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The timing of a Senate impeachment trial for President Trump remains up in the air, as authorities investigate potential threats during the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who is planning a nearly $2 trillion economic package to combat COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss.
It is hard to keep track of all the twists and turns in Washington right now. It feels that each day brings a new historic moment. And the coming week does not appear to be any different.
To help us make sense of it all, our Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join me now.
So, Yamiche, I'm going to start with you.
After this terrible, terrible attack on the Capitol last week, a lot of people are wondering about security, of course, for the inauguration.
What more can you tell us about the plans, and not only here in Washington, but in cities around the country?
Well, federal officials are working very, very hard to ensure a safe inauguration, but they're tracking a number of threats, both to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., as well as in other cities and state capitols.
Today, Vice President Pence visited the FEMA headquarters, and, there, he met with a number of high-ranking national security officials, including the head of the Secret Service, the head of Homeland Security, as well as the head of the Department — the FBI director, rather.
And what Vice President Pence said was that he is really pushing all of these agencies to make sure that they're confident that they can find a safe way to have an inauguration for president-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris.
And he said, specifically, Americans deserve a safe inauguration. He also said at some point that this inauguration was going to be in keeping with our history and tradition. That's really notable, given the last few days and weeks that we have lived through here, with President Trump, of course, upending all sorts of tradition in this country.
Another thing to note is the FBI director, who said that he was confident that the FBI would be able to find anyone who was threatening the inauguration or other cities, he has been warning police officials around the country to be vigilant and to be in contact with the FBI if they see any threats.
He's saying that they're tracking a number of things, including threats to Congress members' homes, as well as threats to different buildings and state capitols.
One other thing, I spoke to a source who was familiar with the inauguration planning, and they told me that the family members of both vice president-elect Harris and president-elect Biden are being warned specifically to stay in their hotel rooms in D.C. unless they're going to the inauguration.
That is a difference from the past inaugurations. They were, of course, going to be told not to go too far because of the pandemic. But now they're being told, unless you're going to the inauguration, stay in place, especially, as we know, the National Mall is shut down for most of the public.
So, this is really D.C. becoming a fortress, and federal officials trying their best to track threats, while also keeping people safe.
So different, so very different, Yamiche, from previous presidential inaugurations.
But as a reminder of just how much the incoming president has on his plate, he's not waiting in one respect. Yamiche, we know that, tonight, he's going to make remarks. He's going to roll out his proposal for dealing with both the economic and some of the health aspects of the COVID pandemic.
What do we know about what he's going to disclose?
Amid all of these security threats, president-elect Biden said he's very focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, making that his top priority. Tonight, he's going to lay out a $1.9 trillion plan for COVID relief, if we can put it up for people.
It's called the American Rescue Plan. And it includes $400 billion to fight COVID — that's to mount a national vaccine program, as well as containing and beating the virus — $1 trillion in direct relief to Americans — that's workers and families who are struggling, including people who are most impacted by existing inequalities — as well as $440 billion in relief to communities and businesses.
Now, the Biden team says they don't have a specific guideline for Congress, but they say that the need is urgent to pass this. Of course, they are going to have to juggle that with impeachment, an impeachment trial, but the Biden team is really focusing on that.
Another thing that they're focusing on, when you look even more into this plan, is, they want to take on COVID. They want to specifically focus on ramping up testing. They want to ramp up vaccines. And they also want to try to get schools open. That's what part of this money is going to. They're going to have $1,400 checks to individuals. That's increasing the stimulus checks to $2,000 overall, because $600 were passed last time.
And there's $400 in unemployment insurance supplemental — supplement there, and that is adding $100 to the $300 that was enacted. And what Biden is saying tonight, and what he is going to say tonight is that this is the most pressing concern.
Even though we have lived through the siege on the Capitol and all the other things that are going on, he says he's laser-focused on the pandemic that is, of course, killing some 4,000 people a day.
It's something that is on the minds of everyone right now.
And to you now, Lisa.
As Yamiche mentioned, this, of course, has to pass the Congress. He can't just wave a magic wand. But Congress has a lot on its plate, as we have mentioned, whether or not there's going to be an impeachment trial. What does it look like right now for the Biden COVID package and everything else they have to deal with?
Well, the first thing we have to talk about is the timing of this — this Senate impeachment trial.
And here's how that would work, Judy. Really, House Speaker Pelosi will set that timing. As soon as she transmits the article of impeachment to the Senate, by the Senate's rules, it must hold the trial the next day that it meets.
So, the next day that the Senate right now is scheduled to meet is January 19, the day before inauguration. If the speaker would transmit the article that day, then the actual impeachment trial could and would, by Senate rules, have to start the day of inauguration.
This is an idea that Senator McConnell — I have confirmed — has sent around to Senate Republicans. But it really remains with Speaker Pelosi to decide the timing. And there is also another option, that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate could agree on a different timeline for the trial, but that doesn't look likely.
Now, all of that — we expect the trial soon. We don't know the exact date. But all of that is while there's another concern at the Capitol brewing, growing cases of the coronavirus again, and some of them seemingly directly linked to last week's riots.
I want to show a picture of four members of the House who have contracted — who are COVID-positive. And three of these were in seclusion together with unmasked Republicans, and a fourth may have been as well. We're still waiting for details.
Well, so much to follow, Lisa. It's the health of the members, as well as what they have to do in their jobs.
But, Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor reporting on it all.
Thank you both.
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Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; the moderator of Washington Week, the weekly public affairs show on PBS; and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC. She often tells stories about the intersection of race and politics as well as fatal police encounters. She is currently covering the administration of President Joe Biden and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
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