January 19, 2022

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Trump Impeachment and Biden Transition: Live Updates and Analysis – The New York Times

25 min read
Representative Liz Cheney had issued a scathing statement the day before the impeachment vote repudiating President Trump.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

A group of President Trump’s most strident allies in the House is calling on Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, to resign from her leadership post after she voted to impeach Mr. Trump, dramatizing the bitter rifts within the party and setting up a messy internal feud that could define its future.

Members of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, including the chairman, Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, as well as Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida, are circulating a petition calling on Ms. Cheney to step down from her role as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, arguing that her vote to impeach Mr. Trump had “brought the conference into disrepute and produced discord.”

Ms. Cheney was one of 10 Republicans to break with the party on Wednesday and vote to charge the president with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in urging on a mob that stormed the Capitol.

“One of those 10 cannot be our leader,” Mr. Gaetz said in an interview on Fox News’s “Hannity” on Wednesday evening. “It is untenable, unsustainable, and we need to make a leadership change.”

Ms. Cheney has brushed aside calls to step down, saying that she was “not going anywhere” and calling her break with Mr. Trump “a vote of conscience.” Several Republicans, including some members of the Freedom Caucus, have begun to circle the wagons around her.

Others in the party who have been critics of the president have also rushed to her defense.

“Liz has more support now than she did two days ago,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who also voted to impeach Mr. Trump. “She has gained immeasurable respect.”

Mr. Kinzinger suggested that it was Republicans like Mr. Jordan who should be shoved aside in the wake of the siege and the impeachment it prompted.

“Since the discussion is opened, though, we may have to also have a discussion about who in our party fomented this, and their roles as ranking members,” he said.

The debate over Ms. Cheney’s leadership post reflects the deep fractures in the Republican Party over Mr. Trump, who has demanded total loyalty from his party and, up until recently, largely received it.

While prominent figures have recoiled from Mr. Trump’s incendiary brand of politics in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, worrying that it could spell ruin for their party, a large minority faction — many of them in the House — remains unwilling to abandon him. Republicans are scrambling to determine the political consequences of doing so, and whether they would pay a steeper political price for breaking with the president or for failing to.

Senate Republicans are facing just such a dilemma as they contemplate how to vote in an impeachment trial that could start as early as next week.

Both Representatives Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the minority whip, voted against impeaching Mr. Trump, though Mr. McCarthy said the president bore responsibility for the siege and deserved a censure.

Ms. Cheney, by contrast, had issued a scathing statement the day before the impeachment vote in which she said: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

But she chose not to speak during debate on the House floor. Many Democrats — who have long reviled her and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney — quoted her approvingly in their own speeches.

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.

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 a $1.9 trillion spending package to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy, with an initial focus on large-scale expansions of the nation’s vaccination program and virus testing capacity, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Mr. Biden will detail his proposal, 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.

The first package, which will be the focus of Thursday’s speech, will include 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. That will come in the form of additional $1,400 stimulus checks, topping up the $600 checks that Congress approved in December.

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.”

Fallout roundup

National Guard troops deployed to the U.S. Capitol prepare to head out for a shift change on Thursday.
Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

With less than a week to go before the presidential inauguration, the police force charged with protecting the grounds of the Capitol is in crisis, as law enforcement agencies across the city brace for more potentially violent gatherings, based on intelligence reviewed in recent days.

The chief of the Capitol Police and two other top security officials resigned after an angry mob of Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol last week.

Three officers have been suspended, and 17 more are under investigation, according to a senior Congressional aide, including an officer who took selfies with people in the crowd and another who wore a “Make America Great Again” Trump hat and directed rioters into the Capitol.

And lawmakers have demanded a full investigation into what some have referred to as a “severe systemic failure.”

While the Capitol Police force is not charged with overseeing the inauguration security plan — the Secret Service has that role — the department plays a key role in securing the event, along with other federal law enforcement agencies and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Currently, the Capitol complex, which is usually a bevy of activity, is cut off from its surroundings by National Guard troops and an imposing backdrop of seven-foot-tall, unscalable fencing.

Here are other developments in the fallout from the Capitol siege:

  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the House on Thursday to award Eugene Goodman, a Capitol Police officer, the Congressional Gold Medal because of his efforts to keep the violent mob of Trump supporters from accessing the Senate last week. Mr. Goodman was captured on video running up the stairs in the Capitol.

  • The F.B.I. has warned police departments across the country to be on high alert for extremist activity and violence in their communities ahead of the inauguration next week. It also cautioned law enforcement agencies to look for armed militias and extremists who want to trigger a race war.

  • The Pentagon is sending armed National Guard troops to the Capitol complex ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. next week. The decision by top department officials was not taken lightly.

  • The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency, signaled that it would look into what role, if any, members of Congress may have played in inciting the mob of Trump supporters who breached metal barricades and shattered windows on Jan. 6, seeking to overturn the results of the election.

  • A group of D.C. community organizations, including the city’s Black Lives Matter chapter, called on area hotels to close in the lead-up to the inauguration, in a signal to Trump supporters that “White supremacists are NOT WELCOME in D.C.!”

  • The Girl Scouts of Greater New York announced this week that they were trying to get out of a 15-year lease in a Manhattan building owned by the Trump Organization. Meridith Maskara, chief executive of the Girl Scouts chapter, said it was “a matter of very high priority.”

  • A member of the Arizona House of Representatives filed a formal ethics complaint against another member who participated in the protest last Wednesday. Representative César Chávez, a Democrat, called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Representative Mark Finchem, a Republican, and to recommend Mr. Finchem’s expulsion “should it find that he supported the violent overthrow of our government.”

Kevin Seefried has been identified as having carried a Confederate flag into the Capitol during the siege last week.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A man who was photographed holding a Confederate battle flag inside the U.S. Capitol last week during the riot was arrested Thursday in Delaware, two law enforcement officials said. The man, Kevin Seefried, was wanted by the F.B.I., which had sought help from the public to identify him and had widely circulated a dispatch plastered with images of him.

In a bulletin, the agency said that it was looking for assistance to identify individuals “who made unlawful entry” into the Capitol, including the man with the Confederate flag, now identified by The New York Times as Mr. Seefried.

According to court documents, Mr. Seefried and his son, Hunter Seefried, were identified after the F.B.I. received a report from a co-worker of Hunter Seefried that said that the man had bragged about being in the Capitol with his father on January 6.

Mr. Seefried’s son was also charged.

The F.B.I. had received more than 126,000 photographic and video tips as of earlier this week, as agents also scrubbed airline passenger manifests and video of air travelers to and from Washington to find potential suspects. The top federal prosecutor in Washington said this week that he expected the number of people charged with crimes tied to the Capitol riot to rise into the hundreds.

On Wednesday, federal agents made more arrests in New York, Maryland, Texas and Florida, among them a firefighter from the town of Sanford, near Orlando.

A retired firefighter from Chester, Pa., was also arrested on Thursday after he was identified as the man seen in a video throwing a fire extinguisher at police officers during the riot. The man, Robert Sanford, is charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of official duties and civil disorder among other crimes.

Mr. Sanford went to the Capitol following “the president’s instructions,” a complaining witness told the F.B.I.

Jaime Harrison delivered his concession speech on election night in November in Columbia, S.C. He had been seeking to unseat Senator Lindsey Graham.
Credit…Cameron Pollack for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to name Jaime Harrison to lead the Democratic National Committee, according to two people with knowledge of the selection.

A former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Mr. Harrison became a national political star last year as he shattered fund-raising records in his race against Senator Lindsey Graham. While Mr. Harrison lost in November, drawing 44 percent of the vote to Mr. Graham’s 55 percent, he developed a broad bench of support across the party.

He is also well-known to staff and members of the D.N.C., a result of his work heading the South Carolina state party and a failed bid to become chairman of the committee in 2017. (Tom Perez, the outgoing D.N.C. chair, won that race but has opted against running for a second term.) Mr. Harrison has been championed by Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, an influential Biden ally who helped the president-elect win the primary race in Mr. Clyburn’s home state.

Incoming presidents traditionally take control of the party committees, installing their own chair and staffers. Former President Barack Obama chose to try to establish his own political operation outside of the committee, a decision that many D.N.C. members say damaged state parties and led to years of dysfunction at the national level.

Far more of a party institutionalist, Mr. Biden has promised to rebuild state parties and deepen investments in the committee.

Democrats are navigating a deeply uncertain political landscape. Even before the attack on the U.S. Capitol scrambled American politics, Democrats anticipated difficult House and Senate midterm races in 2022 — the president’s party usually loses seats in such elections — and the possibility that Mr. Biden, who will become the oldest president in U.S. history on Wednesday, may decide not to run for a second term.

John F. Kirby, a retired Navy rear admiral, will be the Biden administration’s Pentagon spokesman.
Credit…Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

A low-profile deputy defense secretary will be the lone Trump holdover running the Pentagon until President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s defense secretary pick is confirmed, according to transition officials. Mr. Biden is also planning to install John F. Kirby — the former spokesman for John Kerry when he was secretary of state, Chuck Hagel when he was defense secretary and Mike Mullen when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — as the next Pentagon press secretary.

David L. Norquist, who is now the No. 2 civilian at the Pentagon, will be Mr. Biden’s first acting defense secretary — if only for a few days — transition officials said Wednesday. The transition team has been pushing to get Mr. Biden’s choice for the top post, a retired Army four-star general, Lloyd J. Austin III, confirmed as soon as possible. But unlike the other top national security nominees on the Biden team, Mr. Austin will have to jump through three Congressional hoops before he is confirmed. The Senate and House must approve a waiver for him to serve at the helm of the Pentagon since he has not been retired from military service at least seven years, and then he must be confirmed by the Senate.

Mr. Biden has decided that instead of bypassing Mr. Norquist and plucking Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to run the Pentagon until there is a confirmed defense secretary, he will adhere to standard tradition. Under federal law, a confirmed deputy secretary automatically assumes the duties of the secretary during an absence. The decision to keep Mr. Norquist until a defense secretary is confirmed was first reported by Politico.

Mr. Kirby, for his part, is a veteran government public affairs officer and a respected figure at the Pentagon. A retired Navy rear admiral, Mr. Kirby made a jump from the Pentagon to the State Department in 2015, and worked closely with Mr. Kerry during the Iran nuclear negotiations and for the last two years of the Obama administration.

Mr. Kirby worked with Mr. Austin when they were both on the Joint Staff under Admiral Mullen, during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

He also spent a year as the Pentagon spokesman under Mr. Hagel, and has been the spokesman for the Navy as well as for retired Admiral Mullen when he was chairman.

Representative Adriano Espaillat speaking in Washington last year. Mr. Espaillat announced on Thursday he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Credit…Pool photo by Jacquelyn Martin

Representative Adriano Espaillat, Democrat of New York, announced on Thursday he had tested positive for the coronavirus, as concerns continue to mount on Capitol Hill that efforts to corral lawmakers into secure locations during last week’s siege by Trump supporters may have led to a super-spreader event.

Mr. Espaillat, 66, who received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week, said he was not experiencing any symptoms and that he was isolating at home. In a statement, he said he understood that it took time for the vaccine to be fully effective and that he had continued to take all necessary precautions. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that people who test positive for the virus should isolate for at least 10 days after their symptoms start.

The two vaccines cleared for emergency use in the United States, made by Pfizer and Moderna, were shown in clinical trials to be about 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic cases of Covid-19. But neither vaccine is perfect, and researchers remain unsure of how well the shots curb the ability of the virus to silently infect people. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two injections, separated by three or four weeks, and they aren’t believed to fully kick in until about a week or two after a person receives the second shot.

Capitol Hill has long struggled to control the spread of the pandemic within its marble walls, a haphazard effort exacerbated last week as hundreds of maskless Trump supporters stormed the building and forced lawmakers to shelter in confined secure locations across the Capitol complex. Lawmakers, aides and reporters who took shelter in two separate rooms on both sides of the Capitol have been warned about possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Though cases have continued to emerge since the 117th Congress was sworn in nearly two weeks ago, House Democrats have blamed a group of their Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks during the attack while waiting in a secure location for law enforcement to regain control of the building.

Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, and Brad Schneider, Democrat of Illinois, have all tested positive in the aftermath of the attack and cited the Republican refusal to wear masks during the siege. Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, is in isolation after her husband, who was with her in the room, tested positive, and in a statement said the diagnoses were a consequence of “my callous Republican colleagues” who refused to wear masks.

In response to those accusations and concerns about the spread of the virus on Capitol Hill, the House earlier this week approved a fine system for members who refuse to adhere to a mask mandate on the floor.

It was unclear whether Mr. Espaillat took shelter in the secure room. But on Wednesday, he was among the lawmakers who spoke on the House floor — while wearing a mask — before voting to impeach President Trump for the second time.

Mr. Espaillat noted that the colleagues who had tested positive in recent days “collectively occupy a range of gender, ages, races and ethnicities.”

“Covid-19 does not discriminate,” he said. “It is incumbent on each of us to prioritize social distancing from one another — even if that poses a temporary inconvenience — and wear a face mask. There is no singular panacea and we must adjust our daily habits and practices for our own health and safety as well as the health and safety of those around us and throughout our communities.”

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.

Secret Service agents stood in front of an Amtrak train that Joseph R. Biden Jr. was set to ride while campaigning in September. Mr. Biden, now the president-elect, will no longer take Amtrak to his inauguration.
Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has canceled plans to ride Amtrak to Washington for his inauguration next week, a reflection of intense security concerns around the event following last week’s riot at the Capitol.

As a senator, Mr. Biden commuted by Amtrak train from his home state of Delaware for decades, and became a public champion of the government-subsidized rail service. He kicked off his 1988 presidential campaign from the back of an Amtrak train and rode one home on his final day as vice president in 2017.

He had hoped to recreate the everyman journey one more time for his swearing in. But after a briefing from F.B.I. and Secret Service officials on inauguration security concerns, Mr. Biden’s team agreed that the 90-minute train ride should be called off, according to a person familiar with the decision.

“The nation has continued to learn more about the threat to our democracy and about the potential for additional violence in the coming days, both in the National Capital Region and in cities across the country,” the transition team said in a statement after the briefing on Wednesday. “This is a challenge that the president-elect and his team take incredibly seriously.”

Federal and local officials have warned of the prospect of extremist activity in Washington and around the country in the coming days. Mr. Biden had already been planning a muted inaugural given the public health risk of mass gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the traditional gatherings and festivities will occur digitally during the day, and a prime-time special will air on television stream online Wednesday night.

Mr. Biden still plans to take the oath of office outside the Capitol. Earlier this week he said that he was “not afraid” to do so.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said he would move quickly in his new role to push through a robust and deficit-financed economic stimulus package.
Credit…Elizabeth Frantz for The New York Times

As the incoming chairman of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders will have a central role in shaping and steering the Democrats’ tax and spending plans through a Congress that they control with the slimmest of margins.

Mr. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and twice ran unsuccessfully for the party’s presidential nomination, said he would move quickly in his new role to push through a robust and deficit-financed economic stimulus package soon after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office.

“I believe that the crisis is of enormous severity and we’ve got to move as rapidly as we can,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview.

“Underline the word aggressive,” he said. “Start out there.”

Mr. Sanders is expected to exert heavy influence over taxes, health care, climate change and several other domestic issues. That is because his role as budget chairman will give him control over a little-known but incredibly powerful congressional tool that allows certain types of legislation to win Senate approval with just a simple majority.

That tool — a budget mechanism called reconciliation — allows Congress to move some legislation without gaining 60 votes. It has become the vehicle for several major legislative efforts this century, including tax cuts under President Trump and President George W. Bush, and the final version of President Barack Obama’s signature health care bill.

The reconciliation process begins with lawmakers adopting a budget resolution, originating in the House and Senate Budget Committees, which can include directions to congressional committees on how much to increase federal spending or taxes.

The nature of the process gives Mr. Sanders a leading role in deciding how expansive — and expensive — Mr. Biden’s ambitions for new taxes and spending will be.

Julia Letlow said she would run to represent Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District.
Credit…Julia Letlow for Congress

Julia Letlow, the wife of Representative-elect Luke Letlow, a Louisiana Republican who died of complications from Covid-19 days before he was to be sworn in, will seek the open seat in an upcoming special election.

Ms. Letlow will run as a Republican to represent Louisiana’s Fifth District, which covers the conservative northeastern part of the state. Her husband died on Dec. 29 at the age of 41 after suffering from a “cardiac condition” while hospitalized with the virus. His death came just weeks after he won the seat vacated by his former boss, Representative Ralph Abraham.

“Everything in my life and in my marriage has prepared me for this moment,” Ms. Letlow wrote in a statement on Thursday. “My motivation is the passion Luke and I both shared: to better this region that we called home and to leave it a better place for our children and future generations.”

Mr. Letlow, a longtime Republican aide, backed social distancing measures and the wearing of masks during his campaign, though photos from his social media accounts also showed him campaigning indoors without masks at times. He also argued for the loosening of some coronavirus restrictions when infections ebbed over the summer.

Ms. Letlow, who lives in Richland Parish, currently serves as the director of external relations and strategic communications at the University of Louisiana in Monroe.

Her entrance into the nonpartisan election on March 20 was widely anticipated and may discourage other Republicans who had been mulling a run from entering the race.

She is likely to face Allen Guillory Sr., a Republican from Opelousas, who tallied under 10 percent in the Nov. 3 election, and Sandra “Candy” Christophe, a Democrat from Alexandria who announced last week she would run.

Ms. Letlow has been active in Louisiana Republican politics for years and was selected for her university job, in part, to provide “insight into strategies and alliances” that would be helpful for the school during its interactions with elected officials, her online biography said.

“I am running to continue the mission Luke started — to stand up for our Christian values, to fight for our rural agricultural communities and to deliver real results to move our state forward,” she said in her statement.

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.

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