Here is a summary of the top political issues making headlines this week.
1. Biden using executive orders to quickly undo Trump
With the stroke of a pen, U.S. President Joe Biden has quickly undone some of the more divisive efforts of the Trump administration.
The United States has rejoined the Paris climate accord and funding has been halted for a border wall with Mexico, one of Donald Trump’s rally-the-crowd issues. Both mandates are among the more than 40 executive orders Biden has signed since being sworn into office on January 20.
“Executive orders, like other unilateral actions, allow presidents to make policy outside of the regular lawmaking process,” Sharence Thrower, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, wrote in The Conversation.
Biden is “going through a lot of the Trump agenda and dismantling it because (Trump’s) agenda was put into place this way,” Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University, told Reuters.
“So, it’s kind of a very transitory way to govern,” he said.
Biden sought Wednesday to focus on climate change, signing an array of executive actions, including one that directs federal agencies to invest in low-income and minority communities that have traditionally borne the brunt of pollution.
Phil Schiliro, who served as Democratic President Barack Obama’s director of legislative affairs, said Obama only began relying on executive orders after Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans.
The “executive order option was the last resort,” he said.
b. What is an executive order, and why don’t presidents use them all the time? – The Conversation
c. Biden ended the Muslim travel ban. A much tougher problem persists. – The Washington Post
d. Executive Orders – UCSB The American Presidency Project
2. Conviction of Trump in any Senate trial seems unlikely
While members of the U.S. House of Representatives have presented the Senate with an article of impeachment against former U.S. President Donald Trump, Republican senators have almost unanimously declared that putting him on trial is unconstitutional.
Republian Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky got the support of 45 fellow Republican senators on the procedural move. But analysts believe the losing effort reflects the widespread belief among Republicans that the Senate should not hold an impeachment trial because Trump is now a private citizen and therefore not subject to the punishment of removal from office.
Five Republican senators voted with all 50 Democrats to affirm the trial as constitutional and allow it to move forward.
“If you voted that it was unconstitutional, how in the world would you ever vote to convict somebody for this?” Paul told reporters. “This vote indicates it’s over. The trial is all over.”
The House impeached Trump earlier this month on one charge of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the building, leaving five people dead.
Two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 senators, must vote for conviction in order for Trump to face punishments including being barred from holding federal office again.
“Do the math,” Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, said. “I think that it’s
extraordinarily unlikely the president will be convicted.”
d. Susan Collins isn’t saying how she will vote on impeaching Trump unlike most senators – Bangor Daily News
3. Greene facing mounting calls to resign from the House
Marjorie Taylor Greene has been in Congress for less than a month. But calls are mounting for the Georgia congresswoman, a backer of QAnon, an extremist ideology based on falsehoods, to resign. New reports have surfaced almost dailly about her repeated endorsements of political violence and extremism.
Some of her statements have been banned by Twitter. Fellow lawmakers first called for her expulsion after the January attempted insurrection, naming her an “accomplice” to U.S. President Donald Trump’s incitement of the mob.
The latest revelations, according to The Washington Post, include videos in which Greene suggests the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida were staged; a Facebook post that expresses support for a conspiracy theory about child abuse; and a pattern of online activity approving of the execution of Democratic leaders and federal agents.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, will reportedly “have a conversation” with Greene, who has dismissed the denunciations as attempts to “cancel” her.
Greene has relentlessly boosted the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump.
4. Rare bulletin warns of domestic terrorism threat in the U.S.
Call it an unprecedented warning, but not unexpected after a mob of Trump supporters launched a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in early January.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security, now answering to President Joe Biden, alerted the public to a growing risk of attacks by “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” angered by Biden being president and with “perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.”
“DHS periodically issues such advisories through its National Terrorism Advisory System, but the warnings have typically been generated by elevated concerns about attacks by foreign governments or radical groups, not domestic extremists,” The Washington Post reported.
In a statement, the State Department said the new bulletin was meant to warn the public about a “heightened threat environment” across the United States “that is likely to persist over the coming weeks.”
No other bulletin in recent years has been issued to alert Americans about violence by domestic extremists.
“Throughout 2020, Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) targeted individuals with opposing views engaged in First Amendment-protected, nonviolent protest activity,” the bulletin states. “DVEs motivated by a range of issues, including anger over covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities.”
It added: “DHS is concerned these same drivers to violence will remain through early 2021 and some DVEs may be emboldened by the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. to target elected officials and government facilities.”
The bulletin will remain in place through April 30.
a. Homeland security bulletin warns Americans about violence by grievance-fueled domestic extremists – The Washington Post
c. The Trump Mob Combined the Worst of Left And Right – Foreign Policy.
5. Blinken promises to repair ties in taking over State Department
Antony Blinken, the new U.S secretary of state, has promised to repair ties with global partners and show the world that America is ready to take the lead again.
“The world is watching us intently right now. They want to know if we can heal our nation. They want to see whether we will lead with the power of our example … and if we will put a premium on diplomacy with our allies and partners to meet the great challenges of our time,” Blinken said as he took over as Secretary of State and head of the State Department.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies “frayed Washington’s traditional strategic alliances and the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob further marred America’s global standing,” Reuters reported.
Blinken said the State Department must work to establish a united front with allies to counter the challenges.
“I know that the State Department I’m walking into today is not the same one I left four years ago,” Blinken, who served in the department during the Obama administration, said. “A lot has changed. The world has changed. The department has changed. …The world is watching us intently right now. They want to know if we can heal our nation.”
Blinken said Trump “was right in taking a tougher approach to China.”
“I disagree, very much, with the way that he went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one, and I think that’s actually helpful to our foreign policy,” Blinken said.
He also said he is “committed to advancing our security and prosperity by building a diplomatic corps that fully represents America in all its talent and diversity.”
c. A Face Lift Can’t Fix the State Department – Foreign Policy
6. Democratic lawmakers push to make Washington, D.C., a state
Democrats in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate introduced legislation Wednesday that would make Washington, D.C., the 51st state.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the District of Columbia, introduced the measure in the House while Tom Carper, of Delaware, did so in the Senate.
“There’s never been a time when statehood for the District was more likely,” Norton said in a statement, adding the bill was passed by the House last year for the first time and now had a “record” 202 co-sponsors.
She added that with Democrats in the majority in the House and the Senate, and with President Joe Biden’s support, “this is the time we can finally correct this historic injustice and give D.C. residents the same rights as other taxpaying Americans.”
Democrats control the Senate because, with a 50-50 split, Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes on legislation. But they would need to overcome a filibuster, requiring 60 votes, for the legislation to pass, meaning they would need at least 10 Republicans to join them.
With the District leaning heavily Democrat, the chances of that happening are slim.
b. Is D.C. Finally on the Brink of Statehood? The Washington Post
c. D.C. Statehood Is More Urgent Than Ever The Atlantic
7. As arrests mount in Capitol riot, conspiracy charges considered
More than 150 people have been arrested for their alleged role in the January 6 U.S. Capitol riot that left five people dead.
Law enforcement officials are looking into what kind of connection existed between those arrested, The Hill newspaper reported.
Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., told reporters on a press call that law enforcement will need to determine whether the Capitol riot was coordinated before January 6 and who was involved in any planning.
“We are going to reach a plateau in the very near future and it will involve looking at the more complicated conspiracy cases,” Sherwin said.
The Hill reported that investigators said they will examine “possible coordination among militia groups from different states that had a plan to travel here before the sixth to engage in criminal conduct.”
As of Tuesday, prosecutors have already charged several of the alleged riot participants with conspiracy, including in three cases in which they argue the suspects acted in an “organized and practiced fashion” and allegedly suggested potentially gassing lawmakers in the Capitol, according to The Wall Street Journal.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven D’Antuono told reporters on Tuesday’s call that the FBI has received more than 200,000 digital media tips from the public.
8. Biden, Putin discuss Russian aggression, arms control
U.S. President Joe Biden talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone about arms control, reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and aggression in Ukraine as well as interference in the 2020 election and the arrest of dissident Alexei Navalny, the White House said.
“His intention was also to make clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia,” Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said of Tuesday’s discussion between the two leaders.
The lengthy list of topics for Biden’s first conversation as president with Putin, which reportedly came at the Russian leader’s request, illustrates the divisions that existed between the two nations during the Trump administration.
“I find that we can both operate in the mutual self-interest of our countries, as a new START (arms) agreement, and make it clear to Russia that we are very concerned about their behavior, whether it’s Navalny, whether it’s the Solar Winds or whether it’s reports of bounties on the heads of Americans in Afghanistan,” Biden had told reporters on Monday.
Solar Winds refers to a Russian hack of thousands of U.S. government and private networks.
The Kremlin said Putin during the call with Biden had “noted that the normalisation of relations between Russia and the United States would meet the interests of both countries and, taking into account their special responsibility for maintaining security and stability in the world, of the entire international community.”
b. In first call with Putin, Biden pressed Russian president on several issues, White House say – The Washington Post
d. Navalny supporters call for fresh protests across Russia – The Guardian