Senate to hold hearing into January Capitol attack by Trump supporters – live

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Senate will begin with witness testimony from law enforcement officers in what’s likely to be a contentious hearing

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Martin Belam.

Two Senate panels, the Senate homeland security committee and the Senate rules committee, will soon hold a hearing on the security failings that led to the Capitol insurrection.

Senators will hear from several law enforcement leaders who were involved in the security response on January 6, including former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund and acting Metropolitan Police Department chief Robert Contee.

The hearing comes more than a month after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol as lawmakers certified Joe Biden’s election, resulting in five deaths.

The blog will have updates and analysis from the hearing once it begins, so stay tuned.

Xavier Becerra, Joe Biden’s pick for health secretary, faces a busy couple of days of Senate hearings. Democrats have accused Republicans of playing politics with his nomination, despite it being a key appointment in the midst of a pandemic.

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar notes for the Associated Press that Republican opposition has grown louder ahead of his nomination hearings. On Monday, Sens John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tom Cotton of Arkansas released a letter in which they asked Biden to withdraw the nomination, calling Becerra “unfit for any position of public trust.”

Senate minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – a man not noted for his bipartisan approach to politics – has called Becerra “famously partisan.” And the political group Heritage Action for America launched a cable and digital ad campaign against Becerra.

Republicans say Becerra is a radical supporter of socialized medicine, abortion and curbs on religious liberty and that he has no medical experience.

Why might Republicans be quite so vexed?

Becerra was California’s early face of opposition to the Trump administration. He was appointed by Gov Jerry Brown and took over as attorney general in early 2017 as Trump became president.

Over four years, he filed 124 lawsuits, challenging the Trump administration on immigration, environmental and health care policies. California took pride in viewing itself as the resistance to Trump, and Becerra embodied that ethos.

He will be grilled by two panels. Today it’s the health committee’s turn, followed Wednesday by the Finance Committee, which will vote on sending Becerra’s nomination to the Senate floor. If confirmed, he’d be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1.4 trillion agency with a broad portfolio that includes health insurance programs, drug safety and approvals, advanced medical research and the welfare of children.

There was a lot of talk about how Joe Biden was willing to work across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion, particularly around Covid relief efforts. That’s maybe not a feeling that is getting reciprocated right now.

Also at Congress today, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will appear to provide lawmakers an update on an economy that is still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic but which, many hope, is perhaps poised to take off later this year if the US vaccination program hits its stride.

The hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, one of the Fed chief’s mandated twice-a-year appearances on Capitol Hill, is scheduled to begin at 10am EST (1500 GMT) and, Reuters report, it will be Powell’s first since Democrats won the White House and control of both chambers of Congress.

It is likely to focus on the tension between a pandemic that has claimed more than half a million US lives and left millions unemployed, and an economy flush with savings and central bank support, and about to get additional federal spending.

The growing likelihood that Congress will pass Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan has raised concerns about a possible spike in inflation and overheating in asset markets, but Powell’s message to lawmakers will likely be a familiar one: don’t let off the gas.

Even with Americans being vaccinated at a rate of more than 1.5 million a day and coronavirus caseloads dropping, Powell and his fellow Fed policymakers are focused instead on the nearly 10 million jobs missing from the economy compared to a year ago, and the potent risks still posed by the virus.

They’ve pledged to keep interest rates low and use other monetary policy tools to speed up a labor market recovery. Two weeks ago, Powell pushed for a “society-wide commitment” to that goal - a nudge to lawmakers debating Biden’s stimulus plan.Despite the concerns of fiscal hawks – many of them who suddenly found their voice on the subject again after backing Republican efforts to provide Covid economic relief last year – Fed officials don’t think inflation is a risk, and regard much of the recent rise in stock prices, for example, as a sign of markets’ confidence in a post-pandemic economic rebound.

The hearing today will be followed by Powell’s appearance before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. President Joe Biden will have to decide in coming months whether to reappoint Powell, who was chosen for the job by former president Donald Trump.

At least 160 public Confederate symbols were taken down or moved from public spaces in 2020, according to a new count by the Southern Poverty Law Center, report the Associated Press.

The law center, which keeps a raw count of nearly 2,100 statues, symbols, placards, buildings and public parks dedicated to the Confederacy, will release the latest figures from its Whose Heritage? database on Tuesday. It has been tracking a movement to take down the monuments since 2015, when a white supremacist entered a South Carolina church and killed several black parishioners.

“These racist symbols only serve to uphold revisionist history and the belief that white supremacy remains morally acceptable,” said Lecia Brooks, SPLC chief of staff. “This is why we believe that all symbols of white supremacy should be removed from public spaces.”

When rioters tore through the US Capitol last month, some holding Confederate battle flags, they didn’t encounter a statue of the most famous rebel general, Robert E Lee. The Lee statue, which represented Virginia as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection for 111 years, had been removed weeks before.

Sometime after visitors and tourists are welcomed back to the Capitol, there will be a statue saluting Virginia’s Barbara Johns, a 16-year-old black girl who staged a strike in 1951 over unequal conditions at her segregated high school in Farmville. Her actions led to court-ordered integration of public schools across the US, via a landmark supreme court decision, Brown v Board of Education.

Each state legislature can choose two representatives to honor in the Capitol. In December, a Virginia commission recommended replacing Lee with Johns. A statue of George Washington remains. Joan Johns Cobbs, Barbara Johns’ younger sister, is ecstatic about the honor.

“You can’t imagine how sad I was seeing what was happening in the Capitol building,” Cobbs said. “I was saying to myself, ‘Oh, my God. I’m kind of glad her statue wasn’t there already.’ I wondered what would have happened.”

A judge plans to hear arguments today by lawyers for former Michigan governor Rick Snyder that he has been charged in the wrong county for misdemeanors over the Flint water supply.

Snyder’s lawyers argue that the paperwork specifies that the events took place in the locale of the affected water supply – Genesee County – but that Snyder was actually in his office in Ingham County at the time.

Snyder, a Republican, is charged with willful neglect of duty, report Reuters. Emergency managers who were appointed by Snyder to run Flint switched the city’s water source to the Flint River in 2014-15 while a new pipeline was being built from Lake Huron.

Snyder was one of nine people charged in January. Two people who were senior health officials in his administration were charged with involuntary manslaughter for nine deaths linked to Legionnaires’ disease.

The river water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion, resulting in lead contamination from old pipes. Separately, the water was blamed for a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The catastrophe in the impoverished, majority-Black city has been described as an example of environmental injustice and racism.

Understandably prosecutors have given Snyder’s argument short shrift. “The indictments are sound. ... It is incoherent to suggest that breaching a duty owed to the people of a particular city does not entail a sufficient connection to that city to establish venue there,” prosecutors said last week in a response to Snyder’s motion.

And if Genesee is not the right county, they added, then the case should simply be transferred to Ingham, and not dismissed.

Politico has this today teeing up the Senate hearing into the 6 January Capitol riot:

Those former sergeants-at-arms, Michael Stenger of the Senate and Paul Irving of the House, will also testify today, in their first public pronouncements about the deadly attack.

Read more here: Politico – Congress finally gets first chance for answers about the 6 January insurrection

The Stephen Collinson analysis piece for CNN today is on that subject – Joe Biden’s confirmation battles. He writes:

Read more here: CNN – Mounting confirmation battle sends warning sign to Biden

One of Biden’s cabinet picks, Neera Tanden for the director of the office of management and budget, has hit choppy waters with at least four senators already coming out with a ‘no’ vote – including Democrat Joe Manchin.

Yesterday White House press secretary Jen Psaki was still vocal in backing Tanden for the job. Overnight though Axios have published what they’ve labelled a scoop on a “plan B”:

Read more here: Axios – Biden’s OMB Plan B

Donald Trump used to promise his supporters that they would be winning so much, they would get sick and tired of winning. But the former US president is now on a seemingly endless losing streak.

He lost the presidential election, lost more than 60 legal challenges to the result, lost his bid to overturn the electoral college, lost control of the Senate and lost an impeachment trial 43-57, though he was spared conviction on a technicality. On Monday, Trump lost yet again – with potentially far-reaching consequences.

The supreme court rejected an attempt by his lawyers to block Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney (DA) in New York, from enforcing a subpoena to obtain eight years of his personal and corporate tax records.

The ruling did not mean the public will get to see Trump’s tax returns, which have gained near mythical status due to him being the first recent president to conceal them, any time soon.

But it did remove an important obstacle from Vance’s dogged investigation. The DA has said little about why he wants Trump’s records but, in a court filing last year, prosecutors said they were justified in seeking them because of public reports of “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” – Trump’s family business empire – thought to include bank, tax and insurance fraud.

Now that investigation is gathering momentum. Vance, who earlier this month hired a lawyer with extensive experience in white-collar and organised crime cases, will be able to find out whether the public reports were accurate by studying actual financial records, spreadsheets and email correspondence between the Trump Organization and accounting firm Mazars USA.

If wrongdoing is established, it raises the spectre of Trump some day in the future standing in the dock in a New York courtroom and even facing a potential prison term. No wonder he fought so hard to cling to power and the immunity from prosecution that it conferred.

The threat, however real or remote, casts a shadow over Trump’s chances of making a political comeback. On Sunday he is due to make his first speech since leaving office at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, reasserting his command of the Republican party and teasing a new run for president in 2024.

Read more of David Smith’s analysis here: Ruling on Trump tax records could be costliest defeat of his losing streak

The future of the Republican party is handwritten notes apparently, according to this tweet by NBC’s Henry Gomez.

The South Carolina Republican party is one of those that censured their Congressman Tom Rice for failing to back Donald Trump and instead voting for impeachment back in January.

Canadian prime ministers are traditionally the first foreign leader to visit the White House when a new president takes office. It’s slightly different this time around, as due to Covid, Joe Biden’s first official bilateral with another world leader will be over videocall. Aamer Madhani and Rob Gillies at the Associated Press have set out how things are expected to unfold.

The two leaders — Joe Biden in the Oval Office in Washington and Justin Trudeau in the prime minister’s office in Ottawa — will first deliver brief remarks in front of the media at the start of their meeting.

Then Biden, secretary of state Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will hold a 45-minute session with Trudeau, deputy prime minister and finance minister Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister Marc Garneau and Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman.

The small meeting will be followed by an extended session that will include vice president Kamala Harris as well as several of Biden’s Cabinet-level advisers and Trudeau’s ministers.

The agenda – apart you imagine from a lot of introductions and “Sorry, you’re on mute, can you say that again?” – includes the two countries’ Covid-19 responses, climate change, economic issues and more. Biden and Trudeau plan to deliver joint closing statements at the end of their meeting. The White House said that the leaders also plan to issue what they are calling a “road map” outlining how the neighboring countries will work together to fight Covid-19, curb climate emissions and pursue other shared priorities.

Although there are some issues between the two countries, Canadian officials expect Trudeau to have a far more productive relationship with Biden than he did with Donald Trump. Trump once maligned the Canadian prime minister as “dishonest and weak” after he had voiced objections to Trump raising tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. That era of US diplomacy by Twitter insult seems over.

We are expecting some better news about vaccine manufacture supply to be delivered in Congress today. As Tim Stelloh reports for NBC News, executives with Pfizer and Moderna will say they are able to ramp up supplies in the coming weeks.

Read more here: NBC News – Executives with Pfizer, Moderna say they’re ramping up vaccine supplies

With the US having reached the grim total of over 500,000 Covid deaths, Sam Levin in Los Angeles reports for us on issues with the vaccine roll-out:

California, the largest state in the US, has administered more than 7.3m vaccine doses but is lagging behind other states in vaccine administration. Eligibility is due to dramatically expand in March, but with supplies limited and many doses being used for second shots, essential workers could likely be waiting weeks or longer to get appointments.

The lack of access is particularly frustrating for workers who have faced increasing risks over the last month, as California has moved to reopen parts of the economy and remove restrictions. While infection rates are significantly improving after a catastrophic winter surge, an average of more than 6,000 new cases and 320 deaths are still reported each day.

Facing severe economic strain eleven months into the pandemic, low-wage workers across the state say they can’t afford to stay home from dangerous jobs – and can’t afford to lose income if they get infected. They are exhausted with stressful work conditions and customers who refuse to comply with Covid rules, and are struggling to get basic information on when they might get vaccines.

Dominique Smith, a 33-year-old rideshare driver in Silicon Valley, said he regularly checked his Uber app in hope of an update about vaccine eligibility. He fears he could lose his housing if he contracts Covid from a passenger and then has to stay home: “I do not have enough money saved up to weather three weeks of being sick and out of a job.”

Dr Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of global health and infectious diseases at Stanford, said the Trump administration had not made significant investments in infrastructure to administer vaccines, making the initial rollout especially challenging in a state like California, which has 58 counties and two dense metropolitan regions.

The state has broad guidelines to prioritize immunocompromised people and those with occupational risks, “but the problem is that it’s such a high-level framework that how you operationalize it becomes really tricky”, Maldonado said. “These are tough choices … because you’re judging whose life is worth more. You could make an argument for all kinds of groups.”

Read more of Sam Levin’s report here: ‘We’re risking our lives’ – California’s slow vaccine rollout leaves essential workers exposed

The hearing into appointing Merrick Garland as US attorney general will continue today. Alex Rogers and Jeremy Herb for CNN identified six key takeaways from yesterday, of which this is perhaps one of the more significant for a certain former president:

CNN also suggested that Garland’s disquiet over the death penalty, pledge to ‘protect’ the Justice Department from political pressure, and his suggestion that there is no reason special counsel John Durham’s investigation of the FBI’s Russia probe wouldn’t continue were all important moments.

Read more here: CNN – 6 takeaways from Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing

I mentioned it was a busy day in Congress today, here’s how Chuck Schumer laid out the agenda last night.

Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian write for the Washington Post that what it is at stake today in the Senate is who gets to write the narrative of what happened on 6 January. While there has been a push to make the hearing as bipartisan as possible, it is inevitably going to surface divisions. They write:

Today’s hearing is not likely to be the last, either:

Read more here: Washington Post – At stake in Senate hearing Tuesday: The story of the Capitol riot, and who is responsible

You might think that an impeachment trial was enough of an investigation into the events of 6 January and to put them on the record in Congress, but today there will be more delving into what happened. Here’s a reminder of the video montage that Democrats used when presenting their evidence that Donald Trump was responsible for what unfolded.

The session today will start at 10am EST (1500 GMT) and we are expecting four witnesses:

Robert J. Contee III, the acting chief of police of the Metropolitan Police Department in DC

Steven A. Sund, former chief of the Capitol Police (2019-2021)

Michael C. Stenger, former sergeant at arms and doorkeeper of the Senate (2018-2021)

Paul D. Irving, former sergeant at arms of the US House of Representatives (2012-2021)

You’ll notice a lot of 2021 dates in that list – Sund, Stenger and Irving all resigned after the Capitol attack. Neither Stenger or Irving have spoken publicly about the 6 January assault before.

Welcome to our live coverage of US politics for Tuesday. Here’s a catch-up on what is happening, and what we might expect to see later today…

The Senate will begin a hearing on the 6 January Capitol attack, with witness testimony from law enforcement officers, three of whom have subsequently resigned over security failings on the day.

It’s likely to be contentious – among those on the Senate panel are Republican Ron Johnson, who has said the events did not amount to an armed insurrection, and Sens Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, both of whom continued to dispute the election result and chose to discount states’ electoral votes after the riot.

Yesterday, president Joe Biden held a ceremony at the White House to mourn those lost to Covid as the US reached the grim milestone of over half a million deaths, the first country in the world to do so.

The US recorded 56,044 new cases and 1,413 further deaths yesterday. The total US death toll, according to figures collated by the Johns Hopkins University, stands at 500,071.

The supreme court agreed that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr could obtain years of former president Donald Trump’s federal tax records.

The court also said it would not hear an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans trying to disqualify mailed ballots in the 2020 presidential election.

Emma Coronel, the wife of El Chapo, was arrested in Virginia on drug trafficking charges.

In Joe Biden’s diary today he will be meeting with Black essential workers at 1.15pm EST (1815 GMT).

Biden will then virtually meet Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau at 4pm. There might be a little bit of frostiness in the air after his Keystone order halted work on the pipeline between the two countries, although you expect Trudeau will find Biden easier to work with than Donald Trump. They are expected to give a joint statement at 5.45pm.

Jen Psaki will give the White House press briefing at noon today.

It’s a busy day in Congress. Today will see further hearings in the lengthy process of confirming Joe Biden’s cabinet – Xavier Becerra and Deb Haaland will be up today. It is also the concluding day of the Senate hearing into appointing Merrick Garland as US attorney general.