The latest on the Biden presidency and Trump impeachment trial

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

Updated 12:27 AM ET, Tue January 26, 2021
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1:27 p.m. ET, January 25, 2021

White House will hold regular public health briefings starting Wednesday

White House press secretary Jen Psaki just announced that beginning on Wednesday public health briefings will be held regularly for the "foreseeable future."

"These will be science led briefings, featuring our public health officials and members of the Covid-19 response team," Psaki said during today's White House press briefing. "These briefings will typically happen three times a week to provide the American people with key updates on the virus and our government's response."

Last week, Biden signed a slew of executive orders to battle the pandemic and ramp up the distribution of vaccination.

Psaki also announced at the top of the briefing that an American Sign Language interpreter will be at White House briefings. Today's interpreter is joining the briefing virtually.

1:19 p.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Portman, after announcing he won't run again, says constitutionality of impeaching Trump "serious issue"

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

Facebook/cincinnati.com
Facebook/cincinnati.com

After announcing he won’t seek reelection in 2022, Republican Sen. Rob Portman said Monday he’ll be listening closely to the “constitutionality arguments” during the Senate impeachment trial of former President Trump, saying when he looks at the Constitution, he interprets it as “impeachment is for removal and keeping someone from running for office again, not or.”

“I will be listening, as I said as a juror and I'll be listening to the constitutionality arguments, among other things, as I look at the Constitution it says that impeachment is for removal and keeping someone from running for office again, not or,” the Ohio Republican said during a press conference filmed by the Enquirer. “So, I want to hear those constitutionality arguments. I think that that is a serious issue, you know, President Trump has left office he's down in Florida.”

“Second, I am going to consider among other things, what's best for our country, how to help heal our country,” Portman said, echoing remarks he made earlier this month. “I don't excuse anything President Trump did on January 6 or the run up to it. I've been highly critical as you know of his comments and actions on that day. But, you know, as a juror I'll be listening to both sides.”

12:49 p.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Biden signs executive order lifting Trump's transgender military ban

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Arlette Saenz

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Joe Biden just signed an executive order to reverse a Trump-era ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.

“This is reinstating a position that previous commanders and, as well as secretaries, have supported," Biden said from the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. "And what I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform and essentially, restoring the situation there was before where transgender personnel, if qualified in every other way, can serve government in the United States military."

The move, one of Biden’s key 2020 campaign promises, came during a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin, the nation’s first Black secretary of defense. Harris, Milley, and Austin flanked Biden with social distancing, each wearing a mask.

The executive action revokes Trump’s 2018 presidential memorandum and also confirms the revocation of the presidential memorandum of August 25, 2017.

Before signing the order, he thanked Harris and Milley for their “great, great help,” as well as Austin.

The executive order “sets the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve,” per the White House.

Some background on the ban: The policy, which has been roundly derided by LGBTQ activists as cruel and irrational, was first announced by Trump in July 2017 via Twitter. The ban specifically blocks individuals who have been diagnosed with a condition known as gender dysphoria from serving with limited exceptions.

It also specifies that individuals without the condition can serve, but only if they do so according to the sex they were assigned at birth.

While Trump had argued that transgender troops in the military would lead to "tremendous medical costs and disruption," a 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a "minimal impact" on readiness and health care costs.

Hear what Biden said before signing the order:

12:31 p.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Chief Justice John Roberts won’t preside over the Senate impeachment trial

From CNN's Manu Raju and Joan Biskupic

Chief Justice John Roberts leads the US Supreme Court Justices as they arrive in the Crypt of the US Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington.
Chief Justice John Roberts leads the US Supreme Court Justices as they arrive in the Crypt of the US Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AP

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the President pro tempore of the Senate, is expected to preside in the impeachment trial, according to two sources familiar with the matter, not Chief Justice John Roberts.

Senators preside when the person facing trial isn't the current president of the United States, one source said. 

The article of impeachment against President Trump will be delivered around 7 p.m. ET today when House managers walk it over to the Senate chamber. The Senate trial is set to begin Feb. 9.

12:46 p.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Department of Justice inspector general announces investigation into 2020 presidential election

From CNN's Jessica Schneider

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz at the US Capitol on December 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. 
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz at the US Capitol on December 18, 2019 in Washington, DC.  Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz on Monday announced that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is initiating “an investigation into whether any former or current DOJ official engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election,” according to a release.

The Office of the Inspector General said they were making this statement, consistent with DOJ policy, "to reassure the public that an appropriate agency is investigating the allegations."

The probe comes on the heels of reports last week from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that former President Donald Trump attempted to use his Justice Department to challenge the election results, an effort that included the possibility of Trump ousting then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

The Times said in a report published Friday that Jeffrey Clark, a lawyer for the DOJ, nearly convinced Trump earlier this month to remove Rosen and use the department to undo Georgia's election results.

Clark  — who appealed to the former President's false claims of election fraud  — met with Trump earlier in January and told Rosen following the meeting that the then-President was going to replace him with Clark. Clark would then move to keep Congress from certifying the election results in Biden's favor, according to the paper.

Rosen demanded to hear the news straight from Trump, the Times said, and arranged a meeting on the evening of Jan. 3  — the same day that Trump's call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump pressured the state official to find enough votes for him to win Georgia, came to light.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Horowitz to launch a probe on Saturday, writing in a tweet that it was "unconscionable a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people's will."

 

11:25 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Despite calls for bipartisanship, here's why Biden's Covid-19 relief package will likely face hurdles 

From CNN's Lauren Fox

US President Joe Biden speaks about the Covid-19 response before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021.
US President Joe Biden speaks about the Covid-19 response before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Less than a week into his new administration, President Biden's promise of restoring bipartisanship is going to face even more hurdles as Republicans are signaling they have little interest in taking up his first legislative priority: another massive Covid-19 relief bill.

Multiple aides CNN spoke with made it clear that Sunday's call between a group of bipartisan senators and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Jeff Zients and Louisa Terrell was a good first step, but there is still broad disagreement about the overall price tag of this stimulus package and what's actually needed.

Everyone acknowledges more money for testing and vaccines is essential. But a $15 minimum wage? Billions in state and local funding? $1,400 stimulus checks? Multiple aides told CNN that senators on both sides argued they needed more data as to why nearly $2 trillion was the right choice.

They just passed a more than $900 billion package a month ago. One Republican aide told CNN that it wasn't just Republicans balking at that number, but that some of the Democrats on the call were also "cool" on spending so much. Checks, they argued, needed to be more targeted. If a fight over a stimulus bill's price tag sounds familiar, it's because it is. The cost of last stimulus plan bedeviled Republicans and Democrats for six months the last time Congress attempted this.

All you need to know: After the meeting, Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine who is broadly viewed as one of the most "gettable" Republican senators are on this package released a statement to CNN saying "It seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope."

In other words: If Biden and his team want this to be done quickly, they might have to pull the plug on their goal of getting 10 Republicans to sign on and move (AKA as soon as the next week or two) to the next step: a procedural budget maneuver that would only require 51 votes.

1:45 p.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Biden is kicking off his first full week in office. Here's a look at Biden and Harris' schedule today. 

President Joe Biden signs executive orders on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris looks on at left.
President Joe Biden signs executive orders on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris looks on at left. Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden begins his first full week in office today, and is preparing to sign another round of executive actions aimed at targeting key priorities of his administration and further undo the policies of former President Trump.

Here's a look at key events that will be open to the press today:

  • 11:30 a.m. ET: Biden will meet with Vice President Harris, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Oval Office.
  • 12:30 p.m. ET: Harris will ceremonially swear in retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense in the Roosevelt Room. Austin will become the first African American to run the department.
  • 1 p.m. ET: press secretary Jen Psaki will hold a White House press briefing.
  • 3:45pmET: Biden delivers remarks on American manufacturing and will sign an executive order aimed at strengthening the federal government's Buy American rules. Harris is also expected to attend.
10:12 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Where things stand in Trump's impeachment trial as Senate prepares to receive impeachment article

From CNN's Clare Foran and Lauren Fox

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y, takes the elevator in the U.S. Capitol, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Washington. 
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y, takes the elevator in the U.S. Capitol, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Washington.  Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The Senate will in the coming weeks begin an impeachment trial to decide whether to convict former President Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol, but Democrats will have time before it gets underway to confirm more Cabinet nominees to help the Biden administration get up and running.

The House will send the article of impeachment to the Senate today. That would typically trigger a process for a trial to start the next day, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday evening that instead the trial will begin the week of February 8.

Here are key things to know about where things stand in the trial:

  • What you'll see today on impeachment: The article of impeachment will be delivered around 7 p.m. ET on Monday when House managers walk it over to the Senate chamber. Senators will be sworn in Tuesday and then there will be about a two-week break until the focus is back on impeachment. In the meantime, Democrats are going to be fighting to confirm as many of Biden's nominations as possible. They'll also have to decide soon about how to proceed with the organizing resolution that has been stalled for a week.
  • Democrats and Republicans both had incentives to push back trial: There were incentives on both sides to push back the start of the trial. Biden suggested earlier in the day on Friday that it could be helpful to his administration to have more time prior to the start of a trial. "The more time we have to get up and running and meet these crises, the better," he said. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, has proposed that the Senate give Trump's legal team two weeks to prepare for a trial once the Senate receives the article and delay its start until mid-February. A later start date will mean more time for Democrats to confirm Cabinet officials and will allow more time for preparations for the former President's legal defense.
  • Republicans signal acquittal is likely: A number of Republicans have been sharply critical about the proceedings — and have already made clear that they see virtually no chance that at least 17 Republicans would join with 50 Democrats to convict Trump and also bar him from ever running from office again. The GOP arguments are now coming into sharper focus, claiming the proceedings are unconstitutional to try a former President and contending that the trial is moving on too short of a time frame to give due process to Trump, claims that Democrats resoundingly reject.
  • What we know about Trump's legal team: It's not yet clear exactly what defense will be presented on the former President's behalf, but it appears Trump now has at least one lawyer for the trial. Trump's campaign spokesperson, Jason Miller, confirmed on Twitter on Thursday that South Carolina lawyer Butch Bowers will represent Trump at his impeachment trial. "Excited to announce that Columbia, SC-based Butch Bowers has joined President Trump's legal team. Butch is well respected by both Republicans and Democrats and will do an excellent job defending President Trump," Miller tweeted.
9:13 a.m. ET, January 25, 2021

Biden is expected to lift Trump's military transgender ban as early as today

From CNN's Arlette Saenz 

Activists participate in a rally against the Trump administration's transgender military ban in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2019.
Activists participate in a rally against the Trump administration's transgender military ban in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2019. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The White House is expected to repeal former President Trump's ban on transgender individuals serving in the military as early as Monday, according to a source familiar with the plans.

The policy, which has been roundly derided by LGBTQ activists as cruel and irrational, was first announced by Trump in July 2017 via Twitter. The ban specifically blocks people who have been diagnosed with a condition known as gender dysphoria from serving with limited exceptions. It also specifies that people without the condition can serve, but only if they do so according to the sex they were assigned at birth.

The White House declined to comment on the plans. White House press secretary Jen Psaki had said in a statement last week that the administration would lift the ban through an executive action in the early days or weeks of Biden's presidency.

CBS News was first to report the expected repeal coming Monday.

Biden is set to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was confirmed Friday, at the White House this morning alongside the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Some more background on the ban: While Trump had argued that transgender troops in the military would lead to "tremendous medical costs and disruption," a 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a "minimal impact" on readiness and health care costs.

Trump's decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under former President Barack Obama, which was still under final review, that would have allowed transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.

The Trump administration for years had reversed, dropped, removed and withdrawn established LGBTQ protections and had been particularly hostile toward transgender Americans.