The latest on the Biden presidency and Trump impeachment trial

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

Updated 9:29 PM ET, Tue January 26, 2021
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10:11 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Here's what happens next on Trump's impeachment trial

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf, Clare Foran and Jeremy Herb

Senators will be formally sworn in this afternoon as jurors for the second impeachment trial of former President Trump.

On Monday the House impeachment manager – a group of Democratic lawmakers who will act as prosecutors presenting the case against Trump during the trial – delivered the single article of impeachment to the Senate. The article, approved by the Democrat-led House, charges Trump with incitement of insurrection for provoking the attack on the US Capitol that left multiple people dead.

But the Senate impeachment trial itself won't get underway until the week of Feb. 8. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a deal last week to push back the start date for the substance of the proceedings. That move will give Democrats more time to confirm Biden's Cabinet and potentially take up a new Covid-19 relief bill while Trump's defense team will have more time to prepare for trial.

Here are some key things to know about what happens next in the trial:

The Supreme Court wants to move on. When the trial does get underway, one important no-show is expected to be Chief Justice John Roberts, who normally has a duty under the Constitution to preside over a presidential impeachment trial. This time, however, since Trump is a former president, Roberts will skip the proceedings and Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chamber's ranking Democrat, will hold the gavel.

Roberts' court also declined Monday to hear whether Trump's hotels in DC and New York violated the Constitution's emoluments clause by accepting money from foreign governments. The court said the question about a president being enriched by foreigners is moot since voters have already shown Trump the door.

Republican lawmakers want to move on. The refrain growing on Capitol Hill among Republicans is not so much that Trump's incitement of the mob that stormed the US Capitol was good conduct. It's why bother with this impeachment trial?

"I think so many are getting confused by the fact that we're doing this," said Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun.

It seems clear there will be Republicans who support convicting Trump in the first-ever post-presidential impeachment — Utah Sen. and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse — but the number, for now, appears to be on track to fall well short of the necessary 17 to reach the necessary two-thirds majority.

There must be accountability. Romney, the one senator who broke with Trump on the Ukraine impeachment last year, certainly sounds like he could ultimately vote to convict Trump again.

"And, you know, if we're going to have unity in our country, I think it's important to recognize the need for accountability, for truth and justice," he said on Fox News Sunday, arguing there is a need for a Senate trial.

Read more here.

9:24 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Here's a look at Biden and Harris' schedule today 

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden continues to move forward on rolling out new executive actions during his first full week in office as he aims to tackle different parts of his agenda. 

Today, his administration focuses on "equity" policy, and he plans to sign executive orders on policing reform, prison reform and public housing.

Vice President Kamala Harris meanwhile will participate in a swearing in ceremony for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Both made history for being the first women to hold their current roles. 

Here’s a look at today’s schedule: 

  • Noon ET:  Harris will ceremonially swear in Yellen as secretary of the Treasury at the White House. 
  • 12:30 p.m. ET: Press secretary Jen Psaki holds a White House press briefing alongside domestic policy adviser Susan Rice.
  •  2 p.m. ET: Biden delivers remarks outlining his racial equality agenda and signs executive actions. Harris will also attend. 
  • 4 p.m. ET: Harris and the second gentleman Doug Emhoff will receive the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
  • 4:45 p.m. ET: Biden speaks about the fight to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
9:18 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

How impeachment managers could use video at trial to bolster their case

From CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

House impeachment managers are lead through the Capitol to deliver the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate floor on January 25, in Washington, DC.
House impeachment managers are lead through the Capitol to deliver the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate floor on January 25, in Washington, DC. Melina Mara/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

As they put together their plans for trial, House impeachment managers are considering using a variety of video evidence, according to sources familiar with the deliberations. 

The impeachment managers are still wading through the huge amount of video that exists from Jan. 6 to determine what they should use at the trial, the sources said, including video posted to the conservative social media site Parler.

The House’s impeachment team has taken an interest in a 10-minute video complication from the national security forum Just Security, which splices in former President Trump’s comments at the Jan. 6 rally with social media posts from rioters on Facebook and Parler who invoked Trump as their reason for attacking the Capitol. 

No decisions have been finalized about how to use the video. The Washington Post first reported on the impeachment managers’ interest in the Just Security video. 

At the first Trump impeachment trial, the House impeachment managers also used video to bolster their case that Trump had pushed for Ukraine’s help to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden. The use of video for the upcoming trial is even more compelling given the disturbing images and video that have emerged of rioters ransacking the Capitol and attacking police officers.


10:34 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Biden's National Economic Council director signals openness to budget reconciliation on Covid-19 relief

From CNN's DJ Judd

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Brian Deese, director of the President’s National Economic Council, indicated the White House’s focus on Covid-19 relief was on a comprehensive relief package in an interview Tuesday, telling CNBC, “We are at a moment where we need decisive action we need to move quickly, and we need to move comprehensively.”

Asked if the focus was on a bipartisan bill or a “big” bill, Deese told Becky Quick, “We've learned over the last 10 months what happens if you address this crisis piecemeal. We need to move comprehensively and we need to move quickly, so that's really our focus. We certainly want to move with as much as we can.” 

Pressed if that meant going for budget reconciliation, Deese said, “Well, look, we need to do what it's going to take to solve this crisis — we can't get schools open if we don't get control of the virus, we can't get control of the virus unless we invest in the resources we need, we can't get people back to work if we don't get the schools open, so you know, we need to tackle this comprehensively."

"We're very open to people's input, ideas, that's the process that's happening right now, but we do need to move with speed here, so we don't find ourselves, a month or two or three from now, in a place where the virus is in isn't getting under control, the economy is in a worse place, and we're all asking ourselves why we didn't act," he added.

On criticisms that coronavirus relief involves sending checks to Americans who don’t need them, Deese balked at the idea the package proposed by the Biden administration isn’t targeted enough, telling CNBC, "if you look at the provisions of the American rescue plan, very targeted: hunger, homelessness, unemployment insurance."

"Certainly, if there are ways to make that provision and other provisions more effective that's something that we're open to that, we'll have conversations about, but I think if you look in the aggregate, this is an approach that is very much targeted at those workers in those businesses that are struggling the most in this economy," he continued.

More on reconciliation: Senate Democrats have been laying the groundwork to use a rare procedural tactic known as reconciliation to pass major parts of the Covid-19 relief package if Republicans stand in the way, according to multiple Democratic aides.

While leadership has yet to give the go ahead publicly and negotiations with Republicans are still getting started, aides tell CNN that the process is complicated and arcane, which is why they are getting ready now in case they have to use it.

9:06 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

McConnell is allowing a Senate power-sharing deal to advance. Here's what that means.

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks through the Capitol building on Monday, January 25, in Washington, DC.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks through the Capitol building on Monday, January 25, in Washington, DC. Susan Walsh/AP

Congress will play a critical role in advancing President Biden's agenda, including his Covid-19 relief bill. Democrats now control both chambers, but a power-sharing deal in the Senate had been stuck for days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demanded that Democrats affirm that they will not dismantle the filibuster, the key stalling tactic that requires 60 votes to overcome in order to advance bills.

McConnell announced Monday that he will allow the 50-50 Senate to officially organize so Democrats can take control of key committees in the chamber after a weeklong battle with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer over the rights of the minority to stall legislation.

The breakthrough came as GOP leaders were eagerly looking for a way out of a potential crisis that would have stymied the Senate committee process indefinitely, after McConnell pointed to recent comments made by two Democratic senators about their long-standing opposition to gutting the filibuster as sufficient to ease his concerns.

"With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent," the Kentucky Republican said.

Yet McConnell didn't receive any written assurances from Democrats that they would never touch the filibuster, and Schumer's office argued that the GOP leader got little from the stalemate. Without McConnell's consent, Democrats were unable to get the votes to pass a power-sharing resolution without changing Senate rules.

Schumer for days rejected the GOP leader's demands, saying Monday afternoon: "We are not letting McConnell dictate how the Senate operates."

The stalemate had prevented Senate committees from officially organizing, meaning Republicans still controlled key committees since the chamber is operating under the rules of the last Congress when the GOP was in charge.

Schumer has demanded that the Senate agree to the 2001 rules during the last 50-50 Senate, when the chamber's committees had equal representation of both parties, and tie votes on legislation and nominations would go to the floor.

McConnell signaled Monday night he would agree to that as well.

8:58 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

White House official says impeachment trial is the Senate's "constitutional duty"

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks with CNN on Tuesday, January 26. 
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks with CNN on Tuesday, January 26.  CNN

In an interview with CNN’s New Day this morning, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre elaborated on President Biden’s comments to CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins that the Impeachment Trial “has to happen,” telling John Berman conducting the trial in the Senate “is their duty.”  

“Senators, they have to be able to do their constitutional duty, uphold the Constitution, but also be able to do the American — their job for the American people and give them that relief,” Jean Pierre told Berman. “That is the key, critical part of this because we cannot -- they got to be able to do both.”

More on this: Yesterday, Biden offered his most extensive comments since taking office on former President Trump's impeachment trial, telling CNN, "I think it has to happen."

Biden made the comment during a brief one-on-one interview with CNN in the halls of the West Wing. He acknowledged the effect it could have on his legislative agenda and Cabinet nominees but said there would be "a worse effect if it didn't happen."

8:29 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Harris will ceremoniously swear in Yellen today as the first female Treasury secretary in US history

From CNN's Anneken Tappe and Matt Egan

Janet Yellen speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 1, 2020.
Janet Yellen speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 1, 2020. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers confirmed Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday, making her the first woman in American history to hold the position.

Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to swear in Yellen at the White House today at noon ET.

As head of the Treasury, she'll be tasked with shepherding President Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan through Congress and overseeing its execution. The plan includes $1,400 stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits, and increased funding for Covid-19 vaccinations and testing.

During her confirmation hearing last week, Yellen defended the size and scope of the plan, saying the first priority of the incoming administration must be to get the nation and its people through the pandemic before addressing other concerns, including America's ballooning deficit or raising taxes.

"Right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big," she told the Senate Finance Committee.

She made clear her No. 1 priority would be to provide relief for those in the greatest need — especially minority workers and women, who have been hit hardest by the downturn.

"The pandemic has caused widespread devastation," Yellen said in her testimony. "The damage has been sweeping, and ... our response must be, too."

With broad bipartisan support from Wall Street to Washington, Yellen was widely expected to be confirmed. The Senate Finance Committee on Friday approved her nomination unanimously, 26-0.

"It is hard to imagine a better prepared nominee to meet this great moment of need than Dr. Yellen," her Treasury secretary predecessors wrote in a letter backing her nomination.

She's no stranger to breaking barriers in positions of power. In 2014, she became the first woman to run the Federal Reserve, and she will be the first person ever to have led the three most powerful economic bodies in government: Treasury, the central bank, and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

8:57 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

What we know  — and don't know  — about Trump's Senate impeachment trial

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju

House impeachment managers carry an article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump at the Capitol on January 25, in Washington, DC.
House impeachment managers carry an article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump at the Capitol on January 25, in Washington, DC. J. Scott Applewhite/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The contours of former President Trump's second impeachment trial are starting to take shape, with the Senate's longest-serving Democrat expected to preside over the trial and Democrats still weighing whether to pursue witnesses during proceedings that could take up a chunk of February.

Chief Justice John Roberts will not be presiding like he did for Trump's first impeachment trial, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Instead, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the President pro tempore of the Senate, is expected to preside, the sources said. The Constitution says the chief justice presides when the person facing trial is the current president of the United States, but senators preside in other cases, one source said.

There are still two big looming questions over the Democrats' impeachment case: Whether they will seek witnesses and how long the trial will take. The answers to both are still not known yet, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

But if the House impeachment managers seek witnesses, they want prospective witnesses to be cooperative, rather than threaten to fight in court over executive privilege, a snag that hampered Democrats' efforts to seek witnesses the first time around.

The exact time frame of the trial itself, which will begin the week of Feb. 8, is also unknown, but multiple impeachment managers have said they don't think it will go as long as the 21 days of Trump's trial in 2020. The expectation is still, however, that it will take up much of February and wrap up by month's end, if not sooner.

The scheduling leading up to the trial's arguments was resolved Friday after a week's worth of uncertainty over when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would send the article to the Senate, thanks to a deal reached between Senate leaders.

Under the agreement, Trump's legal team and the House managers will have two weeks to exchange pre-trial briefs after the article was transmitted to the Senate yesterday.

The House impeachment managers walked the article from the House to the Senate on Monday evening, and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead impeachment manager, read the article on the floor. Today, senators will be sworn in for the trial as jurors. Then there will be a two-week period for pre-trial briefs, and the trial itself will get underway the week of Feb. 8.

The deal gives something both the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The schedule gives Trump's legal team time to prepare for the trial, after he only hired a lawyer, South Carolinian Butch Bowers, last week.

For Schumer and the Biden administration, the two-week break allows for more of Biden's Cabinet to be confirmed, as all other Senate business will stop once the trial gets underway, after Republicans rejected agreeing to split the Senate's days.

8:23 a.m. ET, January 26, 2021

Biden will focus on equity today. These are the executive orders he's expected to sign.

Analysis from CNN's Paul LeBlanc

President Joe Biden signs an executive order on Monday, January 25, in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden signs an executive order on Monday, January 25, in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden continues to roll out new executive orders and actions as he looks to further dismantle many of former President Donald Trump's policies and address a slate of Democratic priorities as quickly as he can.

The planned moves, which were outlined in a draft calendar document viewed by CNN's Betsy Klein, allow Biden to set his agenda into motion while his administration continues the plodding work of coordinating with Congress on more ambitious policy goals, like a new Covid-19 relief package.

Today, Biden focuses on equity, with a list of executive orders that will:

  • Create a policing commission and reinstate Obama-era policy on the transfer of military-style equipment to local law enforcement.
  • Establish steps to improve prison conditions and eliminate the use of private prisons.
  • Formally disavow discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, which, the document says, comes "particularly in light of rhetoric around the Covid-19 pandemic."

Biden also plans to sign a memorandum directing Housing and Urban Development to take steps to promote equitable housing politics.