Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is proposing to delay the start of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial until February to give the former president’s lawyers more time to prepare, saying in a statement that the Senate, the presidency and Trump “deserve a full and fair process.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says her chamber is ready to send an article of impeachment to the Senate as soon as it is ready to hold a trial.

Separately, Congress approved a waiver for Lloyd Austin to lead the Defense Department, paving the way for the retired Army general’s historic confirmation. Austin, who would become the first Black defense secretary, requires an exemption because he has not been retired from active military service for the seven years stipulated by law.

President Biden, as he rolled out a new coronavirus plan Thursday, said that the death toll from the pandemic will probably top 500,000 next month and that it will take months “for us to turn things around.”

Here’s what to know:
  • Pete Buttigieg, a young, former Midwestern mayor with a national profile, made his pitch to a Senate committee weighing his nomination to become Biden’s transportation secretary.
  • Seven Democratic senators lodged an ethics complaint against two of their Republican colleagues, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, over their actions ahead of the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
  • Biden is seeking a five-year extension with Russia on the only remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals just days before it expires, said two senior U.S. officials.
  • Democrats claimed control of the Senate on Wednesday by the thinnest possible margin as Vice President Harris swore in three new Democratic senators, bringing Republicans and Democrats to a 50-50 split in the chamber, with Harris as the tiebreaker.
11:22 p.m.
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McConnell seeks to delay Trump impeachment trial until February

McConnell is proposing to delay the start of Trump’s impeachment trial until February.

“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,” the Senate minority leader said in a statement late Thursday.

McConnell laid out his thinking in a conference call with other Senate Republicans earlier in the day, according to three officials. The minority leader says he wants to do so to give lawyers for the former president, who was impeached by the House on Jan. 13 on a charge of inciting an insurrection, time to prepare.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The structure of the impeachment trial is one of several issues that McConnell has to work out with new Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

McConnell is proposing that a summons be issued to Trump on Jan. 28 after the House sends the article of impeachment to the Senate. Trump would have one week from that day, Feb. 4, to answer the charge. The House’s pretrial brief also would be due that day.

Trump would then have one week after that to submit his answers to the pretrial brief.

CBS News first reported on the McConnell proposal.

11:03 p.m.
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S.C. lawyer to defend Trump at his second Senate impeachment trial

Butch Bowers, a South Carolina lawyer, will represent former president Donald Trump as he faces a second impeachment trial in the Senate over his role in instigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Butch is well respected by both Republicans and Democrats and will do an excellent job defending President Trump,” tweeted Jason Miller, who served as an adviser to Trump.

In his experience listed on his website, Bowers said he was special counsel for voting matters in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, counsel in Florida for John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 and counsel to then-Gov. Nikki Haley before the South Carolina House Ethics Committee in 2012.

Punchbowl News first reported that Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) announced the selection of Bowers on a Senate GOP conference call.

“I’ve known Butch for a long time, solid guy. And I think, you know, over time they’ll, they’ll put the team together, but you got to remember, and there was no process in the House to participate in,” Graham said in a subsequent interview.

Trump was impeached by the House on Jan. 13 on a charge of inciting an insurrection. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is seeking to delay the trial until February to give the ex-president’s lawyers times to prepare.

In his first impeachment trial in January 2020, White House lawyers and others stepped forward to defend Trump.

“The president was shut out in the House, so his team needs some time to prepare. … I think the proposal is very much in line with what we’ve done in the past,” Graham said. “I think it’s fair to the Senate; I think it’s fair to the president.”

Graham said he had no idea whether Trump would personally attend the trial.

10:43 p.m.
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Rep. Greene files articles of impeachment against Biden one day after his inauguration

Freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said Thursday that she had filed articles of impeachment against Biden, one day after he was inaugurated.

“I just filed articles of impeachment on President Joe Biden. We’ll see how this goes,” Greene said in a tweet.

Greene is the first open supporter of QAnon, an extremist ideology based on false claims, to win a seat in Congress. She had previewed the move in an appearance on the conservative network Newsmax last week, hours after the House voted to impeach Trump.

Greene cited business controversies involving Biden’s son Hunter during Biden’s tenure as vice president, and she suggested without citing evidence that the president would be implicated.

“We have to make sure that our leaders are held accountable,” Greene said during the Newsmax appearance. “We cannot have a president of the United States that is willing to abuse the power of the office of the presidency and be easily bought off by foreign governments, foreign Chinese energy companies, Ukrainian energy companies."

Greene’s effort has little chance of progressing in the House, which is controlled by Democrats.

10:40 p.m.
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Congress approves waiver for Austin, clearing important hurdle for him to become defense secretary

The House and Senate both voted Thursday to approve a waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as defense secretary, clearing a vital hurdle ahead of his expected Senate confirmation.

Ahead of his confirmation, Austin needed lawmakers to waive the rule requiring defense secretaries to be out of uniform for at least seven years before assuming leadership at the Pentagon. Austin retired as a four-star general in 2016.

The House approved the waiver first, with a vote of 326 to 78 — representing strong bipartisan support, despite the fact that several House Democrats and an official House Republican policy group had opposed the waiver. They argued that it would endanger the tradition of civilian leadership at the Pentagon to usher a second recently retired general into the position so soon after Jim Mattis, a retired Marine general who served as former president Donald Trump’s first defense secretary.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), despite his initial uneasiness with the waiver, emerged as one of Austin’s strongest champions Thursday, appealing to his colleagues to back the waiver to make sure Austin takes office as soon as possible.

“He deserves this waiver, and our country deserves a fully confirmed secretary of defense as soon as we can get that done,” Smith said on the House floor just before the vote.

The Senate followed the House’s lead barely an hour later, approving the waiver by a vote of 69 to 27. Senate leaders have not yet scheduled Austin’s confirmation vote.

10:35 p.m.
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Fauci says he feels liberated to talk about science without repercussions under Biden administration

On Jan. 20, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, reflected on his time under former president Donald Trump. (The Washington Post)

Anthony S. Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday that he feels he can speak freely about science and the coronavirus pandemic without fear of repercussions now that Trump is no longer president.

At one point in Thursday’s White House news briefing, a reporter noted to Fauci that he has “joked a couple of times today” about how different it feels doing his job in the new administration as compared to the previous one.

“You said I was joking about it; I was very serious about it,” Fauci replied. “I wasn’t joking!”

He went on to contrast his experience being the primary face of the government’s coronavirus response under Trump with his time in the same role so far under Biden.

“I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president. So, it was really something that you didn’t feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it,” Fauci said.

He added: “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence — what the science is, and know, ‘That’s it. Let the science speak,’ it is somewhat of a liberating feeling.”

A reporter then pointed out that, while serving in the same role under Trump, Fauci “basically vanished for a few months there for a while.”

“Do you feel like you’re back now?” the reporter asked.

“I think so,” Fauci replied with a smile.

9:55 p.m.
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Seven Democratic senators lodge ethics complaint against Cruz, Hawley over actions before Capitol riot

Seven Democratic senators on Thursday lodged an ethics complaint against two of their Republican colleagues, Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, over their actions ahead of the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

In a letter to Sens. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, the Democrats said the panel should investigate Cruz and Hawley’s conduct “to fully understand their role.”

“The actions of which we know demand an investigation and a determination whether disciplinary action is warranted,” the seven Democrats wrote. “Until then, a cloud of uncertainty will hang over them and over this body.”

In a statement, Hawley (R-Mo.) responded by accusing Democrats of “brazenly trying to silence dissent.”

“This latest effort is a flagrant abuse of the Senate ethics process and a flagrant attempt to exact partisan revenge,” he said. “Democrats appear intent on weaponizing every tool at their disposal — including pushing an unconstitutional impeachment process — to further divide the country. Missourians will not be cancelled by these partisan attacks.”

A spokesperson for Cruz (R-Tex.) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Democrats cited the role Cruz and Hawley played in leading the push to object to the counting of electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania. The two senators, they said, “lent legitimacy to President Trump’s false statements about election fraud by announcing that they would object to the certification of electors on January 6.”

In their letter, the Democrats noted that Hawley and Cruz continued to send fundraising emails even as the riot at the Capitol was underway. And they urged the ethics panel to probe whether Hawley and Cruz or any of their staffers had any communication with the organizers of the rally that preceded the riot.

“The public record is already replete with information that predicates an investigation and possible discipline as may be appropriate,” the letter stated. “While it was within Senators’ rights to object to the electors, the conduct of Senators Cruz and Hawley, and potentially others, went beyond that.”

The seven Democrats are Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Kaine (Va.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio).

8:22 p.m.
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Biden to use Defense Production Act, other executive actions to combat coronavirus pandemic

Biden on Thursday took executive action to address the coronavirus pandemic, including using the Defense Production Act to spur manufacturers produce more personal protective equipment and other resources.

“This is a wartime undertaking,” Biden said during an event at the White House on his first full day as president. “Today, I’m signing an executive action to use the Defense Production Act and all other available authorities to direct all federal agencies and private industry to accelerate the making of everything that is needed to protect, test, vaccinate and take care of our people.”

“We’ve already identified suppliers, and we’re working with them to move the plan forward,” he added.

According to the White House, the goal of the action is “to expand the availability of critical supplies, to increase stockpiles so that [personal protective equipment] is available to be used in the recommended safe manner, and to start to fill all supply shortfalls immediately.”

Biden also repeatedly emphasized that his administration’s national strategy will be based on “science, not politics.”

He pledged that Americans will hear “a lot more” from top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci and other “real, genuine experts and scientists.”

“We’re going to make sure they work free from political interference and that they make decisions strictly based on science and health care alone,” Biden said.

8:14 p.m.
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British tabloids see snub in Biden’s rejection of Churchill bust amid Oval Office makeover

LONDON — When reporters toured the recently redecorated Oval Office on Wednesday, they took note of the symbolic changes in scenery that have come to stand in for an incoming U.S. president’s view of the nation. Biden’s choices included a portrait of wartime President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a bust of civil rights hero Rosa Parks.

But as Biden began his first full day in office the following morning, many British outlets pounced on a notable absence: a bust of Winston Churchill, FDR’s Second World War counterpart, on loan from the British government.

British tabloids did not hesitate to read between the supposed lines.

“Churchill snub,” read a headline in the Sun, a right-wing tabloid that acts as a dogged defender of all things English.

“Fury as Joe Biden REMOVES bust of Boris Johnson’s hero Winston Churchill from the Oval Office,” wrote the conservative Daily Mail, while the left-wing tabloid the Mirror reported that the bust was “nowhere in sight.”

8:00 p.m.
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As he rolls out new coronavirus plan, Biden says death toll could top 500,000 next month

President Biden on Jan. 21 said help is on the way to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. (The Washington Post)

As he rolled out a new plan to address the coronavirus Thursday, Biden cautioned that it will take months “to turn things around” and said the death toll in the United States would probably top 500,000 next month.

“For the past year, we couldn’t rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination we needed,” Biden said at the outset of his remarks from the White House. “And we have seen the tragic cost of that failure.”

He again blamed the Trump administration for a vaccine rollout that he called “a dismal failure thus far.”

“Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” Biden said of the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.

“Unfortunately, the death toll will likely top 500,000 next month,” Biden said. “The cases will continue to mount. We didn’t get into this mess overnight. It’s going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear: We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic.”

7:40 p.m.
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State Department notifies overseas embassies and consulates of end to Muslim ban

State Department cables have gone out to U.S. embassies and consulates instructing them that visa restrictions on some Muslim-majority and African countries “are no longer applicable.”

One Trump executive order and two proclamations that barred certain applicants from more than a dozen countries were lifted by a Biden proclamation just hours after his inauguration.

“Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all,” Biden’s order read. In addition to harming national security by bypassing American values, it said, “they have separated loved ones, inflicting pain that will ripple for years to come. They are just plain wrong.”

The Biden order gives the State Department 45 days to compile a report on those affected by the restrictions and proposals for reconsidering denied applications. Within 120 days, the secretaries of state and homeland security, consulting with the director of national intelligence, must report on all screening and vetting procedures in place, along with a review of foreign government information-sharing and an assessment of how “social media identifiers” have been used, and whether that practice has “meaningfully improved screening and vetting.”

But backlogs at understaffed consulates, ongoing vetting and coronavirus restrictions mean that applicants may still endure long waits.

6:34 p.m.
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Pence tells supporters he plans to move back to Indiana this summer

Former vice president Mike Pence told supporters Wednesday that he and his wife, Karen Pence, plan to move back to Indiana this summer, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Pence, 61, made the remark in a speech in his hometown of Columbus, Ind., hours after leaving the White House.

“I’ve already promised Karen we’ll be moving back to Indiana come this summer,” Pence said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “There’s no place like home.” He did not provide details about their plans.

Before entering the White House in 2017, Pence was governor of Indiana. He previously served six terms as a House member representing Indiana’s 2nd, and later 6th, Congressional District.

6:07 p.m.
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Florida-based bank announces it is closing Trump’s accounts

Another one of former president Donald Trump’s banks said Thursday that it is closing his accounts, as Trump returns to a business hammered by covid-19 and the backlash to Trump’s role in the deadly attack on the Capitol.

“We no longer have any depository relationship with him," Bank United said Thursday. The bank declined to give a reason for its decision.

The Florida-based bank had held some of Trump’s money since at least 2015, according to the former president’s financial disclosures. At the end of 2020, Trump said he had two money market accounts at Bank United, containing between $5.1 million and $25.2 million combined. The financial disclosure forms allowed Trump to list his assets in ranges, rather than exact dollar amounts.

Since the Jan. 6 attack, a number of key partners, vendors and customers have cut ties with Trump’s company. That list now includes three of the four banks that held Trump’s largest deposits: Signature Bank and Professional Bank announced their decisions earlier this month. The fourth, Capital One Bank, has declined comment, saying it does not discuss current or former customer relationships.

In addition, Trump has lost two real-estate brokers, an e-commerce vendor, a chance to host the 2022 PGA Championship. New York City also said it would end the Trump Organization’s contracts to run a carousel, two ice rinks, and a golf course in city parks.

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.

6:03 p.m.
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After voting to reject Biden’s wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania, McCarthy argues he did not vote to ‘overturn’ election

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Jan. 21 defended his Jan. 6 vote to reject the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania. (The Washington Post)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was among the House Republicans who voted earlier this month to reject the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, states won by Joe Biden. He was also among the 126 Republicans who signed onto an amicus brief last month in a lawsuit that would have invalidated the results from four states that Biden won.

But at a news conference Thursday, the top House Republican argued that he did not vote to “overturn” Biden’s win.

“What I voted on wasn’t to overturn an election, because it wouldn’t. It would not overturn it,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters.

While Biden would have won the White House even without the electoral votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona, the amicus brief McCarthy signed onto would have invalidated the results from enough states to hand victory to President Donald Trump.

For more than a month after the election, McCarthy also repeatedly voiced support for Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud and declined to call Biden president-elect — even when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans congratulated Biden after the electoral college made his victory official in mid-December.

In defending his actions Thursday, McCarthy argued that the amicus brief he had signed onto was posing “a constitutional question”: “Did the [state] legislature actually move through to make any changes” to the way the election was conducted amid the coronavirus pandemic?

The Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit, which notably targeted only four states that Biden won.

6:01 p.m.
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Biden intends to keep Wray in FBI job, White House press secretary says

Biden intends to keep FBI Director Christopher A. Wray in the job, White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki said Thursday, a day after raising doubts about his future by dodging a question on whether Biden retained confidence in him.

“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 said in a tweet Thursday.

Wray is serving a 10-year term, but his job was in jeopardy for much of the past year, and Trump and his senior aides repeatedly discussed firing him after November’s election.

During her first White House news briefing on Wednesday, Psaki would not publicly commit to keeping Wray at the agency’s helm.

“I have not spoken with [Biden] about specifically FBI Director Wray in recent days,” Psaki said in response to a question about Wray’s future.

Psaki gave similar replies to a number of unrelated questions, appearing to want to avoid making significant news outside of her prepared remarks about the series of executive actions Biden had taken moments earlier. She promised there would be regular media briefings and that she would follow up with reporters on questions she could not answer.

Separately, a government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity Wednesday to discuss the incoming administration, said that Biden’s team has sent no signals it had concerns about Wray. A lawyer and former Justice Department official, Wray began as FBI director in 2017 after Trump fired his predecessor, James B. Comey, who had served less than four years.