Biden's first full day in office

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Melissa Mahtani and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0248 GMT (1048 HKT) January 22, 2021
39 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
1:08 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Alleged Capitol rioter from Florida came back to DC to attend inauguration

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Samuel Camargo
Samuel Camargo from Facebook

An alleged Capitol rioter from Florida knew he was wanted from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and returned to Washington, DC, to attend the inauguration on Wednesday, the Justice Department said in a new court filing.

Prosecutors in Washington say that when law enforcement tried to arrest Samuel Camargo at his home in Florida on Tuesday, he had left.

Investigators then found him in DC on Wednesday and arrested him there — the same day as the presidential inauguration.

Camargo told investigators that he knew he was wanted by the Justice Department and "decided that he should attempt to attend the Inauguration rather than turn himself into authorities," prosecutors wrote in a court filing on Thursday. 

The Justice Department is seeking to keep Camargo detained pending trial, arguing he is a flight risk. He is set to appear in federal court for the first time on Thursday afternoon.

1:42 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Schumer hopes to pass defense secretary nominee's waiver "ASAP" and quickly move on other nominations

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Pool
Pool

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a photo spray with the new Democratic senators that he called “the majority makers.”

Schumer touched upon several topics, including whether President Biden's Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin's waiver will be voted on in the Senate today. Schumer said “it is passing the House, and I would like to get it passed in the Senate ASAP.”

The waiver is needed since Austin retired in 2016 but the law requires a defense secretary to wait seven years after active-duty service before taking the job.

Asked about the timing of the impeachment trial in the Senate Schumer said, “Speaker Pelosi will determine when she will send the articles over.”

 “Leader McConnell and I are trying to come up with a bipartisan agreement on how to conduct the trial. But make no mistake about it. There will be a trial, there will be a vote up or down on whether to convict the president. I believe he should be convicted. And we’ll have to wait to she see when she sends the articles over to figure out how to do all that,” Schumer said.

On the Cabinet nominations still needed to happen, Schumer said, “we have the greatest health care crises in 100 years, the greatest economic crises and the national security of America is always at stake. To leave these seats vacant does a disservice to America."

"We're very pleased that last night we got bipartisan cooperation. We got bipartisan cooperation, so that April Haines is now the DNI. We’re hoping to get the same bipartisan cooperation for Treasury, State, Homeland Security and Defense, very soon. We need these position to go quickly. We need our Republican colleagues to cooperate," he continued.  

On whether that means the Senate will be in session tomorrow, Schumer said, “well we have to get these nominees approved, and we will do what it takes to do that.”

Schumer made clear that he is strongly opposed to changing the filibuster as part of his power-sharing agreement negotiations with McConnell.

“We believe, our caucus believes, that the fairest, easiest and most bipartisan way to come to an organizing resolution is to enact the 2001 agreement that Senators Lott and Daschle came to a bipartisan way back then. Our caucus is strongly opposed to any extraneous provisions. And so we're going to keep working to try and get a bipartisan agreement,” Schumer said.

12:51 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Biden will seek full extension of key arms control treaty between the US and Russia

From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler

The Biden administration will seek a full five year extension of a key arms control treaty between the US and Russia, according to a US official.

The New START Treaty expires in just over two weeks. CNN previously reported that Biden advisers indicated that they would not seek a shorter extension on the landmark deal.

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken said during his confirmation hearing Tuesday that President Biden intended to seek an extension of the New START Treaty, but suggested he had not made a decision on the length of that extension.

The secretary of state-designate noted that Biden “couldn’t really engage” on the issue during the transition because he was “very cognizant of the fact we have one president at a time.”

Blinken told lawmakers that he believes “this is something that we will be coming to you on pretty much immediately as soon as the president is sworn-in, and I know that he does intend to seek an extension, and he’ll have to make a decision as President about what duration he would seek.”

The Trump administration went back and forth with the Russians on the terms of a shorter extension to the longstanding treaty after efforts to create a new trilateral treaty with Russia and China failed.

12:52 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

House Republican leader contradicts himself on Trump's role in insurrection

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Manu Raju

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy broke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on former President Donald Trump's role in the insurrection saying he didn't play a role.

"I don't believe he provoked if you listen to what he said at the rally," he said at his weekly news conference.

McCarthy's remarks today are a reversal from his previous comments on Trump's role in the Capitol violence. During McCarthy's impeachment speech on Jan. 13, he blamed Trump for the attack.

"The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters," he said.

Today, McCarthy said any members of Congress who had any role in what happened in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 should be held accountable.

"Any member who participated in breaking the law or rioting that way, yes, I think anybody should be held accountable in that process. I do not know of any member that had has done that. And this is why I called for last week after this happened, a bipartisan commission. We should get to the bottom of that."

McCarthy's comments are in stark contrast to comments made earlier today by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. CNN asked Pelosi if pursuing impeachment against Trump at the start of the new Congress would undermine efforts to create unity with colleagues from across the aisle.

“No, I’m not worried about that,” she replied.

“The fact is, the President of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection. I don't think it's very unifying to say, oh, let's just forget it and move on. That's not how you unify," Pelosi continued.

12:48 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

New York man charged over the Capitol riot allegedly attended with his brother – a retired cop

From CNN's Lauren del Valle 

Christopher Kelly, who was arrested Wednesday for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, allegedly went to the protest with his brother, a former New York Police Department (NYPD) officer, according to an affidavit filed Wednesday.

Kelly was arrested on charges for unlawful entry to the Capitol, disorderly conduct, aiding and abetting and obstructing a congressional proceeding

Kelly planned to attend the rally with proud boys’ members and former New York Police Department officers, according to court documents.  

Kelly, a Rockland County, New York, resident, did allegedly attend the protest with his brother who's a retired NYPD officer, the document says.  

It is not immediately clear whether Kelly's brother has been or will be arrested on similar charges. 

Federal agents gathered evidence against Kelly with search warrant access to Kelly's Facebook account, including several conversation threads about his plans to attend, live updates during the protest and days after.   

In a Facebook group chat during the protests, Kelly allegedly wrote, “F*** these snakes. Out of OUR HOUSE!"

It is not clear when Kelly will appear in federal court.  

12:40 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Biden's acting solicitor general will play critical role in early efforts to undo Trump policies

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

President Biden will name a powerhouse lawyer, Elizabeth Prelogar, to serve as acting solicitor general, in an acknowledgment that the office charged with representing the government before the Supreme Court will face an enormous workload both reversing Trump administration legal positions and developing a defense strategy as Biden's executive actions come under inevitable legal challenge.

Under normal circumstances, when an election produces an administration of a different political stripe, the solicitor general plays a key role managing a wave of potential reversals on certain issues. As Biden replaces Donald Trump, however, it could look more like a tsunami. 

In the short term, for instance, the solicitor general's office is likely to notify the court of a new position in a blockbuster dispute concerning the future of the Affordable Care Act, defending the law rather than seeking to overturn it — but also in other cases tied to controversial Trump policies, some of which the Biden administration may attempt to rescind before the Supreme Court can rule on them.

Under the Trump administration, the solicitor general's office was particularly aggressive defending a broad array of Trump's policies in hot button areas such as immigration, religion and abortion, often asking the justices to jump in before an issue had made its way through the lower courts. 

Biden has yet to put forward his nominee for the permanent job. The solicitor general is the person who traditionally represents the US government in cases at the Supreme Court and regularly jousts with the justices in their majestic red velvet lined chamber — or, as with current practice, over the telephone.

In the interim, Prelogar will be in the forefront. She is a veteran of the Office of Solicitor General having served as an assistant in the office and also worked recently as an adviser to former special counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election. 

Prelogar worked as a former clerk to Judge Merrick Garland, Biden's nominee for Attorney General, as well as the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan. Biden has yet to nominate a full-time solicitor general, and once that person is confirmed, she will be the principal deputy. 

"She's a spectacular lawyer with impeccable integrity and is ideal for this role in the Department," said Andrew Goldstein, a former top Mueller team prosecutor.

But while moving quickly, the Biden solicitor general's office also must be careful so as not to irritate justices who expect the government to be an honest broker acting in the long-term interests of the United States, not on the particular whim of one president or another. The court treats government lawyers with special solicitude, but in turn, the justices expect a level of consistency even when an election triggers a change of party in the executive branch. 

12:51 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Schumer says Senate's first order of business is to confirm more key Biden officials

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Olanma Hazel 

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday the first order of business of the Senate is to confirm President Biden’s key Cabinet picks, saying he deserves a national security team in place as soon as possible as well as key officials in charge of responding to health and economic crises.

“Here in the Senate, the first order of business is to fulfill our constitutional duty to advise and consent on the President's appointments to his Cabinet. Last night, the Senate confirmed the President's selection for the director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. We appreciate the bipartisan cooperation to get her confirmed — her confirmation done yesterday, and we should continue in that spirit today,” Schumer said.

“With the cooperation of our Republican colleagues, we can and should confirm the secretaries of defense, state, homeland security and treasury without much delay,” he added.

The New York Democrat also noted that the Biden administration is wasting no time getting started pointing to the President “marshaling the resources of the federal government into action” to help with the pandemic, the US rejoining the World Health Organization, a mask mandate for federal property and Biden naming a new Covid response coordinator to manage vaccine distribution. 

“What a concept, a president who actually takes the defining crisis of our time seriously, what to a change and how great is the need,” he said.

Schumer was beaming as he opened the Senate today, announcing how “yesterday we began a new chapter in the history of our nation.”

“A new politeness from the chair,” Schumer also said jokingly after Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who is presiding over the chamber this morning, called him, “majority leader.” 

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell began his floor remarks on Thursday congratulating Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer for taking over the majority.

"I want to congratulate my colleague from New York. His pride and emotion were palpable yesterday. As this self-described kid from Brooklyn and son of an exterminator and a housewife, became the first Jewish member of Congress to lead either chamber — an historic milestone," he said.

12:13 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Biden wants to remove the word "alien" from US immigration law

From CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet

It's just one small part of the sweeping immigration overhaul President Biden is pushing.

But the symbolic significance is huge.

Biden's proposed bill, if passed, would remove the word "alien" from US immigration laws, replacing it with the term "noncitizen." 

It's a deliberate step intended to recognize America as "a nation of immigrants," according to a summary of the bill released by the new administration. 

The term "illegal alien," long decried as a dehumanizing slur by immigrant rights advocates, became even more of a lightning rod during the Trump era – with some top federal officials encouraging its use and several states and local governments taking up measures to ban it.

"The language change on the first day of this administration, with Kamala Harris the daughter of immigrants, to me it's not just symbolic...it's foundational," says Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant whose organization, Define American, pushes for more accurate portrayals of immigrants. 

"How we describe people really sticks. It affects how we treat them," he said. "How we talk about immigrants shapes the policies. It frames what are the issues really at stake here. It acknowledges that we're talking about human beings and families." 

Read more details on the law and proposed changes here.

12:04 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Pelosi: "There were members in this body who gave aid and comfort" to rioters

From CNN's Clare Foran, Annie Grayer and Manu Raju

Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it’s clear there were members of Congress who "gave aid and comfort" to the rioters who stormed the Capitol by embracing the election lie told by former President Donald Trump. She indicated, however, that as of now it remains to be seen whether members aided and abetted the Capitol attack in a way that would necessitate prosecution.

"I’m very pleased that we will have an after-action review that will review many aspects of what happened if people did aid and abet there will be more than just comments from their colleagues here, there will be prosecution if they aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died," she said during her weekly news conference.