Biden's first full day in office

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

Updated 9:48 PM ET, Thu January 21, 2021
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5:29 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Fauci disputes reports vaccine distribution efforts have to start "from scratch"

From CNN's DJ Judd 

Dr. Anthony Fauci seemed to contradict reports that the Trump administration had no plan for widespread Covid-19 vaccine rollout, telling reporters in the briefing room, “we’re certainly not starting from scratch, because there is activity going on in the distribution.”

He touted plans for community vaccine centers, pharmacy buy-in, and targeted use of the Defense Production Act, adding, “it's taking what's going on, but amplifying it in a big way.”

Earlier today, CNN’s MJ Lee reported that in the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration's Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States. "There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch," one source told MJ.

Fauci seemed to dispute that characterization, telling reporters,

“No, I mean we’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas with the, with the previous administration, you can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all. So, we are continuing but you're going to see a real ramping up of it.”

Watch the moment:

4:45 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Fauci says it's a "liberating feeling" to speak freely under Biden administration

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters that he feels liberated to speak freely about the coronavirus pandemic and the science behind it under the Biden administration.

When asked if he felt differently now that he works under President Biden versus President Trump, Fauci said:

"I don't want to be going back, you know, over history, but it's very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really was uncomfortable, because they were not based on scientific fact. I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the President. So, it was really something that you didn't feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn't be any repercussions about it."

Fauci noted that under President Biden, he feels that he can speak to topics based on his expertise.

"The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence —what the science is — and know that's it, let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling," he said.  

Watch the moment:

4:41 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Under Biden's administration, Fauci said he won't "guess" when asked something he doesn't know

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks with reporters at the White House on Thursday, January 21, in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks with reporters at the White House on Thursday, January 21, in Washington, DC. Alex Brandon/AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci made it clear today during a White House news briefing that if he doesn't have an answer to a question pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic, he's not going to guess, which he called "one of the new things in this administration."

“You know, one of the new things in this administration, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Just say you don’t know the answer," Fauci said.

When asked whether there are any actionable items left from the Trump administration in regards to the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, Fauci said some were indeed usable.

"We're coming in with fresh ideas but also some ideas that were not bad ideas with the previous administration. You can't say it was absolutely not usable at all. So we are continuing, but you're going to see a real ramping up of it," he added.

Watch the moment:

4:37 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Happening now: Dr. Fauci speaks to reporters in White House press briefing

From CNN's Betsy Klein, Veronica Stracqualursi and Kate Sullivan

Pool
Pool

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is speaking now to reporters in a White House press briefing and is providing an update on the status of the pandemic in the country and distribution of vaccines.

"Obviously we are still in a very serious situation. To have over 400,000 deaths is something that is unfortunately historic in a very bad sense," Fauci said.

Fauci noted that while the number of new infections is still at a "very high rate," when you look more recently at the seven-day average of cases, "right now it looks like it might actually be plateauing in the sense of turning around."

The briefing comes after President Biden rolled out his national strategy to battle the coronavirus pandemic that includes several executive actions related to vaccinations and testing in hopes of moving the federal response in a different direction.

Biden signed executive orders ramping up supplies for vaccination, testing and personal protective equipment and another boosting development of therapeutics to treat Covid-19.

He said the plan was developed with input from Fauci and other advisers and experts.

Watch the moment:

4:07 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Right-wing extremism "will continue to be a persistent threat" to DC, official says

From CNN’s Mark Morales and Nicky Robertson

A large group of pro-Trump protesters stand on the East steps of the Capitol Building after storming its grounds on January 6 in Washington, DC.
A large group of pro-Trump protesters stand on the East steps of the Capitol Building after storming its grounds on January 6 in Washington, DC. Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Christopher Rodriguez, director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency in DC, told reporters Thursday that the threat of right-wing extremism will continue to be a threat to the District of Columbia and the surrounding region.  

“Let’s be clear threat of right-wing extremism is here, right, and we saw it on Jan. 6th, and it will continue to be a persistent and real threat to the District of Columbia and to our region as well,” Rodriguez said in response to a question from CNN. 

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said she has asked Rodriguez to prepare an “advanced posture” to deal with these threats. 

“I’ve directed Director Rodriguez and his team to begin working with our partners on our advanced posture to deal with the threat of White extremism and any other threat to our city,” Bowser said. 

“We are also evaluating now, the rest of the year, the next three weeks, the next six weeks, what we think would be intelligent from our federal partners that would suggest that we need more presence," the mayor added.

Bowser confirmed earlier CNN reporting that the out-of-state National Guard troops will begin to leave the District today, and are winding down numbers through the end of the month.

The mayor also said she believes that any future Joint Session of Congress should be considered a National Special Security Event, or some form of enhanced security, “I think it's very clear to me that any joint session of Congress should be a special security event or some package like that.”

3:49 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Congressional cybersecurity commission sends recommendations to Biden

From CNN’s Brian Fung

A government commission on cybersecurity, chaired by Sen. Angus King and Rep. Mike Gallagher, sent President Biden a 23-page report reflecting congressional priorities for US cybersecurity policy on Thursday. 

The report by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission urged the administration to appoint a national cyber director, develop a national cybersecurity strategy and bolster partnerships with the private sector. It is the fifth such report to be published by the commission. 

"This white paper is intended to provide a guide for the incoming Biden-Harris administration, identifying possible early policy achievements and suggesting priorities for action over the coming months and years," the report said.

The commission's recommendations come as the Biden administration grapples with the SolarWinds breach and its fallout, which has affected a range of federal agencies. Investigators are still trying to determine the extent of the damage done by suspected Russian hackers, in what's been described as the worst data breach to hit the government in years. 

To reduce the risk of so-called supply chain attacks like the kind deployed by the SolarWinds attackers, the report said the Biden administration must stimulate domestic alternatives for technology currently built by foreign companies. 

3:43 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

White House Covid-19 response team launches Twitter account

From CNN's Betsy Klein

The White House Covid-19 Response Team officially has a presence on Twitter.

@WHCOVIDResponse will provide “the latest updates on the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to contain COVID-19,” the White House tweeted.

The account’s first and only tweet so far links to the administration’s pandemic strategy.

Earlier today, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said don't expect President Biden to be breaking news at 1 a.m. ET on Twitter and that Biden’s social media presence will be one of hope.

She added that they viewed their social media strategy during the campaign as the “battle for the soul of the internet.”

3:56 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Biden balks at suggestion that 100 million vaccinations in first 100 days is a low bar

From CNN's DJ Judd

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

At the end of today’s remarks on the administration’s new Covid-19 response, President Biden balked at the suggestion that 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days was a low bar.

“When I announced it, you all said it was not possible. C’mon give me a break man, it’s a good start, 100 million," he told Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller.

Last Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Today Show the 100 million number was “quite feasible.”

"We've discussed it with the Biden team, and we think it's quite feasible that we can do that. Right now, even now, we've gone from half a million a day to 750,000 a day. I believe strongly that it's doable — and if we do it, stay on target to get the overwhelming majority of the country vaccinated," Fauci said.

"If we get about 70% to 85% of the people in the country vaccinated, we likely will get to that umbrella of herd immunity," he added. "We can start approaching some form of normality, but it's really going to be dependent on the uptake of vaccines."

3:26 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Biden returns to presidential pen tradition

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Joe Biden has returned to the longstanding tradition of the Cross presidential pen.

He is using a Cross Century II, per manufacturer A.T. Cross, which is promoting the pen on its website as “President Biden's pen of choice for his Inaugural Signing Ceremony.”

Former President Donald Trump initially used the Century II pen with a felt tip, but quickly eschewed the presidential standard pen in favor of his preferred Sharpie.

Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton used the Cross Townsend pen, although Obama later switched to the Century II. Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush were also known to use Cross pens, however, the official Cross-White House program began under Clinton.

The Century II comes in multiple colors and the price ranges from $100-$189.

Cross sells the pen to the White House through a distributor in the Washington area, a spokesperson told CNN in 2017. The distributor gets a discount, paying less than $50 per pen, although it was not immediately clear how much they charge the White House.