Biden and Trump Transition: Live Updates
As Saturday dawned on a White House in turmoil, with President Trump unable to communicate on Twitter and other platforms, momentum for impeaching him a second time was rapidly growing among rank-and-file Democrats and some Republicans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday threatened to impeach Mr. Trump unless he resigned “immediately” for inciting the mob attack on the Capitol this week, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the first Republican senator to follow her lead.
“I want him out,” Ms. Murkowski told The Anchorage Daily News. “He has caused enough damage.”
The House is next scheduled to be in session on Monday, meaning that articles of impeachment cannot be introduced until then. The timing for an impeachment would be tight because Mr. Trump would have fewer than 10 days left in his term.
Yet the Constitution allows House lawmakers to introduce charges and proceed directly to a debate and floor vote in a matter of days, triggering a Senate trial that could take place even after Mr. Trump leaves office. If he were convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from holding office again.
Already, Twitter’s move to permanently suspend Mr. Trump “due to the risk of further incitement for violence” has effectively scuttled his favorite method of communicating with the public, even as he retains his authority as commander in chief. Facebook and other digital platforms have limited his access.
As federal law enforcement officials on Friday announced arrests in connection with Wednesday’s siege, Twitter said that Trump supporters had been using the platform to plan similar attacks, including a proposed one on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings three days before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
In one of his last Twitter posts before being banned, Mr. Trump said he would not attend the inauguration. He would be the first incumbent in 150 years to skip his successor’s swearing-in.
Mr. Biden on Friday pressed ahead with his agenda, promising an accelerated response to an array of challenges. On Friday, the economy was said to have lost 140,000 jobs in December and officials across the United States reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases in a day for the first time.
In a sharp break with the Trump administration, Mr. Biden intends to release nearly all available doses of coronavirus vaccines soon after he is inaugurated, rather than hold back millions of vials to guarantee second doses will be available. He has vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.
“Our plan is going to focus on getting shots into arms, including by launching a fundamentally new approach, establishing thousands of federally run or federally supported community vaccination centers of various size located in places like high school gymnasiums and N.F.L. stadiums,” Mr. Biden told a radio station in Columbus, Ga., on Friday.
The Trump administration has shipped more than 22 million doses, and millions more are already in the federal government’s hands. Yet only 6.7 million people have received a dose, far short of the federal goal of giving at least 20 million people their first shots by the end of December.
It is unclear how many more Covid-19 inoculations the administration can deliver before Mr. Biden’s inauguration, particularly as more senior officials leave the White House in the wake of the mob violence at the Capitol.
Also unclear: what the Republican Party will look like after Mr. Trump leaves office.
At a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Florida on Friday, the chaos of the past week was a mere afterthought. While the R.N.C. chair, Ronna McDaniel, condemned the attack on the Capitol, neither she nor any other speaker publicly hinted at Mr. Trump’s role in inciting the violence.
“We can’t exist without the people he brought to the party — he’s changed the direction of the party,” Paul Reynolds, a Republican committeeman from Alabama, said of the president. “We’re a different party because of the people that came with him, and they make us a better party.”
Democrats laid the groundwork on Friday for impeaching President Trump a second time, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California threatened to bring him up on formal charges if he did not resign “immediately” over his role in inciting a violent mob attack on the Capitol this week.
The threat was part of an all-out effort by furious Democrats, backed by a handful of Republicans, to pressure Mr. Trump to leave office in disgrace after the hourslong siege by his supporters on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Although he has only 11 days left in the White House, they argued he was a direct danger to the nation.
Ms. Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders continued to press Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to wrest power from Mr. Trump, even though Mr. Pence was said to be against it. The speaker urged Republican lawmakers to pressure the president to resign immediately. And she took the unusual step of calling Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss how to limit Mr. Trump’s access to the nation’s nuclear codes and then publicized it.
“If the president does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues.
At least one Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, followed Ms. Pelosi’s lead and told The Anchorage Daily News that she was considering leaving the Republican Party altogether because of Mr. Trump.
“I want him out,” she said. “He has caused enough damage.”
At the White House, Mr. Trump struck a defiant tone, insisting that he would remain a potent force in American politics even as aides and allies abandoned him and his post-presidential prospects turned increasingly bleak. Behind closed doors, he made clear that he would not resign and expressed regret about releasing a video on Thursday committing to a peaceful transition of power and condemning the violence at the Capitol that he had egged on a day before.
Among enraged Democrats, an expedited impeachment appeared to be the most attractive option to remove Mr. Trump and register their outrage at his role in encouraging what became an insurrection. Roughly 170 of them in the House had signed onto a single article that Representatives David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and others intended to introduce on Monday, charging the president with “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States.”
Democratic senators weighed in with support, and some Republicans appeared newly open to the idea. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska indicated he would be open to considering articles of impeachment at a trial. A spokesman for Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she was “outraged” by Mr. Trump’s role in the violence, but could not comment on an impeachment case given the possibility she could soon be sitting in the jury.
Even Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader and one of Mr. Trump’s most influential allies for the past four years, told confidants he was done with Mr. Trump, although there was no sign that Mr. McConnell was joining the calls to remove him.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday promised an accelerated response to a daunting and intensifying array of challenges as the economy showed new signs of weakness, the coronavirus pandemic killed more Americans in one day than ever, and Congress weighed impeaching President Trump a second time.
As Washington remained consumed with the fallout from the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday and Democrats stepped up their efforts to hold Mr. Trump accountable for his role in inciting the attack, Mr. Biden signaled that he intended to keep his focus on jobs and the pandemic, declining to weigh in on whether the House should impeach Mr. Trump.
On a day the Labor Department reported that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, ending a seven-month streak of growth after the country’s plunge into recession in the spring, Mr. Biden said there was “a dire, dire need to act now.”
He pledged to move rapidly once he becomes president to push a stimulus package through Congress to provide relief to struggling individuals, small businesses, students, local governments and schools.
Mr. Biden and his aides have not yet finished the proposal or settled on its full amount. Forecasters expect further job losses this month, a casualty of the renewed surge of the coronavirus pandemic met by state and local officials’ impositions of lockdowns and other restrictions on economic activity meant to slow the spread.
“The price tag will be high,” Mr. Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del.
“It is necessary to spend the money now,” he said, apparently referring to his entire batch of economic plans, including both immediate aid and a larger bill that includes infrastructure spending. “The answer is yes, it will be in the trillions of dollars.”
The Biden team is also preparing a wave of economic actions that will not require congressional approval. Mr. Biden’s aides said on Friday that the president-elect would direct the Education Department to extend a pause on student loan payments that was initially issued under Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden called on Congress on Friday to take “prompt action” to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour.
He also pledged to ramp up efforts to slow the spread of the virus, which is now claiming 4,000 lives each day — more than those who perished during the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Biden’s team said the president-elect would immediately release all government-held vaccines when he takes office, breaking sharply from Mr. Trump’s practice of holding back some shots for second doses.
“People are really, really, really in desperate shape,” Mr. Biden said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday took the unprecedented step of asking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about “available precautions” to prevent President Trump from initiating military action abroad or using his sole authority to launch nuclear weapons in the last days of his term.
In a phone call to the chairman, Gen. Mark A. Milley, Ms. Pelosi appeared to be seeking to have the Pentagon leadership essentially remove Mr. Trump from his authorities as the commander in chief. That could be accomplished by ignoring the president’s orders or slowing them by questioning whether they were issued legally.
But General Milley appears to have made no commitments. Short of the cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment or removing Mr. Trump through impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate, it is unconstitutional to defy legal orders from the commander in chief.
Ms. Pelosi’s request, which she announced to the Democratic caucus as an effort to prevent “an unhinged president” from using the nuclear codes, was wrapped in the politics of seeking a second impeachment of Mr. Trump.
Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for General Milley, confirmed that the phone call with the speaker had taken place but described it as informational. “He answered her questions regarding the process of nuclear command authority,” he said.
But some Defense Department officials clearly resented being asked to act outside of the legal authority of the 25th Amendment and saw it as more evidence of a broken political system. They said that some political leaders were trying to get the Pentagon to do the work of Congress and cabinet secretaries, who have legal options to remove a president.
The one issue that has worried officials the most is Iran’s announcement that it has begun enriching uranium to 20 percent purity — near the quality to make a bomb. In December, Mr. Trump asked for military options that might be taken in response to Iran’s escalating production of nuclear fuel, but he was talked out of it by a number of top officials, including General Milley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Helene Cooper contributed reporting.
A federal judge on Friday blocked the Trump administration from implementing a rule, set to take effect next week, that would have closed the doors of the United States to most asylum seekers.
The sweeping clampdown on asylum would have prevented a large swath of people from qualifying for protection in the United States by narrowing eligibility. Applicants who had not first sought asylum in a transit country through which they had passed; had lived in the United States for a year without permission or had claimed persecution based on sexual orientation would be disqualified.
Though President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. could take action to reverse the policy once in office, it would take several months to undo it because it had already been finalized.
Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court for Northern California issued a nationwide injunction on procedural grounds, saying that the acting Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, lacked authority to impose the rule because he had not been properly confirmed for his position. In his decision, Judge Donato pointed out that it was the fifth time that a court had ruled against the government on the same grounds.
“In effect, the government keeps crashing the same car into a gate, hoping that someday it might break through,” the judge, an Obama appointee, wrote in his 14-page opinion.
Justice Department lawyers had argued that the restrictions were necessary to curb abuse of an asylum system that they said was overwhelmed with frivolous claims. Immigrant advocates and lawyers said that the policy would have spelled the demise of the U.S. asylum system.
“The rule would have been the death knell for many asylum seekers,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School. “The court’s decision today leaves the door open for people fleeing persecution.”
The rule would have gutted the U.S. asylum system and violated both U.S. and international law, he said.