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This week in the White House: Trump’s final days, pardons, Biden’s first exec. actions

President Donald Trump spent his final weekend in office in the White House. Reports are that he plans to leave Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning, just hours before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. For more on the president’s plans, including potential pardons, last-minute staff appointments or a goodbye bash, NewsHour White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor joins Hari Sreenivasan.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    President Donald Trump spent his final weekend in office in the White House. Reports are that he plans to leave Washington D.C. On Wednesday morning–just hours before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. For more on the President's plans, I spoke with NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor earlier this afternoon.

    So, Yamiche, what do we know about what the President's doing this weekend?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There isn't really that much insight into what the President's doing. We know that the president's mood is one of anger, one of frustration. He is really looking at a legacy that was already marred being even more tarnished by the fact that he was impeached twice. He, of course, is going out as the president who does not want to go to Inauguration Day. So there's a lot of reporting about how he plans to kind of have a big send-off party for himself.

    The other thing that the President's doing and that the people around the president are doing is trying to look for ways in the government, I'm told, to install Trump loyalists, possibly at the National Security Council, possibly at other agencies. Now, I will say I've talked to some experts who say presidents often try to have some influence by making people who have their views, career officials. But the fear here is that President Trump, because he had really had this continuous false claim that the election was stolen from him, that he might be installing people who are not only just maybe part of the people who believe in some of his views, but they're really people who might be conspiracy theorists, who might mean harm for the Biden administration in America overall.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And he still has the power to pardon and grant clemency to people. And we have heard that there's a lot of jockeying because there's only a couple of days left when he can use that power.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right. That's the big question here when it comes to pardons is not only is who is he going to pardon, but will he pardon himself? Will he pardon his family members? There's real concern that the President, because he feels as though he might have some legal liability when it comes to the siege on Capitol Hill, that he might take steps to pardon people who he thinks are going to be unnecessarily or unfairly targeted. Of course, as we know, he's already been impeached for inciting insurrection, but there is some talk of pardons.

    Another thing is these federal executions. We've seen more federal executions in the last few weeks and months here than we have in decades. So there's also this feeling that the Trump administration is trying to make sure that they try to get all of these executions done there. Of course, people who really see that as barbaric and are criticizing the president for not being more patient and not taking a more cautious stance on executions. We've seen a number of people killed by the government in recent days.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And what about last-minute pieces of either legislation or rulemaking or executive actions? When President Trump came into power, he spent quite a bit of time trying to undo things that President Obama had signed into being.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    From my understanding, there might be some feeling that there are rules and regulations that are being changed. But the chief feeling that I'm hearing both from Biden administration officials and Biden transition officials and experts on transition, it's that they're still in some ways, they feel like there's this feeling that the Trump administration doesn't want to be really forthcoming with some of the things that have already happened.

    So you look at the Department of Homeland Security and all of the different regulations and changes to our immigration system. They're saying that that's in some ways going to be a maze to the Biden administration when they come in because they haven't been as forthcoming. The same thing is happening at the Defense Department. We've heard from Joe Biden himself, President-elect Biden, saying they're not getting the cooperation they need at the Defense Department. So not only are there things being changed at the last minute, but there could be things being in some ways hidden in bureaucracy in these last few days here in the Trump administration.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    One of the things that we've heard is that when Joe Biden comes into office, he wants to have a series of executive actions to try to begin jumpstarting the process on how to tackle the pandemic, how to roll back some of the rules that President Trump has put into place.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right. President-elect Biden, when he becomes President Biden, he is going to be moving very quickly to sign a number of executive orders to try to reverse some of the Trump administration things that have passed in the last few years. There was an extensive list released by his chief of staff, Ron Klain. Some of them include reversing the Muslim ban, issuing a massive mandate, rejoining the Paris climate accord and extending the pause to federal student loans. That's going to be just on day one. There's going to they're going to be other ones on January 21 and into February, focused mainly on cabinet officials, cabinet agencies trying to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, which is going to be the priority of the Biden administration when they think of this pandemic and all of the Americans that are being killed.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. NewsHour's White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks so much.

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