Biden Keeps Focus on the Future as Trump Is Impeached Again

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President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. after receiving a second dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Newark, Del., on Monday. He has remained focused on fighting the pandemic and reviving the economy.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The House on Wednesday voted for a historic second impeachment of President Trump, approving 232 to 197 a single article citing his role in whipping up a mob that stormed the Capitol last week. But as his fellow Democrats denounced the assault and Mr. Trump’s incitement of the rioters, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has maintained a studied cool, staying largely removed from the proceedings and keeping his focus on battling the coronavirus pandemic, reviving a faltering economy and lowering the political temperature.

In a statement after the vote, Mr. Biden denounced the attack and said the bipartisan group of lawmakers who backed impeachment had rightfully followed “the Constitution and their conscience.” But he also pledged to ensure that Americans “stand together as a nation” when he becomes president next week, exhibiting the deliberate approach to politics that characterized his path to the White House.

Mr. Biden’s focus on the governing challenge ahead is based on the view that the nation is in a devastating crisis that requires him to prioritize keeping Americans healthy. But it also underscores the contrast between his cautious, centrist approach to politics and the anger of many Democratic officials and voters over Mr. Trump’s assaults on democratic norms.

The president-elect has made it clear that he intends to work toward repairing the breach in American political culture after Mr. Trump’s four tumultuous years in office. But he will be pursuing his agenda with slim Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, forcing him into a balancing act that is sure to be especially precarious in his administration’s opening weeks as the Senate focuses at least some of its attention on the trial of Mr. Trump.

“This nation also remains in the grip of a deadly virus and a reeling economy,” Mr. Biden said Wednesday. “I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.”

The president-elect is scheduled to deliver remarks in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday evening on the public health crisis and outline his proposals for trillions of dollars in government spending to combat the pandemic and its effects on the economy.

It is the first time in American history a president has been impeached twice.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Minutes after the House voted to impeach President Trump a second time, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, threw cold water on the prospect of the Senate beginning an impeachment trial before Mr. Biden’s inauguration next Wednesday. He endorsed a later start to the proceedings and in effect handed responsibility for the process to Democrats, who will soon control the chamber.

“Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” Mr. 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.”

Here’s what we know about what happens next.

After the House has impeached the president — the equivalent of an indictment in a criminal case — members of the Senate consider whether to remove him, holding a trial in which senators act as the jury. The test, as set by the Constitution, is whether the president has committed “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

There is no precedent for the Senate holding an impeachment trial after a president has left office, but it has done so for other government officials.

Democrats who control the House can choose when to send their article of impeachment to the Senate, at which point that chamber would have to immediately move to begin the trial. But even if the House transmitted the charge to the other side of the Capitol right away, an agreement between Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate would be needed to take it up before Jan. 19, a day before Mr. Biden is inaugurated.

Since Mr. McConnell said on Wednesday that he would not agree, the trial cannot start until after Mr. Biden is president. That could clog the Senate floor in the early days of Mr. Biden’s administration, at a time when he will be eager to have the chamber confirm members of his cabinet.

Conviction in an impeachment trial would not automatically disqualify Mr. Trump from future public office.

But if the Senate were to convict him, the Constitution allows a subsequent vote to bar an official from holding “any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.” That vote would require only a simple majority of senators.

There is no precedent, however, for disqualifying a president from future office, and the issue could end up before the Supreme Court.

President Trump’s inauguration in 2017, when the Capitol stage was packed with guests.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. will become president of the United States at noon Wednesday in a scaled-back inauguration ceremony. While key elements will remain traditional, many events will be downsized and “reimagined” to better adapt the celebration to a nation battling the coronavirus. Here’s a guide to the event.

Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in on the Capitol’s West Front sometime before noon. The new president is then expected give his inaugural address and conduct a review of military troops, as is tradition.

But instead of a traditional parade before cheering spectators along Pennsylvania Avenue as the new president, vice president and their families make their way to the White House over a mile away, there will be an official escort with representatives from every branch of the military for one city block.

For remote viewers, the inaugural committee has planned what it is calling a virtual parade across the country featuring music, poets and dancers “paying homage to America’s heroes on the front lines of the pandemic.”

Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem at the inauguration, Variety reported. The inaugural committee also announced that it would hold a prime time television event the night of the inauguration featuring celebrities including Tom Hanks, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato and Jon Bon Jovi.

At 5:30 p.m. Jan. 19, the evening before Mr. Biden takes the oath, the committee will hold a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in remembrance of people in the United States who have lost their lives in the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has warned that extremists who support Mr. Trump might continue to wreak havoc and she extended the city’s public emergency through Jan. 21.

The F.B.I. and Secret Service have ramped up security efforts around the inauguration. Experts have warned that some far-right extremist groups are already discussing an assault on Inauguration Day similar to the deadly attack on the Capitol.

President Trump has announced that he will not attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend, an aide said, after Mr. Biden made clear that he was welcome.

George W. Bush, along with Laura Bush, the former first lady, will attend, as well as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, along with former first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Traditionally, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies would distribute hundreds of thousands of tickets to the swearing-in ceremony for members of Congress to invite constituents, but this year tickets are not available to members of the public. Planners are urging people to stay home and participate in virtual inaugural events to prevent large crowds that could easily spread the coronavirus.

Events will be live streamed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee and by The New York Times.

News Analysis

Members of the National Guard resting in the Capitol during a break in shifts as the House prepared to vote on whether to impeach President Trump.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Not since the dark days of the Civil War and its aftermath has Washington seen a day quite like Wednesday.

In a Capitol bristling with heavily armed soldiers and newly installed metal detectors, with the physical wreckage of last week’s siege cleaned up but the emotional and political wreckage still on display, the president of the United States was impeached for trying to topple American democracy.

Somehow, it felt like the preordained coda of a presidency that repeatedly pressed all limits and frayed the bonds of the body politic. With less than a week to go, President Trump’s term is climaxing in violence and recrimination at a time when the country has fractured deeply and lost a sense of itself. Notions of truth and reality have been atomized. Faith in the system has eroded. Anger is the one common ground.

As if it were not enough that Mr. Trump became the only president impeached twice or that lawmakers were trying to remove him with days left in his term, Washington devolved into a miasma of suspicion and conflict. A Democratic member of Congress accused Republican colleagues of helping the mob last week scout the building in advance. Some Republican members sidestepped magnetometers intended to keep guns off the House floor or kept going even after setting them off.

“I wish I could give you a wise analogy, but I honestly don’t think anything quite like this has happened before,” said Geoffrey C. Ward, one of the nation’s most venerable historians. “If you’d told me that a president of the United States would have encouraged a delusional mob to march on our Capitol howling for blood, I would have said you were deluded.”

But to the extent that the United States is in need of repair, it is a project that may be overwhelming for any president without a broader consensus across party lines. Mr. Trump may be impeached but he will almost surely finish out the last week of his term and he does not plan to slink away in shame or ignominy as other one-term losers have done, potentially making him a residual force in American life, even if a diminished one.

A Napa Valley resident was vaccinated against Covid-19 on Wednesday. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to announce an expansion of the national vaccine effort.
Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday is expected to outline proposals for trillions of dollars in government spending to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy. The initial focus will be on large-scale expansions of the nation’s vaccination program and virus testing capacity.

Mr. Biden will detail his plans, which he and his economic team have been honing for weeks, in an evening speech in Delaware. The efforts will cover the pandemic, the economy, health care, education, climate change and other domestic priorities, Brian Deese, the incoming director of the National Economic Council, said at the Reuters Next conference on Wednesday.

Top Democrats in Congress have said in recent days that they are preparing for the efforts to span two bills.

Money to complete $2,000 direct payments to individuals and aid to small businesses and local and state governments, components that Mr. Biden has emphasized in recent weeks, will be part of the initial package, Mr. Deese said.

Others briefed on Mr. Biden’s thinking said he would also call for the first piece of legislation to include an extension of supplemental federal unemployment benefits, which are set to expire in March for many workers, and more help for renters.

Plans for the first package also include a significant increase in spending on vaccine deployment, testing and contact tracing, Mr. Deese said, and Mr. Biden will seek enough money to allow most schools to open, in an effort to increase labor force participation.

“We need to get the schools open,” Mr. Deese said, “so that parents, and particularly women, who are being disproportionately hurt in this economy, can get back to work.”

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