The Hill's Morning Report - An inauguration like no other




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday, Inauguration eve! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 397,600; Tuesday, 399,003.


The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States surpassed 24 million.

The world’s most prominently troubled democracy has choreographed a flag-waving, high-alert transfer of power this week featuring a Democrat who won the White House on his third try and who wants to be a uniter, and the twice-impeached Republican president who, even during a deadly pandemic, chose to be a divider.


As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports, Wednesday’s inauguration of Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE as the 46th president will take the swearing-in ceremony to a new place in history. It will be distanced from the American people by the coronavirus, a troop presence in the nation’s capital that is larger than in Afghanistan, and an embittered, defeated President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE, who will be a no-show at the Capitol at noon on Wednesday. Air Force One will fly Trump to Florida hours before his successor recites the oath of office.


Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisRick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border Head of Border Patrol resigning from post Migrant children face alarming conditions in US shelter: BBC investigation MORE pick up the reins amid grand ambitions and faced with a daunting inventory of national and international problems, most of which will not be entirely fixed in 100 days or perhaps 1,400 more. 


The Hill: Biden faces a monumental task to heal a divided country.


Niall Stanage, The Memo: Biden prepares for a sea of challenges.


Biden begins his term with two-thirds of the public approving of his handling of the transition, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. It serves as pushback to the thousands of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol during a melee on Jan. 6 that left five people dead. It’s also a level of public support Trump never achieved during his term; his job approval plummeted 12 points following the election, to a low of 34 percent, Gallup reported on Monday (The Hill).


The first hurdle this week could be Trump, who is eager to use his power and reclaim his megaphone as he leaves the presidency. Pardons and presidential clemency are expected early on Wednesday, especially to reward Trump loyalists. A Senate impeachment trial is ahead and Trump will continue to be investigated. He will also be back on some type of social media in the future, eager to mobilize a grievance-loving fandom. 


Biden and Harris won a tough election, but without defeating Trump’s narrative or quieting his hold over his party. 


NBC News: Photojournalists in the White House press corps describe four years of capturing Trump.





The president is expected to depart the White House for good on Wednesday morning and headline a going away party at Andrews Air Force base before taking off for West Palm Beach, Fla., at 11 a.m. He will no longer have access to Air Force One once the clock strikes noon and Biden takes office. 


However, Trump and his close allies are in the midst of one of his final presidential acts: handing out the Constitution’s allowance for mercy. According to multiple reports, the White House is expected to announce at least 60 pardons and commutations — with the total potentially eclipsing 100 — later today, including for Sheldon Silver, the disgraced former New York Assembly Speaker, and rapper Lil Wayne. A number of low-level drug offenders are also expected to be included. Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is unlikely to receive one. 


Perhaps the bigger news is who is not likely to be included as Trump is reportedly unlikely to include preemptive pardons for himself, family members and various Trump World figures. However, that decision is likely to go down until the moment he leaves office.


Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and former Attorney General William BarrBill BarrEnergized Trump probes pose problems for Biden Pavlich: Biden can't ignore defund the police contributions to violent crime spike Progressives slam Garland for DOJ stances on Trump-era cases MORE have warned Trump against pardoning himself as it could leave him vulnerable to more GOP defections in an upcoming Senate impeachment trial.


For comparison: Former President Clinton issued 141 pardons and commutations of sentences just before leaving office in 2001. Former President George W. Bush only issued 18 pardons and commutations in the last hours of his presidency. Former President Obama pardoned 64 individuals and commuted the sentences of 209 more — 109 of whom faced life sentences, most notably including former U.S. Army Private First Class Chelsea ManningChelsea Elizabeth ManningBiden DOJ to continue to seek Assange extradition Pardon talk intensifies as Trump approaches final 24 hours in office The Hill's Morning Report - An inauguration like no other MORE, who had been convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917.


Reuters: Can Trump pardon himself?


The Hill: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Senators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Tim Cook called Pelosi to say tech antitrust bills were rushed MORE (D-Calif.) raises alarm after Trump loyalist installed as top National Security Agency lawyer.


The New York Times: Dominion Voting Systems threatens to sue Mike Lindell, MyPillow CEO, over false claims.


The Hill: Trump lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Newsmax hires Jenna Ellis, Hogan Gidley as contributors MORE won’t be part of any impeachment trial defense for Trump. 





NEW ADMINISTRATION: Five of Biden’s nominees to critically important departments and one office Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, State and national intelligence will appear today for Senate confirmation proceedings, with other Cabinet nominees scheduled this week (Reuters).


At the same time, Biden on Monday rolled out nominees for deputy secretary positions, including at Interior, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Education and Agriculture. He also named, as expected, Gary GenslerGary GenslerWith Washington recommitted to innovation, cryptocurrencies need a congressional fix The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats' agenda in limbo as Senate returns SEC removes Republican watchdog after progressive lobbying effort MORE to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, and nominated Rohit ChopraRohit ChopraWarren presses Yellen to ramp up BlackRock oversight FTC eyes new approach to pharmaceutical mergers Senate panel advances Biden's picks to lead SEC, consumer bureau MORE, an ally of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Overnight Health Care: CDC panel meets on vaccines and heart inflammation | Health officials emphasize vaccine is safe | Judge rules Missouri doesn't have to implement Medicaid expansion Democrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments MORE (D-Mass.), to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (The Hill).


The Hill: What to watch during Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on race theory, 'white rage' Top US general downplays Taliban battlefield gains MORE’s confirmation hearing for Defense secretary.


The New York Times: Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money: Biden to fire FHFA director after Supreme Court removes restriction | Yellen pleads with Congress to raise debt ceiling Yellen pleads with Congress to raise debt ceiling, avoid 'unthinkable' default Biden's corporate tax rate hike: Searching for a spending plan MORE readies big changes for Treasury.


The Wall Street Journal: The debt question facing Yellen: How much is too much?





> Newcomers to the Senate: Harris resigned as senator on Monday in preparation to become vice president (The Hill). Her portfolio as Biden’s partner in the executive branch has not been defined, beyond serving as a potential tiebreaker in a 50/50 Senate (The Associated Press).  


In California, Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia secretary of state confirms Newsom recall election Newsom overstated California's wildfire prevention efforts: report 70 percent of Californians over 12 have received one shot of coronavirus vaccine MORE (D) appointed Secretary of State Alex PadillaAlex PadillaSchumer vows to only pass infrastructure package that is 'a strong, bold climate bill' Democratic divisions threaten Biden's voting push Senate Latino Democrats warn about low Hispanic vaccination rates MORE to succeed Harris in the Senate, making him the first Hispanic to represent the state in the upper chamber. He says he will run to keep the seat in 2022. By filling out Harris’s term, Padilla gains seniority over two recently elected Democratic senators from Georgia, Jon OssoffJon OssoffOssoff introduces solar energy tax credit legislation Democrats seek new ways to expand Medicaid in holdout states Stacey Abrams calls on young voters of color to support election reform bill MORE and Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockExclusive: Conservative group targets vulnerable Democrats over abortion Racial reparations at the USDA Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda MORE.


Mercury News: Five things to know about California’s new senator. (Here’s one: Padilla’s first job in politics was thanks to Democratic Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHeat wave sparks historically unseasonable wildfires in West Energized Trump probes pose problems for Biden Granholm defends US emissions targets: 'If we don't take action, where are we?' MORE, who has served in the Senate since 1993.)


The Washington Post: Ossoff and Warnock are expected to bring certifications of their victories to Washington this week before they can be sworn in, possibly on Wednesday. The start of Democratic control of the Senate this week relies on several moving parts.


The Associated Press: What Biden can and can’t get from an evenly divided Senate.


> Big plans, busy pen: Biden’s agenda will get a fast start with a pileup of executive actions intended to unwind some of the Trump era plus proposals to Congress (Politico). On his first day in office and in the 99 days afterward, Biden plans to halt federal executions, rejoin the World Trade Organization and rescind the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. And he has said his administration will see that 100 million Americans roughly a third of the population are vaccinated against COVID-19 in his first 100 days (a goal his medical and science advisers believe is possible).


The New York Times: He will rescind Trump’s travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries; rejoin the Paris climate change accord; extend pandemic-related limits on evictions and student loan payments; issue a mask mandate for federal property and interstate travel; and order agencies to reunite children separated from their families after crossing the border.


Biden also says he will propose immigration reform legislation on his first day in office, which he believes would provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people living in the country illegally, if enacted (The Washington Post). 


The Associated Press reports that his proposed pathway for immigrants, the fulfillment of one of his campaign promises, would be eight years. Green cards could be obtained more immediately by so-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the United States illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.


The Hill: Biden’s minimum wage push faces an uphill battle with Republicans in Congress.


ABC News: Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments White House draws ire of progressives amid voting rights defeat Murkowski to vote 'no' on voting rights bill MORE (D-N.Y.), who will lead the Senate majority within days, says this week’s priority in the upper chamber is getting Biden nominees confirmed and sworn in for leadership posts in departments and agencies whose top offices are vacant.





> Hankies, please: At 5:30 p.m. EST at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool (and in cities and communities nationwide), the president-elect and vice president-elect will participate in a “moment of unity” tribute to 400,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus using lights and music. Gospel artist Yolanda Adams will singHallelujah” and Lori Marie Key, a nurse with Michigan’s Saint Joseph Mercy Health System who sang during a shift change at her hospital last year, will sing “Amazing Grace.”


The inaugural committee on Monday announced that country star Garth Brooks will perform on Wednesday at Biden’s swearing-in, a made-for-TV event that will feature a diverse program of celebrity entertainers and musical artists (The Hill).




SECURITY: With Washington, D.C., on high alert for much of this week, the FBI is vetting all 25,000 National Guard troops who will protect the District due to fears of an insider attack and look to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 riot on the United States Capitol. 


The Hill: Acting Defense secretary says there is “no intelligence” indicating an insider threat to the inauguration.


“We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyVice News promotes Micheal Learmonth to editor-in-chief Trump appointee endorses Christine Wormuth as Army secretary Overnight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech MORE told The Associated Press in an interview following a three-hour security drill ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration. The number of National Guard members on hand for the inauguration is roughly two and a half times as many as previous inaugurals. 


On Inauguration eve, the violent mob at the Capitol still remains at the forefront, an event which was buoyed by some who were on the payroll of the Trump campaign. According to The Associated Press, Megan Powers, the Trump campaign’s director of operations, was listed as one of the operations managers for the rally, while Caroline Wren, a GOP fundraiser who did work for a joint fundraising committee between the reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, was also connected to the event. 


Maggie Mulvaney, who worked as the campaign’s director of finance operations, is listed on the permit attachment as the “VIP Lead.” She is a niece of Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE


The Associated Press: Interviews with four members of the Capitol Police who were overrun by rioters on Jan. 6 show just how quickly the command structure collapsed as throngs of people, egged on by Trump, attacked the Capitol


Reuters: A woman who breached the Capitol may have tried to sell a purported office laptop or hard drive of Pelosi to Russians, according to the FBI.


Inspiring: A Fairfax County, Va., music teacher, Sgt. Jacob Kohut, 34, who is a member of the National Guard on duty protecting the Capitol, is multi-tasking to keep up with his students before his shift begins. Music lessons via Zoom from a Humvee are Kohut’s innovation (The Washington Post). 





CORONAVIRUS: In one of its last actions, the Trump administration announced plans to roll back travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens in most of Europe and Brazil that were imposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


According to Reuters, the new guidance is set to take hold on Jan. 26, with the new travel rules ending as new requirements for international travelers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test begin. However, the incoming Biden administration said shortly after the announcement that it will increase travel restrictions, not remove them.


“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” said Jen PsakiJen PsakiSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' On The Money: Biden to fire FHFA director after Supreme Court removes restriction | Yellen pleads with Congress to raise debt ceiling Biden emphasizes investment in police, communities to combat crime MORE, the incoming White House press secretary, in a pair of tweets “On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”


The new development comes as the United States battles emerging variants of the novel coronavirus and ramps up distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccinations (The Associated Press).


As of Monday night, 13.9 million doses of vaccine have been administered and more than 1.7 million people have received both doses of the vaccine, with the pace picking up in recent days, as The Washington Post’s Paige Cunningham noted on Sunday. On average, nearly 800,000 are receiving doses of the vaccine daily compared to only 410,000 only two weeks ago. 


Across the world, officials are concerned that poorer nations are getting the shaft when it comes to vaccines. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lamented that while millions of doses have been distributed and used across wealthier nations, the same cannot be said in poor countries, noting that one nation (Guinea) received only 25 doses of the COVID-19 remedy. 


“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest income country — not 25 million, not 25,000 — just 25. I need to be blunt: The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,” he said (The Associated Press). 


CNBC: Germany discovers new coronavirus variant among 35 hospital patients.





> Death toll: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday said it expects global COVID-19 deaths to top 100,000 a week (Reuters). … In the United States, fatalities from the virus are rising as the winter pandemic surge continues. A highly contagious variant, or perhaps more than one evolving version of COVID-19, has been identified in the United States. These versions originated in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa and are described by U.S. experts as about 50 percent more contagious (The Associated Press). 


> International coronavirus: Deaths in Norway have been high among the elderly in nursing homes who were vaccinated for COVID-19. Why? (Bloomberg News and New York Post). … Disneyland Paris delays its reopening to April 2 because of the coronavirus (Reuters). The European Union on Monday began debating the idea of travel certificates this summer to vouch for travelers’ vaccine status (Reuters).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 


Serving as California’s senator has been an honor. But this is not a good-bye, by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, opinion contributor, San Francisco Chronicle. https://bit.ly/2LZITA3


Biden’s COVID-19 plan is maddeningly obvious, by Ezra Klein, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3qulFRC 


The House meets at 1 p.m. Pelosi will sit down for an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid at 10 p.m.


The Senate will convene at noon. The Finance Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10 a.m. for Janet Yellen to be secretary of the Treasury. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10 a.m. for Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasMigrant children face alarming conditions in US shelter: BBC investigation Harris to visit border for first time as vice president DHS considering asylum for migrants whose cases were terminated under Trump MORE to be secretary of the Homeland Security Department. The Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. for Avril Haines to be director of National Intelligence. The Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. for Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenPutin accuses US of organizing 2014 Ukraine coup China has declared information warfare against America — Biden must respond vigorously Envoy says US in talks to remove foreign forces in Libya ahead of elections MORE to be secretary of State. The Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing at 3 p.m. for Lloyd Austin to be secretary of Defense. 


The president has no public events on his schedule on his last full day in office.


Vice President Pence leads a White House coronavirus task force meeting at 2 p.m. (USA Today reports on what’s next for Pence as he concludes four years as Trump’s No. 2.)


Biden will speak at a departure event in Delaware as he heads to Washington. He and Harris will participate at 5:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool in a “national moment of unity” lighting ceremony simultaneously occurring in multiple U.S. communities to pay tribute to 400,000 Americans who to date lost their lives after contracting COVID-19.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EST at Rising on YouTube


MOVING AND SHAKING: Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham is resigning from his position effective Wednesday, he said in a message to bureau staff on Monday. Dillingham’s decision comes after he faced scrutiny from Democrats and other critics who claimed that he succumbed to efforts by the Trump administration to politicize the census. A Trump appointee, Dillingham has been the subject of controversy due to the president’s push to exclude undocumented immigrants from the decennial congressional apportionment (The Hill).


INTERNATIONAL: Alexei Navalny, a political rival of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIs America Back? A view from Europe Russia says warning shots were fired at British destroyer in Black Sea Russia deems Bard College program a threat to 'order and security' MORE and opposition leader, was jailed for 30 days on Monday after he returned to Russia from Germany on Sunday night. The order came down after an hours-long hearing at a police precinct, which took place as Navalny supporters protested outside and his allies called for a new wave of protests. Navalny arrived on Sunday after he spent more than four months recovering from a nerve agent attack — which he blames Putin and the Kremlin for — in Berlin (The Associated Press).


AVIATION: Boeing’s 737 MAX airliner will receive final clearance to resume flying in Europe next week, the head of the European Union’s air safety watchdog said on Tuesday (Reuters). U.S. regulators in November ended a 20-month grounding of the once-ubiquitous passenger jet, which was triggered by two fatal crashes.


And finally … It’s been a banner couple of months for Sarah Fuller, 21, who made a name for herself in soccer and football. In November, she became the first woman to score points for a Power 5 college football team. On Wednesday, she’ll be one of the exclusive few attending the inauguration.


“It's an honor to be invited to participate in one of America's greatest traditions,” Fuller tweeted on Sunday. “This historic inauguration is especially meaningful for American women and girls. The glass ceilings are breaking” (ESPN). 




--Updated at 1:24 p.m.