What to Know in Washington: Democrats Use Video, Trump’s Words

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House prosecutors used the second day of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to detail a months-long campaign by the former president to stoke hatred and encourage violence over the election results that they said culminated in the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol that he then did little to stop.

Using previously unreleased videos and audio, the Democratic lawmakers vividly showed senators how close the rioters who ransacked the Capitol came to reaching them, as well as then-Vice President Mike Pence. Senators in the chamber listened in rapt silence as the recordings played.

The impeachment managers, who will wrap up their case today, depicted the assault as not only foreseeable but the intended result of a multitude of actions calculated to incite Trump’s followers. The strategy appeared designed to rebut defense efforts to cast his fiery speech before the assault as normal political hyperbole, and persuade the public that his actions were premeditated and cynical.

The step-by-step timeline House impeachment managers offered set the Jan. 6 violence in the context of months of Trump tweets inflaming tensions even before the election. It was, they said, a “big lie” of baseless claims of election fraud, armed intimidation of state and local election officials, and violence at demonstrations in Washington in December. They stressed Trump’s role in promoting the rally on the day of the electoral count, the timing of his speech just ahead of the congressional session and his remarks pointing the crowd toward the Capitol. Read more from Mike Dorning, Mark Niquette and Steven T. Dennis.

Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
Video footage from the Jan. 6 riots was played on a screen near the Capitol on Wednesday.

Trump Team Hopes ‘Peacefully and Patriotically’ Will Be a Shield: Trump’s defense team will present their opening arguments tomorrow, and the proceedings could finish with a verdict by the weekend.

Trump’s impeachment team intends to lean heavily on his use of the words “peacefully and patriotically” in a Jan. 6 speech as part of his defense against the charge that the former president incited a mob of supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol, according to people familiar with the effort. The former president’s defenders are also assembling over a dozen videos with what they hope will be a stronger argument after a rambling presentation during the first day of the trial, the people said. Jennifer Jacobs and Mark Niquette have more.

Stimulus Work Continues

Panel Will Consider $5 Billion for Energy, Water Assistance: The House Energy and Commerce Committee today will mark up its recommendations for Democrats’ Covid-19 relief package, which includes a proposed $5 billion in energy and water assistance during the pandemic for needy ratepayers. The provision would direct $4.5 billion to the Health and Human Services Department for home energy assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as well as $500 million to HHS for aid related to drinking water payments and wastewater expenses. The recommendations also include $50 million to the EPA for environmental justice grants, Kellie Lunney reports.

The Ways and Means and Financial Services committees will resume their markups today, while the Veterans’ Affairs Committee is also set to meet. Several committees late yesterday advanced their measures:

  • Transportation: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced by a vote of 39 to 25 a proposal with more than $40 billion in aid for the transportation sector as part of House Democrats’ Covid-19 stimulus package. The measure would provide $30 billion for transit, $8 billion for U.S. airports, $3 billion for aviation manufacturing jobs, and $1.5 billion for Amtrak, Lillianna Byington reports.
  • Agriculture: The House Agriculture Committee approved a $16 billion measure focused on food purchases, nutrition aid, and supply chain assistance last night as part of House Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Megan Boyanton reports. The bill, approved by a vote of 25 to 23, will now advance to House floor with a vote possible during the week of Feb. 22. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) broke with her caucus to approve an amendment by Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) that would add payments for crop losses due to natural disasters, including high winds and derechos, to the bill.
  • Small Business: The House Small Business Committee approved $50 billion in emergency pandemic aid for small businesses, John Harney reports. “Surveys show that one in three small business owners will not survive the next few months without additional financial support,” the committee’s chair, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said in the statement. The legislation, according to the statement, would provide $25 billion for restaurants and bars under a new Small Business Administration program, and $15 billion for “economic injury disaster” loans.

Wyden Invokes Powell in Pushing Jobless Aid: Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) invoked comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell yesterday regarding the weak state of the U.S. job market in calling for a lengthier period of enhanced unemployment benefits. “We are still very far from a strong labor market whose benefits are broadly shared,” Powell said. Wyden said his comment “reiterates the need for the strongest possible benefits package in our Covid relief bill.” Erik Wasson and Laura Davison have more.

Aid Checks Going Into Savings: Biden has promised to “act fast” in delivering another dose of pandemic relief, including $1,400 checks for millions of Americans. That doesn’t mean all the recipients will be in a hurry to spend the money. By comparison with the first round of stimulus checks that went out last spring, the payments from Biden’s $1.9 trillion aid bill are much more likely to be saved rather than spent, according to a new survey by Morning Consult commissioned by Bloomberg News. Read more from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Julia Fanzeres.

Assembling the New Administration

Biden Faces Pandemic Without Key Health Officials: Biden is fighting his war against the coronavirus shorthanded, as delays in the Senate and by his own White House have left several top U.S. health posts unfilled. Biden’s team lacks a confirmed Health and Human Services secretary and surgeon general. And the president has yet to name permanent heads for the Food and Drug Administration, which approves vaccines, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the government’s two large health programs for elderly, disabled and low-income people. Other roles are also unfilled.

The holes threaten to hamper the U.S.’s rebound from the virus and undermine one of the biggest promises of Biden’s campaign. The logjam rests in large part in the Senate, which has found scant time to confirm Biden’s key nominees as lawmakers haggled over how to split power and are now contending with the impeachment trial. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

White House Officials Back Cook for Fed Board: Economist Lisa Cook has the backing of several key White House officials and allies outside the administration as a possible choice for Biden in filling a vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, according to people familiar with the matter. Cook, who teaches at Michigan State University, is also on the steering committee of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a think tank co-founded by White House adviser Heather Boushey. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was previously on the steering committee.

Biden has not weighed in on choices for filling the one current vacancy on the Fed board and the White House has not contacted Cook for the job specifically, the people said on the condition of anonymity. No announcement is imminent, they added. Read more from Saleha Mohsin.

  • Separately, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said he has nothing but affection for his work, suggesting that the 68-year-old central banker could be open to a second term if asked. “I love my job,” he said yesterday, answering a question about whether being the world’s most powerful central banker was fun. “It’s a chance to do work that I think helps people.” Powell serves at the president’s discretion. Read more from Steve Matthews.

NSC’s Neuberger Leads Hacking Response: White House Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger is leading the U.S. response to the sprawling cyberattack on the government and private sector that was launched by suspected Russian hackers last year. Neuberger, who led the National Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Directorate before joining the Biden White House, has a series of responsibilities in responding to the hack, said a spokesperson for the National Security Council. Read more from Alyza Sebenius.

  • The cyber attack on a Florida water treatment facility stands as a stark reminder of the risks to the country’s critical infrastructure even as the agency tasked with protecting it is underfunded, according to a former agency head’s testimony to Congress yesterday. Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told the House Homeland Security Committee yesterday that CISA’s budget while he was director left “very little” for engaging on critical infrastructure, Shaun Courtney reports.

Also From the White House

White House Meeting With Senators on Infrastructure: Later this morning, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet at the White House with senators from both parties on investing in modern and sustainable infrastructure. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will join virtually.

Biden, Xi Talk of ‘Unfair Economic Practices’: Joe Biden, in his first conversation as president with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, spoke of his concern about China’s “coercive and unfair economic practices” as well as human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, according to a White House account of their telephone call last night. Biden also expressed misgivings about the country’s growing restrictions on political freedoms in Hong Kong and “increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” in the call, which took place Thursday morning Beijing time.

Biden, who wished Xi a happy Lunar New Year, was “committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies,” the White House said. Read more from Peter Martin, Saleha Mohsin, Nick Wadhams and Jenny Leonard.

Biden Seeks More Foreign Workers: Biden’s immigration overhaul seeks to allow more skilled foreign workers into the U.S. without stirring widespread protest from labor groups, whose opposition would all but ruin prospects for what is already one of the president’s most precarious priorities. Business groups view Biden’s proposal as a way to increase the supply of coders and other skilled tech workers for U.S. companies without raising caps on programs such as the H-1B visa for high-skilled workers. Read more from Jordan Fabian and Genevieve Douglas.

Trump-Era Visa Bans Under Biden Review: Lawyers for the Justice Department told a federal court yesterday that the Biden administration is still reviewing Trump-era travel bans that bar certain visa holders from entering the U.S. “The agencies are considering their options,” DOJ lawyer Thomas Benton York told U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. Genevieve Douglas has more.

U.S. Bans Housing Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation: The U.S. government said it will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the Fair Housing Act and investigate complaints against gay, nonbinary, trans and other LGBTQ individuals dating back to Jan. 20, 2020 — retroactive for one year under the current statute of limitations. As part of this new remit, the Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to pursue and investigate complaints from tenants, homebuyers and others who say that they have been subject to discrimination on those grounds, the agency said in a statement today. Read more from Kriston Capps.

Chip Industry Urges Biden on Domestic Production: The chief executive officers of chip companies including Intel, Qualcomm and Advanced Micro Devices urged Biden to support domestic production and stop the country from losing its edge in innovation. The Semiconductor Industry Association sent a letter today to Biden to include “substantial funding for incentives for semiconductor manufacturing, in the form of grants and/or tax credits” in his administration’s stimulus package. Read more from Ian King.

With assistance from Brandon Lee, Shaun Courtney, and Megan R. Wilson

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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