Saturday, January 23, 2021
Friday, January 22, 2021
Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General - The New York Times
Rand Paul outraged by the wrong part of Biden's inaugural address
Rand Paul heard Joe Biden denounce political extremists, and for reasons he did not explain, the senator took offense.
Early on in President Joe Biden's inaugural address, he took stock of the many profound challenges facing the United States, referenced the "once-in-a-century virus," the millions of jobs lost, the need for racial justice, and the climate crisis.
But in the next breath, Biden added, "And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat."
As the Lexington Herald-Leader noted, it was apparently a line Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had a problem with.
"If you read his speech and listen to it carefully, much of it is thinly-veiled innuendo calling us white supremacists, calling us racists, calling us every name in the book, calling us people who don't tell the truth," Paul said on Fox News Primetime.
I will confess to being surprised. Biden's speech was not exactly subtle or reliant on oblique metaphors. It wasn't partisan or ideological. The address included no name-calling. Biden pointed no fingers and made no effort to associate dangerous radicals with elected U.S. officials.
But Rand Paul was apparently insulted anyway. The Kentuckian heard the new president denounce extremists, white supremacists, and domestic terrorists, and for reasons he did not explain, the senator interpreted the comments as some kind of attack on Republicans.
What's more, he's not alone: a Washington Post analysis noted this morning, prominent voices in conservative media pushed the same complaint in response to the inaugural address.
It was 12 years ago, for example, when the Department of Homeland Security released reports about domestic ideological extremists, alerting law enforcement officials to potentially violent groups and organizations. (The relevance of those findings never really went away.) At the time, Republicans and conservative activists were furious -- even though the report was commissioned by the Bush administration -- because much of the right feared that concerns about dangerous radicals applied to them or their allies directly.
In effect, some on the right heard officials' concerns about potentially violent militants, and responded, "Hey, they might be talking about us."
More than a decade later, the problem apparently persists."
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Biden pledges to defeat extremism and culture of lies as he confronts Trump’s legacy
"The inauguration of President Biden marked the traditional transfer of power that has taken place every four years through two centuries of the nation’s history. This year the day was far more than that, a moment both somber and hopeful in a country reeling from a pandemic and economic distress in a capital city locked down by threats of violence from far-right extremists.
For Biden, Wednesday’s ceremonies represented the fulfillment of decades of personal ambition to serve as president. But if it was a day for him to celebrate that achievement, it was also a day to reckon with what the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency have done to the country and the monumental task of repair and restoration that is now the new president’s responsibility.
Biden ran for president with a pledge to rebuild a sense of normalcy after the chaos and divisiveness of the Trump presidency. But the shocking attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 underscored that a return to normalcy will require presidential resolve in the face of white supremacist threats to democracy as much as or more than customary calls for unity and bipartisan cooperation that long have been central to Biden’s makeup.
The 46th president did not shrink from the duality of what he called this moment of “crisis and challenge,” the urgency of confronting immediate problems that threaten people’s health and welfare as well as the deeper, embedded problems of racial injustice and domestic terrorism by those who fear a changing America.
One measure of how much the attacks of two weeks ago could affect Biden’s presidency was the degree to which he confronted those threats directly and repeatedly. “Here we stand,” Biden said, “just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.”
Rarely has a nation needed the renewal that is promised with every inauguration. The absence of the president, who became the first in more than a century not to attend his successor’s swearing-in, along with the tableau and pageantry on a socially distanced West Front of the Capitol, signaled an eagerness on the part of many, though not all, to move past the Trump years.
As expected, unity was Biden’s principal theme. But there was nothing soft-edged about the meaning of his words. Instead the appeals for America to come together came with a rhetorical determination to confront the existential threats that rose up under Trump. Kate Masur, a historian and professor at Northwestern University, emailed during the speech that she was hearing echoes of Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address in 1861, a time when seven states already had seceded from the union and the nation was heading toward bloody war.
That Lincoln speech is often remembered for his appeals for unity, for his summoning up of America’s “better angels,” his invocation of the “mystic chords of memory” and his plea that the passions of the day not “break our bonds of affection.” Much of the speech, however, was a condemnation of the secessionist movement and a steely promise to defend the Constitution and preserve the union.
“In some ways the combined force of right-wing authoritarian and white supremacist tendencies in the United States, plus the media climate and disinformation and people’s suffering and resentments, combine to form a more existential threat than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Masur said.
America is not at a point today that it was when Lincoln spoke weeks before the Civil War began, but the “uncivil war” that Biden described is a reminder that what exists today goes beyond familiar talk of political polarization or legislative gridlock to what could be the biggest long-term challenge of Biden’s presidency — a country in which a minority of the people reject many truths, hold to Trump’s words and, in the extreme, are prepared to fight.
No president in modern times, perhaps ever, has inherited the collective set of problems that greeted Biden as he took the oath of office on a clear and cold day, and in a few words, he captured all that afflicts the country: “anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness.”
In his inaugural address, Biden sought to follow the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, in 1933 during the depths of the Great Depression, said, “This nation asks for action, and action now.” Biden said, “We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair. Much to restore. Much to heal. Much to build. And much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.”
Emblematic of that promise to move swiftly were the 17 executive orders awaiting Biden’s signature after his swearing-in, with more to come in days ahead. More difficult than signing those orders will be showing that he has a strategy to slow the spread of the coronavirus and to produce and deliver vaccinations to enough people quickly enough to return the country to something resembling life before the virus arrived a year ago. How effective the American people judge that response to be will go far in coloring broader perceptions of Biden’s leadership.
The new president also has outlined the $1.9 trillion package to deal with the coronavirus and provide economic assistance to struggling Americans, businesses and state and local governments, to be followed next month by a sizable economic recovery package. On these legislative priorities, he faces a stern test: Can he persuade Republicans to support the package — and how much is he prepared to compromise to win that support — or will he decide to stand his ground and turn to the budgetary process known as reconciliation to push it through with a simple majority vote of his own party?
In addition, there are his commitments to an ambitious strategy to combat climate change and the promise to redraw the nation’s immigration system, including a path to citizenship for those here without documentation. And mindful of who helped to make him president, and the swearing-in of Kamala D. Harris as the first female, Black and South Asian vice president, he also noted that cries of racial justice “400 years in the making . . . will be deferred no more.”
As he noted Wednesday, almost any of these individual challenges would consume a new administration. He does not have the luxury of ignoring any of them.
The desire for national renewal and rejuvenation also comes with demands for accountability — for those rioters who stormed the Capitol and for a president who, as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said, provoked the mob by feeding it lies. Trump’s impeachment trial will hover over the early days of Biden’s presidency, and while he will not be an active participant, it, too, will color attitudes of Americans about the state of the nation.
On the day the Capitol was overrun, Biden said the attack and the efforts to undermine the results of the election meant that work of the coming four years must be the restoration of democracy. Presidential historian Robert Dallek, noting the significance of the moment Biden assumed the presidency, said, “What helps him a lot is the villainy of Donald Trump and that Trump has fallen into a ditch. There is nothing like having a failed predecessor to give you a running start.”
Timothy Snyder, a historian and Yale University professor, said that until the country is freed from the fear of mob rule in all its forms, whether from violence or intimidation or threats of either, the freedoms that all Americans take as part of the country’s basic values will not exist.
Snyder called this a moment of possible restructuring over which Biden will preside.
“That’s the only upside of Trump being president and a failed coup,” he said. “It opens a window to do things that are more far-reaching. That window’s going to be open, it’s going to be open for a little while.”
Biden said Wednesday’s ceremonies symbolized the triumph not of a candidate but of the cause of democracy. But if democracy met the stress test between November and Inauguration Day, the system remains under duress. Biden’s task, and that of the nation he seeks to unify, is to ensure that the forces that threatened democracy are confronted and defeated."
Biden administration to pause deportations, curtail arrests
"The Biden administration has ordered U.S. immigration agencies to focus their energies on threats to national security, public safety and recent border crossers, ending a four-year stretch during the Trump administration that exposed anyone in the United States illegally to deportation.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske issued a memo hours after President Biden’s inaugural Wednesday setting strict limits for arresting and deporting immigrants while the department reviews its policies and practices. He also imposed an “immediate” 100-day pause on the deportations of certain noncitizens, to take effect no later than Friday. Pekoske is in charge as the Senate considers the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, the former deputy DHS secretary during the Obama administration.
The memo is the first step in a broader plan to find a different solution for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, many of whom have lived here for years and have U.S.-citizen children. Many are essential workers — delivery workers, caregivers, even physicians — but Congress has not passed a major citizenship bill since 1986.
Biden has unveiled legislation that would allow millions to apply for citizenship, following in the footsteps of former presidents George W. Bush (R) and Barack Obama (D), who attended his inauguration Wednesday, and also advocated, albeit unsuccessfully, for immigration reform.
Trump took a starkly different approach, often characterizing immigrants as criminals and winning praise from his team for taking the “shackles” off immigration agents and allowing them to deport anyone, including immigrants arrested for traffic offenses.
Despite spending billions of dollars to jail record numbers of immigrants, Trump did not deport as many people as his predecessor, in part because of major resistance from immigration lawyers and “sanctuary” jurisdictions that refused to hand over immigrants to the federal government for deportation after they were arrested for state or local crimes.
In the memo, Pekoske ordered DHS’ chief of staff to review the agency’s immigration policies over the next 100 days and recommend revisions.
The memo applies to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which enforces immigration laws in the interior of the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which patrols ports and borders, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which handles applications for immigration benefits such as green cards and citizenship.
During the review, the agency said it will impose “sensible priorities” for enforcing civil immigration laws. Starting Feb. 1, immigrants eligible for deportation will fall into three categories: National security threats, such as spies or terrorists, border crossers who arrived on or after Nov. 1, and aggravated felons currently serving time for crimes such as murder or drug trafficking, after they are released from prison.
But the memo contains an escape clause, saying that “nothing in this memorandum prohibits the apprehension or detention of individuals unlawfully in the United States who are not identified as priorities herein.” And immigrants who voluntarily waive their rights to remain in the United States, after seeking legal counsel, may be deported.
Biden has said it was a “big mistake” to deport as many people as the Obama administration did, when Biden was vice president.
The Obama administration also attempted to focus on recent border crossers and people convicted of a broader array of crimes, but the immigration agencies took years to adjust, with attempts to limit enforcement in 2011 and again in 2014. Some of the language in the Obama-era memos is similar to Pekoske’s.
Monitoring the system from the outside is difficult because, unlike the criminal and civil court systems, immigration arrest and court records are not public, and ICE and the border patrol have labor unions that endorsed Trump.
The acting secretary said he will conduct a “periodic review” of enforcement actions to ensure they are followed.
The memo is in addition to a slew of new executive orders and proclamations that Biden issued Wednesday on issues such as immigration, the border wall and climate change.
DHS also suspended the Migrant Protection Protocols on Wednesday, ordering that no new migrants are to be added to the program, which requires Mexico to host asylum seekers as they await their hearings in the United States. But covid-related travel restrictions remain in place, so asylum seekers are unable to immediately enter the United States, officials said Wednesday.
“All current MPP participants should remain where they are, pending further official information from U.S. government officials,” DHS said in a statement.
But the Pekoske memo signaled that the new administration is focused on expanding asylum processing at the southwest border, which has been paralyzed during the pandemic.
In the memo, Pekoske signaled that the department intends to “surge resources to the border” to secure the boundary with Mexico and to “rebuild fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process.”
DHS intends to “fairly and efficiently” process asylum claims while adhering to health protocols to prevent the spread of covid-19, the memo said.
Biden is expected to announce additional immigration actions on Jan. 29."