possible," she added.

Addressing the criticism from some congressional Republicans on Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package, Psaki said the emergency relief plan "is big because the crises are big" but that it's really just an opening offer and the president believes they can get a bipartisan package.

"This is exactly how it should work," she said, "and it feels maybe unfamiliar to many people."

"The president of the United States laid out his agenda, laid out his bold vision. There's going to be a discussion with members of congress of both parties about where we go from here," she continued. "They'll like some pieces, they won't like some pieces, we'll see what the sausage looks like when it comes out of the machine."

"He's an optimist by nature, I can confirm for the American public," she said of Biden. "But also he's a believer, having spent 36 years in the Senate, that when the country is facing a crisis -- and we're facing multiple right now, not just health, the pandemic -- that Democrats and Republicans are going to have to come together to agree on a package to address this crisis."

When asked whether the Biden administration favours a delay on Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate in order to get more cabinet members confirmed, Psaki dodged the question and instead emphasized the urgent need for the confirmation process to move quickly.

"We want it to be expedited," she said. "Again, you know, the president is somebody who's focused on working with both parties to get both his cabinet through, address the crises we're facing, and that's what we're going to work to do everyday. We'll see if we're successful."

Jan 22, 7:25 am
Harris to stay at Blair House while Naval Observatory undergoes repairs


Harris and her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, will stay at Blair House while repairs at the vice president's official residence, the Naval Observatory, are underway, a spokesperson told ABC News.

Blair House, which was built in 1824, is located just steps from the White House and is the oldest of four connected townhouses that comprise the president's guest house.

An aide had previously confirmed that Harris will not immediately move into the Naval Observatory to "allow for repairs to the home that are more easily conducted with the home unoccupied." The repairs are to replace the liners in the chimneys "and other household maintenance," the aide said.

Jan 22, 1:30 am
Biden to outline response to US economic crisis


On his third day in office, President Joe Biden will tackle one of the country's biggest issues: the economic recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden will deliver remarks on his administration’s response to the economic crisis in the U.S. Friday afternoon, according to the White House.

His announcement will come as so many Americans (at least 900,000) continue to battle with unemployment caused by the pandemic.

Biden will also continue to sign executive orders, the White House said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Early indications show honeymoon period for Biden administration: POLL

Ken Cedeno/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBY: KENDALL KARSON, ABC NEWS

(LONDON) — President Joe Biden is held in high regard by most Americans, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday, as he takes the reins of a divided country in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic and economic crisis.

In his first week in the Oval Office, Biden yielded high approval ratings for his response to the coronavirus (69%) and confidence in his ability to unify the country (57%). The new poll was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel.

Biden's early honeymoon period is a sharp departure from the underwhelming initial response former President Donald Trump received four years ago.

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, Biden's score for handling the transition landed at 67%, nearly 30 points higher than his predecessor just before his inauguration.

Trump's lackluster marks broke with the pattern for newly elected presidents, who usually enjoy high approval ratings in their first months in office.

For Biden, starting his tenure as commander-in-chief in a honeymoon period might afford him more room to maneuver on policy, particularly on his administration's colossal challenge: COVID-19.

The more than two-thirds of Americans who approve of his leadership on the coronavirus includes 40% of Republicans -- a notably high level of support from across the aisle a year into the pandemic. An overwhelming 97% of Democrats and 70% of independents also back Biden's management of the crisis in his early days in office.

The highest approval Trump received for his handling of the virus was in mid-March last year, when 55% of Americans approved of his response, including 30% of Democrats. But for virtually all of the pandemic, Trump was underwater with the American public on his handling of COVID-19.

As Biden faces a collection of crises, starting with the nation's war against the coronavirus, he signed an executive order on his first day in office that implemented a mask mandate and social distancing requirements in federal buildings and on federal land. The order is backed by more than 8 in 10 Americans in the poll (81%), as well as almost all Democrats (99%), and majorities of Republicans (59%) and independents (83%).

But honeymoons rarely last, and the poll revealed several fault lines that could erode Biden's broad early support.

Americans are a bit more wary of Biden's ability to make effective progress on his signature campaign promise: to unify a splintered nation.

As part of the survey, respondents were shown a video excerpt of Biden's inaugural address, in which the newly sworn-in president invoked a familiar theme from his campaign that focused on mending a deeply fractured nation.

"We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace -- only bitterness and fury. No progress -- only exhausting outrage. No nation -- only a state of chaos," Biden said. "This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America."

While 71% of those who viewed the video clip believed Biden's rhetoric was convincing, in contrast, just over 1 in 5 Americans (22%) have a great deal of confidence in the president's ability to actually unify the country. Nearly one-quarter (24%) are deeply skeptical of Biden's capacity to bring the country together.

On Day One, the president rolled out a first slate of executive actions -- charting his own course with policy steps that clear majorities of Americans back in the poll. But there is some variance in the level of support for each one.

Some of the dividing lines that could potentially imperil Biden's agenda are forming around specific policy goals that overlap with issues Trump touted during his campaign and four years in office.

The potentially most fraught terrain for Biden to find common ground on is the issue of immigration, in which support for the directives addressing the Trump-era Muslim ban and the border wall plummet among Republicans.

While more than half of Americans support reversing certain moves by the former president -- including the travel ban that targeted Muslim and African countries (55%), the construction of a wall at the southern border (55%), the exclusion of noncitizens from the U.S. Census (56%) and an effort to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program (65%) -- Republicans are sharply opposed to such actions.

More than 3 in 4 Republicans oppose Biden's executive orders to reverse the Muslim ban (78%), end the national emergency declaration at the U.S. southern border to stop construction of the wall (87%) and exclude noncitizens from the Census count (81%). Nearly two-thirds (66%) are against extending DACA.

After Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accords and cut ties with the World Health Organization, roughly one-third of the country opposes Biden's decision to recommit to the climate agreement and rejoin the global health agency, driven by steepened Republican opposition. About 6 in 10 Republicans (61%) are against returning to WHO, and 72% are opposed to signing onto the Paris Agreement again.

But for broader actions by the newly installed Democratic administration targeting social justice and workplace discrimination, support is more widespread and bipartisan.

Roughly 8 in 10 Americans back Biden's directives prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity (83%) and creating a government-wide approach to equity, civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity (77%). That includes 64% and 52% of Republicans, respectively.

This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs' KnowledgePanel® Jan. 22 to 23, 2021, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 504 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 5.0 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31%-26%-36%, Democrats-Republicans-independents. See the poll's topline results and details on the methodology here.

ABC News' Dan Merkle and Ken Goldstein contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Capitol rioter who allegedly tweeted he wanted to 'assassinate' Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faces 5 charges

Jon Cherry/Getty ImagesBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A man who allegedly made an online threat to "assassinate" Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., faces five charges in connection with the U.S. Capitol insurrection, authorities said.

Garret Miller was arrested Wednesday in Texas. His charges include threats and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. A detention hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25.

Newly released court documents chronicle a series of social media posts Miller allegedly made on Jan. 6 and in the days following the riot, including threats to the Democratic lawmaker, a regular target of conservatives, and a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

"Assassinate AOC," Miller tweeted on Jan. 6 in response to a call by Ocasio-Cortez to impeach former President Donald Trump, according to the criminal complaint.

In a Facebook discussion on Jan. 10 about the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot a rioter, Miller allegedly said, "We going to get a hold of [the USCP officer] and hug his neck with a nice rope[.]"

On Jan. 11, Miller allegedly posted to Facebook a selfie of himself inside the Capitol Rotunda. When someone commented on the post, "bro you got in?! Nice!," Miller replied, "just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol," according to the affidavit.

A few days after the siege on the Capitol, Miller "admitted on Instagram that he 'had a rope in [his] bag on that day,'" according to the affidavit.

Miller's Twitter account has been suspended and his Facebook page has been deleted. The FBI affidavit included screengrabs of social media posts they attributed to Miller and stills of surveillance footage that allegedly placed him in the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

In a statement to ABC News, Miller's attorney said that his client "regrets the acts he took in a misguided effort to show his support for former President Trump."

"His social media comments reflect very ill-considered political hyperbole in very divided times and will certainly not be repeated in the future," attorney Clint Broden said in the statement. "He accepts responsibility for his actions."

 

On one hand you have to laugh, and on the other know that the reason they were this brazen is because they thought they were going to succeed.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 23, 2021


In response to news of Miller's arrest, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, "On one hand you have to laugh, and on the other know that the reason they were this brazen is because they thought they were going to succeed."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden makes symbolic changes to Oval Office reflecting goals as president

Doug Mills/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy MICHELLE STODDART and ADIA ROBINSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Not long after he was inaugurated, President Donald Trump had a portrait of the populist and controversial President Andrew Jackson placed prominently in the Oval Office, looking down as he held photo ops, signed sweeping executive orders and sparred with reporters.

But that painting of Jackson has been replaced.

Now, next to President Joe Biden as he sits at the Resolute desk is a portrait of one of America's founders, Benjamin Franklin.

Other symbolic changes Biden has made include adding busts of labor organizer and Latino civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, as well as portraits of former presidents Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

"It was important for President Biden to walk into an Oval that looked like America and started to show the landscape of who he is going to be as president," Ashley Williams, the deputy director of Oval Office operations, told the Washington Post.

The busts of King and Kennedy, who Biden on the campaign trail called his political heroes, are in his direct view on either side of the Oval Office fireplace.

The Chavez bust sits among photos of Biden’s family, including one of his beloved late son, Beau, on a table behind him.

Chavez’ son, Paul Chavez, told the Associated Press that when he agreed to lend the bust to the president, he didn't know where it would end up. Seeing it placed so noticeably behind Biden, Chavez said, "we’re still smiling cheek to cheek."

Franklin's portrait is said to be a nod to his respect for science.

A large portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who also came into office during a time of economic hardship during the Great Depression, hangs right across the room as Biden sits at the Resolute desk.

Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington also look on from the Oval Office walls.

Biden paired the portraits of Jefferson and Hamilton, his office told the Washington Post as "hallmarks of how differences of opinion, expressed within the guardrails of the Republic, are essential to democracy."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pastor says addressing resistance to Biden administration is part of the job

ABC NewsBy ALLIE YANG, ABC News

(RALEIGH, NC) -- Pastor Chad Harvey admits that emotions are still “a little high” after President Joe Biden’s inauguration this week. His congregation in Raleigh, North Carolina, largely supported former President Donald Trump’s reelection.

Still, Harvey says his flock is slowly coming to terms with Trump’s loss.

“It’s God who raises up leaders, and it’s God who deposes leaders,” he told “Nightline.” “We are to submit to whoever is in control. And so I think our people act as some of the emotional mess of the initial day after the election, after they got over that, I think they're actually in good shape.”

Harvey, who has led the Cross Assembly Church since 2002, said he’s found himself combating misinformation in order to “calm the waters.”

“I've had to ask our people to calm down and not go off on conspiratorial tangents,” he said. “I've heard everything from the Vatican was behind the riots, to special forces broke into the chambers to steal Nancy Pelosi's computer. I've asked our people just to lay all that mess aside.”

He said his Pentacostal congregation has also passed around prophecies Trump would be reelected.

“I'm having to let folks know that sometimes people get it wrong and some of their favorite prophets and prophetesses got it wrong,” Harvey said. “Donald Trump is not going to be president, at least for the next four years. … People got caught up in emotion and that was it.”

Sometimes, he said frustration is directed at him for being the bearer of bad news.

“Part of my job as a pastor has been to say, ‘Let's lay aside the conspiracy theories, let's lay aside some of these prophecies that aren't going to come to fruition and get focused on what God's called us to do.’”

Harvey admitted he has his own reservations about Biden, including “rolling back some of the pro-life executive orders that Donald Trump put into place,” he said, referring to Biden's plans to end policies that restricted access to abortions in the U.S. “[That] concerned some evangelicals, particularly in my congregation.”

Biden, who has taken great comfort in his own faith through several tragedies in his life, is a practicing Catholic and invoked St. Augustine in his inauguration speech while calling for unity.

"Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love," Biden said. "What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans? ... Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and yes -- the truth."

Harvey is concerned that under the current “polarized environment,” “ultimate unity” may not be possible.

“I hear [calls for] unity in the evangelical church. ... I hear a call for unity, ostensibly from the Biden administration, although I'm not hearing that call as strongly as I would like,” he said.

“I'm all for unity. I'm not for unity at the [expense] of truth,” he said. “Individuals should not have to lay down deep-held conviction on issues like the sanctity of life, human sexuality. We shouldn't have to lay those down for the sake of unity.”

With such severe cultural and political divides in the country, Harvey worries “things are going to get worse and worse. The division will be deeper and deeper. My view of scripture is there's going to be a great falling away from the true faith. I believe that America's greatness will start to decline.”

He teaches that to remedy this, “We have to look past nationalism, the greatness of America. We have to look past all of this and look into eternity.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump impeachment article to be sent to Senate Monday, triggering trial

franckreporter/iStockBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL and KATHERINE FAULDERS

(WASHINGTON) -- The House will deliver the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, formally launching trial proceedings next week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Friday.

Schumer's announcement comes after a request from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay the trial until February and give Trump and his still-forming legal team time to prepare a defense.

The senate majority leader said members would be sworn in on Tuesday and the trial would begin on Feb. 8.

"Leader McConnell is glad that Leader Schumer agreed to Republicans' request for additional time during the pre-trial phase," Doug Andres, McConnell's spokesman, said in a statement. "Especially given the fast and minimal process in the House, Republicans set out to ensure the Senate's next steps will respect former President Trump's rights and due process, the institution of the Senate, and the office of the presidency. That goal has been achieved. This is a win for due process and fairness."

Trump will be the first former president to face an impeachment trial. Some Senate Republicans have argued that the trial would be unconstitutional because the 45th president is no longer in office, a stance that could trigger a Senate debate and vote on the validity of the trial in the coming weeks.

"I have spoken to Speaker Pelosi who informed me that the articles will be delivered to the Senate on Monday," Schumer said.

"The Senate will conduct a trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump. It will be a full trial, it will be a fair trial," he added, without details on the length or format of the proceedings.

On Friday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed Schumer's comments in a letter sent to her House Democratic caucus, saying Trump will have had plenty of time to prepare for his upcoming Senate trial and responding to Republicans complaints that the House impeachment was rushed.

"The House has been respectful of the Senate's constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process," Pelosi said in the letter. "When the Article of Impeachment is transmitted to the Senate, the former President will have had nearly two weeks since we passed the Article. Our Managers are ready for trial before the 100 Senate jurors," she wrote.

ABC News' Mariam Khan contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden administration to pause most ICE deportations, among other immigration policy shifts

danielfela/iStockBy QUINN OWEN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration this week announced a 100-day pause on deportations of most people living in the country illegally along with a new priority system for those who will still be subject to removal.

The Department of Homeland Security released a memo outlining the categories of immigration offenders who will continue to be subject to arrest and eventual removal.

Those priorities include migrants at the border who arrived after Nov. 1, 2020, according to the memo. Immigrants already in the U.S. who pose a national security or public safety risk including anyone convicted of an "aggravated felony" are also a top priority under the new department-wide guidance.

The memo makes clear that Homeland Security will not be issuing a full stop on arrests and removals. But it requires Immigration and Customs Enforcement to report on its implementation of the new priorities and it will require the ICE director to review arrests of anyone not already in jail.

"… nothing in this memorandum prohibits the apprehension or detention of individuals unlawfully in the United States who are not identified as priorities," the DHS memo reads.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched a lawsuit Friday against the deportation pause. The state AG office called it a violation of the Constitution.

"Our state defends the largest section of the southern border in the nation. Failure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel," Paxton said in a statement. "I am confident that these unlawful and perilous actions cannot stand."

The Biden administration memo enacting the moratorium cites the ongoing global pandemic and "significant operational challenges" as the rationale behind a renewed focus on the southern border while shifting enforcement priorities away from major cities.

Customs and Border Protection has seen a surge of border crossing attempts in recent months. Immigration authorities have stopped more than 70,000 unauthorized migrants in each of the last three months. Those are higher monthly totals than previously recorded over the same time in at least the past six years, according to the latest CBP data.

"In light of those unique circumstances, the Department must surge resources to the border in order to ensure safe, legal and orderly processing," according to the memo.

Homeland Security also announced this week it will suspend a policy rolled out by the Trump administration that forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they waited for their day in immigration court. The "Migrant Protection Protocols" also known as the "remain in Mexico" policy resulted in the ballooning of makeshift refugee camps in northern Mexican border towns.

Human rights observers have documented the dangers facing children and families subjected to the policy.

In a recent report, Human Rights Watch concluded the program should be dismantled. The report's authors spoke to children and adults who described being sexual assaulted, abducted for ransom, extorted and robbed at gunpoint while enrolled in the program.

The statement goes on to urge people subjected to the program to "remain where they are" and notes that those who are outside of the United States will not qualify for the legal path to citizenship outlined in the immigration proposal President Biden delivered to Congress Friday.

The announcements on enforcement changes came as President Biden also put forward his legislative immigration proposal which provides a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

After passing background checks, immigrants already in the U.S. can pursue a new kind of temporary legal status that lasts for six years. Spouses and children of applicants, even those abroad, will also be eligible. They will be able to apply for permanent resident "green cards" five years into holding temporary status and can apply to become naturalized three years after that.

Immigrants will be able to work, travel and join the military during their temporary legal authorization period. TPS holders, farm workers and DREAMers will be able to apply for "green cards" immediately without the five-year waiting period.

At least nine republicans will be required to join Democrats to reach the 60 vote threshhold needed to pass the bill.

"It makes a difference when you have leadership in the White House who will put political capital on the table to try to make things happen," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N,J., the lead sponsor in the Senate.

The proposal includes investment in security technology at the border, Menendez said Thursday. It will also increase staffing at immigration courts while mandating legal counsel for children and certain "vulnerable" migrants.

In a significant symbolic move, the bill also removes the word "alien" from federal immigration law and replaces it with "noncitizen."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Austin makes history as first African American to lead Pentagon

Sarah Silbiger/Getty ImagesBy MATT SEYLER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Retired U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin on Friday took over as the first black Pentagon chief shortly after being confirmed 93-2 by the Senate.

Austin was greeted outside the Pentagon with an elbow bump by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley before heading inside to be sworn in and begin his first day as defense secretary, leading a military that is now nearly 17 percent African American.

"I look forward to working with you, see you around campus," Austin said to reporters, ignoring questions.

After being confirmed by the Senate, Austin was administratively sworn by Tom Muir, acting director of the Washington Headquarters Services.

Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden signed a waiver approved by Congress allowing Austin to take the job even though it's been fewer than seven years since he retired in 2016.

The rule for former military leaders taking over at the Pentagon was instituted to address concerns about keeping civilian control of the military and worries someone recently retired might be too wedded to policies and to people he or she worked with during their time in the military.

A similar waiver was granted in 2017 for President Donald Trump's first defense secretary, retired U.S. Marine Gen. Jim Mattis.

"If you confirm me, I am prepared to serve now -- as a civilian -- fully acknowledging the importance of this distinction," Austin said at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I understand and respect the reservations some of you have expressed about having another recently retired general at the head of the Department of Defense," he said. "The safety and security of our democracy demands competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil."

He pledged to surround himself with experienced civilians whom he said he would empower to "enable healthy civil-military relations, grounded in meaningful oversight."

On Friday afternoon, Austin sent out a day-one message to the force.

"The way I see it, my job as Secretary of Defense is to make you more effective at doing yours. That means ensuring you have the tools, technology, weapons, and training to deter and defeat our enemies. It means establishing sound policy and strategy and assigning you clear missions. It means putting a premium on cooperation with our allies and partners. And it means living up to our core values, the same ones our fellow citizens expect of us," Austin said in he written message.

Austin said he planned to include the under secretary of defense for policy in top decision-making meetings "ensuring strategic and operational decisions are informed by policy."

He said his first major challenge would be dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, and said that if confirmed he will quickly review the Pentagon's contributions to the nationwide distribution of vaccines.

Another top priority, Austin said, would be to ensure Defense Department employees have "a working environment free of discrimination, hate and harassment."

"If confirmed, I will fight hard to stamp out sexual assault, to rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity," said Austin. The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks."

The former commander of U.S. Central Command -- with jurisdiction over military activities in the Middle East -- Austin retired after more than 40 years of military service, including a stint leading U.S. forces in Iraq and the campaign against the Islamic State.

A native of Mobile, Alabama, the 67-year-old Austin finished his career in 2016 as the commander of U.S. Central Command, where he was in charge of all American troops in the Middle East.

At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki, noting his historic confirmation, said Austin "has been breaking barriers all his life."

ABC News Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


For GOP firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert, anger and suspicion linger after Capitol riot

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesBy MATTHEW MOSK and BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Gun control advocate Eileen McCarron faced blowback last year when she quipped that newly-elected Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert would be heading to Washington to lead the "nut-job caucus."

Afterward, McCarron said she wondered if she had gone too far. But then she saw Boebert rail about the 2020 elections, demand to carry a handgun onto the House floor, and send incendiary tweets about 1776 ahead of the U.S. Capitol violence on Jan. 6. Now, McCarron told ABC News, she thinks Boebert "may actually be worse" than she feared.

"I think it's become clear she is a menace to our country," said McCarron, the president of Colorado Ceasefire.

Boebert, 34, is just days into her first term as a member of Congress, and already the fast-talking, gun-toting tavern owner is proving to be a provocative and disruptive force -- a reputation she says she relishes.

"I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be for this moment," Boebert told ABC News. "I'm proud to be here. I'm not slowing down. I'm not backing down."

The Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol served as a signal event for the Donald Trump presidency, and it has proven both defining and perilous for some of his staunchest supporters -- of which Boebert is one. In the weeks since the attack, Boebert has faced suspicion from many of her new colleagues in Washington. She has endured death threats and a flood of ridicule on social media. And she has seen strong reactions from critics and even some supporters back home in Colorado.

Some of Boebert's Colorado constituents hosted a rally calling for her expulsion from Congress last week. Democrats promoted an aggressive recruiting drive to field an opponent to run against her in 2022. And a group of 60 elected officials from the Western Colorado region Boebert represents wrote an open letter to congressional leaders calling for an investigation into Boebert's conduct during the Jan. 6 insurrection, which they described as "irresponsible and reprehensible."

"We have heard overwhelmingly from our constituents, therefore her constituents, that there is deep concern about her actions leading up to and during the protests that turned into a violent and deadly mob," the letter said.

Exactly what Boebert did leading up to and during the Capitol siege remains a subject of rumors, dispute and continued controversy.

On the morning of the siege, Boebert tweeted, "Today is 1776." She was speaking on the House floor against certifying Arizona's election results as rioters swarmed the Capitol, saying "The Constitution makes it necessary for me to object to this travesty." And as extremists poured into the Capitol, she tweeted: "The Speaker has been removed from the chambers."

Some of the most combustible claims leveled by her critics -- that she secretly gave reconnaissance tours of the Capitol to extremists, that her mother was a rioter, or that her tweet about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was intended to guide the mob -- appear to be entirely unsupported and have been met with sharp denials from Boebert herself.

"We are getting death threats over these slanderous claims," Boebert told ABC News. "This is complete malice. They know that this is not true and they are still running with it."

But there are reasons that the otherwise obscure freshman congresswoman has remained a focus of attention both in Washington and at home.

One of the militants arrested for participating in the riot posted a photo online last week in which he posed, in military attire, in front of the restaurant Boebert owns in her home town of Rifle, Colorado. Authorities said the man, Robert Gieswein, is aligned with a militia group known as the "Three Percenters," which anti-government and pro-gun views. The Southern Poverty Law Center says some members are dangerous "anti-government extremists" and the Anti-Defamation League has flagged members pushing white supremacist dogma.

Another image, taken at a pro-gun rally shortly after Boebert launched her campaign in 2019, showed her posing with local members of the Three Percenters, which was one of two organizations credited with providing security at the rally, according to published reports.

Photos of the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol showed some participants waving the Three Percenters flag during the riot.

In June, Boebert tweeted the provocative statement: "I am the militia."

When asked about her views on anti-government militia groups, Boebert said their activity is sanctioned by the U.S. Constitution -- but she stopped short of offering a full-throated endorsement of their efforts. She said she doesn't know Robert Gieswein, the Colorado man who had posed in front of her restaurant and who was later charged with participating in the Capitol siege. She said the photos she has taken with Three Percenters should not be viewed as an endorsement of their actions.

"Lots of people attend my campaign events," she said. "I'm not affiliated with any groups. Lots of people come out. Lots of people take photos with me. I'm not vetting every person that comes to my events."

A recent FBI report notes that simply espousing anti-government rhetoric is not against the law, but that these types of militias represent a security threat because of their efforts to "advance that ideology through force or violence," which is illegal.

Boebert took to Twitter on Jan. 6
to condemn the attack on the Capitol, which has been proven to involve large numbers of militia members from around the country. And she refuted many of the claims circulated about her as false -- telling ABC News, for instance, that her mother did not participate in the siege and was locked in Boebert's office the entire time.

Democrats have continued to question whether any Republican members took steps to aid the rioters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Thursday that "if people did aid and abet, there will be more than just comments from colleagues here -- there will be prosecutions."

"We should have a full investigation," said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., adding that the conduct of members of Congress should "absolutely" be looked at by the FBI.

Bryson Morgan, a former investigative counsel to the House Office of Congressional Ethics, said nothing revealed so far would indicate that Boebert could face discipline.

"But we keep learning more and more about the events of Jan. 6," Morgan said. "I would expect if a member was shown to be supporting an attack on the Capitol in any way, there would be swift action."

Groups that monitor militia activity said they are increasingly concerned by what they have been learning about Boebert. Scott Levin, director of the Colorado chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, said his group has not been able to tie Boebert directly to any extremist or hate groups -- but he said the events of Jan. 6 generated heightened suspicion.

"The language she uses is something that people will take cues from, and that will empower them and embolden them to act," Levin said. "And that's where the real danger is."

Back in Colorado, people in Boebert's district have been following her first days in Congress with a range of reactions. Boebert said she has received positive feedback from her constituents.

"My supporters who sent me to Washington, D.C., are happy with me," she said. "My base is growing."

Matt Scherr, a commissioner in Eagle County, said Boebert is probably correct that her conduct is not likely to siphon away support -- even though he was upset by it. He said he does believe she needs to conduct herself with more care, now that she holds elective office.

"She is clearly passionate and a patriot," Scherr said. "We were not calling for her resignation or for her to be expelled. But we would hope she learns from this and shows some contrition about what happened from the Capitol."

Others say they are increasingly concerned by what they see as combustible rhetoric.

"I know she has a lot of supporters," said John Clark, the mayor of the town of Ridgway in Boebert's district.

"I just know my friends and acquaintances aren't happy at all about what occurred on Jan. 6 and her ensuing behavior," Clark said. "So many people are believing radical misinformation and it's really hard to convince them otherwise -- and unfortunately, Lauren Boebert is doing everything she can to spur them on."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden takes steps to require federal contractors pay $15 minimum wage

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy MOLLY NAGLE and BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden plans to sign a pair of executive orders Friday aimed at expanding food assistance for tens of millions of Americans and launching a process that will require federal contractors to pay their workers a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave.

The moves come on Biden's second full day in office, and continue a string of executive actions he's taken to jumpstart his agenda and set the tone for his administration amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has left families struggling economically.

"We're at a precarious moment in our economy. We saw again today 900,000 new claims for unemployment insurance, another week at a level above any week during the Great Recession," White House National Economic Director Brian Deese said on a call Thursday night previewing the orders. "More than ...10 million Americans are out of work, 14 million Americans are behind on their rent and nearly 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children are experiencing food insecurity."

Biden plans to sign an executive order that will expand protections for federal workers, including putting federal agencies on a path to require a $15 minimum wage for contractors.

But that minimum wage won't come right away. Instead, Biden plans to direct the federal government "to start the work that would allow him to issue" an order "within the first 100 days" that would require federal contractors to pay at least $15 per hour, according to the White House.

The eventual executive action would also provide emergency paid leave to workers, the White House said.

The order Biden plans to sign Friday will also restore collective bargaining power and other protections to workers by revoking several of former President Donald Trump's executive orders.

The actions echo policy steps Biden advocated on the campaign trail, and were included in the joint recommendations from the Biden-Sanders unity task forces created shortly after Biden secured Sen. Bernie Sanders' endorsement in the 2020 race.

It will also reverse a move Trump made in October to reclassify a portion of federal workers in a way that made them easier to fire by the politically appointed leaders of agencies, the White House said. The order will eliminate "Schedule F," the name of the classification that Trump's order created.

Biden also plans to sign an additional order asking various agencies to take action during the pandemic to increase federal food assistance programs, and assist families in receiving economic aid they qualify for during the pandemic.

Biden's executive order would address the 29 million Americans struggling with hunger by asking the Department of Agriculture to expand food assistance for school children missing meals due to school closures by 15%, increase emergency SNAP benefits to the lowest income homes in the country and revise the amount of benefits provided by the program to better cover the cost of a healthy diet, according to the White House.

Biden will also ask the Treasury Department to ensure all Americans receive their direct stimulus payments by creating an online tool to allow recipients to claim the payment, and ask the Department of Labor to clarify rules for federal workers to allow them to apply for unemployment insurance if they refuse a job due to health concerns.

The order will set up coordinated benefit delivery teams to work with small businesses and workers to navigate how to receive benefits available to them through state and federal resources as well.

Deese stressed that the actions Biden planned to take would offer some assistance, but were far from comprehensive, urging Congress to pass Biden's ambitious $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package he introduced last week.

"We hope that Congress will move quickly to consider this important plant," he said. "But ... the American people can't afford to wait. And so many are hanging by a thread, they need help, and we are committed to doing everything we can to provide that help as quickly as possible."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden to seek 5-year extension of last nuclear arms pact with Russia

rusm/iStockBy CONOR FINNEGAN

(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration is working to extend the last nuclear arms control pact between the U.S. and Russia for five years, the White House announced Thursday, seeking to stave off a nuclear arms race with Moscow even as President Joe Biden promises to be tougher than his predecessor Donald Trump.

The decision to extend the pact, which expires on Feb. 5, was hailed by many arms control experts as important to stabilizing the relationship between the two largest nuclear-armed powers. But critics, including Trump's envoy for arms control who spent months negotiating with Russian officials, denounced it as a concession to Vladimir Putin.

Biden is looking to put Russia on notice in other areas, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, by ordering the intelligence community to issue a full assessment on recent Russian aggression, including the massive SolarWinds hack and the alleged bounties offered to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops.

"This extension makes more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial, as it is at this time," Psaki said during a briefing, calling the pact the "only remaining treaty constraining Russian nuclear forces" and "an anchor of strategic stability between our two countries."

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a 2010 pact signed by Biden's former boss Barack Obama and known as New START, limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and includes verification measures like on-site inspections and data sharing.

Russia had been asking the U.S. to extend the treaty for five years -- a move allowed under the treaty's provisions. In a statement published while Biden was inaugurated Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the Trump administration for ultimately refusing to extend the treaty and called for its immediate extension while the two sides negotiated a more expansive framework for nuclear arms control.

Trump's envoy for arms control Marshall Billingslea said the prior administration also sought that wider framework, but pursued a shorter-term freeze on both countries' nuclear weapons programs in the meantime, including caps on so-called "non-strategic" nuclear arms. Those are smaller-range or less advanced weapons, which are not covered under New START or other past nuclear arms-control treaties and of which Russia has a much larger stockpile.

"We are getting nothing for extending," tweeted Billingslea, accusing the Biden administration of "a stunning lack of negotiating skill."

Russia had rejected Billingslea's offer of a shorter-term extension or any freeze that included a verification regime.

With just two weeks until New START expires, arms control advocates welcomed Biden's decision, arguing it allows the administration to now use that five-year window to strike a larger deal and push to bring China into talks -- something Billingslea fought to do, but that Beijing repeatedly rebuffed.

Extension "sustains a stable U.S.-Russian nuclear balance and provides predictability as the U.S. modernizes its nuclear forces. Russia and the U.S. must stay within New START limits, avoiding an arms race," tweeted Rose Gottemoeller, the former deputy secretary-general of NATO and the top arms control official under the Obama administration who helped negotiate New START.

Predictability would be helpful, given the turmoil in the rest of U.S.-Russian relations, sinking even lower during Trump's term even as he called for "getting along" with Putin's government. Biden ordered the intelligence community to provide a full assessment of Russia's aggressive activity in the last year.

"Even as we work with Russia to advance U.S. interests, so too we work to hold Russia to account for its reckless and adversarial actions," Psaki said at the White House, intending to show a harder line on Russia early.

The assessments will cover the SolarWinds hack that affected dozens of government agencies and private companies, any interference in the 2020 elections, the use of chemical weapons attack to poison opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the possible bounties offered the Taliban to killed U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

ABC News's Patrick Reevell contributed to this report from Moscow.


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