Politics Headlines

Bill Chizek/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, KENNEDEY BELL, LAUREN KING and ADIA ROBINSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is slated to hand over control of the White House to President-elect Joe Biden in five days.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to impeach Trump on on article for "incitement of insurrection" for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol -- making him the only president to be impeached twice.

Here is how the scene is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Jan 15, 6:46 pm
Barry Berke, veteran of Trump's 1st impeachment, to be House Dems' top lawyer for 2nd trial


Barry Berke, the veteran New York defense lawyer who helped House Democrats argue President Donald Trump's first impeachment last year, will rejoin the House Judiciary Committee as the panel's lead impeachment lawyer for Trump's second trial, the panel announced Friday.

Berke will serve as chief impeachment counsel, supported by a team of attorneys from the House Judiciary and Oversight committees who helped Democrats make their case to the Senate last year that Trump abused his office by trying to pressure Ukraine's president to dig up dirt on then-candidate Joe Biden.

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., unveiled a team of nine new impeachment managers to make the case that Trump should be convicted of inciting the Capitol Hill riot that left five people dead, the presence of Berke and the rest of the legal team underscores the unique position House Democrats are in: For the first time in American history, they will have a team of lawyers behind them with experience arguing in a Senate impeachment trial.

Democrats could transmit the impeachment article to the Senate as early as next week, which could trigger the start of proceedings following Biden's inauguration on Wednesday.

There has been no official announcement on who will represent Trump in the trial, but personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Alan Dershowitz, who took part in the last trial, may be on the team, sources told ABC News. Trump favorite John Eastman, who led a failed election challenge to the Supreme Court, could also join the team.

-ABC News' Katherine Faulders and Benjamin Siegel

Jan 15, 5:35 pm
Biden says he feels safe for inauguration


As law enforcement agencies prepare for Wednesday's inauguration, Biden told reporters he feels safe about the upcoming ceremony.

When asked at the end of a briefing on his vaccination plan Friday if he felt safe about Inauguration Day based on the intelligence he’s seen, the president-elect simply, loudly and clearly said “Yes” before exiting the room.

The FBI, DHS, Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police, along with several local law enforcement agencies, have issued an extensive "threat assessment" surrounding Wednesday's inauguration.

There also will be 25,000 National Guardsmen in the nation’s capital to aid with security that day, ABC News has learned.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle

Jan 15, 4:40 pm
Kentucky State Capitol grounds to close Sunday


The Kentucky State Capitol grounds will be closed on Sunday, amid reports of threats against state capitols in the coming days, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Friday.

“Our commitment is that what happened at the U.S. Capitol will not happen here,” Beshear said in a statement.

There will be an increased law enforcement presence at the state Capitol for the next several days, including support from the Kentucky National Guard, and areas near the Capitol will be closed on Sunday, the governor said.

There are no gatherings or rallies planned in the coming days, he noted.

Jan 15, 4:24 pm
Biden announces 5-point vaccination plan


Biden outlined a five-point vaccination plan Friday to ramp up rollout when he takes office.

On day one, he said he plans to instruct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to start opening the first of thousands of federally supported community vaccination centers across the nation. By the end of his first month in office, 100 of these centers will be open, Biden said, at places that are "convenient and accessible," such as school gymnasiums, community centers and sports stadiums.

"As we build them, we're going to make sure it's done equitably," Biden said. "We're going to make sure there are vaccination sites in areas hit harder by the pandemic, in Black and Hispanic communities as well."

Within the first month, his administration also plans to promote mobile vaccination clinics "to hard-hit and hard-to-reach communities in cities, small towns and in rural communities," he said.

Thirdly, the administration plans to "fully activate the pharmacies across the country to get the vaccination into more arms as quickly as possible," Biden said. This will include working with both independent and chain pharmacies to help people more easily make appointments, he said.

The fourth point of the plan involves ramping up vaccine supply through the Defense Production Act, Biden said.

"We'll use the Defense Protection Act to work with private industry to accelerate the making of materials needed to supply and administer the vaccine, from tubes and syringes to protective equipment," Biden said.

Lastly, Biden promised transparency on vaccine supply.

"We're going to make sure state and local officials know how much supply they'll be getting and when they can expect to get it so they can plan," he said. "Right now, we're hearing that they can't plan, because they don't know how much supply of vaccines they can expect at what time frame."

Biden stressed that his administration is not changing the Food and Drug Administration's recommended dosing schedules.

"We believe it's critical that everyone should get two doses within the FDA-recommended time frame. So we're not doing away with that availability," he said.

Jan 15, 3:52 pm
Top White House science team members announced

Ahead of planned remarks Friday afternoon on his vaccination program, Biden released the names of top members of his White House science team.

Dr. Francis Collins will continue in his role as director of the National Institutes of Health, Biden announced.

Biden also wrote a letter to Dr. Eric Lander, the presidential science advisor-designate and nominee for director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), tasking him to "work broadly and transparently with the diverse scientific leadership of American society."

Here are all the positions announced Friday by the Biden team:


-Dr. Eric Lander will be nominated as director of the OSTP and serve as the presidential science advisor.

-Dr. Alondra Nelson will serve as OSTP deputy director for science and society.

-Dr. Frances H. Arnold and Dr. Maria Zuber will serve as the external co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

-Dr. Francis Collins will continue serving in his role as director of the National Institutes of Health.

-Kei Koizumi will serve as OSTP chief of staff and is one of the nation’s leading experts on the federal science budget.

-Narda Jones will serve as OSTP legislative affairs director.

-ABC News' John Verhovek

Jan 15, 3:52 pm
Buttigieg's nomination hearing expected next week


The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is expected to hold Pete Buttigieg's nomination hearing for transportation secretary on Thursday at 10 a.m.

This is the sixth Cabinet-level nomination hearing to be noticed. Others expected for next week: Avril Haines to serve as director of national intelligence, Janet Yellen to serve as treasury secretary, Tony Blinken to serve as secretary of state, Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense, and Alejandro Mayorkas to serve as Department of Homeland Security secretary.

Jan 15, 3:05 pm
Avril Haines nomination hearing scheduled for Tuesday


The nomination hearing for Avril Haines, Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence, is now scheduled for Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced. The hearing is slated to start at 10 a.m. ET.

It was originally scheduled for Friday but was then postponed.

Jan 15, 2:48 pm
Army says there will be 25,000 National Guardsman in DC for inauguration


A spokesperson for the U.S. Army confirmed that there will be 25,000 National Guardsmen in the nation’s capital to aid with security for Biden’s inauguration.

“The Defense Department has agreed to provide up to 25,000 service members to support the Presidential Inauguration National Special Security Event federal law enforcement mission and security preparations, as led by the U.S. Secret Service,” the spokesperson said. “The Department of the Army and the National Guard Bureau are working on a sourcing solution now to support this request.”

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez

Jan 15, 2:00 pm
Officials issue wide-ranging ‘threat assessment’ ahead of Biden’s inauguration


The FBI, DHS, Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police, along with several local law enforcement agencies, have issued an extensive "threat assessment" surrounding Wednesday's inauguration.

It covers a range of threats surrounding the inauguration, including not only physical threats from domestic terrorists but also influence campaigns from Russia, China and Iran stemming from the Capitol siege. It even covers physical threats from drones.

The memo says domestic extremists is the “most likely” threat to the inauguration, citing recent incidents of ideologically motivated violence, including the deadly mob at the U.S. Capitol building.

Regarding foreign concerns, the assessment said that since the incident at the Capitol, “Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition.”

“We have not identified any specific, credible information indicating that these actors intend to explicitly commit violence,” it added. “Furthermore, we have not identified any specific, credible cyber threat to critical infrastructure supporting the upcoming Presidential Inauguration nor a specific credible cyber threat to military or law enforcement personnel supporting the event."

The memo did say, however, that Russian state media has “amplified themes related to the violent and chaotic nature of the Capitol Hill incident, impeachment of President Trump, and social media censorship.”

Iranian state media has “continued to stoke claims that President Trump encouraged and incited the violence, as well as calls to invoke the 25th amendment,” the memo added. It has also “amplified perceived concerns related to President Trump’s mental health and the prospect of other risky actions he could take before leaving office.”

Finally, it noted that Chinese media has “seized the story to denigrate US democratic governance -- casting the United States as broadly in decline -- and to justify China’s crackdown on protestors in Hong Kong."

Lastly, the memo warned that drones could disrupt law enforcement operations at the inauguration, though it added that it does not have “specific, credible information” indicating malicious actors have plans to use unmanned aircraft systems to target the event.

-ABC News’ Mike Levine

Jan 15, 1:40 pm
Vice President Pence spoke with Vice President-elect Harris

Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on a call Thursday, sources familiar with the call told ABC News.

The news was first reported by the New York Times. 


Jan 15, 1:36 pm
How Trump plans to leave the White House

Sources told ABC News that Trump has requested a large sendoff hours before President-elect Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday.  


Sources say Trump plans to depart the White House next Wednesday morning, choppering via Marine One to Joint Base Andrews where he is expected to give remarks to supporters and departing members of his administration. 

Sources add that Trump has requested the event to have a "military-like feel" though details are still not finalized. The president will then fly down to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida onboard Air Force One with a small number of staffers who will be part of his post-presidency operation, according to the sources. 

Jan 15, 1:30 pm
DC mayor says National Mall will be temporarily closed for Biden’s inauguration


During a news conference Friday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the National Mall is temporarily closed to the public through at least Thursday. 

Thirteen metro stations inside the security perimeter will also be closed. 

Bowser said the National Mall closure came at the request of and in cooperation with the Secret Service and the National Park Service.

The mayor urged Americans to enjoy the inauguration virtually from home this year. 

She also discussed the city’s beefed-up security ahead of the inauguration but told D.C. residents she doesn’t expect the security measures currently in place to last too long after Biden takes office.

Jan 15, 12:55 pm
Nomination hearing for Avril Haines postponed

The nomination hearing for Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, has been postponed. It was originally scheduled for Friday.

A joint statement from Senate Intelligence Committee Acting Chairman Marco Rubio and Vice Chairman Mark Warner on Thursday confirmed the postponement. It did not give specific reasons, but referenced the “unusual circumstances on Capitol Hill.”

Rubio and Warner added that they "look forward to holding a hearing next week" for Haines, but did not list a specific date.

Jan 15, 12:49 pm
Extremism seen on Jan. 6 'very likely part of an ongoing trend'

Far from a one-off event, the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol emboldened extremists and “is very likely part of an ongoing trend,” according to a joint intelligence bulletin obtained by ABC News.

The trend involves domestic extremists exploiting lawful gatherings to engage in violence and criminal activity and the bulletin said that “very likely will increase throughout 2021.”

Targets include racial, ethnic and religious minorities along with journalists and government officials.

“Narratives surrounding the perceived success of the 6 January breach of the US Capitol, and the proliferation of conspiracy theories will likely lead to an increased [domestic violent extremist] threat towards representatives of federal, state, and local governments across the United States, particularly in the lead-in to the 20 January Presidential Inauguration,” the bulletin said.

Beyond the inauguration, the bulletin said gun control legislation, the easing of immigration restrictions and limits on the use of public land could antagonize extremists.

There is a range of groups that share what the bulletin called the “false narrative of a stolen election.”

“In-person engagement between domestic violent extremists of differing ideological goals during the Capitol breach likely served to foster connections, which may increase DVEs’ willingness, capability, and motivation to attack and undermine a government they view as illegitimate,” the bulletin said.

Jan 15, 12:43 pm
Incoming WH press secretary reveals some details of Biden's vaccine push

In a series of tweets Friday, incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki provided some information on the structure of the Biden administration's vaccination effort and confirmed that the program will not go by the "Operation Warp Speed" name created by the Trump administration.

Psaki also said that Bechara Choucair, previously announced as the Biden team's vaccination coordinator, will lead the 100 million doses delivered in 100 days effort, while Dr. David Kessler's role will focus on maximizing the current supply of vaccine and to get more online as quickly as possible.

Jan 15, 12:17 pm
Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen and John Legend to perform at Biden's inauguration event

Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, the Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen have joined the growing list of celebrities who will appear at the star-studded event celebrating Biden's inauguration next week.
The event, hosted by Tom Hanks, will be a primetime television special that will air the night after the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20.

Longoria and Washington "will introduce segments throughout the night ranging from stories of young people making a difference in their communities to musical performances," Biden's inaugural committee said in a statement Friday.

Meanwhile, the Foo Fighters, Springsteen and Legend will perform remotely "from iconic locations across the country, joining Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Ant Clemons and Jon Bon Jovi with additional performances to be announced ahead of January 20," the committee said.

The committee had previously announced that Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem while Biden and Harris are sworn in. Jennifer Lopez will also give a musical performance.

Jan 15, 12:06 pm
Pelosi says managers are 'preparing' for Trump's impeachment trial

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that "our managers are solemnly and prayerfully preparing" for Trump's impeachment trial, "which they will take to the Senate."

"Justice is called for as we address the active insurrection that was perpetrated against the Capitol complex last week," Pelosi said during her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.

Pelosi did not specify when the article of impeachment will be sent to the Senate, prompting the trial. According to Senate rules, the trial would begin the day after the impeachment charge is sent over by the House of Representatives.

"You'll be the first to know when we announce that we're going over there," she told reporters.

Pelosi noted how quickly the House voted to impeach the president, just one week after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which she said was "incentivised" by Trump.

"So urgent was the matter," she told reporters.

When asked about the role members of Congress may have played in the riot, Pelosi said they would be held accountable.

"If it in fact it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime," she said, "there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution."

The speaker also announced that she's asked retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore -- who helped coordinate the military relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina -- to lead an "immediate review" of security failings at the Capitol, reviewing security infrastructure, the interagency process, and command and control.

At the start of Friday's press conference, Pelosi quoted Martin Luther King Jr., saying, "True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice."

Jan 15, 11:08 am
Biden announces additions to White House staff

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have announced additional White House picks -- with many familiar faces from Biden's 2020 campaign staff.

While she was not expected to join the administration and instead return to her communication’s firm SKDKnickerbocker, Anita Dunn will be serving as a senior adviser to the president -- marking yet another longtime Biden adviser and a member of the highest echelons of his campaign joining the White House in a senior role.

TJ Ducklo, the national spokesperson for the campaign, will also join the White House as deputy press secretary alongside Karine Jean-Pierre. Deputy press secretary Matt Hill will join as a senior associate communications director.

Biden’s campaign photographer and videographer will also take on similar roles in the administration.

Jan 15, 9:37 am
House committee asks hotels, travel companies to help identify 'inciters and attackers'


The House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Reform has sent letters to two dozen hotels and private travel companies seeking help in identifying rioters and preventing future attacks in Washington, D.C., ahead of Biden's inauguration.

"While the inciters and attackers bear direct responsibility for the siege on the Capitol and will be held fully accountable, they relied on a range of companies and services to get them there and house them once they arrived—companies that law-abiding Americans use every day, but whose services were hijacked to further the January 6 attacks," committee chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote in the letters. "Trump supporters chartered scores of buses and vans and drove in caravans to the nation’s capital. They stayed in D.C. hotels, with videos showing attackers relaxing in the lobby of one hotel after the insurrection."

The committee has asked the businesses -- ranging from major hotel chains to bus and car rental companies -- to retain records of January reservations for future congressional investigations, to put in place additional screening measures "to ensure that your services are not being used to facilitate violence or domestic terrorism," and to provide information to the committee by Jan. 29 on those measures.

Jan 15, 8:54 am
FBI warns of possible explosives at expected protests linked to inauguration


The danger to the public and to law enforcement officers from explosive devices during expected upcoming protests "is substantial," the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a new awareness bulletin obtained by ABC News on Friday.

The document is full of photos of devices used in the last eight months against civilian and law enforcement targets during public demonstrations.

"Devices targeting infrastructure also increased following violent activity during this time period," the bulletin states.

The FBI now wants to make first responders aware of what has been deployed in the past and what they might encounter during protests linked to the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.

"The danger posed to law enforcement officers and the general public from the all the tactics listed is substantial," the bulletin states. "If a suspicious item is reasonably believed to contain explosives, an IED, or other hazardous material, DO NOT touch, tamper with, or move the item. Only bomb disposal personal should handle any suspected devices that are located."

An internal FBI bulletin obtained by ABC News earlier this week stated that armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols as well as at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, least through Inauguration Day.

The warning comes after suspected pipe bombs were found last week outside both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee headquarters, just a few blocks from the Capitol where pro-Trump rioters stormed the building.

Jan 15, 8:33 am
Biden picks former FDA head to help lead Operation Warp Speed


Biden has chosen Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to help lead the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine initiative.

Kessler, a pediatrician and lawyer who headed the FDA from 1999 to 1997 under the Bush and Clinton administrations, will replace Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is the current chief science officer to Operation Warp Speed.

Biden also announced several other appointees who will join his incoming administration's COVID-19 response team.

"We are in a race against time, and we need a comprehensive strategy to quickly contain this virus," the president-elect said in a statement Thursday. "The individuals announced today will bolster the White House’s COVID-19 Response team and play important roles in carrying out our rescue plan and vaccination program. At a time when American families are facing numerous challenges I know these public servants will do all that is needed to build our nation back better."

Jan 15, 7:46 am
Biden announces pick for FEMA chief, other key administration posts


With just five days until his inauguration, Biden announced Thursday his pick to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) along with several other key posts for his incoming administration.

Deanne Criswell is his nominee for FEMA administrator. Janet McCabe is his nominee for deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Shalanda Young is his nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Jason Miller is his nominee for deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. And David Cohen is his appointee for deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

"These dedicated and distinguished leaders will bring the highest level of experience, integrity, and knowledge to bear on behalf of the American people," Biden said in a statement Thursday. "Each of them brings a deep respect for the civil servants who keep our republic running, as well as a keen understanding of how the government can and should work for all Americans. I am confident that they will hit the ground running on day one with determination and bold thinking to make a meaningful difference in people's lives."

Jan 14, 10:46 pm
New California senator says he's prepared for impeachment trial, coronavirus response


Alex Padilla, California’s Secretary of State and the man who will fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ seat in the Senate, told ABC News he’s prepared to balance both the impeachment trial and response to COVID-19 when he’s sworn in next week.

“We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Padilla said. “It’s not either or, COVID-19 response is absolutely important. Holding President Trump accountable is extremely important. And doing our part, as the Biden-Harris administration settles, is also extremely important. So we're prepared to do what it takes.”

 

"There has to be accountability, nobody is above the law."@AlexPadilla4CA, U.S. Senator Designate for California, joins @ABCNewsLive to discuss impeachment and the COVID-19 pandemic. https://t.co/d08otzkRdW pic.twitter.com/9j95A4SCaQ

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) January 15, 2021

 

He said he doesn’t know how the Senate will vote, but believes a “rebalanced leadership” with Democrats in the White House, Senate and House, will give the party “tremendous opportunity” to achieve their goals.

When asked whether he believes last week’s riot at the Capitol would embolden further attacks, he said, “Frankly, when I saw the images last Wednesday, it only emboldened my resolve to want to get to work, and want to get to work quickly.”

Jan 14, 10:46 pm
Va. governor ready for potential threat at state capital


Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he sent 2,000 National Guardsmen and hundreds of state police to help stop the president’s supporters from rioting at the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress last week.

Now, with Biden’s inauguration just days away, he said his state is prepared to ensure a peaceful transition of power in Washington, D.C., and ready to face any other threats that might emerge after multiple recent reports of threats at capital buildings throughout the country.

“Unfortunately, we have experience here in Virginia,” Northam told ABC News’ Linsey Davis. “We had the riots in Charlottesville back in August 2017, and then we had a lot of armed protesters in January (2020), and so, we have some experience.”

 

"Words have meaning, and our leaders need to be very careful with how they message to those that support them."@GovernorVA Ralph Northam joins @ABCNewsLive to discuss security precautions Virginia is taking following U.S. Capitol siege. https://t.co/d08otzkRdW pic.twitter.com/M9FRYQlRse

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) January 15, 2021

 

With fences posted around the state’s capital building and windows boarded up, Northam said it’s “an unfortunate situation, but we’ve made it known to these individuals that if they come here looking for trouble, that we’re ready and the outcome is not going to be good for them.”

Northam said that the riot at the Capitol has also impacted his state’s ability to vaccinate people for the coronavirus.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re having to use the resources that we are (using),” he said. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. … The Guardsmen, they’ve been very involved with our testing and now our vaccination program. We’d like to have them doing that, but instead, we have a president that has incited violence and we need to protect the country.”

Jan 14, 8:42 pm
Biden outlines major points of recovery plan during his address


Biden outlined the major points of his rescue plan: a $1.9 trillion proposal that includes a nationwide vaccination program, $1,400 checks for individuals, an extension and expansion of unemployment benefits and help for struggling communities and businesses.

Biden placed particular emphasis on housing and food insecurity and spoke about expanding SNAP benefits. He said his policy plan would extend the eviction and foreclosure moratorium, potentially previewing an executive action we could see next week. He also asked Congress to appropriate funds for rental assistance.

Biden, who preached bipartisanship while on the trail, said both he and Vice President-elect Harris had spoken with officials, mayors, and governors of both parties on a regular basis to address the problems across the country.

 

President-elect Biden: “There should be a national minimum wage of $15 an hour. No one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line.” https://t.co/HM56zeUPmw pic.twitter.com/xvaVDo2Bb3

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 15, 2021

 

The president-elect also emphasized his plan's focus on helping small businesses and minority-owned businesses in particular, criticizing the Trump administration's initial approach which he said favored the wealthy and well-connected.

"Last week, I laid out how we'll make sure that our emergency small business relief is distributed swiftly and equitably, unlike the first time around. We're going to focus on small businesses, on Main Street. We'll focus on minority-owned small businesses, women-owned small businesses, and finally having equal access to the resources they need to reopen and to rebuild," Biden said.

He also pushed his plan for a mandatory federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.

"People tell me that's going to be hard to pass. Florida just passed it, as divided as that state is, they just passed it. The rest of the country is ready to move as well," he said. "No one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line. And that's what it means. If you work for less than $15 an hour and work 40 hours a week, you're living in poverty."

 

President-elect Biden: “The very health of our nation is at stake… We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most.” https://t.co/s8IAVd0H4U pic.twitter.com/CEQPOjxYgy

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 15, 2021

 

He frankly noted the "bold, practical" policy he was putting forward did not come cheap but argued there was no option to act.

"I know what I just described does not come cheaply. But failure to do so will cost us dearly," he said. "The consensus among leading economists is we simply cannot afford not to do what I'm proposing."

Biden ended his remarks with a call for unity and optimism, referencing his inauguration on Wednesday as a "new chapter for the country."

Jan 14, 8:38 pm
Biden announces joint session of Congress next month


During his address Thursday, Biden announced his first joint session of Congress will take place next month, where he will address the second pillar of his recovery plan, focused on investments in infrastructure.  

The president-elect praised Congress for working across the aisle to pass a COVID-19 relief bill in December, but reiterated his message that the package by itself was only a "down payment." He said more is required, framing his policy proposal as the next step and urging lawmakers to push forward.

After blasting the current administration's vaccine distribution plan as a "dismal failure," Biden previewed his remarks Friday, where he plans on laying out his vaccination plan.

"We'll have to move heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people's arms, to increase vaccine supply and to get it out the door as fast as possible," he said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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TriggerPhoto/iStockBy JOHN SANTUCCI, MOLLY NAGLE, KATHERINE FAULDERS, and ELIZABETH THOMAS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump plans to make the unprecedented move to depart the White House next Wednesday morning, just before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, ABC News has learned.

Trump has requested a large sendoff to be planned for the morning of Jan. 20, sources said, after he choppers via Marine One to Joint Base Andrews, where he is expected to give remarks to supporters and departing members of his administration.

Sources add that Trump has requested his departure ceremony to have a "military-like feel," although details are not finalized.

The president will then fly down to Mar-a-Lago aboard Air Force One with a small number of staffers who will be part of his post-presidency operation, the sources said.

Meanwhile, it's been revealed that Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Thursday, just six days before the inauguration, according to sources familiar with the call, first reported by The New York Times.

Pence, unlike Trump, is expected to attend the event, according to a source familiar with his plans. His call to Harris came 68 days after Biden and Harris were projected as the winners on Nov. 7.

Thursday’s call also is the first known communication directly between the highest-ranking elected officials of the current outgoing and incoming administrations since Trump claimed he won on election night and for months following the vote.

It is unclear if Trump has called Biden to concede. He defiantly announced on Twitter just before the social media platform permanently suspended his account that he would not be attending the inauguration.

Trump's plan to leave the White House the morning of the inauguration, an unmatched break with tradition, would come two weeks after inciting a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that left five dead and his historic second impeachment a week later.

ABC News' Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to say Friday when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate that would trigger a Senate trial of President Donald Trump.

"You'll be the first to know when we announce that we're going over there," she told reporters.

The House managers who act as prosecutors, Pelosi said, are "solemnly and prayerfully preparing for the trial, which they will take to the Senate."

She spoke two days after the House approved a charge of "incitement of insurrection" for Trump's role in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

"Justice is called for," she said of the Capitol assault. "At the same time we are in transition," referring to President-elect Joe Biden's pandemic relief package he unveiled Thursday evening.

Trump is set to leave office next Wednesday at noon, when Biden will take over.

The speaker also announced that she's asked retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore -- who helped coordinate the military relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina -- to lead an "immediate review" of security failings at the Capitol -- reviewing security infrastructure, the interagency process and command and control.

"We must subject this whole complex to scrutiny," she said. "We must be very dispassionate in how we make decisions going forward," she continued. "Security, security, security."

"We take an oath to protect and defend the constitution and our democracy and that is what we will do," she said.

Pelosi, asked about the role members of Congress may have played in the riot, said they would be held accountable.

"If it in fact it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution," she said.

"I find this to be a very emotional time," she also said, citing "so many disgusting images," but singling out a video that showed one Trump rioter wearing a shirt with "Auschwitz" emblazoned on it.

"To see this punk with that shirt on," she said angrily, "and his anti-Semitism."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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TriggerPhoto/iStockBy ALLISON PECORIN and KATHERINE FAULDERS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- For the second time in 13 months and for the fourth time in American history, the Senate will again embark on yet another impeachment trial, the second for President Donald Trump.

But much has changed since the House first passed articles of impeachment against Trump: The president's term expires next week; there is a new administration coming in with new legislative priorities; and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

As a result, much remains unknown about how the trial will play out this time.

When will the trial begin?

Now that the House has approved an article of impeachment accusing Trump of inciting violence against the U.S. government, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi essentially determines when the trial starts. Proceedings are triggered when Pelosi authorizes the House impeachment managers, who she formally appointed Wednesday, to formally deliver the article to the Senate chamber.

But the Senate needs to be in session to confirm receipt and they're not expected to reconvene until Jan. 19. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reconvene the Senate for an emergency session so that the trial can begin hastily, but McConnell's office confirmed to ABC News Wednesday that McConnell told Schumer he had no intention of calling members back to town early.

That means the earliest any action could take place related to the trial would be Tuesday, Jan. 19. If Pelosi decides to send the article to the Senate chamber that day, the first day of the trial, which is largely ceremonial and will include exhibition of the article and the swearing in of the chief justice to preside and the senators as jurors, would occur on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.

Pelosi has remained mum on her plans, but in a statement Wednesday evening, McConnell appeared to be urging the speaker to hold off on transmitting the article until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

"Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact. The President-elect himself stated last week that his inauguration on January 20 is the 'quickest' path for any change in the occupant of the presidency," McConnell said. "In light of this reality, I believe it will best serve our nation if Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden Administration."

Given that a trial is all but certain to take place after Trump leaves the White House, there are new questions about the constitutionality of it taking place at all.

Will Trump mount a defense?

With the trial starting as soon as next week, the president has yet to organize a defense team and many of the lawyers involved last time do not plan to return for round two.

During the impeachment trial last winter, Trump's legal team and the House managers were each allotted up to 24 hours to present their arguments. Trump's team used about half of that time to mount their defense. Senate Republicans blocked witnesses from being called for the trial, so Trump's legal team did not depose them.

But the president currently lacks a comprehensive legal strategy, according to sources close to him who said his top lawyers have refused to represent him.

Trump has asked his top aides how a Senate trial could look this time around and even raised the idea of testifying himself, which his advisers dissuaded him from pursuing.

At this point, however, it remains unclear whether the core defense of the Trump team would focus on the events of Jan. 6 or whether his lawyers would attempt to challenge whether a trial can even occur once Trump becomes a former president.

Is it even constitutional to hold this trial?

Trump's second impeachment trial will be the first to occur after the president facing impeachment has left office and some lawmakers and constitutional scholars question whether putting a former president on trial is constitutional.

In a statement released late Wednesday evening, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., argued that the Senate doesn't have the authority to hold a trial once Trump has left office.

"The Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office -- not an inquest against private citizens," Cotton said in a statement. "The Constitution presupposes an office from which an impeached office holder can be removed.

Cotton's opinion is shared by some other lawmakers, former judges and scholars.

Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge, argued similarly in a Washington Post op-ed, saying that "The very concept of constitutional impeachment presupposes the impeachment, conviction and removal of a president who is, at the time of his impeachment, an incumbent in the office from which he is removed."

Philip Bobbitt, a constitutional law scholar at Columbia Law who has written a book on impeachment, told ABC News that he agrees with Cotton and Luttig's analysis.

"I think that people are so enraged by the prospect of Trump getting away with this that their justifiable outrage carries away their legal judgment," Bobbitt said.

But not all scholars are in agreement. Some have argued that Congress has full authority to pursue impeachment for actions taken at the back end of a president's term, in an effort to disqualify a president from holding future office.

Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and constitutional scholar who has written about impeachment, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that an officer no longer serving in their post has "no bearing" on whether that person can be "barred permanently from office upon being convicted."

"Concluding otherwise would all but erase the disqualification power from the Constitution's text: If an impeachable officer became immune from trial and conviction upon leaving office, any official seeing conviction as imminent could easily remove the prospect of disqualification simply by resigning moments before the Senate's anticipated verdict," Tribe wrote.

There are a few historical examples of officials being impeached post-departure from office, including a judge, a former senator and a secretary, but a president has never faced a post-presidency impeachment.

ABC News Legal Analyst Kate Shaw said Wednesday on ABC News' Good Morning America that arguing that post-departure impeachments are never permissible could be "constitutionally deeply problematic."

"To hold that post-departure impeachment proceedings are never permissible would essentially insulate conduct committed in the last stretch of a presidency," Shaw told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. "It would basically say a president can’t be held accountable for the things that he does in the final weeks or months in office."

While Republican leadership hasn't publicly stated any plans to mount challenges surrounding the constitutionality, Sen. Pat Toomey, who earlier this month said he believes Trump has committed impeachable offenses, called the Senate's authority to hold a trial "debatable." Toomey did, however, commit to serving as an impartial juror if such a trial were to commence.

A big open question remains just how many Republican senators will vote to convict Trump and many of them have issued statements stating their intention to listen to arguments as impartial jurors in a trial.

McConnell, who in a statement Wednesday did rule out voting to convict Trump at the conclusion of a trial, said that the "Senate process will now begin at our first regular meeting following receipt of the article."

Will Biden be able to accomplish his agenda while the trial goes on?

Assuming the trial commences, if the Senate hopes to accomplish any business unrelated to it in the earliest days of the Biden administration, Democrats and Republicans will need to reach an agreement to allow business to proceed during hours that the trial is not being conducted.

This so called "dual-track" approach requires consensus, and Biden has already spoken to McConnell about establishing a path forward that would allow the Senate to conduct outside business when the trial is not ongoing.

At least one Senate Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, expressed concern before the House passed an article of impeachment that a Senate trial in the earliest days of the Biden administration might hinder the legislative body from getting to work on key pieces of the new president's agenda.

In the earliest days of the administration, the Senate would normally be busy holding confirmations for and voting on key administration positions. Biden and Democrats have said they hope to expeditiously pass additional COVID-19 relief legislation, another measure that will require time.

Biden said Tuesday he had spoken with lawmakers about whether it was possible to "go half-day on dealing with the impeachment, and half a day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate, as well as moving on the package?"

"That's my hope and expectation," he said.

How will COVID-19 affect the proceedings?

Under the standing set of rules for impeachment, all senators are required to be in their seats at all times during the trial, listening to the arguments of the impeachment managers and the defense team while being presided over by the chief justice. The Senate sergeant at arms is permitted to "compel" their appearance.

But this rule does not take into account a pandemic, and, as with virtually everything in the Senate, these rules can be bent if there's agreement.

According to Bobbitt, Senate leadership could make any sort of changes it wishes, including changes to social distancing or attendance requirements, if they can get members to agree to these changes when the trial rules are adopted.

"They do have the ability to change the rule but the model for the Senate is not its ordinary proceedings," Bobbitt said. "The model is an actual criminal trial. Jurors can be compelled to stay in the jury room."

Also not clear is whether members would be required to wear masks. The House has gone so far as to implement fines for members who do not wear masks on the House floor, but in the Senate, there's no rule requiring masks to be worn. Almost all members wear masks, but some remove them when they're speaking.

It is unclear if there would be any sort of rule requiring members and their staff to mask up for all those hours. All lawmakers have had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. But not all staff have.

The Office of the Attending Physician has previously encouraged social distancing in hearing rooms and on the Senate floor, but did not reply to a request for comment on whether they've issued specific guidance on an impeachment trial.

Will there be enough Republican support to convict Trump?

The article of impeachment passed out of the House with the support of 10 Republican members of the House, making it far less partisan than the last Trump impeachment effort. But conviction on the Senate side requires the vote of two-thirds of the body, which means that even if all Democrats vote to convict Trump, 17 Republicans will need to join them.

At this moment, no single Republican has firmly committed to voting to convict, though several have signaled willingness to.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement Thursday that the House acted "appropriately" by impeaching the president. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has also signaled willingness to consider the article, as have others.

McConnell, in a letter to his colleagues Wednesday, signaled he has not ruled out voting to convict Trump.

"I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate," McConnell said.

McConnell's vote may have the power to sway others who are on the fence. ABC News is tracking at least eight GOP senators who have declined to comment on their position, or given statements that don't indicate how they will vote.

Still, not all those who were critical of Trump's actions before the attack on the Capitol will necessarily vote against him.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, did not say how he would vote in a statement Wednesday, but said he'll take into account "what is best to help heal our country rather than deepen our divisions."

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Pete Marovich/Pool via BloombergBy WILL STEAKIN, MATTHEW MOSK, JAMES GORDON MEEK and ALI DUKAKIS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Three of the key advisers who helped engineer Donald Trump's' rise to the presidency in 2016, and who fell from grace under the weight of federal criminal charges, resurfaced during Trump's final days in office to help engineer his ill-fated attempt to cling to power.

Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn all participated in efforts to promote the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" event that ultimately devolved into a riotous and deadly melee at the United States Capitol, leaving five dead and causing Trump to become the only president to be impeached for a second time.

While none of them spoke at the actual rally, Stone whipped up a crowd of Trump supporters in Washington the night before, telling them the president's enemies sought "nothing less than the heist of the 2020 election."

"And we say, No way!" Stone said at the Jan. 5 rally.

Flynn promoted the so-called "Jericho March," a rally of Christians to "pray, march, fast, and rally for election integrity," according to the group's website, that also took place on Jan. 6 in the shadow of the Capitol. In the weeks leading up to the event, Flynn told his supporters that they would "need to be fearless as Americans."

Speaking at a Dec. 12 rally in Washington to promote the Trump effort to overturn the election, Flynn told supporters they had reached a "crucible moment" and "there has to be sacrifice."

"We're in a battle … for the heart and soul of the country," Flynn said. "We will win."

Bannon also played a significant role in promoting the Jan. 6 rally, which was co-organized by "March for Trump," and he previously served as a prominent sponsor of the group's cross-country December bus tour ahead of the rally. Shortly after Trump lost the 2020 election, Bannon's "War Room" podcast was banned from YouTube for suggesting Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded.

"I'd put the heads on pikes. Right. I'd put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats," Bannon said. "You either get with the program or you are gone."

Falls from grace


All three men played pivotal roles in Trump's rise to power, only to see their reputations tainted by criminal investigation.

Stone was one of Trump's earliest political advisers, working with the real estate mogul long before he ventured into campaign politics. After a brief period working directly for Trump's presidential bid, Stone took on the role of outside adviser, even as he maintained regular contact with Trump.

Stone was later swept into the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, and faced allegations that he helped coordinate the release of hacked documents by WikiLeaks that were meant to damage Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton. In 2019, Stone was convicted on federal charges of obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering, and sentenced to 40 months in prison. Trump commuted the sentence and ultimately issued Stone a pardon.

After leading Trump to victory as a top campaign strategist, Bannon also served in Trump's White House. He left after seven months and, like many top campaign officials, became swept up in the Russian investigation. He was never charged with wrongdoing in that probe. Last August, though, he was charged in federal court in an unrelated case with defrauding donors to a private fundraising effort called "We Build the Wall," which said it was raising private funds to help expand the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He pleaded not guilty and is out on bail awaiting trial.

Flynn served briefly as Trump's first national security adviser before he was dismissed for lying about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador. He, too, became a focus of the federal prosecutors and pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. He later recanted before being sentenced, and was also pardoned by Trump.

A source close to Flynn told ABC News the retired general does not believe his words incited violence, and that he does not condone it, saying the riot was "the last thing we expected."

Trump had invited Flynn and his family to the Jan. 6 rally but the source said they left disgusted at what the confidant said was a pointless gathering on the Ellipse, followed by outrageous political violence on Capitol Hill.

"100% the election was stolen -- no one is going to convince us otherwise," the source said. "But Michael Flynn never called for violence. What happened there was terrible."

Back in the fold


All three men resurfaced in Trump's orbit as advisers became increasingly concerned that Trump would lose his bid for reelection to Joe Biden. And as Trump mounted his drive to convince his supporters that he had actually won the 2020 race "in a landslide," all three picked up the messaging and spread it to their followers.

Even before Election Day, Stone was pushing the notion that vote counts could not be trusted. During a September appearance with extremist agitator Alex Jones, Stone called on Republicans to "be prepared to file legal objections and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity."

After the election, Stone encouraged protesters to come to Washington to voice objections to the outcome. He was billed as a featured speaker for the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the assault on the U.S. Capitol, but did not appear. Since that day, he has sought to distance himself from the effort, telling ABC News in a statement that he condemned the violence perpetrated on the Capitol by the mob.

"I have no role whatsoever in the January 6 events as I never left the site of my hotel until leaving for Dulles Airport before 6 pm curfew. A careful review of my language of January 5 indicates that I played no role whatsoever in advocating violence or any inappropriate or illegal activity," Stone said in the statement. "Indeed anyone breaking into the US Capitol, trespassing and destroying property would only be hurting the America First movement that I support."

In the days after Trump's election loss, Flynn joined forces with Sidney Powell, the attorney who had helped engineer Flynn's decision to recant his earlier guilty plea. The two helped lead Trump's effort to dispute the election defeat, both in court and through a social media blitz that engaged, among others, followers of the conspiracy-driven movement known as QAnon.

The two even met with Trump in the Oval Office, not long after Flynn appeared on the conservative network Newsmax to advocate that Trump impose martial law and command the military to "rerun" the election. At a Dec. 12 rally Flynn falsely told followers "there are paths that are still in play" for Trump to remain in office for a second term. "There's a lot of activity that's still playing out," he said before Trump flew over the crowd in Marine One.

Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor and expert in homegrown terror groups, said Flynn emerged as a hero among extremists. She said Flynn "riled up" the groups ahead of the Jan. 6 election protest, and "incited the most extreme among the crowd to do something about it."

Bannon's quiet return


Of the three, Bannon kept the lowest profile in the days after the election. Only in recent days did he surface as someone who appeared to be back in touch with the president about the election, according to Bloomberg News. Bannon was also helping efforts by 501(c)(4) political nonprofits, so-called dark money groups, to overturn the election results, including the bus tour.

In public, Bannon repeatedly used his platform to promote the Jan. 6 rally, hosting rally organizers on his podcast at least 16 times amid the push to overturn the election results.

Two days before the rally and subsequent attack on the Capitol, Kylie Jane Kremer of rally sponsor "Women for America First" appeared on Bannon's "War Room" podcast to promote the event. "President of the United States, as we know right now, tentatively at 11 he's going to come and address the nation and then it's gonna be -- the game is going to start on Capitol Hill," Bannon said. "I think one of the most historic days in American history will be Wednesday."

Bannon did not return a request for comment from ABC News.

Two of Bannon's longtime associates also served in key roles on Jan. 6. Dustin Stockton was one of the lead organizers of the rally, and Jennifer Lawrence ran media relations.

Until 2017, Stockton and Lawrence worked as writers at the far-right media outlet Breitbart when Bannon was executive chairman, according to their LinkedIn profiles. The pair most recently worked with Bannon on his crowdfunding campaign "We Build the Wall," which in August 2020 resulted in the federal indictments over allegations of defrauding donors.

Neither Stockton or Lawrence returned ABC News' requests for comment.

Stockton served as "We Build the Wall's" vice president of strategy and marketing, according to his LinkedIn and social media posts, while Lawrence was the group's communications director before joining the "March for Trump" group. Stockton and Lawrence were both served warrants for their cellphones, as well as subpoenas to appear before a grand jury, in connection to the "We Build the Wall" group, but neither has been charged, according to CNN.

Stockton used some of the most incendiary language in the run-up to Jan. 6, at one point telling followers on a Facebook Live appearance to "clean your guns and prepare. Things are going to get worse before they get better."

On a Facebook Live stream Wednesday night after the Capitol attack, Stockton appeared unrepentant, saying lawmakers were "trying to certify a fraudulent election."

"I want to stand up against that," he said. "It's the whole reason I've been on this bus tour. That's the whole reason I've been organizing these events in D.C."

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Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post via Getty ImagesBy QUINN OWEN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his office were the "driving force" behind the Trump administration's efforts separating migrant families as part of the "zero tolerance" policy aimed at unauthorized border crossers, according to a federal watchdog report released Thursday.

The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General found that 280 families were separated under what it describes as the "El Paso initiative." Conducted from March through November of 2017, the "initiative" served as something of a trial run for the "zero tolerance" push later implemented across the entire border in the Southwest.

Sessions' office pushed forward for the initiative despite concerns raised by prosecutors and judges, according to the report.

Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney in the American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit against the government on behalf of separated families, called the practice, “immoral and illegal.”

“This new report shows just how far the Trump administration was willing to go to destroy these families," Gelernt said. “Just when you think the Trump administration can’t sink any lower, it does.”

The White House did not respond to ABC News' request for comment on the report.

“This report confirms what we already knew, that the Trump Administration intended to separate families at the border," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement. "They knew the consequences and did it anyway."

Prosecutions along the southwest border increased from 2017 to 2018, according to a 2019 report from the Government Accountability Office. Sessions took the further step of publicly announcing the total prosecution policy in April 2018.

By the time President Donald Trump pulled back the practice about two months later, more than 3,000 children were separated from their families. Nearly 550 children remain separated from their families, according to court documents released in October 2020.

Sessions assured U.S. attorneys on the border that families could be "immediately" reunited, according to a May 2018 conference call described in the report.

The lack of feasibility of such an expectation, as outlined by the inspector general's report, reflects Sessions' lack of understanding of illegal entry prosecutions at the same time he pushed for the practice.

The report describes a memo from U.S. attorneys to Sessions' office in May 2018, which explained that average sentences for illegal entries were as long as two weeks. Given the 72-hour requirements for transferring minors to the Office of Refugee resettlement, it meant reunification could not “immediately” follow sentencing.

“Completing a prosecution within such a timeline was, in most cases, a practical and legal impossibility, even if a defendant sought to plead guilty and be sentenced immediately,” the report said.

Sessions declined to be interviewed for the report. ABC News was unable to reach Sessions for comment.

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general at the time of “zero tolerance,” responded to the report with regret over the policy. “I wish we all had done better," he said in a statement Thursday.

"I stayed in the job of Deputy Attorney General for two years because I wanted to help protect the integrity of elections, defend the rule of law, and preserve the Department’s independence," Rosenstein said. "Since leaving the Department, I have often asked myself what we should have done differently, and no issue has dominated my thinking more than the zero-tolerance immigration policy."

Matthew Whitaker, Sessions' then-chief of staff, said the involvement of the Department of Homeland Security was instrumental in carrying out the policy and pushed back on the characterization that his office was principally responsible.

"That is a false narrative because [Homeland Security] had to refer the cases, they could have categorically said, 'We are not referring people with children.' And that was not under our discretion," Whitaker told the OIG.

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Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy GARY LANGER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Nine in 10 Americans oppose the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, seven in 10 say Donald Trump bears at least some responsibility for it and a majority in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll – 56% – favors efforts in Congress to bar him from holding elected office again.

Fifty-four percent in the national survey also say Trump should be charged criminally with inciting a riot for having encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol. More, 66%, say he has behaved irresponsibly, more broadly, in his statements and actions since the election.

Half the public, 51%, say the events of the past week in Washington, D.C., left them less confident in the stability of democracy in the United States. That said, just 20% are pessimistic about the future of the U.S. system of government, about the average in polling back to the 1970s.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.


Further, while Trump’s claims of widespread fraud have raised fears he would undermine confidence in U.S. elections, Americans by 2-1, 62-31%, see no solid evidence for these claims. And the public by 63-36% expresses confidence in the electoral system overall. At the same time, confidence in the electoral system dives to 35% among Republicans, and, following their leader’s line, 65% of Republicans say they think there’s solid evidence of fraud.

The poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds Trump leaving office with a 38% job approval rating; 60% disapprove, matching (but not exceeding) his peak disapproval in August 2018. His career average approval rating is the lowest for any president in modern polling, back to 1939, and he is the first president in that time never to achieve majority approval at any point.

Fifty-nine percent expect him to be seen in history as a below-average president, including nearly half, 48%, who rate his tenure as “poor,” the most in polling dating to Gerald Ford in 1976. As noted, 56% favor Congress removing him from the presidency and barring him from holding elected office again – exceeding the 47% who supported his removal from office in his first impeachment last year.

Looking ahead, Americans by a wide margin say Republican officials should lead the party in a different direction rather than follow Trump’s leadership, 69-26%. But just among Republicans, a majority, 60%, wants to continue to follow Trump -- sharply fewer than in
Indeed, while 52% of all Americans say Republican leaders who supported Trump’s effort to overturn the election “went too far,” just 16% of Republicans say so, compared with 81% of Democrats and 54% of independents. And Trump maintains a 79% job approval rating in his own party, with 64% approving strongly.

The challenge for the Republicans, in what may or not be their post-Trump era, is how to straddle that continued in-party approval for the president with views outside the base. Among the predominant political group, independents -- often swing voters -- approval of Trump plummets to 35%, with 62% disapproving.

The riot


Given the sharp differences on most political issues between partisan groups, one result in the survey stands out for its level of agreement: Eighty-nine percent of Americans oppose the actions of the people who stormed the Capitol, including 80% who are strongly opposed. Eight percent are in support, with strong support at 5%.

Support for those who stormed the Capitol reaches 15% among conservatives and Republicans alike, and 19% among people who approve of Trump’s job performance. Still, even among Trump approvers, 76% are opposed, including 60% strongly opposed.

Partisan and ideological gaps widen on other issues. Sixty-six percent of Republicans think Trump has acted responsibly since the election; 26% of independents and 5% of Democrats agree. Similarly, 65% of Republicans think there is solid evidence for Trump’s claims of voter fraud, falling to three in 10 independents and 4% of Democrats.

When it comes to the events of the past week, 42% of Republicans think Trump bears at least some responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Capitol; that rises sharply to 72% of independents and 93% of Democrats. Many fewer Republicans, 12%, think Congress should remove Trump from office and disqualify him from holding elected office in the future, vs. nearly six in 10 independents and nine in 10 Democrats.

In terms of Trump’s legacy, three in 10 conservatives and a quarter of Republicans think he’ll go down in history as a below average president. That compares with 60% of independents, 71% of moderates, 86% of liberals and 89% of Democrats.

Even with his comparatively higher support among Republicans, fewer respondents report having voted for Trump than actually did in November, suggesting that some one-time supporters are shying away from him -- further evidenced by 19% disapproval in his own party, near his career high. Indeed, in recalled vote, Trump’s support is comparatively low among non-conservative Republicans, who also are more critical than their conservative counterparts of his post-election actions. (Note, though, that the sample size of non-conservative Republicans is a small one; 72% of Republicans identify themselves as conservatives.)

Those who report having voted for Trump two and a half months ago, by contrast, by and large are not expressing buyer’s remorse: Ninety-one percent in this group say if the election were rerun today, they’d vote for him again.

Approval


Trump’s approval rating is down 6 points from the last national ABC/Post poll in October. In contrast, most recent outgoing presidents have seen a bump in approval in their final days -- 5 points for Barack Obama in the last ABC/Post survey of his presidency, 5 for Bill Clinton and 7 for George Bush. Approval of George W. Bush, struggling with economic crisis and the unpopular war in Iraq, was just 3 points from December 2008, but 10 from the previous October.

Several elements of Trump’s closing approval rating stand out:

  • Disapproval among whites, 52%, matches the high in this group (from August 2017), and 49% of whites disapprove strongly, a record high. Disapproval grows to 75% among Hispanics and 89% among Black people.
  • Sixty-eight percent of women disapprove of Trump’s job performance, matching the high (also in August 2017), compared with 52% of men. This includes 56% disapproval among non-college educated white women, an important part of Trump’s coalition; in the ABC News exit poll, 63% of them supported him for reelection just in November.
  • Approval of Trump’s work in office is at record lows among seniors (37% approve) and higher-income Americans (33%). Approval among suburban residents, a sharply contested political group, is down 11 points from October, to 38%.

Whatever Trump’s role in the nation’s political future, the results make clear that his presidency -- and especially the events of last week -- have left deep divisions, not only in political attitudes, but also in views of American democracy. While, as noted, just 20% are outright pessimistic about the U.S. system of government, only 30% are optimistic -- near the low, and well off the average in polls back 46 years, 43%. The plurality, 48%, is uncertain.

Methodology


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 10-13, 2021, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results have a margins of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including design effects. Partisan divisions are 31-25-36%, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

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Alex Wong/Getty ImagesBy MOLLY NAGLE and BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In an address Thursday night, President-elect Joe Biden announced his vaccination and economic rescue legislative package, an ambitious $1.9 trillion proposal focused on stimulus amid the continued COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the country for nearly a year.

In a call with reporters, senior Biden transition officials previewed the details of what will be one of Biden's first major legislative pushes upon taking office to try to get a handle on the health crisis -- an effort that would one of the largest and most expensive economic stimulus packages in U.S. history if passed.

"We're at a very precarious moment for our economy. We're still down 10 million jobs from where we were when this pandemic hit, and we saw in December that the economy lost jobs for the first time since the spring," one official said, underscoring the need for immediate economic action.

President-elect Biden: “There should be a national minimum wage of $15 an hour. No one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line.” https://t.co/HM56zeUPmw pic.twitter.com/xvaVDo2Bb3

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 15, 2021

Biden's plan would dedicate more than $1 trillion of the $1.9 trillion price tag for direct stimulus, officials said, while $400 billion would go toward COVID-related projects, including the nationwide vaccination program, and $440 billion toward relief for communities and businesses.

The plan includes direct payments of up to $1,400 to families in need, that when combined with the recent $600 stimulus payment would deliver on Biden's pledge to pass $2,000 of direct payments, along with a $400 weekly unemployment insurance benefit through September and a child tax credit.

As part of the $400 billion in funding for COVID-related projects, Biden's plan would allocate $170 billion to reopening the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his administration, including $50 billion to increasing testing procedures at schools.

Biden also plans to devote $20 billion to create a national vaccination program and stand up community vaccination centers across the country to address lagging numbers of vaccinations currently being administered.

Advisers stressed they are still confident they will deliver on Biden's promise to have 100 million shots of the COVID vaccine in the arms of Americans in his first 100 days in office, despite current delays.

"We have had sort of uneven cooperation, if you will, from the Trump administration. And I think it's clear that what we're inheriting from the Trump administration is much worse than we could have imagined. There's no existing infrastructure for vaccinations," one official said.

"This is a whole-of-government effort and we'll start by making sure that we get 100 million shots done in the first 100 days," the official added.

Biden's policy also includes calls for larger economic proposals that the president-elect previously threw his support behind during his campaign, including increasing the minimum wage to $15.

Advisers said Biden hopes Congress will move quickly on the proposal to address the continued public health crisis and that Republicans will work with him to pass ambitious legislation.

Congressional Democratic leaders commended Biden's emergency relief proposal.

"It shows that Democrats will finally have a partner at the White House that understands the need to take swift action to address the needs of struggling communities," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

"We will get right to work to turn President-elect Biden's vision into legislation that will pass both chambers and be signed into law," the statement continued.

But following the historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump, Biden's team will face the added challenge of a Senate Impeachment trial delaying progress -- a challenge they did not address on the call.

Biden has said he would like to see the Senate move forward with a "bifurcated" day to address both the trial and his agenda as well as approving key Cabinet nominees, particularly for national security posts.

The transition did not include a timeline for the legislation in the call or outline any spending offsets for the nearly $2 trillion package.

In addition to the "rescue" policy Biden will outline, he also plans to introduce a second policy in February to help the country recover by focusing on job creation, combating climate change and racial inequality -- issues his campaign's 'Build Back Better' policy sought to address.

ABC News' Mariam Khan contributed to this report.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBy MICHELLE STODDART, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With just days until the inauguration next Wednesday, and in the wake of last Wednesday's assault on the Capitol, security around the nation's capital city has been ramped up to a level not seen in years, to what some are calling "fortress Washington."

The 7-foot non-scalable fencing around the Capitol has been topped with razor wire, and behind it, hundreds of armed National Guardsmen.

On Thursday evening, Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to the Guardsmen now protecting the building, thanking them for "stepping forward for your country."

"It's been my great honor to serve as your vice president, and I want to thank you for your service," Pence said.

Preliminary plans called for the National Mall to be closed to the public on Inauguration Day for security reasons and streets were blocked off with concrete barriers throughout the city to protect against potential violence.

Businesses were boarded up as well.

A Department of Defense official confirmed to ABC News that as many as 20,000 National Guardsmen have been authorized to provide security for next week's ceremony.

That number was upped after additional requests from the Secret Service, FBI and U.S. Capitol Police.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a news conference Wednesday that she has reiterated her request to the Department of the Interior to cancel or refuse public gathering permits from now through Jan. 14.

After the assault on the Capitol, Bowser requested the heightened security posture to begin six days earlier than originally scheduled amid threats of violent protests.

ABC New's Luis Martinez and Dee Carden contributed to this report.

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uschools/iStockBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN and BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A week after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, investigators are trying to determine whether one of the biggest threats to lawmakers that day emanated from within Congress itself.

As Americans grapple with the fallout from the deadly insurrection, Democrats have leveled increasingly serious accusations against their colleagues across the aisle, framing some Republican members as "accomplices" and "co-conspirators" in the assault. Allegations range from inciting rioters with inflammatory rhetoric to actively assisting the throngs of Trump supporters who laid siege to the Capitol complex.

Until Wednesday, when President Donald Trump was impeached for the second time, Democratic leaders sought to downplay any immediate reprisals for Republican colleagues whom they allege to have incited or assisted rioters. But several rank-and-file members have already plowed ahead with calls for investigations.

"Those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy -- I'm going see that they're held accountable," Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., said this week.

Sherrill, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and former federal prosecutor, led a coalition of more than 30 Democrats who signed on to a letter requesting an immediate investigation into "suspicious behavior and access" for some visitors the day before the Capitol assault, alleging that unnamed lawmakers led "an extremely high number of outside groups" through the building on what they say could have been reconnaissance tours.

"Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex," Sherrill and her co-signers wrote to the House and Senate Sergeants-at-Arms and the U.S. Capitol Police.

Congressional leaders officially canceled tours through the Capitol in March due to the pandemic, but guests were allowed in the Capitol on official business, according to a House Democratic aide.

A spokesperson for the Architect of the Capitol, the office that manages the Capitol complex, did not respond to a message seeking comment on the pandemic policy.

On Thursday, at least one Republican lawmaker confirmed what Democrats said they witnessed the day before, but urged caution before assigning blame to one party.

"I definitely saw folks in the hallways -- who were not members -- that were clearly here as guests" on Tuesday, said Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich. "I think it's important we not jump to conclusions before there is a full investigation."

Democrats have not explicitly accused any members or even made a specific reference to Republicans, nor have they made any specific allegation that members leading the tours were privy to any plans to attack the Capitol the next day.

Three senior GOP leadership aides and a public information officer for the U.S. Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

While no specific allegations have been made regarding lawmakers' actions prior to the attack, Democrats have raised concern with the actions of at least one Republican lawmaker during the riot.

As protesters stormed the grounds, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., an outspoken gun rights advocate who had previously boasted about carrying her firearm onto Capitol grounds, tweeted about Pelosi's removal from the House chambers by security. Democrats expressed alarm at her apparent disregard for officials' instructions not to disclose information about members' whereabouts.

"@laurenboebert was told by the Sergeant of Arms in the chamber to not make any social media posts," Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., tweeted in response. "It was said repeatedly. She defied it because she is more closely aligned with the terrorists than the patriots."

Boebert, in a statement, denied wrongdoing and decried Democrats' "false accusations of inciting the type of violence they have so frequently and transparently supported in the past."

Other Democrats have called for investigations into the inflammatory language some members used in the days and weeks leading up to Jan. 6, and what role that might have played in inciting the riots.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, issued a resolution on Monday to "initiate investigations for removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup." Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colorado, also penned a letter requesting that the Government Accountability Office examine the "impact of rhetoric by government and elected officials that contributed to or led to the insurrection."

In December, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., encouraged supporters to "call your congressman" and "lightly threaten them" if they did not support blocking President-elect Joe Biden's election certification. On the eve of the Jan. 6 rally, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., declared, "This is our 1776 moment." And addressing protesters just hours before they laid siege to the Capitol, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said, "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass" -- though he later claimed "the bulk" of his remarks were pulled from "often-used" prior speeches.

Some of those who appeared eager to rev up supporters in the days leading up the riots, including Brooks, have sought to distance themselves from the violence.

"Our message was hijacked by people whose illegal breach of the Capitol did a great disservice to our cause and America," Brooks said in a statement following the attack. "Those who engaged in illegal conduct should be ashamed of themselves because their attack on the U.S. Capitol destroyed two months of debate and work."

Despite growing calls from caucus members, Democratic leaders have so far played down expectations for immediate action against Republican lawmakers, arguing that the focus should remain on removing Trump from office.

"We will bring the rioters to justice. Their accomplices in this House will be held responsible," Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday. "But today, we must focus on the gravest threat first: President Trump,"

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the second-ranking Democrat in the House, told reporters Wednesday that "there will be time to deal with" potential action against Republicans who may have incited rioters.

"Right now, we're dealing with the president of the United States," Hoyer said.

ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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ABC NewsBy DEVIN DWYER, SARAH HERNDON, and JACQUELINE YOO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- This story is part of "America in Transition," a series of in-depth reports on key parts of Donald Trump's legacy, Joe Biden's plans for change and what's at stake for all Americans. It airs weekly on ABC News Live Prime at 7 p.m. ET.

A decade after famously heralding Obamacare as a "big f---ing deal," Joe Biden is preparing an ambitious rescue mission for the landmark health law that Donald Trump spent four years trying to tear down.

Health care advocates familiar with Biden transition team plans expect that steps to shore up the Affordable Care Act will be included in the sweeping COVID relief bills that are the new administration's first legislative priority.

Millions of Americans who lost employer-based health coverage in the recession have turned to the ACA since the pandemic began. Millions more still have no insurance at all.

"This is the first recession where the ACA is in place as a safety net for people who find themselves unemployed and without health insurance," said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

"We've seen an increase in people coming to the ACA exchanges as they lose their jobs. We've also seen big increases in Medicaid, which is part of that ACA safety net," Levitt told ABC News Live.

Unable to fully repeal the law, President Donald Trump has led an administrative assault on key provisions, gutting outreach programs to boost enrollment, cutting incentives for participating insurers and expanding waivers for states to opt-out of coverage requirements.

Trump also joined a coalition of 20 Republican-led states late last year asking the Supreme Court to strike down the law, in the middle of a pandemic, even without an alternative in place. A ruling is expected this spring.

"I think the odds that they're going to strike it down are low. That's based on close analysis of the briefing in the case. But a low chance is not a zero chance," said Nicholas Bagley, a professor and expert in health law at the University of Michigan Law School.

Democratic control of Congress and the White House all but ensures the law can survive in some form, regardless of how the court rules.

The president-elect has proposed a massive expansion of ACA coverage, including more financial help for people buying plans on HealthCare.gov; wider access to Medicaid; and creation of a so-called public option health plan that any American could buy into.

Biden has said his top priority is confronting the coronavirus pandemic and recession, vowing 100 million vaccine doses distributed in his first 100 days along with billions of dollars in fresh economic stimulus. More generous marketplace subsidies and resources to bolster ACA enrollment are potential steps that could be included in the legislation, sources said.

Amanda Bowen of Goffstown, New Hampshire, a type 1 diabetic, divorced mother of two and Medicaid recipient, said bolstering the ACA after years of neglect is a matter of life or death for her.

"Without that, I wouldn't be here today. There is no way I could afford it. There's no way," she said of the prescription insulin she needs to survive.

On the very day Biden was declared winner of the 2020 election in November, Bowen's health care financial crisis took a turn. She was hit by a car while riding her bike and just days after that got hit with COVID-19.

"The driver that hit me was uninsured, so that brings a whole other thing that I have to try to figure out financially," Bowen told ABC News Live. "I've gotten a bill from the ambulance. It was $1,200 for the not-even-a-mile-long drive to the hospital."

The divorced mother of two makes less than $1,300 a month as a freelance designer.

"Income cannot limitate (sic) health care. And that's where I'm stuck now," she said.

Millions of Americans feel stuck in a health system in crisis with preventive care and elective surgeries sidelined by the virus, drug prices soaring, and vaccination and testing programs faltering nationwide.

"I'm absolutely convinced that, in 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better," Biden said in a speech on his health plan late last year.

Christine Callahan of Ohio, a political independent, said she is encouraged by discussion of an insurance option not tied to employment.

"The Republicans in Congress said for years, 'we're gonna have a better plan. We'll put a better plan in place when we're in power.' And then they were in power, and they have done nothing to replace, to improve the ACA," Callahan said.

Her 13-year-old son Andrew, who has an undiagnosed genetic condition, requires $7,000 a month in medical care. She says she believes a public option could be a big step forward.

"I'd love to be in the days where I could raise chickens in my backyard and go to the doctor and exchange a chicken for our health care. We are so far past that that there is there is no option to do this on your own unless you are, you know, in that one percent," she said.

Creation of a public option health plan is not among Biden's first legislative priorities and does face strong opposition from Republicans and some moderates; but, it is considered potentially achievable in his first term.

"A public option is interesting because that has definitely become the more moderate option within the Democratic Party. That does seem like it has a chance to pass the Senate," said Nathaniel Rakich, an elections analyst with FiveThirtyEight. "It's going to come down to some of these more moderate senators like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine."

But first, sources close to Biden said the new president will use executive authority to roll back key parts of Trump's health care legacy: restoring protections for transgender people in health care; limiting exemptions to contraceptive coverage for women; and, curbing waivers for states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

Not all of the regulatory changes will be quick or easy, including a move to reverse Trump's effective ban on Title X taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.

"When you want to get rid of a rule, you've got to go through a pretty cumbersome -- they call it notice and comment process," said Bagley. "That process will often take more than a year, so for the big-ticket regulations -- sometimes it's gonna take a little bit of time."

Bowen said, despite political upheaval and a health system in crisis, she's optimistic about the months ahead.

"I think we'll see within the next year or so that we will have traction towards universal health care by starting with Medicaid expansion, making that available to the general public," she said. "Whether or not (Congress and the president) will, that's something else altogether, but they will have the ability to do this now."

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Igor Albinsky/iStockBy SARAH KOLINOVSKY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- After three COVID-19 breakouts within the White House in recent months, the federal government is sparing no expense to clean and disinfect the building before President-elect Biden moves in Jan. 20.

According to government contracts reviewed by ABC News, more than $200,000 has been spent for increased White House janitorial and housekeeping work, including $127,249 on "2021 Inaugural Cleaning" and another $44,038 on "Inaugural carpet cleaning." There was $29,523 spent for "Inaugural curtains cleaning."

While the White House is always deep-cleaned during the transition between presidents, that work is usually handled by White House staff, including butlers, ushers and maintenance crews. Contracting out additional cleaning services is unprecedented in modern times, according to Kate Brower Andersen, presidential historian and former White House reporter.

"We've never seen this before," Brower Andersen said on ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "The Government Services Administration has said they're going to do this very deep cleaning -- cleaning every surface of the 55,000 square foot mansion. There's always been a deep clean between administrations, but we've never seen anything like this."

In a statement, a GSA spokesperson said, "GSA will thoroughly clean and disinfect the building spaces between the administrations and ensure that everything is up to standard. Cleaning will include, but is not limited to, all furniture, flooring, window treatments, handrails, door knobs, light switches, countertops, elevator buttons, restroom fixtures and dispensers, door handles and push plates, and lighting fixtures."

The deep cleaning comes after multiple large in-person events at the White House over the past few months, during which attendees rarely wore masks or practiced social distancing. Following those events, dozens of Trump administration staffers and allies tested positive for COVID-19, including the president, the first lady and the chief of staff.

The cleaning contracts were awarded the Didlake, a Manassas, Virginia-based company whose mission is to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

In addition to the deep cleaning, a government contract provides $115,000 to replace and install new carpeting "to correct the current floor condition" for various offices within the West Wing, East Wing and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB).

Didlake did provide carpet cleaning services in the EEOB prior to President Donald Trump's inauguration. A Jan. 6, 2017 contract allocated $42,000 for that work. But there were no contracts for expanded cleaning services at the time.

The raging COVID-19 pandemic could prove to be a challenge when it comes to the remarkable work of transitioning the White House between presidential residents. Traditionally, the 132-room mansion is transformed during a 5- to 6-hour period when the outgoing and incoming presidents are busy with inaugural ceremonies on Capitol Hill. At that time, "a very well-organized ballet choreography" involving dozens of residence staff unfolds, according to former White House usher Gary Walters.

But Biden's team has practiced strict COVID-19 safety protocols, including limiting the number of people in enclosed spaces around the president-elect. It's unclear whether the administration will take steps to limit the number of staffers involved with the move, but one Biden transition official said the president-elect intends to move into the White House on a traditional timeline. A transition spokesperson did not respond to request for comment on the need for expanded cleaning.

Biden has already received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, as has soon-to-be first lady Jill Biden.

Incoming press secretary Jen Psaki has confirmed that some White House staff will begin working for the new administration remotely.

"We won't have all staff in the White House because our mantra is COVID safety first for everyone," Psaki said Wednesday. "We're waiting on specifics of how many people will be there on the first day and first weeks."

ABC News's Karen Travers and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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TriggerPhoto/iStockBy BEN GITTLESON, KATHERINE FAULDERS, and JOHN SANTUCCI, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With just six days left in office and facing a Senate trial, President Donald Trump spent Thursday as the most isolated he has been during his presidency.

Key allies on Capitol Hill have bucked him, advisers are avoiding him, and his lawyers have largely refused to defend him as he faces an historic second impeachment trial as soon as next week.

Trump has limited time left to exercise his pardon powers. He has suggested to advisers he could grant a pardon to himself, as well as to family members and close allies, according to people familiar with the discussions.

As the West Wing clears out, the White House has not announced any upcoming trips for the president to tout what he views as his top accomplishments.

While Trump has said he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, the White House has not said when exactly he plans to leave the building for his final time as president.

The president has felt isolated and angry, lashing out at those who have been most loyal to him over the past four years but whom he views as failing him in recent days, according to people close to the president. Among the targets, they said, were Vice President Mike Pence and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is considering voting to convict Trump, McCarthy said Wednesday the president bears responsibility for the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, and the No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, joined nine other Republicans to vote to impeach him.

But Trump is not alone in the greater Republican party.

Just 17% of Republican registered voters hold Trump responsible for the storming of the Capitol last week, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday. In an ABC News/Ipsos poll released the day before, only 13% of Republicans supported ousting the president before his term expires next week.

And while 10 House Republicans voted to impeach him Wednesday, 197 others voted against, sticking by him.

Even so, the president's approach to the impeachment looked a lot different from the way he handled the first one.

Locked out of his social media accounts, Trump was unable to tweet real-time reactions as he did -- prolifically -- during his first impeachment. The White House communications team did not blast out "rapid response" emails defending the president like it did before, nor did the press secretary mount any sort of public rebuttal.

With McConnell leaving open the possibility he may vote to convict Trump during the Senate's impeachment trial -- and several other Republican senators potentially jumping aboard -- the president faces the prospect that 17 GOP senators could join their Democratic colleagues in choosing to convict him. It's unclear how likely that would be.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who just last week split with Trump by saying Biden won the election, flew with him to Texas on Thursday for a visit to the border and told The Washington Post the president asked him to help lobby his colleagues to acquit him during the trial. Graham said he spent time calling senators from Air Force One.

The trial could start as soon as next week, but the president has yet to organize a defense team -- and many of the lawyers involved last time did not plan to return for the second round.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputies, as well as outside lawyers Jay Sekulow and Jane and Marty Raskin are all not expected to be involved.

Aides to the president have spoken with former Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who played a role in the first impeachment trial, about joining the team, although he is not on board yet.

Trump has been increasingly irritated with personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and has not been taking his calls, according to people familiar with the matter, though Giuliani has been spotted in the West Wing recently and may play a key role in the president's defense.

Top Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller tweeted Thursday that he had "just" spoken with the president that morning and that "he told me" Giuliani "is a great guy and a Patriot who devoted his services to the country!" Miller did not say if the president planned to have Giuliani represent him during the trial.

Another attorney, John Eastman, whose extremist positions have troubled some of the president's lawyers, is expected to be involved. Eastman is a law professor who had represented Trump in a failed quest to have the Supreme Court intervene in the election, and who has pushed a racist conspiracy theory about Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Meanwhile, the West Wing cleared out physically, too.

After a handful of White House staffers resigned after Trump called on his supporters to "fight like hell" and march to the Capitol, most elected to stay on until their time came to an end on its own.

Many have been packing up their desks and going through the off-boarding process in recent days, with stacks of cardboard boxes seen being delivered to the White House complex on Wednesday.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was photographed walking away from the White House with a large picture of Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In the final week of the Trump administration, Navarro was one of the last West Wing officials actively defending the president in public.

"The Democratic Party did violence to this country by attacking a president, who I believe was legally elected on November 3," Navarro said in an interview with Fox Business Thursday morning. "If the election were held today, he’d be elected again."

Trump was not elected president in November; Biden was, and his win was certified by the Congress last week.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl and Quinn Scanlan contributed to this report.

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Stephen Emlund/iStockBy JOHN PARKINSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Congressional Democrats have demanded an investigation into what they call "suspicious behavior and access" for some visitors the day before the Capitol assault, alleging that unnamed lawmakers led "an extremely high number of outside groups" through the building on what they say could have been "reconnaissance" tours.

During a Facebook Live on Tuesday, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill claimed that she witnessed unnamed members of Congress lead groups of people through the Capitol on a "reconnaissance" tour on Jan. 5, though it is common for lawmakers to guide constituents through the building.

Sherrill also alleged that Republicans "abetted" President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the election, promising that she would "see they are held accountable, and if necessary, ensure that they don't serve in Congress."

The New Jersey Democrat, a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and former federal prosecutor, joined more than 30 lawmakers signing a letter Wednesday to request an investigation from the acting House sergeant-at-arms, the acting Senate sergeant-at-arms, and the United States Capitol Police.

The letter does not name any members or make a specific reference to Republicans, nor does it make any specific allegation that members leading the tours were privy to any plans to attack the Capitol the next day. Three senior GOP leadership aides and a public information officer for the U.S. Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment.

Today I joined with more than 30 of my colleagues in requesting an investigation from the Acting House SAA, Acting Senate SAA, and USCP into the suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol Complex on Jan. 5, 2021 - the day before the attacks on the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/zpPUSUuSrj

— Rep. Mikie Sherrill (@RepSherrill) January 13, 2021

"Many of the Members who signed this letter, including those of us who have served in the military and are trained to recognize suspicious activity, as well as various members of our staff, witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5," the lawmakers wrote. "This is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that access to the Capitol Complex has been restricted since public tours ended in March of last year due to the pandemic."

It is not uncommon for lawmakers to invite avid supporters on tours of the Capitol, but Democrats have asked congressional law enforcement authorities whether any of the individuals known to visit the Capitol complex on Jan. 5 were being investigated for participating in the assault the next day.

The Democrats who signed the letter collectively contend that the tours being conducted on Jan. 5 "were a noticeable and concerning departure" from procedures put in place as of March 2020 that limit the number of visitors to the Capitol. These tours were so concerning to Democrats that they were reported to the sergeant-at-arms on Jan. 5, they wrote.

"The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day. That group left the White House and marched to the Capitol with the objective of preventing Congress from certifying our election," the letter states without citing specific examples of people charged with engaging in the melee who they believe were on tours on January 5. "Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex. The presence of these groups within the Capitol Complex was indeed suspicious. Given the events of January 6, the ties between these groups inside the Capitol Complex and the attacks on the Capitol need to be investigated."

As part of the investigation, the lawmakers ask congressional law enforcement authorities whether logs of visitors are inspected and collected, as well as whether members were required to sign in guests to the Capitol on Jan. 5.

They also inquired whether any additional law enforcement agencies have requested access to these logs, and questioned what circumstances would need to occur to deny a visitor from entering the Capitol, whether there are video logs from Jan. 5, and if facial recognition software is used for visitors entering the Capitol complex.

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ABC NewsBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- During President Donald Trump's impeachment hearing, Nancy Pelosi wore a look that eagle-eyed onlookers realized she has worn before.

The Speaker of the House donned the same suit dress at Wednesday's hearing as she did in 2019 at Trump's first impeachment hearing.

When she initially wore the look it included a gold mace Ann Hand brooch. However, she did not wear the gilded accessory this time. Instead, she incorporated a floral print face mask.

Wednesday's hearing made Trump the first U.S. president in history to be impeached by Congress twice, with 10 Republicans voting along with all Democrats to charge the president for his involvement during a violent coup at the U.S. capitol on Jan. 6.

"Those insurrectionists were not patriots," Pelosi said during her speech on Wednesday. "They were not part of a political base to be catered to and managed. They were domestic terrorists and justice must prevail."

Following the House Speaker's repeat impeachment look, many people took to Twitter to discuss.

"Nancy Pelosi wearing the exact same outfit for the impeachment trial today that she did for his last impeachment is everything I needed to see today," @maryy_lisa tweeted.

Another posted a photo of a scene from The Devil Wears Prada along with the caption asking "Are you wearing the Nancy Peolosi impeachment dress?"

Nancy Pelosi wearing the exact same outfit for the impeachment trial today that she did for his last impeachment is everything I needed to see today 🤣😹😹😹

— Marishka (@maryy_lisa) January 13, 2021

are you wearing the...

the nancy pelosi impeachment suit dress? yeah i am pic.twitter.com/m1sYOo7fTh

— vincent (@mcarlovincent) January 14, 2021

This isn't the first time Pelosi has made headlines for her outfit choices. In 2020, former first lady Hillary Clinton complimented her pink mask-to-pantsuit coordination.

Other fans have also called out the House Speaker's unique face masks on several other occasions.

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News Headlines for Sat. Jan. 16, 2021

County reports 122 New COVID-19 cases, no deaths, Friday... The Chautauqua County Health Department is reporting 122 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus today... bringing the total number now t...

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