Biden’s first press briefing: Biden White House promises to bring back ‘truth and transparency’

Biden’s first press briefing: Biden White House promises to bring back ‘truth and transparency’

N Melo
by N Melo
January 21, 2021 0

Biden’s first press briefing: Biden White House promises to bring back ‘truth and transparency’

Joe Biden was sworn in as the nation’s 46th president Wednesday, and Kamala Harris made history as the first Black, female and South Asian American to become vice president.

Set against a backdrop of a locked-down Washington and a socially distanced ceremony, Biden made a plea for national unity in his inaugural address as political, economic and health care crises grip the nation.

He takes over the presidency two weeks after a deadly pro-Trump riot at Capitol Hill and as deaths from Covid-19 continue to rise. Since the pandemic began early last year, the disease has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States.

The first members of Biden’s Cabinet are slated to be sworn in over the next few days, as well, including Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary. Biden’s Democratic Party, likewise, will assume a bare majority in the Senate after three new lawmakers – Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia, and Alex Padilla of California – also take their oaths of office.

Trump, meanwhile, faces his second impeachment trial in the Senate, even though he will be out of power. The Democratic-controlled House, with the help of 10 Republicans, charged Trump with inciting the insurrection at the Capitol. The trial could begin this week.

Trump, in his farewell address, glossed over the Capitol riot, which resulted in five deaths. He did not mention Biden by name in the speech.

Here’s what you need to know right now

Biden sworn in as 46th president, ending Trump era
‘We must end this uncivil war’ — Biden calls for unity
POTUS arrives at White House and signs executive actions
Harris sworn in as vice president, the first Black woman to hold the office
McConnell and Pence represent GOP in Trump’s absence
Trump has arrived in Florida after departing Washington

Wed, Jan 20 20219:18 PM EST
President Biden addresses the nation during ‘Celebrating America’ inauguration special

President Joe Biden addressed the nation during the “Celebrating America” inauguration special, which kicked off with Bruce Springsteen’s “Land of Hopes and Dreams.”

“There are moments in our history when more is asked of us as Americans … we are in one of those moments now,” Biden said. “The question is: Are we up to it? Will we meet the moment like our forebearers have?”

Hosted by Tom Hanks, the primetime special will feature remarks from Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and performances from musical acts.

“In truth, Inauguration Day is about much more than the swearing-in of our next national leaders. This day is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal,” Hanks said.

— Riya Bhattacharjee, NBC News
Wed, Jan 20 20217:52 PM EST
Biden press secretary slaps Trump’s wall, Muslim travel ban in first White House briefing
watch now
VIDEO30:37
The full White House briefing with Press Secretary Jen Psaki

President Joe Biden’s press secretary verbally slapped two of ex-President Donald Trump’s cherished policies, calling his would-be Mexican border wall a waste of billions of dollars, and saying his Muslim-focused travel ban was based on religious bias.

Jen Psaki, in her first White House briefing, coolly made those digs at Trump’s policies as she went through a slew of executive actions that Biden signed within hours of being sworn in as president.

One of those orders repealed Trump’s ban on travel from a number of nations whose residents are primarily Muslims.

Psaki called the policy the “Muslim ban,” saying it was “rooted in religious animus and xenophobia.”

In another order, Biden halted federal funding and construction of the southern border wall, whose erection Trump falsely claimed would be paid for by Mexico.

Psaki also tartly said Biden terminated “the so-called national emergency used to wastefully divert billions [of dollars] for wall construction.”

— Dan Mangan
Wed, Jan 20 20217:34 PM EST
Press secretary: Biden wants to bring truth and transparency back to the briefing room
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during her first press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during her first press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington.
Evan Vucci | AP

President Joe Biden wants “truth and transparency back in the briefing room,” said new White House press secretary Jen Psaki, drawing a tacit distinction with her predecessors in the Trump administration.

Psaki, in her first appearance before reporters in the James S. Brady Briefing Room of the White House, said that “rebuilding trust with the American people” will be “central to our focus in the press office.”

“There will be times when we see things differently in this room,” Psaki said. “That’s OK. That’s part of our democracy.”

While each of President Donald Trump’s four press secretaries took their own approach to handling the media, they all came under regular criticism from reporters for offering misleading statements, withholding information or sparring with the press.

Sean Spicer, the first to hold the title under Trump, began his very first briefing by aggressively and falsely asserting that the president’s inauguration crowd had been “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period.”

Psaki, who formerly served as a communications official in the Obama administration, offered a stark contrast to Spicer’s pugnacious kickoff.

— Kevin Breuninger
Wed, Jan 20 20217:07 PM EST
White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds first press briefing for Biden administration
The American flag sits next to a empty speaker podium in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
The American flag sits next to an empty speaker podium in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, is slated to give the administration’s first press briefing at 7 p.m. from the White House podium.

In the several hours since Biden was sworn in as president, he has signed more than a dozen executive orders from the Oval Office.

Before joining the Biden administration, Psaki served in the Obama administration as the White House’s deputy press secretary and then as the White House communications director. She previously served as the State Department’s spokesperson.

— Amanda Macias
Wed, Jan 20 20215:55 PM EST
Democrats take control of Congress and the White House
The Capitol building is seen surrounded by American flags on the National Mall on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.
The Capitol building is seen surrounded by American flags on the National Mall on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Stephanie Keith | Getty Images

Democrats now control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

The party gained a narrow Senate majority when Vice President Kamala Harris swore in Sens. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Alex Padilla, D-Calif. Harris will hold a tiebreaking vote in a Senate split 50-50 by party. Warnock and Ossoff won special elections earlier this month, while Padilla was appointed to fill Harris’ vacant Senate seat.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will now control what comes to the Senate floor as President Joe Biden aims to fill out his Cabinet and pass a coronavirus relief package. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued narrow Democratic congressional majorities following the 2020 election signal voters do not want sweeping change.

The Senate has a mountain of tasks in the weeks ahead, including confirmation of Biden’s nominees, an impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump and another possible bill to boost the health and economic response to the pandemic.

— Jacob Pramuk
Wed, Jan 20 20215:52 PM EST
Biden says Trump wrote him a ‘generous letter,’ but won’t say what was in it
U.S. President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, after his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, U.S., January 20, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, after his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, U.S., January 20, 2021.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

Joe Biden, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office for the first time as president, said that former President Donald Trump wrote him a “very generous letter.”

But “because it was private, I won’t talk about it until I talk to him,” Biden said. “But it was generous.”

Biden had been asked about the letter — a decades-old tradition among outgoing presidents — after signing three out of more than a dozen executive actions, many of which were aimed at reversing Trump’s policies.

Among those he signed was an order for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, which Trump pulled the nation out of in 2017.

Biden, seated at the Resolute Desk, also signed an order mandating masks and social distancing on federal property and areas of interstate commerce under his authority.

While the text of Trump’s note to Biden was unknown, the former president may have taken a cue from his own predecessor, Barack Obama, who offered thoughtful advice and an extended invitation to help out.

Trump in a 2017 interview had praised Obama’s note, saying, “It was long. It was complex. It was thoughtful. And it took time to do it. And I appreciated it. And I called him and thanked him.”

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