The latest on the Biden presidency

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:10 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021
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9:08 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Trump's impeachment trial starts in one week. These key pre-trial events are happening today.

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju

The House impeachment managers are expected provide a detailed legal analysis in their pre-trial legal brief, due at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday, about the constitutionality of charging Trump with incitement of insurrection, why he should be disqualified from holding future office and why it's constitutional to convict Trump as a former President, in an effort to rebut what's emerged as the primary reason Senate Republicans have cited to acquit Trump.

The House's pretrial impeachment brief on Tuesday will also lay the legal groundwork for a case in which the managers plan to illustrate the horrors of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in visceral detail and to tie the carnage back to the Trump's words and actions, sources say.

Trump's legal team is also scheduled to file its response to the impeachment trial summons on Tuesday at noon ET after five of Trump's lawyers left his team on Saturday amid a dispute about legal strategy and whether to argue baseless claims of widespread election fraud.

Adding to some of the friction that resulted in the former President parting ways with Butch Bowers, who was expected to be a lead attorney, was Trump's opposition to the cost. Bowers wanted to charge him $3 million for expenses related to the upcoming trial, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN.

Trump hired two new lawyers, David Schoen and Bruce Castor, on Sunday, and his team is expected to argue that trying a former president is unconstitutional.

What we still don't know about the trial: The House impeachment managers are still considering whether to call witnesses as part of their case, one of the key looming questions that will dictate how long the trial will last.

That effort is bumping up against a desire from both Democratic and Republican senators to quickly conclude the trial within a matter of days to keep the Senate's focus on taking up Covid relief legislation and confirming Biden's nominees.

8:25 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Democrats are moving ahead without Republicans on Covid-19 relief. Here's where things stand in Congress. 

From CNN's Lauren Fox and the hill team

Democrats are moving now to fast-track a Covid-19 relief package. If Republicans want to come along, great. Democrats are arguing Republicans can vote for budget reconciliation, a procedural shortcut that would allow Democrats to pass the relief without any GOP votes. 

If Republicans don’t like the plan, they can keep talking to the White House, but the underlying takeaway from the meeting last night – and all the messages from the White House in the days before that – is the President is only willing to negotiate so much.

Republicans’ $618 billion proposal with no state and local funding is not going to cut it. Period. The end.

Bottom line: Biden has the House. Biden has the Senate. He has a procedural process that gives him the chance that pass a $1.9 trillion relief package with just Democratic votes and conveniently, it’s a process that Republicans used just four years ago to jam through a tax plan and try to repeal Obamacare. Democrats are making a two-pronged calculation:

  • 1. That they aren’t doing anything Republicans haven’t done
  • 2. Their plan is going to be popular with voters and no one is going to care how they got there

We will see on the second point, but when you are talking about giving people direct checks, expanding unemployment insurance, giving people more money to buy food and raising the minimum wage to $15, you aren’t talking about unpopular ideas. Democratic aides tell CNN over and over again this isn’t repealing Obamacare. They are giving people something, not taking something away and that’s emboldened members to act swiftly and decisively and not give in to talk that they have to unify the country by bringing Republicans onboard with a plan. 

That doesn’t mean that the impact this could have on the debt and deficit isn’t real. That doesn’t mean that Republicans aren’t going to argue that this plan isn’t needed. It’s true that there is still billions from the last package that hasn’t gone out the door. Many Republicans argue it’s irresponsible to spend more when you don’t even know what you need. Those are arguments they can make to the public. But, Democrats are feeling confident that they can win that public fight.

A bit on the mechanics: One Democratic aide familiar with the Senate’s process tells me that the plan is for the House and Senate Committees to work in coordination over the next week and a half to hammer out legislative text. Throughout the drafting, Democrats in the Senate will be consulting with the Senate parliamentarian to make sure their plans are actually allowed under the rules that govern reconciliation. The House will vote to pass the plan first. Then, the Senate will move.

Before the Senate goes to the floor, they will engage in multiple meetings with Senate Republican staff and the Senate parliamentarian on the merits of each provision they want included and whether the provisions meets the strict rules of what can be allowed through reconciliation. The fight over the minimum wage is expected to be a massive one here, but there will be others as well. This process happens in private over several meetings, but it’s crucial to determining the scope of what Democrats can do.

8:45 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Biden's Department of Homeland Security secretary to be confirmed today

 From CNN's Geneva Sands

Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on January 19, in Washington, DC.
Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on January 19, in Washington, DC. Bill Clark/Pool/Getty Images

The final Senate confirmation vote for Department of Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas is expected to happen today.

The vote, originally scheduled for Monday, was pushed due to the winter storm that hit the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, which is impacting flights of senators coming into town, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's office.

Mayorkas' nomination was moving through the Senate but was stalled last week by Republicans who argued that the nominee hasn't been properly vetted on immigration issues. On Thursday, his nomination successfully cleared a procedural hurdle and a final vote on confirmation is on track for Tuesday.

That puts Mayorkas' start behind his predecessors. Former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama had confirmed secretaries on their first days in office.

While DHS political appointees have begun to fill out their jobsaccording to department officials, leadership roles continue to be filled by officials in acting capacities -- a trend that was ubiquitous during the Trump administration.

Another DHS official said the delayed confirmation was "more of the same," as acting officials have led the department for much of the past four years.

Once confirmed, Mayorkas will be responsible for repairing a department that's been rattled by leadership turnover and vacancies for the better part of the last four years. The department has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was ousted in spring 2019.

Here's a look at the Cabinet members that have been confirmed so far.

8:42 a.m. ET, February 2, 2021

White House will move forward with immigration executive actions today. Here's what Biden is expected to sign.

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez and Paul LeBlanc

President Joe Biden signs executive orders on health care in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28.
President Joe Biden signs executive orders on health care in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden will sign three executive orders today that take aim at his predecessor's hardline immigration policies and try to rectify the consequences of those policies, including by establishing a task force designed to reunite families separated at the US-Mexico border, according to senior administration officials.

The latest orders build upon the actions taken in Biden's first days in office and begin to provide a clearer picture of the administration's immigration priorities.

"President Trump was so focused on the wall that he did nothing to address the root cause of why people are coming to our southern border. It was a limited, wasteful and naive strategy, and it failed," one senior administration official said. "President Biden's approach is to deal with immigration comprehensively, fairly, and humanely."

Hours into his presidency, Biden moved to swiftly undo many Trump administration policies in a series of executive actions. He also sent an immigration bill to Congress. But his administration has already faced legal hurdles in implementing those policies. Last week, for example, a federal judge temporarily blocked Biden's 100-day pause on deportations, as the case proceeds.

Legal challenges are likely to continue to dog the administration as it sets forth its immigration agenda. On Tuesday, Biden is expected to follow his first-day actions by tackling family separation, the root causes of migration, and the legal immigration system.

These are the executive actions Biden has signed so far on immigration:

  • "Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals." Strengthens DACA after Trump's efforts to undo protections for undocumented people brought into the country as children.
  • "Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States." Reverses the Trump administration's restrictions on US entry for passport holders from seven Muslim-majority countries.
  • "Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities." Undoes Trump's expansion of immigration enforcement.
  • "Proclamation on the Termination of Emergency With Respect to the Southern Border of the United States and Redirection of Funds Diverted to Border Wall Construction." Halts construction of the border wall by terminating the national emergency declaration used to fund it.
  • "Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians." Extends deferrals of deportation and work authorizations for Liberians with a haven in the United States until June 30, 2022.