Biden’s Nominees Face Hearings as Trump Plans Final Pardons

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President Trump could issue a raft of pardons on his final day in office. 
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

It is the final full day of the Trump administration. Among the final actions for the outgoing administration: a wave of pardons.

As the Trump era draws to a close, lawmakers returned to Washington on Tuesday, many for the first time since the riot of Jan. 6, as a heavily militarized city remained on edge after the fears of widespread violence over the long weekend never materialized.

As Congress returns, the fate of the Senate trial for President Trump’s second impeachment remains unknown, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not indicated when the House will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. Part of the delay stems from a concern that a trial would hamper the start of the Biden administration, where advisers are growing concerned about the sluggish start to confirming his cabinet nominees.

On Tuesday, multiple nominees will deliver testimony before Senate committees, including Alejandro N. Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security, Avril D. Haines for director of national intelligence, Janet Yellen for Treasury secretary, Antony J. Blinken for secretary of state and Lloyd J. Austin III for defense secretary.

The confirmation hearings will happen in an extraordinarily militarized Washington. Troops from around the country continued to pour into the capital. Apprehension gripped the city; a fire near the Capitol on Monday morning prompted a brief lockdown order.

For his final day in office, Mr. Trump is planning a final wave of dozens of pardons, and those under consideration include Sheldon Silver, the disgraced former New York Assembly speaker, and the rapper Lil Wayne. Though he had previously mused about possibly issuing himself a pardon before he departed the White House, Mr. Trump has, for now, set aside the idea.

The size and precise composition of the list is still being determined, but it is expected to cover at least 60 pardons or commutations and perhaps more than 100.

Physically, the president will be cutting his time in Washington short by a few hours. Rather than remain to greet the incoming first family, Mr. Trump will depart Washington early on Wednesday morning and hold a small, separate event for himself at Joint Base Andrews before continuing onto Florida.

The head usher of the White House will greet the Bidens on their arrival.

Lloyd J. Austin III is President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s nominee for secretary of defense. The refusal by Congressional Republicans to recognize Mr. Biden’s victory and the Georgia runoff elections delayed the confirmation of cabinet nominees.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The Senate has a jam-packed schedule of hearings on Tuesday to begin considering President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s nominees for his Cabinet, but the process has been badly delayed, likely making Mr. Biden the first president in decades to take office without his national security team in place on Day 1.

The delay by congressional Republicans in recognizing Mr. Biden’s election victory, coupled with two Georgia runoff elections that left the Senate majority up in the air until Jan. 5, held up confirmation hearings for Mr. Biden’s team. That has made it impossible for the Senate to move quickly to fill top national security posts, including the secretary of defense, a job normally filled immediately after the president takes office to illustrate continuity of American power.

Hearings for five nominees — Lloyd J. Austin III to be secretary of defense; Antony J. Blinken to be secretary of state; Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary; Alejandro N. Mayorkas to be secretary of homeland security; and Avril D. Haines to be director of national intelligence — are scheduled for Tuesday. But it will be difficult for them to get floor votes by Wednesday, after Mr. Biden is sworn in at the Capitol.

The nomination of General Austin, a retired three-star general, to be secretary of defense, faces a double hurdle. The hearing at 3 p.m. on Tuesday is to consider the special waiver he will require to join the Cabinet since he was an active-duty officer within the last seven years — an exception that has yet to be approved by the House and Senate.

Since 1993, the Senate has confirmed the secretary of defense on the first day of a newly inaugurated president as a sign of strength to potential adversaries. Jim Mattis, President Trump’s first secretary of defense, received a similar waiver and was confirmed on the first day of Mr. Trump’s administration on Jan. 20, 2017, along with John Kelly, his first secretary of homeland security.

On President Barack Obama’s first day in office, six cabinet secretaries were confirmed by the Senate. He kept Bob Gates as secretary of defense, a holdover from the Bush administration.

Anticipating the delays, the Biden administration has indicated it will place acting secretaries at the head of most agencies, including an appointee of Mr. Trump, David L. Norquist, at the Pentagon.

Given the unconventional transition, marked by the outgoing administration’s refusal to recognize its defeat, the way Senate Republicans handle the Biden cabinet nominations will provide an early indication of how cooperative they intend to be with the new president. Though nominees are no longer subject to 60-vote filibusters in the Senate, the minority party can still drag out confirmation votes for days even for non-controversial candidates.

Republicans have complained that Democrats subjected Trump nominees to excessive delays, and they might want to return the favor.

Here are the other nominees facing hearings on Tuesday:

  • Mr. Blinken will go before the Foreign Relations Committee, a panel on which he worked as a top aide for six years during the administration of President George W. Bush, at 2 p.m. In prepared comments, a copy of which were shared with The New York Times, Mr. Blinken planned to draw an implicit contrast with the Trump administration’s approach to diplomacy, pledging to revitalize a demoralized State Department, recommit to international alliances and re-establish American leadership in the world with what he called “humility and confidence.”

  • Mr. Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration, is to appear at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel at 10 a.m. to make his case for the top job. If confirmed, he would be tasked with restoring stability to an agency that has been riddled with vacancies and led by a revolving door of acting officials.

  • At the Finance Committee at 10 a.m., Ms. Yellen is expected to tell lawmakers that the United States must “act big” on a robust fiscal stimulus program to get the pandemic-stricken economy back on track, and that now is not the time to worry about the nation’s mounting debt burden, according to a copy of her opening remarks reviewed by The New York Times.

  • Ms. Haines was scheduled at 10 a.m. to face the Intelligence Committee, where she planned to vow to depoliticize the intelligence agencies after four tumultuous years under Mr. Trump.

Jennifer Steinhauer, Lara Jakes, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Alan Rappeport and Julian Barnes contributed reporting.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to honor the victims of the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, the day before he is inaugurated.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday will deliver one last set of remarks from Wilmington, Del., where he has conducted his transition amid a raging pandemic, before heading to Washington on the eve of his inauguration.

Aides to Mr. Biden described his Wilmington remarks as a “send-off” moment ahead of the more formal inaugural events in Washington.

Mr. Biden, a train enthusiast who earned the moniker “Amtrak Joe” for his frequent trips between Washington and Delaware as a senator and vice president, had been planning to take the train to the nation’s capital, but that was scrubbed after discussions with the Secret Service about the security situation in the wake of the attack on the Capitol.

In the evening, the president-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will participate in a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool honoring the nearly 400,000 people who have died during the pandemic. They will be present as 400 lights are turned on around the perimeter of the Reflecting Pool. Each light is meant to represent approximately 1,000 Americans who have perished from the virus.

The somber remembrance will kick off two days of in-person and virtual events as Mr. Biden takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, becoming the 46th president of the United States at a time of economic struggle and cultural upheaval in the wake of President Trump’s four tumultuous years in the White House. When she is sworn in, Ms. Harris will become the nation’s first female vice president.

The event at the Lincoln Memorial will kick off “a national moment of unity” at 5:30 p.m. Eastern that will include similar memorials at the Empire State Building, the Space Needle in Seattle and other landmarks across the country, with events also planned for Mr. Biden’s hometowns, Scranton, Pa., and Wilmington, Del.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, will deliver the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial event. Two acclaimed gospel singers, Yolanda Adams and Lori Marie Key, will perform at the commemoration.

Mr. Biden is expected to spend Tuesday night at Blair House, the presidential guesthouse located across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

A field of flags was planted on the National Mall to represent the thousands of Americans who would normally attend the inauguration.
Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

For 90 minutes on Monday, a swath of the National Mall was illuminated with 56 “pillars of light” and close to 200,000 flags in an art display representing the people who are unable to attend the presidential inauguration because of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictive security measures.

The display represents all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the United States’s five permanently inhabited territories.

Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

According to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inaugural committee, the art display signified a “commitment to an inclusive and safe event that everyone can enjoy from their home.”

Credit…Pool photo by Joe Raedle
Members of the Park Police patrolling the Lincoln Memorial last week.
Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who ran on a platform of addressing the pandemic with competence and compassion, will preside over a national memorial honoring the nearly 400,000 people who have died of the coronavirus shortly after arriving in Washington on Tuesday, his inaugural committee said Monday.

Mr. Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their families plan to participate in the lighting of 400 lights to illuminate the perimeter of the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial in their first stop in the city ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration, the committee said.

Each light is meant to represent the approximately 1,000 Americans who will have perished related to the virus at the time of his swearing-in.

Tuesday’s ceremony will kick off “a national moment of unity” at 5:30 p.m. Eastern that will include similar memorials at the Empire State Building in New York, the Space Needle in Seattle and other landmarks across the country, with events also planned for Mr. Biden’s hometowns of Scranton, Pa., and Wilmington, Del.

The inauguration “represents the beginning of a new national journey — one that renews its commitment to honor its fallen and rise toward greater heights in their honor,” the committee’s chief executive, Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University, said in a statement.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, will deliver the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial event. The gospel singers Yolanda Adams and Lori Marie Key will perform at the commemoration.

In recent days, the committee’s staff has reached out to church and civic leaders around the country to participate in the memorial, with a particular focus on involving Black and Latino communities, which have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

On Sunday, Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, had a dire forecast for the course of the coronavirus outbreak in the new administration’s first weeks, predicting that half a million Americans will have died from the coronavirus by the end of February. The current death toll is nearing 400,000 and on Monday, the United States surpassed 24 million cases of the virus.

“The virus is going to get worse before it gets better,” Mr. Klain said in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “People who are contracting the virus today will start to get sick next month, will add to the death toll in late February, even March, so it’s going to take awhile to turn this around.”

On Friday, federal health officials warned of a fast-spreading, far more contagious variant of the virus that is projected to become the dominant source of infection in the country by March, potentially fueling another wrenching surge of cases and deaths.

William P. Barr, center, the former attorney general, said in an interview that the government “cannot tolerate violence interfering with the process of government.”
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

William P. Barr, the former attorney general, said in an interview that was broadcast on Monday night that doubts raised about the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election results “precipitated the riot” at the Capitol this month. But he would not say whether he believed that President Trump had incited the mob that ransacked the building, instead blaming free-speech issues and the news media.

Mr. Barr, who stepped down last month after pushing back on Mr. Trump’s false claims that the election had been stolen from him, told the British news channel ITV that it was “unacceptable” that a pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol building and disrupted proceedings to certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory.

The government “cannot tolerate violence interfering with the process of government,” Mr. Barr said. He called the riots that resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer, “despicable.”

But Mr. Barr did not discuss the role that he played in undermining the integrity of the election. He had spent months sowing concerns that the results would be rife with fraud because of the rise in the number of people voting by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In public remarks before the election, Mr. Barr was among the most vocal opponents of mail-in ballots, a voting method used disproportionately by Democrats. Rather than offering proof that mail-in ballots encouraged fraud, he justified his claims by saying they were based on “common sense.”

“I don’t have empirical evidence other than the fact that we’ve always had voting fraud,” Mr. Barr said in September.

His comments set the groundwork for Mr. Trump’s false claims that Mr. Biden was not the rightful winner.

In the days after the election, Mr. Barr was silent on the issue, and he did not correct his earlier claims about fraud or encourage the public to accept the results. By the time he acknowledged in December that the Justice Department had found no evidence of voting fraud on a scale that could have affected the outcome, his earlier theories about election interference had metastasized.

In his ITV interview, Mr. Barr was unwilling to discuss any role that Mr. Trump might have played in the mob attack. “I leave it to the people who are looking into the genesis of this to say whether incitement was involved,” he said, not naming his former boss.

Mr. Barr also seemed to back away from a stronger statement he had made the day after the riot, when he told The Associated Press that Mr. Trump’s conduct was a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”

“Orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable,” Mr. Barr told The A.P.

In a nod to longstanding complaints by conservatives that social media companies unfairly censor them, Mr. Barr also told ITV that “the suppression of free speech” was to blame for the riot. He said some people might resort to violence when they “lose confidence in the media.”

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The former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen testifies at the Senate Finance Committee hearing on her nomination to be Treasury secretary.CreditCredit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

Janet Yellen, nominated to be the next Treasury secretary, is one of a handful of nominees of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. who are testifying before senators on Tuesday.

Ms. Yellen’s opening remarks to the Senate Finance Committee, reviewed by The New York Times, showed she will push for a robust fiscal stimulus program to get the pandemic-stricken economy back on track and that now is not the time to worry about the nation’s mounting debt burden.

The confirmation process for Ms. Yellen, a seasoned economist and central banker who served as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, is expected to be a relatively smooth one.

“This is the worst economic crisis in 100 years, and nobody is better qualified than Secretary-designate Yellen to lead an economic recovery,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who will become the Finance Committee chairman when Democrats take control of the Senate.

And Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, currently Republican chairman of the Finance Committee, has spoken positively of Ms. Yellen since Mr. Biden picked her for the job.

Ms. Yellen, who was confirmed to be Fed chair by a Senate vote of 56 to 26, is likely to face questions about the country’s economic relationship with China, her position on sanctions policy as it relates to Iran and her thoughts on tax policy.

Helping to craft and oversee the Biden administration’s economic relief efforts will initially be her top priority, but Ms. Yellen will also steer the government’s sprawling regulatory power over banks and the financial sector. At the hearing, she will be under pressure to show Democrats and progressive groups that she is ready to end what they view as the coddling of Wall Street by Steven Mnuchin, the outgoing Treasury secretary.

Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Rachel Levine, spoke at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa., in May.
Credit…Joe Hermitt/The Patriot-News, via Associated Press

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has tapped Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Rachel Levine, to be assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services. She would be the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate.

Mr. Biden has pledged to transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the United States and around the world that he will fight for their safety and dignity. His promise stands in stark contrast to the efforts of the Trump administration, which over the past four years has chipped away at protections.

In her current position, Dr. Levine has led Pennsylvania’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their ZIP code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Mr. Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Under President Trump, Adm. Brett P. Giroir has held the position of assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services and led the country’s Covid-19 testing efforts. Ahead of the holidays in December, Admiral Giroir encouraged people to avoid traveling if possible and to wear face masks — a position that has been mocked by Mr. Trump.

National Guard soldiers preparing to provide security at the Capitol on Inauguration Day. 
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The Pentagon is intensifying efforts to identify and combat white supremacy and other far-right extremism in its ranks as federal investigators seek to determine how many military personnel and veterans joined the violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The F.B.I. investigation into the Capitol siege, still in its very early stages, has identified at least six suspects with military links out of the more than 100 people who have been taken into federal custody or the larger number still under investigation. They include a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Texas, an Army officer from North Carolina and an Army reservist from New Jersey. Another person with military service was shot and killed in the assault.

The military’s examination of its ranks marks a new urgency for the Pentagon, which has a history of downplaying the rise of white nationalism and right-wing activism, even as Germany and other countries are finding a deep strain embedded in their armed forces.

Federal officials are vetting thousands of National Guard troops arriving to help secure the inauguration. Of the 21,500 Guard personnel who had arrived in Washington by Monday, any who will be near President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive additional background checks, a standard procedure to counter insider threats that was also taken before President Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

Defense Department officials say they are looking into stepping up the monitoring of social media postings from service members, in much the way companies do with their employees.

Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed trying to climb through a door in the Capitol, was an Air Force veteran with a robust social media presence.

The reckoning at the Pentagon comes as retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III is poised to become the nation’s first Black defense secretary, an ascension that, depending on how General Austin decides to proceed, could either sharpen or blur the American military’s decades-long battles with racial inequality and white supremacy. General Austin’s confirmation hearings begin on Tuesday, and lawmakers will most likely press him on how he plans to tackle extremism in the ranks.

A message that Trump supporters left in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. 
Credit…Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Two people involved in the January 6 assault on the Capitol this month turned themselves into police on Monday — Riley June Williams, a Pennsylvania woman accused of taking a laptop from the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and Emanuel Jackson, who is accused of striking police officers with a metal baseball bat. Both were caught on video.

According to a complaint filed by the Justice Department, Ms. Williams, 22, was seen taking “a laptop computer or hard drive” from Ms. Pelosi’s office, drawing accusations of unlawful entry, disrupting the conduct of government business and disorderly conduct.

Credit…FBI, via Reuters

A former boyfriend of Ms. Williams contacted the F.B.I. to identify her in videos recorded during the attack. According to the court filing, he told the F.B.I. that she had intended to sell the laptop to a friend in Russia, who hoped to sell it to Russia’s foreign intelligence service. He also told the F.B.I. that the sale had fallen through.

Michael R. Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, has said that the break-in posed a national security risk because rioters had stolen computers, hard drives and files from the offices of lawmakers.

Local law enforcement agents in Harrisburg, Pa., told the F.B.I. that Ms. Williams’s father had told them he drove with her to Washington to protest the election results, and that they returned to Pennsylvania together after splitting up during the day.

Her mother told local law enforcement officers that she had since fled, and the police discovered that after the attack she had changed her telephone number and deleted what seemed to be her social media accounts, the F.B.I. said in the court filing.

Credit…Federal Bureau of Investigation

Mr. Jackson, one of the first people who stormed through the doorway of the Senate wing entrance of the Capitol building, was caught on video “making a fist and repeatedly striking a U.S. Capitol Police officer,” according to the complaint. At the time, uniformed police officers were trying to restrain a crowd that was breaking into the building’s windows and doors.

Two hours later, Mr. Jackson, carrying a military-style backpack while wearing a black sweatshirt and blue surgical mask, was seen on video footage again using a metal baseball bat to hit a row of police officers who were holding up Plexiglass shields. He faces five federal charges, including assaulting an officer with a deadly weapon.

When Mr. Jackson turned himself in to the Metropolitan Police Department on Monday, he identified himself in the video footage and confessed to participating in the violence, according to the F.B.I.

A lawyer for Mr. Jackson could not immediately be identified.

New York City’s transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg speaking during a press conference in New York in 2019.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Almost two months after resigning as New York City’s transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg has been nominated to become deputy secretary of the Transportation Department in the Biden administration.

Ms. Trottenberg led the city’s transportation efforts for seven years, including overseeing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic fatalities. She expanded the city’s bike and bus lanes, including the launch of the successful 14th Street busway in Manhattan. During the pandemic, she oversaw the city’s open streets program, which has reshaped the streetscape by closing off once car congested streets for walking, biking, and outdoor dining.

But Ms. Trottenberg has also faced pressure from transportation advocates and others who have complained that the city has not done enough to ensure street safety, especially as cycling deaths soared in recent years, and has not gone far enough to reimagine how the city’s 6,000 miles of streets could be used more efficiently to address growing congestion.

Ms. Trottenberg, who has been on President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s transportation transition team, would serve under Pete Buttigieg, the former presidential candidate who has been nominated as Transportation secretary. She previously served as an assistant secretary for transportation policy and under secretary for policy in the Obama administration.

“Our nation needs a safe, equitable and environmentally sustainable transportation system that creates jobs and supports economic recovery,” Ms. Trottenberg tweeted Monday, adding that she looked forward to working alongside Mr. Buttigieg and the federal transportation agency “to build back better.”

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