Read Rep. Liz Cheney’s opening remarks below as prepared for the Jan. 6 select committee's initial public hearing.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And let me echo those words about the importance of bipartisanship, and what a tremendous honor it is to work on this committee.
Mr. Chairman, at 6:01pm on January 6th, after he spent hours watching a violent mob besiege, attack and invade our Capitol, Donald Trump tweeted. But he did not condemn the attack. Instead he justified it:
“These are the things and events that happen,” he said, “when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long."
As you will see in the hearings to come, President Trump believed his supporters at the Capitol, and I quote, “were doing what they should be doing.” This is what he told his staff as they pleaded with him to call off the mob, to instruct his supporters to leave. Over a series of hearings in the coming weeks, you will hear testimony, live and on video, from more than a half dozen former White House staff in the Trump administration, all of whom were in the West Wing of the White House on January 6th. You will hear testimony that “The President didn’t really want to put anything out” calling off the riot or asking his supporters to leave. You will hear that President Trump was yelling, and “really angry at advisors who told him he needed to be doing something more.” And, aware of the rioters’ chants to “hang Mike Pence,” the President responded with this sentiment: “maybe our supporters have the right idea.” Mike Pence “deserves” it.
You will hear evidence that President Trump refused for hours to do what his staff, his family, and many of his other advisors begged him to do: immediately instruct his supporters to stand down and evacuate the Capitol.
Tonight, you will see never-before-seen footage of the brutal attack on our Capitol, an attack that unfolded while, a few blocks away, President Trump sat watching television in his dining room off the Oval Office. You will hear audio from the brave police officers battling for their lives and ours, fighting to defend our democracy, against a violent mob Donald Trump refused to call off.
Tonight and in the weeks to come, you will see evidence of what motivated this violence, including directly from those who participated in this attack. You will see video of them explaining what caused them to do it. You will see their posts on social media. We will show you what they have said in federal court. On this point, there is no room for debate. Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: that the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful President. President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.
You will also hear about plots to commit seditious conspiracy on January 6th, a crime defined in our laws as “conspir[ing] to overthrow, put down or destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to oppose by force the authority thereof.” Multiple members of two groups, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, have been charged with this crime for their involvement in the events leading up to and on January 6th. Some have pled guilty. The attack on our Capitol was not a spontaneous riot. Intelligence available before January 6th identified plans to “invade” the Capitol, “occupy” the Capitol, and take other steps to halt Congress’ count of Electoral Votes that day. In our hearings to come, we will identify elements of those plans, and we will show specifically how a group of Proud Boys led a mob into the Capitol building on January 6th.
Tonight I am going to describe for you some of what our committee has learned and highlight initial findings you will see this month in our hearings. As you hear this, all Americans should keep in mind this fact: On the morning of January 6th, President Donald Trump’s intention was to remain President of the United States despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election and in violation of his Constitutional obligation to relinquish power. Over multiple months, Donald Trump oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power. In our hearings, you will see evidence of each element of this plan.
In our second hearing, you will see that Donald Trump and his advisors knew that he had, in fact, lost the election. But, despite this, President Trump engaged in a massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information – to convince huge portions of the U.S. population that fraud had stolen the election from him. This was not true.
Jason Miller was a senior Trump Campaign spokesman. In this clip, Miller describes a call between the Trump campaign’s internal data expert and President Trump a few days after the 2020 election:
A: I was in the Oval Office. At some point in the conversation, Matt Oczkowski who was the lead data person was brought on and I remember he delivered to the President in pretty blunt terms that he was going to lose.
Q: And that was based, Mr. Miller, on Matt and the data team’s assessment of this sort of county by county state by state results as reported?
Alex Cannon was one of President Trump’s campaign lawyers. He previously worked for the Trump Organization. One of his responsibilities was to assess allegations of election fraud in November 2020. Here is one sample of his testimony -- discussing what he told White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows:
A: I remember a call with Mr. Meadows where Mr. Meadows was asking me what I was finding and if I was finding anything and I remember sharing with him that we weren’t finding anything that would be sufficient to um change the results in any of the key states.
Q: When was that conversation?
A: Probably in November, mid to late November, I think it was before my child was born.
Q: And what was Mr. Meadows’ reaction to that information?
A: I believe the words he used were “so there’s no there there.”
There’s no there there. The Trump Campaign’s General Counsel Matt Morgan gave similar testimony. He explained that all of the fraud allegations and the campaign’s other election arguments taken together and viewed in the best possible light for President Trump, could still not change the outcome of the election.
President Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr also told Donald Trump his election claims were wrong:
A: And I repeatedly told the President in no uncertain terms that I did not see evidence of fraud, you know, that would have affected the outcome of the election. And frankly, a year and a half later, I haven’t seen anything to change my mind on that.
Attorney General Barr also told President Trump that his allegations about Dominion voting machines were groundless:
“I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations, but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public that there was this systemic corruption in the system and that their votes didn’t count, and that these machines, controlled by somebody else, were actually determining it, which was complete nonsense. And it was being laid out there. And I told him that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that and that it was doing great, great disservice to the country.”
But President Trump persisted, repeating the false Dominion allegations in public at least a dozen more times even after his Attorney General told him they were “complete nonsense.”
And after Barr’s resignation on December 23rd, the Acting Attorney General who replaced him, Jeff Rosen and the acting Deputy, Richard Donoghue told President Trump over and over again that the evidence did not support allegations he was making in public.
Many of President Trump’s White House staff also recognized that the evidence did not support the claims President Trump was making. This is the President’s daughter, commenting on Bill Barr’s statement that the Department found no fraud sufficient to overturn the election:
Q: How did that affect your perspective about the election when Attorney General Barr made that statement?
A: It affected my perspective. I respect Attorney General Barr so I accepted what he was saying.
As you will hear on Monday, the President had every right to litigate his campaign claims, but he ultimately lost more than 60 cases in state and federal courts. The President’s claims in the election cases were so frivolous and unsupported that the President’s lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, not only lost the lawsuits, his license to practice law was suspended. Here is what the court said of Mr. Giuliani:
Giuliani “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.”
As you will see in great detail in these hearings, President Trump ignored the rulings of our nation’s courts, he ignored his own campaign leadership, his White House staff, many Republican state officials, he ignored the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump invested millions of dollars of campaign funds purposely spreading false information, running ads he knew were false, and convincing millions of Americans that the election was corrupt and he was the true President. As you will see, this misinformation campaign provoked the violence on January 6th.
In our third hearing, you will see that President Trump corruptly planned to replace the Attorney General of the United States so the U.S. Justice Department would spread his false stolen election claims. In the days before January 6th, President Trump told his top Justice Department officials "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.” Senior Justice Department officials, men he had appointed, told him they could not do that, because it was not true. So President Trump decided to replace them.
He offered Jeff Clark, an environmental lawyer at the Justice Department, the job of Acting Attorney General. President Trump wanted Mr. Clark to take a number of steps, including sending this letter to Georgia and five other states, saying the U.S. Department of Justice had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election.” This letter is a lie. The Department of Justice had, in fact, repeatedly told President Trump exactly the opposite – that they had investigated his stolen election allegations and found no credible fraud that could impact the outcome of the election. This letter, and others like it, would have urged multiple states to withdraw their official and lawful electoral votes for Biden.
Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue described Jeff Clark’s letter this way: “This would be a grave step for the Department to take and could have tremendous constitutional, political and social ramifications for the country.” The Committee agrees with Mr. Donoghue’s assessment. Had Clark assumed the role of Attorney General in the days before January 6th and issued these letters, the ramifications could indeed have been grave. Mr. Donoghue also said this about Clark’s plan:
“And I recall towards the end saying, what you’re proposing is nothing less than the United States Justice Department meddling in the outcome of a Presidential Election.”
In our hearings, you will hear first-hand how the senior leadership of the Department of Justice threatened to resign, how the White House Counsel threatened to resign, and how they confronted Donald Trump and Jeff Clark in the Oval Office. The men involved, including Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, were appointed by President Trump. These men honored their oaths of office. They did their duty, and you will hear from them in our hearings.
By contrast, Jeff Clark has invoked his 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify. Representative Scott Perry, who was involved in trying to get Clark appointed as Attorney General, has refused to testify here. As you will see, Representative Perry contacted the White House in the weeks after January 6th to seek a Presidential Pardon. Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought Presidential Pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
In our fourth hearing, we will focus on President Trump’s efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th. Vice President Pence has spoken publicly about this:
"President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president."
What President Trump demanded that Mike Pence do wasn’t just wrong, it was illegal and it was unconstitutional. You will hear this in great detail from the Vice President’s former General Counsel. Witnesses in these hearings will explain how the former Vice President and his staff informed President Trump over and over again that what he was pressuring Mike Pence to do was illegal.
As you will hear, President Trump engaged in a relentless effort to pressure Pence both in private and in public. You will see the evidence of that pressure from multiple witnesses live and on video. Vice President Pence demonstrated his loyalty to Donald Trump consistently over four years, but he knew that he had a higher duty – to the United States Constitution. This is testimony from the Vice President’s Chief of Staff:
A: I think the Vice President was proud of his four years of service and he felt like much had been accomplished in those four years. And I think he was proud to have stood beside the President for all that had been done. But I think he ultimately knew that his fidelity to the Constitution was his first and foremost oath, and that’s – that’s what he articulated publicly and I think that’s what he felt.
Q: His fidelity to the Constitution was more important than his fidelity to President Trump and his desire …
A: The oath he took, yes.
You will also hear about a lawyer named John Eastman. Mr. Eastman was deeply involved in President Trump’s plans. You will hear from former Fourth Circuit Federal Judge Michael Luttig, a highly respected leading conservative judge. John Eastman clerked for Judge Luttig. Judge Luttig provided counsel to the Vice President’s team in the days before January 6th. The Judge will explain how Eastman “was wrong at every turn.” And you will see the email exchanges between Eastman and the Vice President’s Counsel as the violent attack on Congress was underway. Mr. Jacob said this to Mr. Eastman: “And thanks to your bullshit, we are under siege.” You will also see evidence that John Eastman did not actually believe the legal position he was taking. In fact, a month before the 2020 election, Eastman took exactly the opposite view on the same legal issues.
In the course of the Select Committee’s work to obtain information from Mr. Eastman, we have had occasion to present evidence to a federal judge. The judge evaluated these facts and he reached the conclusion that President Trump’s efforts to pressure Vice President Pence to act illegally by refusing to count electoral votes likely violated two federal criminal statutes. And the judge also said this: “If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution. If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6th will repeat itself.” Every American should read what this federal judge has written. The same Judge, Judge Carter, issued another decision on Tuesday night, indicating that John Eastman and other Trump lawyers knew that their legal arguments had no real chance of success in court. But they relied on those arguments anyway to try to “overturn a democratic election.”
And you will hear that while Congress was under attack on January 6th and the hours following the violence, the Trump legal team in the Willard Hotel war room continued to work to halt the count of electoral votes.
In our fifth hearing, you will see evidence that President Trump corruptly pressured state legislators and election officials to change election results. You will hear additional details about President Trump’s call to Georgia officials urging them to “find” 11,780 voted – votes that did not exist, and his efforts to get states to rescind certified electoral slates without factual basis and contrary to law. You will hear new details about the Trump campaign and other Trump associates' efforts to instruct Republican officials in multiple states to create intentionally false electoral slates, and transmit those slates to Congress, to the Vice President, and the National Archives, falsely certifying that Trump won states he actually lost.
In our final two June hearings, you will hear how President Trump summoned a violent mob and directed them, illegally, to march on the U.S. Capitol. While the violence was underway, President Trump failed to take immediate action to stop the violence and instruct his supporters to leave the Capitol.
As we present these initial findings, keep two points in mind. First, our investigation is still ongoing, so what we make public here will not be the complete set of information we will ultimately disclose. And second, the Department of Justice is currently working with cooperating witnesses, and has disclosed to date only some of the information it has identified from encrypted communications and other sources.
On December 18, 2020, a group including General Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and others visited the White House. They stayed late into the evening. We know that the group discussed a number of dramatic steps, including having the military seize voting machines and potentially rerun elections. You will also hear that President Trump met with that group alone for a period of time before White House lawyers and other staff discovered the group was there, and rushed to intervene.
A little more than an hour after Ms. Powell, Mr. Giuliani, General Flynn and the others finally left the White House, President Trump sent the tweet on the screen now, telling people to come to Washington on January 6th: “Be there,” he instructed them. “Will be Wild!”
As you will see, this was a pivotal moment. This tweet initiated a chain of events. The tweet led to the planning for what occurred on January 6th, including by the Proud Boys who ultimately led the invasion of the Capitol and the violence that day. The indictment of a group of Proud Boys alleges that they planned to “oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States.” And according to the Department of Justice:
“On Jan. 6, 2021, the defendants directed, mobilized and led members of the crowd onto the Capitol grounds and into the Capitol, leading to dismantling of metal barricades, destruction of property, breaching of the Capitol building, and assaults on law enforcement.”
Although certain former Trump officials have argued that they did not anticipate violence on January 6th, the evidence suggests otherwise. As you will see in our hearings, the White House was receiving specific reports in the days leading up to January 6th, including during President Trump’s Ellipse rally, indicating that elements in the crowd were preparing for violence at the Capitol. And, on the evening of January 5th, the President’s close advisor Steve Bannon said this on his podcast: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this, all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.
As part of our investigation, we will present information about what the White House and other intelligence agencies knew, and why the Capitol was not better prepared. But we will not lose sight of the fact that the Capitol Police did not cause the crowd to attack. And we will not blame the violence that day, violence provoked by Donald Trump, on the officers who bravely defended all of us.
In our final hearing, you will hear a moment-by-moment account of the hours-long attack from more than a half dozen White House staff, both live in the hearing room and via videotaped testimony. There is no doubt that President Trump was well aware of the violence as it developed. White House staff urged President Trump to intervene and call off the mob. Here is a document written while the attack was underway by a member of the White House staff advising what the President needed to say: “Anyone who entered the capitol without proper authority should leave immediately.”
This is exactly what his supporters on Capitol Hill and nationwide were urging the President to do. He would not. You will hear that leaders on Capitol Hill begged the President for help, including Republican Leader McCarthy, who was “scared” and called multiple members of President Trump’s family after he could not persuade the President himself.
Not only did President Trump refuse to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, he placed no call to any element of the U.S. government to instruct that the Capitol be defended. He did not call his Secretary of Defense on January 6th. He did not talk to his Attorney General. He did not talk to the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump gave no order to deploy the National Guard that day, and he made no effort to work with the Department of Justice to coordinate and deploy law enforcement assets. But Vice President Pence did each of those things. For example, here is what General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to this committee:
A: There were two or three calls with Vice President Pence. He was very animated, and he issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders. There was no question about that. And I can get you the exact quotes from some of our records somewhere. But he was very animated, very direct, very firm to Secretary Miller. Get the military down here, get the guard down here. Put down this situation, et cetera.
By contrast, here is General Milley’s description of his conversation with President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on January 6th:
A: “He said: We have to kill the narrative that the Vice President is making all the decisions. We need to establish the narrative, you know, that the President is still in charge and that things are steady or stable, or words to that effect. I immediately interpreted that as politics. Politics. Politics. Red flag for me, personally. No action. But I remember it distinctly.”
And you will hear from witnesses how the day played out inside the White House, how multiple White House staff resigned in disgust, and how President Trump would not ask his supporters to leave the Capitol. It was only after multiple hours of violence that President Trump finally released a video instructing the riotous mob to leave, and as he did so, he said to them: “We love you. You’re very special.”
You will also hear that in the immediate aftermath of January 6th, members of the President’s family, White House staff and others tried to step in to stabilize the situation “to land the plane” before the Presidential Transition on January 20th. You will hear about members of the Trump cabinet discussing the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment, and replacing the President of the United States. Multiple Members of President Trump’s own Cabinet resigned immediately after January 6th. One member of the Cabinet suggested that remaining Cabinet Officers needed to take a more active role in running the White House and the Administration. But most emblematic of those days is this exchange of texts between Sean Hannity and former President Trump’s Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany. Sean Hannity wrote in part: “Key now, no more crazy people.” “No more stolen election talk.” “Yes, impeachment and 25th amendment are real, and many people will quit.” Ms. McEnany responded in part: “Love that. That’s the playbook.”
The White House staff knew that President Trump was willing to entertain and use conspiracy theories to achieve his ends. They knew the President needed to be cut off from all of those who had encouraged him. They knew that President Donald Trump was too dangerous to be left alone. At least until he left office on January 20th. These are important facts for Congress and the American people to understand fully.
When a President fails to take the steps necessary to preserve our union, or worse, causes a constitutional crisis, we are at a moment of maximum danger for our Republic. Some in the White House took responsible steps to try to prevent January 6th. Others egged the President on. Others, who could have acted, refused to do so. In this case, the White House Counsel was so concerned about potentially lawless activity, that he threatened to resign, multiple times. That is exceedingly rare and exceedingly serious. It requires immediate attention, especially when the entire team threatens to resign. However, in the Trump White House, it was not exceedingly rare and it was not treated seriously. This is a clip of Jared Kushner, addressing multiple threats by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his team of White House lawyers to resign in the weeks before January 6th.
Q: Jared, are you aware of instances where Pat Cipollone threatened to resign?
A: I kind of, like I said, my interest at that time was on trying to get as many pardons done, and I know that he was always, him and the team, were always saying oh we are going to resign. We are not going to be here if this happens, if that happens … So, I kind of took it up to just be whining, to be honest with you.
Whining. There is a reason why people serving in our Government take an oath to the Constitution. As our founding fathers recognized, democracy is fragile. People in positions of public trust are duty-bound to defend it – to step forward when action is required.
In our country, we don’t swear an oath to an individual, or a political party. We take our oath to defend the United States Constitution. And that oath must mean something. Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.
Finally, I ask all of our fellow Americans as you watch our hearings over the coming weeks, please remember what’s at stake. Remember the men and women who have fought and died so that we can live under the Rule of Law, not the rule of men. I ask you to think of the scene in our Capitol rotunda on the night of January 6th. There, in, a sacred space in our constitutional republic, the place where our presidents lie in state, watched over by statues of Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Grant, Eisenhower, Ford and Reagan, against every wall that night encircling the room, there were SWAT teams, men and women in tactical gear with long guns deployed inside our Capitol building.
There in the rotunda, these brave men and women rested beneath paintings depicting the earliest scenes of our Republic, including one painted in 1824 depicting George Washington resigning his commission, voluntarily relinquishing power, handing control of the Continental Army back to Congress. With this noble act, Washington set the indispensable example of the peaceful transfer of power. What President Reagan called, “nothing less than a miracle.” The sacred obligation to defend this peaceful transfer of power has been honored by every American president...Except one.
As Americans, we all have a duty to ensure what happened on January 6th never happens again, to set aside partisan battles to stand together to perpetuate and preserve our great Republic.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As told to Anthony Adragna, Olivia Beavers, Sarah Ferris and Marianne LeVine.
Every denizen of the Capitol faced an attack one year ago — but 523 of them returned to session hours later. We spoke one-on-one with 13 of those lawmakers about the day's effects. Excerpts from those interviews follow, lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
… on when the reality of the attack sank in
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
I still remember looking on that TV and watching the people run up the steps. Thinking, when they hit the steps — I knew we were in trouble.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
During that impeachment trial, when we saw it all knit together — in terms of the maps and the videos and the footage and saw the whole thing taking place at once — it was shocking.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.)
It was already a hard day for me. It was the one-year anniversary of my brother's passing [former Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.)]. My whole family was gathered at my parents’ house. I wasn’t there. And they're texting me, as I'm sitting on the floor watching the proceedings occur, saying, ‘Are you OK?’ I’m thinking, ‘They’re asking me, am I OK for the one-year mark.’ I didn't realize they were watching television, watching the Capitol get stormed. No idea.
That was the case for a lot of us. We were getting pinged before we had any clue.
Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.)
Rep. Ann Kuster was one of four lawmakers less than 50 feet from a group of rioters as they were evacuated from the House gallery: The full story has not come out on the House side. On the Senate side, we saw the video of Mitt Romney. … That for me is a part of the story that I need to convey, because I was a part of that. Every second counted.
The front of the mob was coming toward us in that hallway. You could hear them. I didn't see them because I was fussing [with my gas mask].
A group of them had come up that staircase and come down that hallway. … That eight-and-a-half minutes, with all my colleagues still stuck inside the chamber, pinned down, calling their families to say goodbye.
I'm trying to convey how close this came in the House.
… on trying to stay safe, physically and emotionally, one year later
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
I don't go anywhere in Connecticut without police protection when I'm doing my official duties. That was not the case prior to Jan. 6. The level of harassment directed at my family is more significant than it was. The job is different now. These people are not well, and they come after us in a very, very different, very personal way.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)
Rep. Rodney Davis was there when a gunman attacked a GOP Congressional Baseball Game practice in 2017: I've seen the vitriol before. I mean, I had to run from bullets on a baseball field with my friends a couple of years ago.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.)
We need to figure out a way to do security in the people’s House. … I want everybody who's here to be safe. But I don't want to use your safety as an excuse not to get this place back to where people can come see it. And there's a way to do both.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
I always felt safe going into the Capitol. The only times I have not felt safe were on 9/11 and on Jan. 6. I feel safe going now, but I’ll always have that tiny little question mark in my mind.
Kuster, who’s helped develop a support group for the dozens of Democrats who were in the gallery that day: We have this text chain. And sometimes the text is, ‘Who's bringing the wine?’ or teasing [Rep.] Jason Crow (D-Colo.) about bringing pie. And then sometimes it's, ‘I'm really having a hard time.’ ‘Here's a book about trauma that might help you.’
It's an incredibly powerful support system. I'd say that at this point, we love each other. We care for each other. And it's not so much that the story is about us. The story is about this place that we love that is so important to our country and to our future.
… on how the riot has affected relationships between the parties
Tester: I think it would be really easy to say ‘I’m never working with these guys again.’ But ultimately, in the end, I’m here to get things done and I’m here to try to move the ball forward.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
Especially in the House, there seems to be more evidence of [Jan. 6 affecting relationships].
Kuster: Well, [on Jan. 7], I was getting a Covid vaccine. The scene was surreal. It's like out of a movie. I was sitting in those seats with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and two southern Republican men.
And the two of them are sitting there, Thursday morning, bragging about how many busloads of supporters they had brought to Washington, like that they had paid for, presumably. Maybe their campaign funds. And they're literally bragging about that, sitting right next to me.
Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.)
I will not vote for a bill that comes to the floor that's sponsored by people who voted to overturn the election results, unless they’ve acknowledged the error of their ways. Which so far consists of [Rep.] Tom Rice (R-S.C.), and that's it. I wouldn't go so far as to say not work with people, because good ideas come from all corners.
Davis, one of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s original picks for the House Select Committee on Jan. 6: Nobody's failing to work with the Democrat committee chairmen who voted to not certify George W. Bush's election in 2004. I don't see a push to not work with [Rep.] Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) because he was debating whether or not to certify results that came in for President Trump on the House floor in 2017.
Armstrong, another of McCarthy’s original picks for the Jan. 6 panel: I think amongst the rank-and-file, it has thawed some. I think from ideological ends, it hasn't.
Fitzpatrick, who co-chairs the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus: If we implode on each other, if we start to erode our institutions, lose faith in our institutions, that will be the end of democracy. And I don't think people realize how fragile democracy is, how young it is, and how susceptible it is to that.
So any time I see my colleagues attack each other on the House floor, I don't care which party they're from, I will tell them you're making your adversaries very happy right now. Mind the weight of your words because they have consequences.
… on how they see the violence now
Murray: We physically had to go back into that Capitol that same night [to finish certifying the election]. And I thought that was a very important moment that said that we were not going to allow this to happen. … I think what I’m concerned about is the fragility of that moment. Everybody stood together — or pretty much everybody except for a few stood together — at that moment. I hope none of us ever forget that.
Casten: I'm not angry anymore. I'm just trying to figure out what do you do when you have been entrusted with responsibility as a member of the United States Congress — and a significant faction of your colleagues stood down when somebody tried to kill you.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
I think about it frequently. To me, it's a day like 9/11. That's a day like when John Kennedy was assassinated. You're too young to know that date, but that date is in my mind. Both of those events had a lasting impact on me. Jan. 6 has had a lasting impact on me.
Murkowski: I was scared. And then I got really angry. And now it's almost more of a sense of disappointment in acknowledging that, for some, they have chosen to either move the events to the back of their mind — just forget about them — or have kind of re-imagined the facts that we live through.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)
Rep. Cheney, vice chair of the House Select Committee on Jan. 6: Whether or not we tell the truth about it, and whether or not we hold people accountable, and make sure it never happens again — it really is the moral question of our time.
… on moving forward
Armstrong: I tried not to do it before, but I've made a conscious effort to fight about ideas and not send the snarky tweet that you think is gonna get a bunch of clicks — and you think you're happy — and then you look back at it 48 hours later, and you're like, ‘Really, is that really worth it?’ … When you exaggerate something, you lose the element of the argument. And both sides do that. I wish we would do it less.
Tester: After the 6th, I think it showed the institutions are solid and they're holding up. … When the institutions can’t be screwed up by any one person or group of people, that’s a very positive thing.
Thune: As we look to the future, the more that we get out there and talk about ideas, principles, and identify and relate to people where they’re at … the better chance we’ll have of being an electable governing majority for the future. And the more we dwell on what happened in the past, people are going to find a ceiling.
Casten: It's, in many ways, redoubled my commitment to public service. Because I find myself incessantly thinking about that line of Lincoln's, that ‘there was always just enough virtue in this nation to save it; sometimes none to spare, but always just enough.’
Murkowski: I had a decision to make on whether or not to run again. And for a host of different reasons … the easier thing to do would have been to say that I will not run. But I chose the harder path, I think. And I did so because I think this place is worth saving.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)
We don't pick the times that we live in. They're here. We each individually make a decision about how we're going to live in those times.
Photos: Associated Press
Former President Donald Trump faces his second impeachment trial in the Senate on Tuesday, after the House impeached him last month for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol that eventually left five people dead. Proceedings begin at 1 p.m. EST.
Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice during their term, and the first president to face a trial while out of office. Trump’s lawyers say the trial is unconstitutional, and 45 Republican senators backed a measure declaring the impeachment trial unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.
The House is likely to vote Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol as Congress met on Jan. 6. The historic vote would mark the first time a U.S. president has faced impeachment charges twice during their term.
Track the Republicans in Congress who may support Trump’s impeachment here.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-highest ranking Republican leader in the House, announced Tuesday that she'll vote to impeach President Donald Trump for his role in inciting a deadly insurrection at the Capitol last week.
You can read Cheney's original statement here, or view the full text below.
"On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes. This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our Republic.
"Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.
"I will vote to impeach the President."
Trump administration officials remained firmly in the spotlight Friday amid the White House's effort to gain traction on its response to the coronavirus. President Donald Trump complained that Democrats are blaming him for the outbreak while acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney accused the media of stoking fears over coronavirus as a means of attacking Trump himself. On Capitol Hill, Republicans walked out of a briefing with health officials after Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro attacked the Trump administration's response to the outbreak as disorganized.
Washington teen is 4th patient presumed to have coronavirus of unknown origin
A Washington state teenager is presumed to have coronavirus without a known origin, the fourth such case identified in the U.S. this week in three West Coast states, health officials announced Friday night.
The teenage boy has no travel history and no known contact with a person infected with COVID-19, Washington public health officials said. He visited the Seattle Children's North Clinic on Monday and was diagnosed Friday through testing conducted at a state lab.
The boy attends Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Wash., about 22 miles north of Seattle in Snohomish County. The superintendent of Everett Public Schools has closed school Monday to allow for three days of deep cleaning. State officials are trying to trace the origin.
Health officials announced a second positive diagnosis in King County, a woman in her 50s who traveled to Daegu, South Korea. She is also in home isolation. Both cases are considered "presumptive" diagnoses until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verifies the positive test results.
“Now that we are able to expedite test results here at the Public Health Lab in Shoreline, we’re getting results on suspected local cases a lot faster,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy in a statement. “Given the extent of global spread, we expect to identify more individuals with COVID-19 in Washington."
The revelation came after two announcements in Oregon and California earlier Friday that patients were diagnosed with COVID-19 despite no travel to high-risk countries and no known exposure to an infected person. The first patient with a presumed community transmission was diagnosed Wednesday and has been hospitalized for more than a week in Sacramento.
Oregon reports suspected coronavirus case of unknown origin; elementary school to be closed temporarily
Oregon officials confirmed a presumptive case of coronavirus with no known origin, marking the third case of likely community spread in the United States.
The patient, who has no known recent travel or contact with an infected individual, is an adult who lives in Washington County and is an employee at an elementary school in the suburbs of Portland. Officials are working to identify people who had close or prolonged contact with the patient, who is in a hospital and isolated.
School officials at Lake Oswego School District, where the person works, are closing down the elementary school through Wednesday. It is the first instance of a school closing in the United States for coronavirus. The school, Forest Hills Elementary, will be deep cleaned in the meantime.
Another person in Oregon is being tested for coronavirus, and there is no connection between the two individuals, officials said Friday.
Earlier Friday, California reported the second case of suspected community spread of the virus. The cases are in different counties.
Coronavirus becomes political talking point at Trump rally
President Donald Trump at a South Carolina rally tried to cast the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a liberal conspiracy intended to undermine his first term, lumping it alongside impeachment and the Mueller investigation.
He blamed the press for acting hysterically about the virus, which has now spread to China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the U.S, and he downplayed its dangers, saying against expert opinion it was on par with the flu.
"The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They're politicizing it," he said. "They don't have any clue. They can't even count their votes in Iowa. No, they can't. They can't count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, 'Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russian.' That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax."
Then Trump called the coronavirus "their new hoax."
At the rally — held on the eve of the Democratic primary in South Carolina — he sought to manage Americans' expectations about the White House's ability to fight it.
After Trump had downplayed the risks of coronavirus, he reassured supporters that the White House was "magnificently organized" in fighting it.
"Whether it is the virus that we're talking about or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans. Now, you see it with the coronavirus. You see it. You see it with the coronavirus. You see that. When you have this virus or any other virus or any other problem coming in, it's not the only thing that comes in through the border and we are setting records now at the order," Trump said.
FDA commissioner joins coronavirus taske force at Pence request
Vice President Mike Pence added FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn to the White House's coronavirus task force this afternoon, according to a senior HHS official familiar with the decision.
Trump on Wednesday put Pence in charge of the government's response to the outbreak, taking over the supervisory role from HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who is still chairing the task force. Azar had not initially included Hahn or any FDA staff on the task force, despite the agency's numerous responsibilities related to the outbreak.
FDA is monitoring the supply chain for shortages of drugs and medical devices, given China's significant role in manufacturing. It announced the first drug shortage due to the outbreak Thursday.
FDA has also been coordinating closely with CDC and other diagnostic developers who are working on coronavirus tests. FDA is in charge of approving diagnostics and plays a role in overseeing clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
HHS referred questions about why Hahn was not previously on the task force to the White House. Pence's office declined to comment.
— Sarah Karlin-Smith
Northern California has 2nd case of community-transmitted coronavirus
OAKLAND — A Northern California patient is believed to be the second person to contract coronavirus in the U.S. from an unknown origin — a troubling development that suggests the virus may be starting to circulate more widely in the community.
Officials from the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health said Friday that an older adult woman with chronic health conditions was diagnosed Friday with coronavirus without having traveled or been in close contact with anyone with the disease.
Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County and director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, said the woman's physician contacted county health officials on Wednesday evening — the same day the first coronavirus case of unknown transmission was confirmed in a Vacaville resident.
The physician suggested the patient's symptoms were compatible with the novel coronavirus strain. The county tested the woman and, after learning the results Thursday evening, began the process of identifying anyone she may have come in contact with.
Cody told reporters at a press conference late Friday afternoon that the case signals that it's "now time to shift how we respond."
"The public health measures we've taken so far — isolation, quarantine, contact tracing, travel restrictions — have helped to slow the spread ... but now we need to add other public health tools in the mix," she said.
The county said in an earlier statement that "now is the time to prepare for the possibility of widespread community transmission."
The woman is being treated at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. El Camino Hospital officials declined to give details about the patient, but said the hospital has "standard protocols" in place for dealing with infectious diseases.
Santa Clara County has nearly 2 million residents and is considered the heart of the densely populated Silicon Valley. It is home to the city of San Jose, which accounts for about half of its population.
It's about 90 miles from Solano County, where the first case of unknown transmission of the coronavirus strain known as COVID-19 occurred. Solano County is home to Travis Air Force Base, where U.S. patients from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan have been quarantined. County health officials have stressed that the patient has had no known contact with anyone connected to the base.
— Victoria Colliver
FDA prepares to allow certain lab-made coronavirus tests
Some hospital and academic labs across the U.S. may soon be able use an in-house coronavirus test with the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration, a step that could dramatically increase the health care system's ability to detect any spread of the virus.
“We’re going to be announcing very soon expanded testing capabilities in the United States, flexibility from the FDA, that will allow more labs to do testing,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said on Fox News on Friday.
FDA and CDC are preparing guidance that would enable certain sophisticated labs to develop FDA-authorized tests in-house within weeks, Azar said. That step would allow high complexity labs regulated under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments to not rely on CDC for materials.
A source close to the White House tells POLITICO the goal is to allow major academic hospital labs to develop their own tests instead of relying on a diagnostic developed by the CDC. That test had a rocky rollout — with many public health labs struggling to verify it for use.
Labs that attempt to create in-house tests would have to send samples — including their first positive and negative results — to another lab for confirmation, the source said. Examples of a reference lab could include CDC or other public health labs.
The idea is similar to a request sent to the FDA on Monday by the Association of Public Health Laboratories. The group argued that expanding testing capacity by allowing laboratory developed tests is needed given the threat posed by the coronavirus.
Agency Commissioner Stephen Hahn told APHL Wednesday that FDA was open to allowing laboratory developed tests for coronavirus, but cautioned that “appropriate oversight” must be ensured.
— David Lim, Adam Cancryn, Dan Diamond and Rachel Roubein
Florida Gov. DeSantis hints at new coronavirus travel restrictions
New U.S. travel restrictions could be coming as a result of overseas outbreaks of coronavirus, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday after a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.
“I know that’s actively under consideration and we may end up having some news on that very shortly,” DeSantis told reporters in West Palm Beach after the meeting. “If you look at some cases in South Korea, if you look at some places in Italy, taking those measures I think could help interrupt the spread.”
Florida health officials currently are testing four people for the virus, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said. The state has tested 15 others and has no confirmed cases so far.
The state also is monitoring 152 people who are voluntarily self-isolating for two weeks after returning from China.
In total, the state has monitored some 700 people since the outbreak began, Rivkees said.
Departing from remarks Thursday, DeSantis today said he had changed his mind regarding his administration‘s interpretation of a Florida law that protects the identity of individuals being investigated for diseases that could pose a risk to public health.
“Information where a patient’s personal information is not provided, we think that would be fine,” DeSantis said, adding that he told Rivkees to provide as much detail as he could to the public on the subject.
— Alexandra Glorioso
Trump: Coronavirus ‘unknowns’ fueling drop in stock markets
President Donald Trump on Friday continued to express confidence in his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling reporters as he left the White House for a campaign rally that “we are very well organized, we have great talent, great doctors, great everyone.”
But he also appeared to continue downplaying the severity of the outbreak, saying that he hoped the number of infections within the U.S. would continue to decline. He also continued to blame this week’s stock market rout on fears over the Democratic candidates for presidents, though he added that some of the turmoil could be attributed to uncertainties surrounding the outbreak.
“I think it's just people don't know, it's the unknown. You know they look at it and they say how long will this last, I think they are not very happy with the Democrat candidates when they see them, I think that has an impact,” he argued. “We think we are going to win, win easily but you never know it is an election. I don't think that’s helping. I think that basically it is the unknown a little bit, but I feel very confident and our people are doing a fantastic job.”
He defended his administration’s travel restrictions early on in the outbreak, teasing a decision “very soon” on a potential addition of new countries to his travel ban, and also applauded Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s suggestion that he could intervene should economic conditions worsen.
The president also ripped media coverage of the disease, singling out CNN in particular, and accused some Democrats of “trying to gain political favor by saying a lot of untruths.”
Education Department releases new details on coronavirus task force
The Department of Education Friday afternoon released new details on its coronavirus task force members after rolling out a web page with guidance for schools on the disease.
Frank Brogan, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, is leading the K-12 response, and Bob King, the assistant secretary for postsecondary education, is leading the higher education response, including Federal Student Aid, Liz Hill, a department spokesperson, wrote in an email.
Secretary Betsy DeVos announced at a congressional hearing Thursday that she set up the task force, led by her top deputy, Mick Zais, to coordinate the department’s response to the disease.
"Every principal office will report up through this structure," Hill wrote.
Along with leading the department's working group, Zais is also the department's liaison for the interagency coronavirus task force, Hill wrote.
The web page, which went live at 4 p.m., has the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for administrators of child care programs and K-12 schools. It will also include any guidance to the field from the Education Department, if needed, Hill wrote.
The page is also accessible from the department’s homepage under “Coronavirus information.”
On Friday, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, warned of potential school shutdowns during the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably. May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure. But we do this. We know how to handle this,” Mulvaney said.
Federal public health officials have urged schools to brace for more cases of the virus in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools across the country develop contingency plans for school dismissals and closures, as well as the continuation of classes online.
President Donald Trump said during a news conference on Wednesday that “schools should be preparing and get ready, just in case.”
— Nicole Gaudiano and Michael Stratford
Selloff continues, spurring Wall Street's worst week since 2008
Deepening worries about the global coronavirus outbreak triggered another day of steep losses in the stock market, marking Wall Street's worst week since 2008.
Major indices tumbled despite attempts by Trump administration aides to calm investors and a signal from the Federal Reserve that it would cut rates if needed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished Friday down around 350 points, a rebound of sorts after falling by more than 1,000 points during the day. But the Dow still ended the week in correction territory, down more than 13 percent.
And while the Nasdaq rallied to end the day around even, it was down 12 percent for the week along with the S&P 500.
— Caitlin Oprysko
Coronavirus funding bill on track for House passage next week
Congressional spending leaders aim to complete work on their bipartisan, multibillion-dollar coronavirus response measure over the weekend, despite feuding over whether the Trump administration is even equipped to maximize the cash to stem a U.S. pandemic.
House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said she expects Congress’ top four appropriators will be able to finish the emergency funding bill in the next few days, enabling House passage next week.
The Senate is then likely to vote the week of March 9 to send the legislation on for President Donald Trump’s signature, unleashing funding in the potential range of $6 billion to $8 billion to help contain the U.S. spread of the virus.
“We have to get it out fast,” Lowey told POLITICO about the bill on Friday.
— Jennifer Scholtes
Finance & tax
Fed opens door to rate cut after week of plunging stocks
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell opened the door on Friday to an interest rate cut next month after a week of investor panic in financial markets that has sent stocks plunging 10 percent.
“The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong,” Powell said in a statement released by the central bank. “However, the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. The Federal Reserve is closely monitoring developments and their implications for the economic outlook. We will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.”
— Victoria Guida
Kudlow: Economy holding up well to coronavirus
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Friday said U.S. health experts still believe the risks from the coronavirus outbreak "are on the low side" and said real-time economic data show no reason for pessimism, even as the stock market is set for its worst week since the Great Recession.
“We believe and our top career health experts believe that the risks here, the health risks and so forth are on the low side,” Kudlow said on Fox Business, adding that “there's no higher priority than the health and safety of the American people.”
“If things do get materially worse, we will be on top of that, and we would be able to deal with that,” he said.
As for the economy, Kudlow pointed to recent data showing a positive outlook for jobs and the housing market, as well as strong consumer spending.
“I’m sure in the U.S. and elsewhere there will be more reports of coronavirus cases, but that does not mean that this thing is going to skyrocket in North America and the USA,” he said.
“I’m not belittling this. I’m still seeing this as a human tragedy out of China,” the National Economic Council chief added. “Alls I’m saying the real-time numbers … are holding up nicely.”
— Victoria Guida
Mulvaney dismisses concern as media panic
The acting White House chief of staff accused the media on Friday of stoking fear over coronavirus as a plot to take down President Donald Trump, warned of potential school shutdowns and appeared to chastise investors for monitoring news coverage of the outbreak.
The freewheeling commentary at a conservative activist conference in Maryland contradicted instructions he had given a day earlier to bring order to the administration’s coronavirus messaging strategy by routing it through the office of Vice President Mike Pence.
“That’s what this is all about. I got a note today from a reporter saying, what are you going to do today to calm the markets? Really what I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours,” Mulvaney said at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
— Myah Ward
Republicans storm out of briefing after Democrat rips Trump's response
Several House Republicans walked out of a closed-door coronavirus briefing Friday with Trump health officials in protest after a senior Democrat blasted the Trump administration’s handling of the response effort.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) kicked off the briefing sharply criticizing the administration as disorganized and lacking urgency in combating the coronavirus, lawmakers said. Her eight-minute speech frustrated Republicans and some Democrats assembled to hear from the slate of officials from the CDC, NIH and State Department.
"If I wanted to hear the politics of it, I'd read POLITICO or something, let's be serious," said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), who was among the walkouts.
— Adam Cancryn and David Lim
CDC says 'every' state and local health department could have coronavirus test next week
The Centers for Disease Control hopes to have "every" state and local public health department equipped to test for coronavirus by the end of next week, a top agency official said Friday.
Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, also pushed back on reports that some states have found flaws in the agency's revised coronavirus diagnostic.
“As more cases have been identified and more cases have been available, it has become clearer that with two of those three reactions, we actually are appropriately sensitive and specific in identifying cases,” Messonnier told reporters. States that have already validated the original CDC diagnostic can still use that test.
Problems with the first version of the test have delayed its roll out to public health laboratories across the country, amid increasing fears that coronavirus could circulate undetected in the U.S.
Messonnier said today that public health laboratories should validate existing CDC diagnostic kits using new instructions intended to bypass the issues that tripped up many earlier attempts. CDC and FDA say that the change, which drops one of three main components of the test, will not reduce the diagnostic's accuracy.
— David Lim and Sarah Karlin-Smith
Kudlow says response will boost Trump’s reelection chances
White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow predicted on Friday that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak would have a “very positive effect” on his 2020 reelection campaign.
Kudlow's assertion comes the Trump administration has faced fierce criticism, some of it bipartisan, over its response to the spreading virus.
Calling Trump’s news conference on the outbreak earlier this week “one of the best” he’d seen the president give, Kudlow touted his own credentials as a longtime Trump friend, “watcher” and now associate. He said he believes voters will be impressed by what he labeled as “historic and unprecedented actions” taken by the White House to help blunt the virus’ spread.
“This is a government-wide effort,” he said, “and so I think that folks are gonna look at that and say: ‘You know what, he’s doing his job very well.’ And therefore I think at the end of the day, it’s gonna actually help him on that.”
Kudlow also denied that the administration sought to “stifle” scientific experts within the government, dismissing a report that health officials were being required to clear all communications on the outbreak through the office of Vice President Mike Pence.
“We always need to clear things,” he argued, insisting to reporters that the White House was merely trying to “coordinate” its response and that “no one's being stifled, no one's being told what to say."
Citing the wide swath of agencies involved in outbreak prevention efforts, Kudlow added that "there's a big difference between stifling and coordinating, and I think you have to coordinate.”
— Caitlin Oprysko
State Department offers humanitarian aid to Iran
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said the United States is prepared to assist Iran in its coronavirus response efforts.
But Pompeo also called on the Islamic Republic’s leaders to “cooperate fully and transparently” with international health organizations.
“This offer of support, which has been formally conveyed to Iran through the Government of Switzerland, underscores our ongoing commitment to address health crises and prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” Pompeo said in a State Department statement.
The secretary of state’s response followed hours after a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on the Middle East quickly switched to the secretary of state’s role in the response. Pompeo, who was grilled by the committee on the administration's communications with Iran about the virus, addressed concerns about Iran’s willingness to accept international assistance in his statement.
“The United States calls on Iran to fully and transparently with international aid and health organizations,” the statement said. “We will continue to work closely with countries in the region to help address unmet needs in response to the virus.”
— Myah Ward
Steyer calls coronavirus Trump's Katrina
Amid already fierce criticism from Democratic presidential candidates of the administration’s coronavirus response, Tom Steyer predicted Friday that the White House’s management of the outbreak could result in a national crisis akin to Hurricane Katrina.
“We are witnessing a total failure on the part of the White House right now that risks a Katrina level disaster for our country,” the billionaire activist said in a statement, referencing the Category 5 storm that ravaged New Orleans in 2005.
Steyer argued that Vice President Mike Pence was ill-equipped to coordinate the government’s efforts to counter the epidemic, and charged that “the pathetic response and chaos that reigns inside the White House risks putting millions of American lives at risk.”
President Donald Trump also had harsh words Friday morning for Steyer, urging South Carolina voters to cast their ballots for another Democratic candidate in the state’s presidential primary Saturday.
“To the people of South Carolina, Tom Steyer is a joke, laughed at by everyone, a total incompetent. He made money in coal, now he ‘hates’ coal,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Did you see him fawning over Crazy Bernie? Has no chance, a loser for South Carolina, doesn’t deserve your vote!”
Responding to the president’s post, Steyer tweeted: “The Coronavirus is your Hurricane Katrina — and yet here you are. You are failing in front of the whole world. Go do your damn job.”
— Quint Forgey
Pompeo dodges coronavirus questions on Capitol Hill
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could barely contain his annoyance at being asked about the coronavirus Friday during a House committee hearing that was supposed to focus on the Middle East.
“Is that the question? … We agreed that I would come here today to talk about Iran,” Pompeo said early on after being asked about the virus.
Pompeo managed, however, to use the coronavirus questions to slam two of his favorite targets, Iran and China, alleging that the two countries had misled the world about the virus’ impact, though he also said the U.S. has offered assistance to Iran.
Perhaps the most tense moment came when Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) pressed the secretary on whether he agreed with comments by White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that media outlets were playing up the coronavirus news to bring down President Donald Trump.
At one point, Mulvaney used the phrase “hoax of the day” — which Lieu latched onto in demanding to know if Pompeo agreed.
Pompeo wouldn’t directly say yes or no. “I’m not going to comment on what others are saying,” he said, insisting that the State Department is doing what it can to protect Americans from the illness.
Pompeo accused Lieu of trying to score a “gotcha moment.” But his reluctance to contradict Mulvaney is par for the course for Pompeo. He takes great pains to avoid publicizing differences between himself and the White House.
— Nahal Toosi
Trump says Democrats are blaming him for outbreak
President Donald Trump accused congressional Democrats early Friday morning of unfairly blaming the coronavirus’ threat to Americans on his administration, tying the global health epidemic even closer to domestic politics.
“So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of ‘Trump,’” the president wrote on Twitter just after midnight.
In another message roughly half an hour later, Trump suggested Democratic lawmakers had been “wasting time” on other legislative priorities and efforts to denigrate Republicans as the coronavirus outbreak proliferated.
“The Do Nothing Democrats were busy wasting time on the Immigration Hoax, & anything else they could do to make the Republican Party look bad, while I was busy calling early BORDER & FLIGHT closings, putting us way ahead in our battle with Coronavirus. Dems called it VERY wrong!” Trump wrote.
— Quint Forgey
The White House announced Thursday that they had named a coronavirus 'coordinator' to lead response to the health crisis. Ambassador Debbie Birx, who serves as the U.S. government's leader for combatting HIV/AIDS globally, will report to Vice President Mike Pence, the administration's point person for the response. She will also join the White House's coronavirus task force led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Pence defends actions as governor during HIV outbreak in Indiana
Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday defended his actions as governor of Indiana during an HIV outbreak, having faced scrutiny for his handling of epidemics after being named President Donald Trump’s coronavirus chief.
Speaking with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Pence said he took the necessary action to fight off an epidemic of HIV in Indiana by lifting a ban on sterile needle-exchange programs in the affected locale. Pence said he still did not support needle exchanges but did what was necessary at the time.
Nearly 200 people in Scott County were infected with HIV from 2011-2014 as a result of sharing dirty needles, and Pence faced fierce criticism for dragging his feet on lifting the ban on needle exchanges.
Pence’s handling of the outbreak was seen as a window into his potential handling of health crises ahead of the 2016 presidential election and after his appointment as the White House coronavirus chief.
Trump bemoans criticisms of administration’s response
President Donald Trump on Thursday went after the “fake news” media for casting his response to coronavirus in what he characterized as a bad light.
“I think it’s an incredible achievement what our country’s done,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
He said his administration had been improperly critiqued for closing borders to foreign citizens coming from China, arguing that it was the proper measure at the time.
He claimed he was accused of being a “racist” by the media for limiting travel from Asia while leaving the borders open to other affected countries. Trump also complimented himself for Wednesday evening's news conference where he announced Vice President Mike Pence to head his coronavirus taskforce, saying it was "calming."
Trump also assured reporters that the coronavirus will disappear and the United States is closely collaborating with other countries to contain the situation.
Later in the evening, Trump used much more severe terms to disparage Democrats for focusing too much on his impeachment to act on the coronavirus outbreak.
"Do Nothing Democrats were busy wasting their time on the Impeachment Hoax, & anything they could do to make the Republican Party look bad, while I was busy calling early boarder & flight closings, putting us way ahead in our battle with the Coronavirus. Dems called it very wrong!" Trump tweeted.
Pence led his first task force meeting amid questions about who exactly is leading the response efforts.
Pence said he is leading the group of high level officials and health experts, but will rely on Azar as chairman.
“The President has every confidence in the secretary as I do. But the President wanted to make it clear to the American people that we're going to bring a whole of government approach to this,” Pence said.
He added that yesterday and today he spoke with Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress about the virus and the supplemental spending bill that will direct funds for prevention and treatment efforts.
The president’s vision is a “whole of government approach,” Pence said.
“The work we are doing here represents the most important work we are doing here today,” Pence said.
During his visit to HHS, Pence also made a stop at the Secretary’s Operations Center to say hello to government employees monitoring the outbreak. Employees sat at computers and took note of outbreak numbers around the world on large video screens at the front of the room.
Dow posts 1,000+ point loss amid worsening coronavirus fears
U.S. stocks plummeted Thursday despite the Trump administration’s efforts to calm markets and fears about the coronavirus outbreak. The Dow closed nearly 1,200 points in the red after a volatile day in the market.
The Dow tumbled more than 500 points just after the opening bell, and though it had made up much of its losses by midday, the market took another hit in the afternoon not long after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state was monitoring 8,400 for possible infections.
That news preceded another wave of selloffs, wiping out earlier gains. All three major indices in the New York Stock Exchange entered the day in correction territory, or down at least 10 percent from all-time highs.
— Caitlin Oprysko
Public health experts warned that some of the president's claims Wednesday night could be dangerously misleading.
The slow pace of screening for the virus is taking on new urgency after the CDC on Wednesday night confirmed the first coronavirus case in a U.S. patient who had not traveled to an infected area or come into contact with someone known to be infected.
Trump’s alternately combative and light-hearted press conference on the government’s coronavirus response did little to calm escalating global concerns about the epidemic, as U.S. markets continued to slide upon opening Thursday morning amid reports the virus continues to spread to more countries.
Trump insisted Wednesday night that health workers are “testing everybody that we need to test,” a statement one expert called “blatantly false.”
— Alice Miranda Ollstein and Sarah Owermohle
The latest U.S. coronavirus case highlights the country's still-limited ability to test patients for the virus.
Just 40 of more than 100 public health labs in the U.S. are currently able to diagnose the coronavirus because of problems with a test developed by the CDC, potentially slowing the response if the virus starts taking hold here. The faulty test has also delayed a plan to widely screen people with symptoms of respiratory illness who have tested negative for influenza to detect whether the coronavirus may be stealthily spreading.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers Thursday that HHS expects 93 labs around the country to be able to conduct their own coronavirus tests by Monday, using either the CDC’s diagnostic or a private-sector alternative that could be available as early as Friday.
The CDC has conducted more than 3,600 screenings so far, and there is currently no backlog. But the delayed rollout of tests to public health labs around the country has raised concerns that the coronavirus could be spreading undetected.
Without quick action, the chances increase that the virus could pass from person to person within the U.S. and build into a full-fledged outbreak.
Right now, only a narrow group of Americans is being tested: those who have recently traveled to China or have been in contact with someone confirmed to have the virus. That is too limited to detect potential problems before they grow larger.
— David Lim and Adam Cancryn
California's governor says the state doesn't have enough test kits as officials monitor 8,400 people.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that the state is working with federal officials to expand its ability to evaluate people for the coronavirus, one day after it was revealed the first patient likely to have contracted it within a U.S. community was initially denied a test.
The governor said federal officials earlier Thursday assured that "testing protocols will be advanced with urgency." The state's 200 testing kits were a "simply inadequate" number, Newsom said, and he called it a top priority to conduct "point of contact" testing where patients are staying.
Late Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health revealed that a Solano County resident tested positive for COVID-19. That patient has been at the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento since Feb. 19 after being transferred from another Northern California hospital.
UCD leaders said their staff initially suspected coronavirus as a potential cause but were denied a test because the patient did not meet the CDC's criteria for testing. The CDC eventually granted a test on Sunday, and the patient was diagnosed as positive Wednesday.
CDC Director Robert Redfield told a congressional panel Thursday that the CDC has revised its screening rules to expand testing after learning of the California case.
— Victoria Colliver and Kevin Yamamura
A California woman potentially exposed dozens of people at a small hospital more than a week before she was diagnosed with coronavirus.
The woman, the first patient likely to have contracted coronavirus within a U.S. community, spent three days in the Vacaville hospital before being transferred to the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where she was finally tested.
After learning the patient had been diagnosed Wednesday with the novel coronavirus strain, the hospital launched meticulous tracing of anyone in the Vacaville facility who may have had any contact with that patient, according to hospital and state health officials.
— Victoria Colliver
Appropriators are planning to work through the weekend to prep coronavirus bill for passage.
The total package is expected to be lower than the $8.5 billion Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed earlier this week, landing somewhere between $6 billion and $8 billion. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) confirmed Thursday that the package will exceed the $4 billion House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has suggested.
The measure is likely to include orders requiring the Trump administration to replenish the $136 million it plans to transfer from various health accounts to pad out its coronavirus response.
The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Thursday that it is in the process of shifting $5 million from substance abuse and mental health programs, in addition to raiding $37 million from a program that helps low-income households pay their energy bills. The administration also wants to take $63 million from the National Institutes of Health, $4.8 million from Children and Families Services Programs, $4.2 million from Aging and Disability programs and $5.2 million from various CDC programs.
— Caitlin Emma
The U.S. is suspending some travel for military and civilian Defense Department personnel to and within the Middle East.
All leave and liberty travel with the Central Command theater is banned until further notice due to concerns over the coronavirus, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO. For example, personnel assigned to a unit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, cannot travel to the United Arab Emirates or Jeddah for the weekend.
The military took the extra step of also banning all non-essential travel specifically within Saudi Arabia, which includes “going to the mall, movies, other crowded venues or recreational facilities/establishments,” according to the memo.
The ban does not extend to “essential travel,” which includes transit between controlled access compounds and authorized hotels, grocery stores and medical appointments. The ban also does not apply to leave outside the theater, according to the memo.
— Lara Seligman
The top HELP Democrat called for Pence's removal from coronavirus response.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Thursday called on President Donald Trump to replace Vice President Mike Pence as head of the coronavirus response team, citing the vice president’s “lack of public health experience and record of putting ideology over science.”
The push from Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, came hours after Pence named Debbie Birx, the U.S. government’s leader for combatting HIV/AIDS globally, as the Trump administration’s coronavirus “coordinator.”
Murray’s letter to Trump delved into Pence’s history as Indiana governor, where the vice president faced the largest HIV outbreak in the state’s history. Murray said Pence’s “months of inaction led to costly results” in Indiana, and called for Trump to fill Pence’s coronavirus role with a public health leader experienced in infectious disease control.
“Vice President Pence’s leadership failure during the Indiana HIV outbreak is reason enough to question his ability to lead the federal government’s response to coronavirus at this time,” the letter said. “At a time when science and public health considerations should be driving all decision-making and the public is looking to the federal government for clear, fact-based communications, it is clear that Vice President Pence is neither a responsible nor a reliable selection to lead the coronavirus response.”
— Myah Ward
Congressional Democrats demanded that funding for the coronavirus response should be 'entirely new.'
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are insisting the money cannot be "stolen from other accounts" and must include stipulations to prevent Trump from transferring the funding to anything besides combating infectious diseases.
The Democratic leaders are also calling for any potential vaccine to be both affordable and widely available, that interest-free loans be made available for small businesses affected by the outbreak, and that state and local governments are reimbursed for helping the federal response to the virus.
Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement that they "stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion in Congress and with the administration to achieve this necessary goal."
"Lives are at stake — this is not the time for name-calling or playing politics."
— Jennifer Scholtes
Betsy DeVos said that she’s set up a task force to coordinate the Education Department's response.
DeVos said during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing that she’s appointed her top deputy, Mick Zais, to lead the task force.
“We continue to work with the other agencies across government to ensure that we are prepared,” DeVos told lawmakers.
Federal public health officials have urged schools to brace for more cases of the virus in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools across the country develop contingency plans for school dismissals and closures, as well as the continuation of classes online.
President Donald Trump said during a news conference on Wednesday that “schools should be preparing and get ready, just in case.”
In Japan, The Japan Times reported that all schools have been asked to close for about a month, beginning Monday.
— Michael Stratford
Early missteps and a lack of a consistent message make the nation's disease-fighting agency a focus of criticism.
Robert Redfield was a well-known AIDS researcher and favorite of Christian conservatives when President Donald Trump picked him to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018, where he has helped implement sweeping plans to fight HIV and opioids in the United States while pushing to tackle Ebola abroad.
But confronted by the increasingly global coronavirus outbreak, CDC and Redfield’s actions are now under intense scrutiny — both inside and outside the administration. Read more about how Trump’s CDC chief is facing increasingly harsh scrutiny.
— Dan Diamond
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) will vote to convict President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial on the charge of abuse of power, becoming the only Republican to break with the president and his party. Read his statement below.
The Constitution is at the foundation of our Republic’s success, and we each strive not to lose sight of our promise to defend it. The Constitution established the vehicle of impeachment that has occupied both houses of Congress for these many days. We have labored to faithfully execute our responsibilities to it. We have arrived at different judgments, but I hope we respect each other’s good faith.
The allegations made in the articles of impeachment are very serious. As a Senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise “impartial justice.” I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the President, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.
The House Managers presented evidence supporting their case; the White House counsel disputed that case. In addition, the President’s team presented three defenses: first, that there can be no impeachment without a statutory crime; second, that the Bidens’ conduct justified the President’s actions; and third that the judgement of the President’s actions should be left to the voters. Let me first address each of those defenses.
The historic meaning of the words “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the writings of the Founders and my own reasoned judgement convince me that a president can indeed commit acts against the public trust that are so egregious that while they are not statutory crimes, they would demand removal from office. To maintain that the lack of a codified and comprehensive list of all the outrageous acts that a president might conceivably commit renders Congress powerless to remove a president defies reason.
The President’s counsel noted that Vice President Biden appeared to have a conflict of interest when he undertook an effort to remove the Ukrainian Prosecutor General. If he knew of the exorbitant compensation his son was receiving from a company actually under investigation, the Vice President should have recused himself. While ignoring a conflict of interest is not a crime, it is surely very wrong.
With regards to Hunter Biden, taking excessive advantage of his father’s name is unsavory but also not a crime. Given that in neither the case of the father nor the son was any evidence presented by the President’s counsel that a crime had been committed, the President’s insistence that they be investigated by the Ukrainians is hard to explain other than as a political pursuit. There is no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the President would never have done what he did.
The defense argues that the Senate should leave the impeachment decision to the voters. While that logic is appealing to our democratic instincts, it is inconsistent with the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate, not the voters, try the president. Hamilton explained that the Founders’ decision to invest senators with this obligation rather than leave it to voters was intended to minimize—to the extent possible—the partisan sentiments of the public.
This verdict is ours to render. The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty. The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”
Yes, he did.
The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.
The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.
The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.
The President’s purpose was personal and political.
Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.
What he did was not “perfect”— No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.
In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, “I stand with the team.” I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind. I support a great deal of what the President has done. I have voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.
I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?
I sought to hear testimony from John Bolton not only because I believed he could add context to the charges, but also because I hoped that what he said might raise reasonable doubt and thus remove from me the awful obligation to vote for impeachment.
Like each member of this deliberative body, I love our country. I believe that our Constitution was inspired by Providence. I am convinced that freedom itself is dependent on the strength and vitality of our national character. As it is with each senator, my vote is an act of conviction. We have come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we have all followed the dictates of our conscience.
I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the President from office. The results of this Senate Court will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgement of the American people. Voters will make the final decision, just as the President’s lawyers have implored. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate. But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me. I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the President did was wrong, grievously wrong.
We’re all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen.