Biden focuses on the economy on second day in office

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 8:45 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021
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6:54 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

35 lawmakers co-sign a letter asking Biden to commute all death penalty sentences 

From CNN's Christina Carrega 

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri on Friday co-authored a letter to President Biden, urging him to "immediately commute the sentences of all those on death row." 

The three-page letter included co-signers like Reps. Karen Bass, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ritchie Torres. 

It is the second letter Pressley has sent to Biden, pushing him to act quickly to end the federal death penalty. There are currently 49 men on federal death row.

She wrote a letter to Biden on Dec. 15, five days after the federal execution of Brandon Bernard, telling Biden that “with a stroke of a pen, you can stop all federal executions.”   

Biden has previously said that ending the federal death penalty is on his list of plans for criminal justice reform, but he has yet to address the federal death penalty, even after issuing several executive orders during his first two days in office.

Asked on Wednesday whether there would be a moratorium on the federal death penalty, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The President, as you know, has stated his opposition to the death penalty in the past. He remains – that remains his view. I don't have anything more for you in terms of future actions or mechanisms though." 

In their letter on Friday, Pressley and Bush urged Biden "to take swift, decisive action" by "commuting the death sentences of those on death row and ensuring that each person is provided with an adequate and unique re-sentencing process is a crucial first step in remedying this grave injustice."

"We look forward to working with your administration to enact just and restorative policies that will meaningfully transform our criminal legal system for the better," the letter said.

6:33 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

House impeachment managers will deliver article of impeachment to Senate on Monday evening, Pelosi says

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Ryan Nobles 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office released details on how the impeachment article will be delivered to the US Senate on Monday.

House managers will deliver the article to the Senate Monday evening at about 6:55 p.m. ET, and will read the article aloud on the Senate floor. 

Following that, the impeachment managers will make their way back to the House side of the US Capitol. 

6:42 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Schumer wants impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, source says

From CNN's Manu Raju

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer wants former President Trump's impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, a source familiar with the matter said.

"We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation's history behind us. But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability and that is what this trial will provide," Schumer said.

According to a source familiar with the schedule, here's what it will look like:

  • Monday, Jan. 25: House managers will come to read the article of impeachment
  • Tuesday, Jan. 26: Senators will be sworn in
  • Tuesday, Feb. 2: This is the due date for President to answer to the article and for the House to hold a pre-trail brief. Schumer said on Friday that during this time period, the Senate will continue to do other business like confirming President Biden's Cabinet nominations and negotiating a Covid-19 relief package.
  • Monday, Feb. 8: Once the briefs are drafted, presentations will start this week.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 9: This is the due date for the House’s pre-trial rebuttal brief. Here, the trial can begin.

Some background: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the article of impeachment will be sent to the Senate on Monday.

Watch here:

5:41 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Some National Guard troops will stay in DC due to concerns of unrest during impeachment trial

From CNN's Barbara Starr

Members of the National Guard wear protective face masks and stand in a formation on the US Capitol grounds on January 22, in Washington, DC.
Members of the National Guard wear protective face masks and stand in a formation on the US Capitol grounds on January 22, in Washington, DC. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Plans to keep thousands of National Guard troops in Washington through the end of the month are driven in part over concerns about more unrest during upcoming impeachment proceedings and also anticipation of President Biden’s upcoming first address to a joint session of Congress, according to defense officials familiar with the current planning.

The concern stems from what the officials said were ongoing chatter about demonstrations picked up by federal law enforcement. 

On Thursday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser referenced “intelligence from our federal partners that would suggest that we need more presence,” but she did not elaborate.

There is also discussion the troops will stay through March because of intelligence about other upcoming demonstrations and threats, the official said. The original deployment was for a minimum 30 days.

CNN reported Thursday that most of the 25,000 National Guard troops who were brought to Washington, DC, to help secure the city through the inauguration would be sent home within five to 10 days, according to a statement from the National Guard Bureau. Approximately 15,000 troops will return home "as soon as possible," though the planning and process to begin moving them may take a few days.

There are some agencies requesting ongoing support, the National Guard Bureau said, and approximately 7,000 Guard troops are expected to stay through the end of the month.

Incidents in Washington, DC, have calmed down, a law enforcement official said, but not to a level where anything greatly changes in terms of security concerns. The Capitol remains a target and events surrounding it remain a target, the official said.

The ongoing deployment however will be all “voluntary” and governors will have to agree to keep forces in the city.

5:05 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Impeachment trial arguments may not start next week

From CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

The article of impeachment will be sent to the Senate on Monday, according to Democratic aides. But it's still possible the start of the trial may be delayed for days, or maybe even a week or perhaps slightly longer, if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agree to push back the start of the trial, including opening arguments.

That's because they are still haggling over the exact schedule for the pre-trial briefs and when the arguments would take place.

Democrats may have an interest in pushing back the start of the trial if they get an agreement from McConnell to confirm nominees and cut a deal on the stalled power-sharing agreement that would allow the Senate committees to officially organize.

Some context: Republicans are signaling that as more time has passed since the riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, some of the emotions of the day have cooled and they're ready to move on.

In interviews with more than a dozen GOP senators, most are likely to acquit former President Trump, and only a handful are truly at risk of flipping to convict him – unless more evidence emerges or the political dynamics within their party dramatically change.

4:58 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Jill Biden makes surprise visit to National Guard troops during first official event

From CNN's Kate Bennett and Betsy Klein

Jacquelyn Martin/POOL/AFP/Getty Images
Jacquelyn Martin/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

First lady Jill Biden used her first official event outside of the White House to add a surprise visit Friday afternoon to National Guard troops at the United States Capitol. 

"I just wanted to come today to say thank you to all of you for keeping me and my family safe," said Biden, who emerged from her motorcade in a long black coat over a cream-colored dress and the same floral mask she had worn on inauguration night. 

"I know you left your home states," said the first lady, noting that son Beau Biden had served in the National Guard. "The National Guard will always hold a special place in the hearts of all the Bidens." 

Biden held a basket of treats tied with red, white and blue ribbon, which she passed out as tokens of gratitude. 

"The White House baked you some chocolate chip cookies," she said. The guard members, who on Thursday night were unceremoniously relegated to the parking garage near the Capitol to sleep on the ground, expressed their thanks.

The first lady made her unscheduled stop at the Capitol after a planned visit to Whitman-Walker Health in downtown Washington, just a handful of blocks north of the White House.  

Whitman-Walker is a nonprofit federally qualified health center that offers community-based health and wellness services, and specializes in LGBTQ and HIV care, according to a statement from the East Wing. The clinic also offers cancer support and navigation services to patients and caregivers. Biden was given a tour of the facility and listened as administrators outlined what has been working for them during the pandemic to reach patients, and what has not. 

"Everybody needs more mental health work," said Biden, noting the overwhelming challenges facing health care providers and patients being outlined by a member of Whitman-Walker staff. 

4:29 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Here's what you need to know about Biden's second full day in office

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

President Joe Biden is two full days in to his term and, as promised, he's not wasting any time getting to work.

Here's what you need to know about what is going on in Washington:

  • Focus on the economy: Biden signed two executive orders on Friday — one focused on expanding food assistance and delivering stimulus checks to very low-income Americans, and the other on raising the minimum wage to $15 for the federal workforce.
  • Other priorities: The executive orders build on a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan. It would fund a nationwide vaccination effort and provide direct economic relief, including $1,400 stimulus checks. 
  • Extremism: The Biden administration plans to take new actions to combat domestic violent extremism. This includes having the Office of the Director of National Intelligence compile a threat assessment and building the National Security Council’s ability to combat it.
  • Cabinet: The Senate voted to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense in Biden's administration. This makes Austin the first African American to run the Department of Defense.
  • Next week, impeachment: Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the article of impeachment will be delivered to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the Senate's impeachment trial of former President Trump.
4:20 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Young Black leaders ask Biden to create a youth BIPOC task force

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Young Black leaders are asking the Biden administration to create a BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) youth task force within the Office of Public Engagement to ensure that the organizers of color who helped elect Biden are able to continue to build their movement within the federal government.

“We’ve been receiving messages from the administration that they want to work with us,” Ty Hobson Powell, a 25-year-old Washington, DC-based activist who fought on the frontlines of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, told CNN.

“Now is the time,” he said. “Biden needs to prioritize young voices of color from day one.”

In addition to asking for a BIPOC task force, Hobson Powell and a cohort of other activists who met while organizing this summer — including Chelsea Miller, Nupol Kiazolu and Seun  Babalola — will be sending a series of demands to the Biden administration.

They are asking the Biden administration to take a number of specific racial justice measures within the first 100 days, including DC statehood, the elimination of a cash bail system, a federal ban on discrimination against hair styles and textures associated with race in academic and employment settings and recognizing Election Day as a federal holiday to encourage full participation in democracy.

A BIPOC task force would allow young people with first-hand experiences witnessing racial injustice, the Covid-19 crisis and economic turmoil that has followed, to advise the Biden administration on how to best communicate with and provide resources for their communities, the leaders say.

“Rather than being reactionary, we need to have a working relationship with the Biden administration to proactively tackle systemic racism in our country,” Miller said.

Kiazolu, who has has organized in Black communities since she was 12 years old, protested this past summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, following the death of George Floyd and Louisville, Kentucky, against the death of Breonna Taylor. She also organized protests in New York City.

“Having been on the frontlines, we have experience and credentials to speak on fighting for resources, such as funds for mental health resources and preventative measures for the school to prison pipeline,” Kiazolu said.

Both Kiazolu and Miller stressed the importance of building the task within Biden’s first 100 days in office.

“If there’s anything we’ve seen from this past year, it’s the importance of urgency and showing up in real time to create change,” Kiazolu said.

“This isn’t an option. This is a necessity. This is as urgent as everything else that has been listed to take place in first 100 days,” Miller added.

4:16 p.m. ET, January 22, 2021

Stocks finish the week mixed over stimulus plan uncertainty

From CNN’s Paul R. La Monica

US stocks finished the week mixed, as the Dow and S&P 500 posted slight drops Friday and the Nasdaq edged up a bit. 

Stocks hit record highs earlier in the week following the inauguration of President Biden but investors are still nervous about Republican pushback to Biden’s stimulus plan, the spike in Covid-19 cases and concerns about the vaccine rollout.

Tech giants IBM and Intel also gave outlooks that disappointed investors. 

Here's where things closed:

  • The Dow fell 0.6%, or nearly 180 points.
  • The S&P 500 dropped 0.3%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.1%.

The indexes all posted solid gains during the holiday-shortened trading week.