The latest on the Biden presidency

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

Updated 8:10 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021
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3:37 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Biden administration prepares to open overflow facility for migrant children

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

The Biden administration is opening up an overflow facility for unaccompanied migrant children apprehended at the US-Mexico border, the federal agency tasked with the children’s care told CNN in a statement.  

The Health and Human Services Department will reactivate a facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, that can accommodate approximately 700 children, though more capacity may be added if necessary.

The reactivation of the facility comes amid an increase in apprehensions of unaccompanied children on the southwest border and reduced capacity limits at other facilities due to Covid. The move also comes as President Biden prepares to roll out new immigration executive orders tackling migration to the US southern border.

Unaccompanied children who cross the border are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security and referred to the Department of Health and Human Services. While in care, case managers work to place a child with a sponsor in the United States, like a parent or relative.

The facility in Carrizo, Texas, will be used for children who are medically cleared from Covid-19 quarantine and will not be used for children under the age of 13, in line with agency policy, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency within HHS that is responsible for the care of migrant children. 

“HHS is mindful of these children's vulnerability, and our priority is the safety and wellbeing of each child in our care. HHS anticipates the need to start placing children at Carrizo Springs in 15 days or soon after,” the agency said in a statement, citing limited capacity due in part to Covid-19.

3:38 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

US has not spoken to Iran since Biden took office, State Department says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Neither State Department special envoy for Iran Rob Malley nor any other State Department official has spoken to any Iranian officials since the Biden administration took office, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who added that the US is a long way from negotiating directly with Tehran.

Price also seemed to dismiss the suggestion by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that EU foreign policy Josep Borrell could serve as an intermediary to “synchronize” both the US and Iranian return to compliance with the nuclear deal.

Speaking at the State Department press briefing, Price said President Joe Biden’s position on the Iran nuclear deal has been “very clear” – “if Iran comes back into full compliance with his obligations under the JCPOA the United States would do the same. And then we would then use that as a platform to build a longer and a stronger agreement that also addresses other areas of concern.”

Price noted that they are "a long way from that."

"Iran has distanced itself from compliance and a number of fronts and there are many steps in that process — I mentioned a couple of them: consulting with our allies, consulting with our partners, consulting with Congress, before we're reaching the point where we're going to engage directly with the Iranians and willing to entertain any sort of proposal, especially since we've been very clear about what the proposition we have put on the table,” he said.

 Watch the moment:

3:00 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Schumer: If Trump legal team repeats election fraud lie, GOP must "realize that they have no argument"

From CNN's Clare Foran, Ryan Nobles and Kristin Wilson

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on February 2 in Washington, DC.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on February 2 in Washington, DC. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

CNN’s Ryan Nobles asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer how concerned he is that the former President’s legal team will once again bring up debunked conspiracy theories about the past election and make that a part of his impeachment defense.

Schumer argued that if they pursue that path, he hopes Senate Republicans see that even the President’s own legal team has no legitimate argument in his defense.

“Well I hope if they tried to do that and couldn’t answer the defense that Republicans would see that and realize that they have no argument against the charges brought by the House managers,” Schumer said.

Schumer also said that, "Joe Biden is totally on board with using reconciliation. I’ve been talking to him every day. Our staffs have been talking multiple times a day. And I believe that we will pass the resolution this afternoon."

On an organizing resolution, Schumer said, “There was a setback when Leader McConnell made extraneous demand, trying to tell our caucus how to run things even though we were in the majority, but we are making progress and we’re getting close.”

2:40 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

White House will bring back visitor logs but not for virtual meetings

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House will reinstate the regular release of visitor logs, but does not have plans to do so for virtual meetings taking place during the pandemic. 

“Our pledge is to be – venture to be – hope to be the most ethically stringent government in history, and we've put in place, he's put in place a number of steps and policies to deliver on exactly that. You're right that there are not currently many visitors. At some point, hopefully, there will be and we will be returning to the release of those visitor logs,” she said at a news briefing Tuesday, noting that that “was not the case during the prior administration.”

However, she said, “At this point, there's not a discussion of making virtual meetings part of what's released.”

It’s unclear when the process of releasing those logs will begin in earnest, with CNN reporting earlier this week that outside visitors are limited to those with a distinct need to be on campus – such as classified meetings that cannot occur virtually, physical repair work, or a direct request of a principal, per a White House official.

Asked whether the White House could say whether there were any visitors of note logged during the Trump administration in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, Psaki said she was unsure if the Biden administration has access to the Trump administration’s visitor logs but would ask her team if they did or if there is a plan to look at them. She said she was unaware if it was technically possible.

2:40 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Biden told Senate Republicans $600 billion proposal "way too small," top Democrat says

From CNN's Clare Foran, Ryan Nobles and Kristin Wilson


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said President Biden told Senate Democrats at lunch today that he wants a “big, bold package” on Covid relief and that he told Senate Republicans their $600 billion proposal is “way too small.” 

“We had a really good virtual caucus meeting with two very special guest speakers. It was great to have President Biden and Treasury Secretary Yellen join our meeting. President Biden spoke about the need for Congress to respond boldly and quickly. He was very strong in emphasizing the need for a big, bold package. He said that he told Senate Republicans that the $600 billion that they proposed was way too small. It is his belief, it is Secretary Yellen’s belief, it is our belief, if we did a package that small we would be mired in the Covid crisis for years,” Schumer said.

He went on to say that Biden told Republicans “he’s willing to make some modifications, but he’s very strong that the full American Rescue Plan get us through this crisis. Secretary Yellen said the Republican $600 billion wasn’t close to enough.”

Here’s a look at the key differences between both proposals.

2:36 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

White House says "there certainly is a gap" between Biden and GOP stimulus proposals

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that while the meeting between President Biden and 10 Republican senators was civil and constructive, “there certainly is a gap” between the administration’s American Rescue Plan and what those senators proposed.  

Psaki said that last night’s meeting was “how democracy should work” in regards to bipartisanship, however she said there are certain “bottom lines” that President Biden wants to be in the next round of Covid-19 relief, including direct payments reaching more Americans than what the Republican proposal would include.

“His view is that at this point in our country, when one in seven American families don't have enough food to eat, we need to make sure people get the relief they need and are not left behind,” Psaki said. She again said the administration views the risk “is not going too big, it is going too small.”

Psaki added that there are opportunities for staff level negotiations on small business relief and some other “technical follow up opportunities,” but she said that those discussions focus on how to get that relief efficiently, not reducing the cost. 

Earlier in the briefing, Psaki noted that there are opportunities through the legislative process for Republican ideas to get into the final Covid relief bill

“At several points in this process as we look to the weeks ahead, Republicans can engage and see their ideas adopted,” Psaki said.

2:10 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

The White House is freeing up Hurricane Maria-related funding to Puerto Rico

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during today's press briefing that the Biden administration is working to release climate disaster-related aid and change the terms of aid going to Puerto Rico. 

“Today … the administration is releasing $1.3 billion dollars in aid allocated by Congress to Puerto Rico that can be deployed to protect against future climate disasters,” Psaki said.

“In partnership with the Puerto Rico Department of Public Housing, the administration is also working to remove onerous restrictions put in place by the last administration on nearly $5 billion in additional funds," she continued.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi indicated last week that he’d been in touch with the Biden White House about releasing the aid, much of which has been held up since it was allocated by Congress in 2017. 

2:08 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

Biden will visit State Department on Thursday and speak about foreign policy

From CNN's Kate Sullivan 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed President Biden will visit the State Department on Thursday and deliver remarks. 

“He will thank the men and women of the national security workforce for their service to our country, and deliver remarks about reclaiming America's role in the world,” Psaki said a Tuesday White House briefing. 

Psaki noted the visit was planned for earlier in the week but rescheduled because of the snow. 

Biden plans to deliver his most substantive foreign policy remarks since becoming president, according to a senior administration official, marking his opening attempt at pivoting away from his predecessor's "America First" approach to the world.

2:13 p.m. ET, February 2, 2021

US secretary of state: US "deeply concerned by" Navalny's jail sentence 

From CNN'S Jennifer Hansler

Alexei Navalny appears at Moscow City Court on February 2.
Alexei Navalny appears at Moscow City Court on February 2. Moscow City Court Press Office/TASS via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said the “United States is deeply concerned by Russian authorities’ decision to sentence opposition figure Aleksey Navalny to two years and eight months imprisonment, replacing his suspended sentence with jail time.”

“Like every Russian citizen, Mr. Navalny is entitled to the rights provided in the Russian constitution, and Russia has international obligations to respect equality before the law and the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Blinken said in a statement Tuesday.

“We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny, as well as the hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”

“Even as we work with Russia to advance U.S. interests, we will coordinate closely with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable for failing to uphold the rights of its citizens,” he said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Blinken's remarks when asked about Navalny during the White House press briefing.

Who is Navalny? Navalny was detained two weeks ago upon his return to Moscow from Berlin, accused of failing to meet his parole terms under a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement – a case he has dismissed as politically motivated.

A perennial thorn in President Vladimir Putin's side, Navalny had spent five months in Germany recovering from Novichok poisoning before his return to Moscow on Jan. 17. He has blamed the attack on Russian security services and Putin himself, accusations that the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

You can read more about his case here.