- Eleven Secret Service members have tested positive for COIVD-19, while 60 others are self-isolating and 23 have recovered, according to documents from the Department of Homeland Security viewed by Yahoo News.
- It’s unknown if those individuals worked in the White House, but the news comes after one of the President’s drivers tested positive, as well as Vice President Pence’s Press Secretary Katie Miller, and Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant.
- For many Americans, especially those headed back to work as their states reopen, the news is unsettling.
- To them, it shows the virus hitting places with high security and the best means for prevention, making them less confident about their own situations.
Secret Service Members Test Positive
Several members of the U.S. Secret Service have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Thursday evening, according to Yahoo News, raising more questions and concerns about cases in close proximity to President Donald Trump.
Yahoo reported on data it reviewed in documents from the Department of Homeland Security. Those documents allegedly revealed that the agency has 11 active coronavirus cases. An additional 60 employees are reportedly self-isolating and over 23 members have already recovered from the virus.
Justine Whelan, a spokesperson for the Secret Service told Yahoo that the agency is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, she declined to comment on more specific details about those with confirmed cases.
“To protect the privacy of our employee’s health information and for operational security, the Secret Service is not releasing how many of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19, nor how many of its employees were, or currently are, quarantined,” Whelan added.
So as of now, it’s unknown whether or not the employees who tested positive worked at the White House of if they had any close contact with Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.
However, the news follows reports of confirmed cases among White House staffers.
Trumps Driver’s, Pence’s Press Secretary, and Ivanka’s Assistant Test Positive
On Thursday, a U.S. Navy member who serves as one of Trump’s valets tested positive for COVID-19. According to CNBC, the valet “had very close contact with the president, including serving meals and helping him with his clothes and other personal needs.”
Trump, however, denied having close contact with him. “I’ve had very little personal contact with this gentleman,” Trump told reporters Thursday in the Oval Office. “I know who he is, good person, but I’ve had very little contact.”
Following that news, the president said he and Pence, as well as those who work closely with them, will switch from weekly to daily tests. Then on Friday, Trump revealed that Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, had also tested positive.
Miler had tested negative on Thursday but then positive Friday morning, forcing Pence’s scheduled flight to DesMoines to be delayed for about an hour even though she was not traveling with him. The delay instead was so that six others who had been in contact with her could be escorted off the plane. All six later tested negative but were sent home out of caution.
White House officials initially asked reporters not to identify Miller as the aide who tested positive, but Trump blew the secret himself when he identified her publicly during his meeting with the congressional Republicans as “Katie” and “the press person” for Pence.
The president also used Miler’s case to point to the limits of testing. “This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great,” the president said Friday. “The tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens and then all of a sudden, she was tested very recently and tested negative.”
Miller, who is the wife of Trump’s senior advisor Steven Miller, later confirmed the diagnosis on NBC News herself. She announced that she was asymptomatic and later sent out a tweet thanking those who have been wishing her well.
Both Pence and Trump tested negative following the reports, as well as Miller’s husband.
Shortly afterward, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported that Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant had also tested positive for the virus; however, the assistant has not been around the first daughter in several weeks and is said to have been working remotely.
Still, the new string of cases has raised concerns about the president’s possible exposure to the virus, which has now infected more than 1.3 million people across the country.
The president has previously said he’s “not worried” about becoming infected and has notably chosen not to wear a face mask at any public gathers or meetings, despite guidance on face coverings from the CDC.
The White House infections and new testing policies also sparked debate and frustration about testing as many states begin reopening. For some, these infections have been viewed as a sign that high risks continue to exists and could be worse among Americans who are being asked to return to work with less testing and monitoring than the White House receives.
“The virus is in the White House, any way you look at it,” said Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama told The New York Times.
“Whether it’s contained or not, we will know soon enough. But the fact that a place — secured, with access to the best means to mitigate harm — is not able to stop the virus has the potential of undermining confidence in any capacity to defeat it.”
See what others are saying; (CNBC) (The New York Times) (AP News)
Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan
- President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus proposal on Thursday.
- Under the plan, $1 trillion would go to direct relief for Americans. This includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension and $400 weekly increase to federal unemployment benefits, and a $15 minimum wage.
- The proposal would also allocate $440 billion for aid to local governments and businesses, as well as provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus with more testing and vaccinations, among other efforts.
Biden Outlines Direct Aid in Stimulus Plan
President-elect Joe Biden announced the details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package while speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.
Biden described the package, titled “American Rescue Plan,” as a set of emergency measures to immediately address the country’s economic and healthcare needs. The package will be followed by a second, broader relief package in February, which will aim to address more long-term economic recovery efforts.
Most significantly, $1 trillion — more than half of the funding allocated in the first package — will go to direct relief for Americans. Among other measures, the direct aid provisions in the plan include increasing federal unemployment benefits from $300 a week to $400 a week and extending them from March to September.
Biden’s plan also includes $1,400 stimulus checks to top off the $600 already approved in the December stimulus package. However, eligibility for the direct payments would be expanded to families of non-citizen immigrants as well as families with adult dependents.
Additionally, the proposal includes several other measures targeted at directly helping struggling Americans, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding billions in funding for child care, and expanding the child tax credit to poor and middle-class families.
As for the broader economic and pandemic-centered measures, Biden’s package would allocate $440 billion for aid to states, local governments, and businesses. It would also provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus, with a major focus on expanding testing and accelerating vaccine distribution.
Biden has set the dual goals of delivering 100 million vaccines and reopening the majority of K-12 public schools in his first 100 days. To meet that objective, his plan includes $20 billion for a universal vaccination program, $50 billion to expand testing, and $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.
The proposal, overall, meets many of the demands for direct aid that Democrats have pushed for months but have been unable to approve with the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats hold the presidency and control of both chambers, many members have urged Biden to ask for an even higher price tag.
Biden, for his part, has said he would like to try for a bipartisan majority on his first piece of legislation, but given Republicans months-long resistance to many Democratic asks, that desire is likely a pipe-dream.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters
- More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
- The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
- The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.”
- Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.
Demands for Investigation
Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.
In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack.
In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.
They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.
The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”
Members Under Fire
Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.
In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection.
Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.
“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”
While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.
“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”
Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
House Impeaches Trump By Largest Bipartisan Margin in History
- The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
- Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote in favor of impeachment, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
- Ahead of the vote, sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he was pleased Democrats were moving forward with a vote because it will make it easier to “purge” Trump from the party.
- McConnel later said he has not yet decided whether he will vote to convict Trump. Still, he has refused to convene the Senate before Jan. 19, meaning that as of now, there is little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before his term ends.
House Debates Impeachment
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
All Democrats voted in favor of the single article. They were also joined by 10 Republicans, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
The decision was debated on the floor after Vice President Pence rejected Democrats’ calls to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.
Most notable among the Republican members who voted to impeach was Liz Cheney (R-WY), the number three House Republican who announced her decision Tuesday night.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.
Questionable Path in Senate
No Republican Senators have publicly said they support removing Trump from office.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party.”
Sources separately told Axios that “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell would vote to convict Trump.
McConnell responded to the reports earlier on Wednesday but did not outright dispute many of the claims.
“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.
As for whether or not other members of the GOP would follow suit, a top Republican close to McConnell also told Axios that “Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump.
Additionally, McConnell’s advisers have said that he has “privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict.” Notably, it would most likely require 17 Republicans to join Democrats in order for Trump to be found guilty.
In regards to a timeline, the Senate is in recess and not set to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. McConnell has rejected calls to ask that members return before then, meaning that as of right now there is very little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before he leaves office.