Biden focuses on the climate crisis

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

Updated 8:46 PM ET, Wed January 27, 2021
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1:40 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Biden climate envoy says working with China on climate needs to happen despite issues between countries

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry said that the US and China need to work together to combat climate change, and that the work on that problem needs to happen despite various other issues between the two countries.

“Now, with respect to China, obviously we have serious differences with China on some very, very important issues,” former Secretary of State Kerry said, noting he is very familiar with those differences. “Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate.”

Kerry called climate a stand-alone issue that they have to deal on considering the US, China and the EU make up more than 50% of the emissions worldwide.

“So it's urgent that we find a way to compartmentalize, to move forward, and we'll wait and see but President Biden is very, very clear about the need to address the other issues with China. And I know some people have been concerned. Nothing is going to be siphoned off into one area from another,” Kerry added. 

National climate advisor Gina McCarthy said that one of the issues the US faces with China is shifting to clean energy that manufactured in America, not other countries. McCarthy praised President Biden’s “Buy America” pledge as a good first step in addressing this to both combat climate change and also advance job growth in America.

Kerry: We have a big agenda in front of us on a global basis:

1:09 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Many Republican senators think Trump isn't at risk of conviction in impeachment trial

From CNN's Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Jeremy Herb

Republican Senate leaders are increasingly confident that former President Trump won’t be at risk of conviction when his impeachment trial begins next month, expecting the votes to stay largely the same as Tuesday’s 55 to 45 test vote over the constitutionality of the trial.  

Tuesday’s vote, forced by GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky over whether the trial was constitutional, forced Republicans to go on the record about the trial two weeks before it truly begins.

Just five Republicans split with Paul to oppose his point of order that the trial of an ex-president was unconstitutional, in the clearest sign to date most Republicans aren’t likely to consider convicting Trump and barring him from running for office again. 

Senate GOP Whip John Thune told reporters Wednesday he didn’t expect the final vote to shift much from Tuesday, which would leave the Senate well short of the 17 Republicans needed for a two-thirds vote to convict.

“I can’t see it,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn said of the Senate reaching 67 votes for conviction. “I think there are serious constitutional and prudential questions that I’m most worried about. I don’t want to set a precedent here where you try private citizens nor censure them after they’ve left office. Once that weapon is unleashed then you can expect that to set the floor for future congresses doing it to other presidents.”

Asked if Trump’s actions leading up to the January 6 riots were defensible, Cornyn said, “I’m not going to defend them... I think he’s been held accountable in the court of public opinion already.”  

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said privately leading up to the trial he was keeping an open mind, has not said why he voted with Paul on Tuesday, when he also declined to say whether Trump committed impeachable offenses. 

Asked whether supporting Paul was a sign he wouldn’t convict or if he was still open to hearing the evidence, McConnell told CNN Wednesday, “Well, the trial hasn’t started yet. And I intend to participate in that and listen to the evidence.” 

1:05 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

GOP plans to filibuster nomination of homeland security secretary

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said Republicans plan to object to any efforts to quickly confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to serve as secretary of Homeland Security, telling reporters: “There’s a number of problems with that nomination."

That means Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would have to take procedural steps to overcome a filibuster on Mayorkas, something that would require 51 votes but would eat up days of floor time. Schumer has pushed to have Mayorkas confirmed quickly.

While several of Biden’s nominees have been confirmed and have moved at a slower pace than some of his predecessors’ Cabinet picks, Republicans so far have not threatened to filibuster a nominee yet. Mayorkas is now the first.

If confirmed, he is expected to swiftly begin rolling back Trump administration immigration policies, while juggling response to a global pandemic, threats to the homeland, and restoring a department that's been rattled by leadership turnover and vacancies for the better part of the last four years.

Mayorkas would be the first Latino and immigrant to serve at the helm of the department.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands contributed reporting to this post.

12:53 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Oil industry blasts Biden's federal leasing freeze

��From CNN’s Matt Egan

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Oil industry executives slammed President Joe Biden’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands as an attack on the industry that will backfire.

“This is bad for our economy. It’s bad for our national security. It’s bad for our environment and for local communities,” Mike Sommers, the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API), told reporters during a conference call Wednesday.

Biden is expected to order a freeze on Wednesday of new leases on federal lands and waters as a way to address the climate crisis.

Sommers said that while the API shares Biden’s goal of addressing climate change, the executive order is “nothing more than an import more oil policy that will weaken US energy leadership, hamper the economic recovery and undermine national security.”

Officials from New Mexico, a state that could be hit particularly hard by the leasing freeze, warned of a hit to local revenue. 

“Our state’s education budgets depend heavily on oil and gas revenue,” said Ryan Flynn, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. 

Flynn said New Mexico accounts for 57% of all federal onshore oil production and 31% of federal onshore natural gas production. The state gets about $1 billion in revenue from that federal fossil fuels production.

12:43 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Biden spoke with Japan's prime minister today

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden continued his calls with world leaders today, speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, according to a White House readout.

The two discussed North Korea, Covid-19, and climate change, among other topics, and reaffirmed the US-Japan alliance.

12:50 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Happening now: White House holds press briefing ahead of Biden signing climate executive actions

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Kate Sullivan

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

White House press secretary Jen Psaki is holding a press briefing alongside Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy.

President Biden will sign several executive actions related to the climate crisis at a 1:30 p.m. ET event, including one directing the secretary of the interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters.

The executive order directs the interior secretary to launch a "rigorous review" of the existing leasing and permitting programs related to fossil fuel development, and to identify steps to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.

Biden is also expected to establish the climate crisis as an "essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security."

The order instructs the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, to prepare a national intelligence estimate on the security implications of the climate crisis and directs all agencies to develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.

12:35 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Senate Democrats focus on Trump's impeachment trial after one member proposes censure

From CNN's Ali Main and Ali Zaslav

Asked about Sen. Tim Kaine's drafted resolution to censure former President Trump for his role in inciting the Capitol riot, some of Kaine's Democratic colleagues made clear on Wednesday that their focus, for now, is on the impeachment trial.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said, "we have to proceed under the Constitution with the trial, and I support that," noting it is senators' "responsibility" to complete the trial now that they've been sworn in as jurists.

"Once that's over, we can see whatever else members would want to do, but I think this is incredibly serious, and that, in order for the country to heal, there has to be accountability and justice, and that starts with what the former president united states said and did," she told reporters.

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said he'll do his "obligation under the Constitution" to serve as a juror. "If the verdict is such that leads the President without any consequence from what took place on that day, then I would consider other options," he said.

A few other senators seemed more open to the idea, which has not yet garnered much appetite from party leadership.

Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said he has talked with Kaine and has asked his legal team to look into the censure effort. He noted that Kaine's resolution includes "the elements of the 14th Amendment that lead to disqualification from future officeholding."

"That's intriguing to me and something I'm willing to look at. The bottom line here is we have to deliver accountability for the events of Jan. 6," he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa Murkowski — one of the five Republicans to join Democrats in affirming the constitutionality of Trump's trial — signaled interest in censuring the former President, but wants to see the language. “Yes, I’d be interested in looking at what the language of a censure might be,” Murkowski said.

12:33 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Homeland Security issues bulletin over heightened threat environment following inauguration

From CNN's Geneva Sands

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued a threat bulletin, due to the potential for violence from extremists that object to the presidential transition, hold anti-government views or are motivated by other false narratives. 

President Biden's Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske issued the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin "due to a heightened threat environment across the United States," which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the Presidential Inauguration. 

"Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence," the bulletin reads. 

Earlier this month, CNN reported that discussions were underway about raising the terrorism threat level, according to two sources familiar with the discussions at the time.

The National Terrorism Advisory System – which replaced color-coded alerts of the Homeland Security Advisory System – falls under the Department of Homeland Security. Advisories are pushed out in the event of an imminent or elevated threat to the public.

12:51 p.m. ET, January 27, 2021

Harris ceremoniously swears in Secretary of State Antony Blinken

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Vice President Kamala Harris just ceremoniously swore in Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The longtime Biden associate was approved by the Senate yesterday with a vote of 78-22.

Blinken, joined by his wife Evan Ryan, took the oath of office on a small pocket Constitution, per Pool. After administering his oath, Harris offered the newly-minted Cabinet Secretary a hearty “Congratulations Mr. Secretary,” before leaving the room with Blinken and Ryan.

"My career has come full circle," Blinken wrote in a tweet Tuesday. "I started at the @StateDept in 1993, and, today, it's the honor of my life to lead the Department's women and men as the 71st Secretary of State."

Blinken attended a welcome ceremony at the State Department this morning, and told his new colleagues that “it’s a new day for America; it’s a new day for the world.”

He is expected to deliver remarks to reporters in the press briefing room at the Department of State at 3:30 p.m. ET.

With Blinken's confirmation, President Biden now has a number of key members of his national security team in place. In addition to national security adviser Jake Sullivan — who does not require Senate confirmation — Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines was confirmed on Inauguration Day and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was confirmed last Friday.

Here's a look at the Cabinet nominees confirmed so far.