The Senate confirmed retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon, making him nation’s first Black secretary of defense, the AP reports. Only two Senators voted against Austin’s nomination; 93 Senators voted to confirm, an overwhelmingly bipartisan margin.
The Atlantic: “The trick, says Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, will be lowering the expectations of an impatient Democratic base that is eager to press the party’s slim advantage by forcing votes on issues like Medicare for All or by making structural changes that could secure the party’s power. Booker says there aren’t enough votes to pass statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico right now, nor for expanding the Supreme Court.”
“Democrats are planning to vote early and often in the new Congress, and to essentially dare Republicans to stand in their way on politically popular measures. … [L]ook for arguments over the filibuster to instead focus on COVID-19 relief (which will almost certainly end up tied to the infrastructure bill) or a new Voting Rights Act. If Republican senators hold those bills up by filibustering, Democrats would accuse them of standing in the way of helping Americans, or standing in the way of voting rights. Ending the filibuster would then be an easier sell.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for “incitement of insurrection” on Monday, Axios reports. The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1 p.m. the day after the article is transmitted. Later Friday evening, however, Schumer announced that the Senate impeachment trial of Trump will begin the week of Feb. 8, the Washington Post reports.
“As the House prepares to send articles of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, CNN has learned that dozens of influential Republicans around Washington — including former top Trump administration officials — have been quietly lobbying GOP members of Congress to impeach and convict Donald Trump. The effort is not coordinated but reflects a wider battle inside the GOP between those loyal to Trump and those who want to sever ties and ensure he can never run for President again.”
“The lobbying started in the House after the January 6 attack on the Capitol and in the days leading up to impeachment. But it’s now more focused on Sen. Mitch McConnell, the powerful minority leader who has signaled he may support convicting Trump.”
“Senate Republicans are coalescing around a long-shot bid to dismiss the impeachment trial of former President Trump before it even begins, relying on a disputed legal argument that says putting an ex-president on trial is unconstitutional,” Politico reports.
As one of their last acts during President Donald Trump’s tenure, the Trump team appears to have sacked the chief White House usher.
“It happened before we walked in the door,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday when asked about the fate of Timothy Harleth, the former chief usher. Harleth, before his government work began in 2017, was a manager at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
CNN first noted Harleth’s departure Wednesday but reported he had been fired by the incoming Biden team. The New York Times subsequently reported that Harleth was told at 11:30 a.m., while he was busy moving furniture, “that his services were no longer needed.” The National Journal backed that account.
“The Trumps sent the butlers home when they left so there would be no one to help the Bidens when they arrived,” one unnamed source, described as “a well-placed official not associated with the incoming Biden team,” told the latter publication.
All news accounts of Harleth’s departure note that Biden’s team was not expected to keep him on the White House staff for long.
According to reporting from Politico, at least 107 House Republicans have communicated to the leaders of that effort that they would support removing Rep. Liz Cheney from leadership on a secret ballot, while others have threatened boycotting future conference meetings if she remains in power.
The intensifying campaign against Cheney, who called her decision to impeach Trump a “vote of conscience,” signals that Trump’s ideological stronghold on the party continues to echo in the chamber since his departure from office on Wednesday.
The news of a growing revolt against Cheney comes after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said they would continue to support Cheney as chair, even as loyalists to former President Trump in the lower chamber called for her removal as conference chair.
According to Politico, at least a dozen House Republicans expressed further frustrations with Cheney, who is in charge of the party’s messaging efforts, for providing fodder to Democrats a day before the impeachment trial, giving them ample time to use her statements, while also sheltering the few Republicans who stood behind her in voting to impeach the now former president.
Cheney, for her part, seems to be brushing off the brouhaha.
“We’re going to have these discussions inside the conference. We have differences of opinion about a whole range of issues, including about this one,” Cheney said Thursday on Fox News. “I anticipate and am confident that we will be united as a conference going forward.”
“The Kremlin on Friday welcomed the Biden administration’s offer to extend a nuclear disarmament treaty that is set to expire next month, signaling, as had been expected, that Russia intends to cooperate with the United States on nuclear security despite President Biden’s pledges to otherwise pursue a harder line with Moscow than his predecessor,” the New York Times reports.
Open Secrets: “Former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating a rally protesting certification of President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory in the 2020 presidential election before hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.”
“But the full extent of the Trump campaign’s ties to the protests may not be not fully known due to its use of shell companies that hide details of its financial dealings and the central role “dark money” played in the protests.”
“Former President Donald Trump gave nothing away about his plans for life after the White House as he dined with friends at his golf club on Friday,” the Washington Examiner reports. Said Trump: “We’ll do something, but not just yet.” “An aide to the former chief executive then swooped in and swiftly, but politely, ended the interaction.”
Politico: “The former president has hired Butch Bowers, a longtime Republican attorney with experience in election law, to represent him when the Senate considers an article of impeachment, likely in a matter of days or weeks.”
“The hiring comes after Trump opted against building out a war room or communications infrastructure to push back against impeachment when it was considered by the House. The former president had also initially struggled to find someone to lead his impeachment defense, as attorneys who previously represented him declined to sign on for a second trial and suggested his political opponents had a stronger case this time.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that the lack of truthfulness from the Trump administration regarding the Covid-19 pandemic “very likely” cost American lives.
Said Fauci: “Particularly when you’re in the situation of almost being in a crisis with the number of cases and hospitalizations and deaths that we have — when you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful.”
Politico: “Put simply, the Senate GOP says Biden’s proposal spends too much money and comes too soon on the heels of Congress’ $900 billion stimulus package from last month. And that unless the proposal has major changes made to it or Democrats use budget reconciliation to pass it with a simple majority, it is doomed on the Senate floor.”