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Biden lays out COVID-19 strategy on first full day in office

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Biden unveils coronavirus response strategy
Biden unveils national coronavirus response strategy as cases surge across the country 09:23

Washington — President Joe Biden laid out his to plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic on his first full day in office, warning Americans that the worst is still to come.

"Let me be clear," Mr. Biden said during the event at the White House. "Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better."

The president signed 10 executive orders to vastly expand testing and vaccine availability, with the goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses by the end of April. He invoked the Defense Production Act to compel federal agencies and manufacturers to increase key supplies needed to fight the virus, and implemented new travel restrictions meant to curb its spread.

White House officials acknowledge, however, that much of their plan will be impossible if Congress doesn't pass the administration's nearly $2 trillion coronavirus proposal, and have appealed to the American people to wear masks and socially distance.

While the Trump administration laid the groundwork for development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines through Operation Warp Speed, Mr. Biden said "the brutal truth is it's going to take months" before the majority of Americans are vaccinated. 

"This is a wartime undertaking," Mr. Biden said, noting the number of Americans who have died from COVID-19, more than 408,000, is more than those who died during all of World War II. 

Contributing: Arden Farhi and The Associated Press 


FBI deputy director announces retirement

The deputy director of the FBI announced Thursday that he is retiring, CBS News has confirmed. The New York Times was the first to report the retirement of David Bowdich, who held the second-highest role at the bureau. 

The career FBI agent's announcement comes as the FBI has been questioned about its intelligence posture before the Capitol riots. But an FBI official told CBS News that this was a "normal retirement" that was not related to the bureau's handling of the riot. 

By Andres Triay

Kamala Harris to move temporarily to Blair House

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, will temporarily move to Blair House, which is near the White House, before moving to the vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory, according to an aide for Harris.

Seven vice presidents have called Number One Observatory Circle their home while in office, beginning with Vice President Walter Mondale. The house located at the U.S. Naval Observatory is not open to the public and is just a few miles from the White House. CBS News was first to report that Harris and her husband would not immediately move into the vice president's residence due to "repairs to the residence that are more easily conducted with the home unoccupied."

Read more here. 

By Tim Perry

McConnell proposes timeline for impeachment trial

Top Republican proposes delaying 2nd Trump impeachment trial 02:05

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday released a proposal for the timeline of the impeachment trial, confirming CBS News reporting that he would want the trial to begin in February. In a statement, McConnell argued the impeachment trial should start in mid-February in order to give President Trump due process.

"Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake," McConnell said. 

"Given the unprecedented speed of the House's process, our proposed timeline for the initial phases includes a modest and reasonable amount of additional time for both sides to assemble their arguments before the Senate would begin to hear them."

McConnell is requesting that the House impeachment managers present the article of impeachment to the Senate on January 28, and give Mr. Trump until February 4, one week from that day, to answer the articles of impeachment. The impeachment managers' legal brief would also be due on that day.

McConnell then proposes that Mr. Trump would have until February 11 to respond to the impeachment managers' brief. The House would then submit their rebuttal pre-trial brief by February 13. The time between due dates is longer than in the impeachment trials of 1999 and 2020 but McConnell argues that this is necessary because of "the House's unprecedented timeline."

The House quickly passed an article of impeachment charging Mr. Trump with incitement of insurrection last Wednesday, just one week after the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

By Grace Segers

Congress approves waiver for Austin, paving way for confirmation

In a 69-27 vote, the Senate granted a waiver allowing retired General Lloyd Austin to take the helm of the Pentagon, hours after the Senate Armed Services Committee advanced his nomination. The House passed the waiver just hours earlier by a vote of 326-78.

The Senate's green-light paves the way for the chamber to confirm the retired Army general's nomination for secretary of defense. The Senate is expected to vote on Austin's nomination later on Thursday.

By Melissa Quinn

7 Democratic senators file ethics complaint against Hawley and Cruz

Seven Democratic senators on Thursday lodged an ethics complaint against Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, arguing that by leading efforts to object to Electoral College results on January 6, the two senators "amplified claims of election fraud that had resulted in threats of violence against state and local officials around the country."

"While Congress was debating Senator Cruz's objection, a violent mob stormed the Capitol. These insurrectionists ransacked the building, stole property, and openly threatened Members of Congress and the Vice President," the Democrats wrote in a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee requesting an investigation be opened into Hawley and Cruz. "By proceeding with their objections to the electors after the violent attack, Senators Cruz and Hawley lent legitimacy to the mob's cause and made future violence more likely."

The seven Democrats who signed the letter are Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Ron Wyden, Tina Smith, Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono, Tim Kaine, and Sherrod Brown.

The complaint said Hawley and Cruz's "objections on January 6 were part of an ongoing effort by President Trump and his allies to obstruct the counting of electoral votes that would confirm his defeat," even amid threats of violence against members of Congress.

The letter also called for the Ethics Committee to look into whether Cruz and Hawley coordinated with any of the rioters on the days leading up to the attack. It noted that Cruz and Hawley persisted with their objections to the Electoral College count even after the violence of that day.

"The Senate has a duty to determine whether the actions of Senators Cruz and Hawley constitute "improper conduct" or other violations of the Senate code of ethics. Only then will this body restore public trust," the letter said. "Multiple crimes were committed on January 6, for which culpability may be assessed under doctrines of conspiracy, aiding and abetting, accessory, or providing aid and comfort. Disciplinary action may be necessary to protect the integrity of the Senate and ensure public trust and safety."

By Grace Segers

Biden warns "things are going to continue to get worse" before they improve

Biden launches sweeping coronavirus action on vaccines and masks 04:40

In remarks announcing his federal strategy for combating to the coronavirus crisis, Mr. Biden laid out in stark terms the challenges before the nation in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus, indicating the death toll is likely to surpass 500,000.

"Let me be clear," Mr. Biden said during the event at the White House. "Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better."

The president rolled out his plan for the federal response to the pandemic, a focal point of which involves exercising his executive authority to ramp up production of vaccines, testing supplies and personal protective equipment. Mr. Biden signed 10 executive orders as part of his plan.

"Our national strategy is comprehensive," he said, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Fauci. "It's based on science, not politics."

The president has been clear that confronting the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impacts is his top priority now that has taken the reins of the federal government and has put forth a $1.9 trillion relief measure designed to assist with those efforts.

"It's going to take months for us to turn this around," Mr. Biden said.

Two key pillars of his strategy involve vaccinations and mask-wearing, and Mr. Biden has challenged the American people to wear face-coverings for at least his first 100 days in office. 

While the Trump administration laid the groundwork for development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines through Operation Warp Speed, Mr. Biden said "the brutal truth is it's going to take months" before the majority of Americans are vaccinated. 

"This is a wartime undertaking," Mr. Biden said, noting the number of Americans who have died from COVID-19, more than 408,000, is more than those who died during all of World War II. 

By Melissa Quinn

Bipartisan group of senators plans to meet with White House on COVID bill

A bipartisan group of senators, many of whom helped craft the framework for the most recent coronavirus relief package, is planning to meet with a top White House economic adviser in the coming days to discuss the next round of federal aid, according to lawmakers and sources familiar with the matter.

"I expect that we will be meeting with one of the new President's economic advisors within a week," Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said in a statement. One source told CBS News that the group will have a call with Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council and President Joe Biden's top economic aide.

Mr. Biden has proposed a COVID-19 relief package that includes funds to support vaccine distribution efforts, extend unemployment benefits and expand federal aid to families, small businesses and communities. The White House's plan, which Mr. Biden said he plans to Congress soon, includes additional $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, on top of the $600 payments approved in December under the previous Congress. 

Read more here.

By Jack Turman

Senate Armed Services Committee advances Austin's nomination for defense secretary

The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to advance the nomination of retired General Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense to the full Senate, two days after the panel questioned Austin at his confirmation hearing.

The committee advanced the nomination by voice vote, meaning there were no objections, the committee said in a statement.

Austin retired from the military in 2016 after a 41-year career in the Army, including three years as head of U.S. Central Command during the Obama administration. If confirmed, he will be the first Black defense secretary in U.S. history.

Under a federal law meant to preserve civilian control of the military, Congress must grant Austin a waiver allowing him to serve as defense secretary, since he is less than seven years removed from active duty. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to approve the waiver on Thursday, sending it to the Senate for a full vote. The House is expected to vote on the waiver on Thursday afternoon. 

Mr. Biden has installed deputy secretary David Norquist as acting defense secretary pending Austin's confirmation, the White House said Wednesday.

By Stefan Becket

McCarthy backs Cheney to remain as conference chair

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that he does not support efforts to push GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney out of her position as conference chair. Some Republicans have been clamoring for her ouster in the wake of her vote to impeach Mr. Trump, and Cheney has picked up primary challengers in recent days.

McCarthy said that the issue would be aired in a closed conference meeting next week.

"There's questions that need to be answered, style in which things were delivered. End of the day, we will unify," McCarthy said.

By Grace Segers

Biden plans to keep Wray as FBI director

Biden will retain Christopher Wray as FBI director, the White House said Thursday, in a show of confidence in Wray's ability to helm the bureau under a new administration.

Wray has led the FBI since 2017, when then-President Donald Trump named him to succeed James Comey, whose firing by Mr. Trump led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

At a White House press briefing on Wednesday, press secretary Jen Psaki was noncommittal about whether Mr. Biden has confidence in Wray, saying she hadn't spoken to the president about the bureau's leadership. But in a tweet on Thursday, Psaki said Mr. Biden plans to keep Wray atop the sprawling investigative agency.

"I caused an unintentional ripple yesterday so wanted to state very clearly President Biden intends to keep FBI Director Wray on in his role and he has confidence in the job he is doing," Psaki wrote.

Read more here.

By Kristin Brown

Pelosi dismisses claims that impeachment trial would be divisive

In her weekly press conference, Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back against accusations by Republicans that going forward with an impeachment trial for Mr. Trump after he has left office is divisive.

"The president of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection. I don't think it's very unifying to say, 'oh, let's just forget it and move on,'" Pelosi said. The House voted to impeach Mr. Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection last week, after a mob of his supporters assaulted the Capitol on January 6.

She said that it was important to impeach Mr. Trump to show that there is accountability for a president even in his last few weeks in office.

"Just because he's now gone — thank God — you don't say to a president, 'Do whatever you want in the last months of your administration, you're going to get a get-out-of-jail card free because people think we should make nice-nice," Pelosi said.

However, Pelosi declined to say when the House would send the article of impeachment to the Senate. The Senate must begin the impeachment trial the day after the House sends the article.

By Grace Segers

FBI offering $75,000 reward for info about pipe bombs left outside RNC and DNC

The FBI has increased the reward it's offering for information about the suspect or suspects who left pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee on January 6, the day a violent mob stormed the Capitol.

The FBI's Washington field office said it will award $75,000 for information about who left the devices, an increase from the $50,000 it offered in the days following their discovery.

The bombs found outside both headquarters, just blocks from the Capitol, were viable devices and could have been fashioned by someone without professional training, law enforcement officials have told CBS News. Neither successfully detonated, for unknown reasons.

Law enforcement agencies received reports of the explosives around 1 p.m. on January 6, shortly before the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, raising the possibility they were set to divert police resources from the building.

The FBI asked anyone with information about the culprit or culprits to submit tips using an online form on the bureau's website.

By Stefan Becket

Durbin says Senate likely to receive article of impeachment in "a day or two"

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told MSNBC in an interview he believes the single article of impeachment approved by the House last week will be sent to the Senate "in a day or two."

The article charges Mr. Trump with "incitement of insurrection" for his role in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, as he repeatedly falsely claimed he, not Mr. Biden, won the election and urged his supporters to march down to the Capitol to "fight like hell" the morning of the deadly attack.

"The president needs to be held accountable for his incitement of that mob to come and attack this building and try to disrupt our government. That's the reality," Durbin, of Illinois, said. "I think the House did the right thing in impeaching the president for a second time. They will be sending it over to us in a day or two, I imagine. We have to decide how to work it into a busy calendar. It is a priority."

The House impeached Mr. Trump in a bipartisan vote January 13, making him the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. But the article has not yet been transmitted to the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to say when she plans to do so. Pelosi did, however, name the nine House Democrats who will serve as impeachment managers and present the House's case against Mr. Trump during a Senate trial.

Following his interview with MSNBC, Durbin told reporters he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about when Pelosi will send the article to the Senate.

"He said it's still unresolved as to when she's sending it over. It could be today, unlikely. Could be tomorrow," Durbin said of his discussion with Schumer. "And then what we're going to do with it, is whether or not it's going to be a full-blown trial with evidence and witnesses, or 'expedited,' whatever that means, that final decision isn't even closed."

Melissa Quinn and Alan He


Biden's limited mask mandate may not do much to lift the U.S. economy

Among the flurry of executive actions that President Biden signed in his first day in office is a requirement that people wear masks inside federal buildings, while Americans are being urged to wear facial coverings for 100 days. The idea is to contain the coronavirus and save lives, but there could be a secondary benefit: a boost to the economy.

A national mask mandate could add $1 trillion to the nation's GDP,  according to a recent UCLA study. That's because the spread of infections could be reduced to zero if used universally and in combination with other public health measures such as contact tracing, the authors found. Other research from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that communities where mask wearing was mandated benefited from a 5% boost in consumer spending as people felt safer to shop.

But the question is whether Mr. Biden's mask order goes far enough to make a measurable impact. The mandate doesn't require all Americans wear masks in public; rather, it applies only to federal buildings on federal lands and to federal employees and contractors. Meanwhile, the nation has a hodge-podge of mask regulations, with 37 states requiring people to wear masks while in public, according to the AARP.

"I am skeptical about whether this action covers enough workers to have a noticeable effect on the economy," said Raphael Thomadsen, professor of marketing at Washington University in St. Louis and a co-author of the study on consumer spending and masks, told CBS MoneyWatch about Mr. Biden's mask mandate. "That said, any small effect is likely to be slightly positive."

But, he added, if more people start wearing masks because of Mr. Biden's order as well as heed his message that facial covering can help halt the pandemic, the impact could be more widespread — provider greater support for public health and the economy.

Read more here.

By Aimee Picchi

Biden to sign 10 executive orders on COVID-19

Mr. Biden is expected to sign 10 executive orders Thursday afternoon to:

  1. Direct agencies to address vaccine and PPE supply shortfalls using all authorities including DPA;
  2. Direct OSHA to publish worker safety guidelines;
  3. Establish a coronavirus testing board;
  4. Direct government scientists to identify new treatments for COVID-19;
  5. Direct HHS and CDC to provide clear guidance on safe school reopening;
  6. Direct agencies to expand data collection and reporting capacity;
  7. Establish a health equity taskforce that focuses on racial/geographic health disparities; Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith will be chair;
  8. Enhance the collection, sharing and analysis of covid data including metrics by race and ethnicity;
  9. Require mask wearing on plane, trains and other forms of public transportation;
  10. Bolster clinical care facilities and long term care facilities.

Read more here.


Fauci underscores Biden's commitment to WHO and its COVID fight

In a dramatic turnaround, the Biden administration thanked the World Health Organization Thursday for leading the global pandemic response and vowed to remain a member state. 

"Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research and development community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics," Dr. Anthony Fauci, who's been named President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, told a meeting of the WHO's executive board.

The WHO, he said, had "relentlessly worked with nations in their fight against COVID-19."

His comments marked a clear departure from the harsh criticism dealt to the WHO by former President Trump, who'd started withdrawing the U.S. from the organization.

But on his first day in office Wednesday, Mr. Biden reversed that decision.

In a letter sent to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Mr. Biden announced he was retracting Mr. Trump's July 6 notification that the United States intended to withdraw from the UN health agency in 12 months.

"The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization," Mr. Biden wrote.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the about-face."WHO is a family of nations and we are all glad that the United States is staying in the family," he told the executive board meeting.

Read more here.

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