Why Trump will dominate Biden’s first weeks in office

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Welcome to POLITICO’s 2021 Transition Playbook, your guide to one of the most consequential transfers of power in American history.

Next week, JOE BIDEN will deliver an inaugural address with the theme: “America United.”

The following day, the Democratic-led Senate will be preparing for DONALD TRUMP’s impeachment trial.

After running a campaign focused on unity and premised on the idea that Republicans would become more open to compromise after Trump’s ouster, the Biden presidency’s opening weeks will be consumed by Trump and a divisive impeachment battle over his future in the Republican Party.

Just 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump this afternoon — making it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history, but far from a unified rejection of the president.

The trial could be a circus, with potential cameos by RUDY GIULIANI and co. defending the president. Some Senate aides are wondering whether Trump might even appear at the trial in-person to defend himself.

Given the tension with his campaign message, some on Biden’s team are not welcoming the Senate trial, even though they believe Trump’s actions merit it. Biden and Vice President-elect KAMALA HARRIS have publicly tried to distance themselves from the process altogether.

“A judgement for the Congress to make,” Biden said last week.

Ashed if she supports impeachment or not, Harris — who is still a senator — told CBS Sunday Morning that “the Congress is going to make its decision.”

The timing of Trump’s second impeachment trial — in the opening days of a new presidency — was made all-but-certain today after the House voted to impeach the president. Senate Majority Leader MITCH McCONNELLs office said he would not bring the Senate back into session before Jan. 19, meaning the trial cannot actually begin until after Biden is sworn in. And Schumer declared Wednesday that “make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate.”

After initially considering delaying the trial by having the House hold the articles of impeachment for a few months, the Biden team and congressional Democrats are now trying to figure out how to get their agenda passed and nominees confirmed in parallel with the Senate impeachment trial.

The short answer: it’s complicated.

Experts in Senate procedure tell us that Biden could get some nominees confirmed by pushing the Senate to stay in session on Sunday because impeachment trials cannot take place on the Lord’s day, according to current impeachment trial rules. It is also possible to conduct Senate floor business around the trial — early in the morning or late into the evening — but individual senators can throw wrenches in the gears.

It is a tough balancing act. The more time the Senate makes for Biden’s nominees instead of the trial, the longer the trial will likely go on, which the Biden team isn’t thrilled about, either. The shortest presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, Trump’s first, took three weeks. (The other two were 37 and 83 days). A transition source said that Biden and Harris both were going to continue to try drive a unifying message through the trial.

Biden’s efforts to navigate around the trial almost got more confusing when the rioters last week ransacked the Senate parliamentarian’s office — stealing phones, damaging computers, and emptying file cabinets.

That could have made it even harder to sort out the arcane, seldom-used rules surrounding impeachment. But because Trump was impeached the first time just last year, the parliamentarian’s office recently digitized their impeachment rules. Phew!

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Meeting with advisers, according to the transition.

Expected to attend a virtual fundraiser for Biden’s inaugural committee, according to the transition.

With the Center for Presidential Transition

How many Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President RICHARD NIXON in 1974?

a. Zero
b. Three
c. Six
d. Ten

(Read to the end for the answer)

WARREN PUSHES BIDEN TEAM FOR EXECUTIVE ACTION ON COVID-19 — Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) is asking the Biden administration to take a series of executive actions to combat the coronavirus, our ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN reports. In a memo to Biden’s coronavirus response team, Warren requests that the team address the lack of transparency from the federal government’s coronavirus contracts with private companies, as well as Operation Warp Speed conflicts of interest.

The remaining articles and infographics in this section are exclusively available to POLITICO Pro subscribers. Pro is a smart, personalized policy intelligence platform from POLITICO. If you are interested in learning more about how POLITICO Pro can support your team through the 2020 transition and beyond, visit this webpage.

CARDONA MEETS WITH SENATORS AHEAD OF CONFIRMATION: Biden’s education secretary pick, MIGUEL CARDONA, is meeting with senators ahead of his confirmation hearing, which has yet to be scheduled, JUAN PEREZ reports. Sen. DICK DURBIN (D-Ill.) tweeted his praise for the education secretary nominee after speaking with him Tuesday: “There is much work to do — Betsy DeVos turned the Department into a shell of its former self — but I believe Dr. Cardona is up to the task & I look forward to working with him.”

Sen. BEN RAY LUJÁN (D-N.M.) also reported his meeting with Cardona last week, saying that he would bring “invaluable experience” to address the challenges facing New Mexico schools.

OIL AND GAS GROUP URGES BIDEN TO KEEP TRUMP-ERA ENERGY RULES: The American Petroleum Institute, one of the largest oil and gas industry groups, said in a report that Trump-era “substantial recent regulatory and legislative gains” made during the Trump-era “should not be rolled back.” The report specifically cited the Trump administration’s loosening of the National Environmental Policy Act and changes to Nationwide Permit 12 program as two changes that are “critically important in advancing needed energy infrastructure.”

POWER’S HOUR — SAMANTHA POWER — the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during President BARACK OBAMA’s second term — is poised to join the Biden’s administration as the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. She became a Harvard professor after Obama left office.

Reviewing Power’s memoir, “The Education of an Idealist,” in 2019, DEXTER FILKINS wrote in The New Yorker that much of it read “as though it were written by someone campaigning for her next job — one that requires Senate confirmation.” This is a Senate-confirmed position.

NOT ALL OF BIDEN’S NOMINEES ARE MILLIONAIRES: Treasury Secretary-designate JANET YELLEN and Homeland Security-designate ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS have disclosed millions of dollars in earnings on the financial disclosure forms they’re required to file.

Not Rep. DEB HAALAND (D-N.M.). Biden’s pick for Interior secretary, whose disclosure became public today, does not fit the mold of many Cabinet secretaries these days, who are often among the richest 1 percent of Americans.

Haaland does not have a checking account with more than $5,000 in it or other significant assets. She still has between $15,001 and $50,000 in student loan debt. And she has no income beyond her $174,000 congressional salary and $175 in annual payments from her tribe, the Laguna Pueblo.

Haaland has said she was once so poor that she couldn’t afford to buy food to make a full Thanksgiving dinner for her daughter. Now that she makes a six-figure salary, she’s tried to help out her daughter financially to make up for it, she told Roll Call in 2019.

Through a transition spokesperson, Haaland declined to comment.

HEARING DELAYS: Despite the mounting severity of the pandemic, Biden’s pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department, XAVIER BECERRA, is not among the Cabinet picks who will receive a pre-inauguration hearing.

A senior Senate Democratic aide told ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN that the relevant committees have received Becerra’s financial disclosures and other materials and are in the process of reviewing them, but said it’s “virtually impossible” for them to hold his confirmation hearing before the inauguration.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU Biden has spent months pledging to work with Republicans to advance his agenda, but Senate Democrats are gearing up to pass Biden’s first major legislative package without them, MEGAN CASSELLA, CAITLIN EMMA and Alice report.

Key Senate offices are coalescing around a plan to pass another round of coronavirus legislation soon after Biden takes office using a process called reconciliation, which would allow them to move forward without any Republican support.

MORE DETAILS: Biden plans to call on Congress tomorrow to send him a bipartisan bill boosting stimulus checks to $2,000 and appropriating billions for vaccine distribution and school reopenings, among other provisions, Alice reports.

BRIAN DEESE, the incoming head of Biden’s National Economic Council, said at a Reuters event today that they’re pushing for swift, bipartisan passage of these “rescue” measures while they continue to hammer out longer-term legislation that funds infrastructure and a broader economic recovery.

The president-elect is hoping to get at least 10 Senate Republicans on board with the bill to signal unity and avoid the complicated process of budget reconciliation to push through a package with just 50 Democratic votes plus Harris as a tie-breaker.

Reconciliation “is not the preference of the president-elect,” said one person close to Biden.

Senators on both sides of the aisle are skeptical.

One senior Senate Democratic aide told Alice that while cobbling together 60 votes isn’t “outside the realm of possibility,” they “won’t have a ton of patience for political games” and are preparing now to use reconciliation if necessary.

COMING SOON TO YOUR LIVING ROOM (UNLESS YOU WATCH FOX) — Biden’s inaugural committee is producing a television special for the night of his inauguration next week in lieu of the normal in-person festivities, an official familiar with the plans told TYLER PAGER and Alex. It will air on ABC, CBS and NBC but not Fox. CNN and MSNBC will carry it live. Fox News will not. TOM HANKS will host, with performances by DEMI LOVATO, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, ANT CLEMONS and JON BON JOVI.

MORE ‘LANDMINES’: Political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency have overruled the agency’s career scientists to weaken a major health assessment for a toxic chemical contaminating the drinking water of an estimated 860,000 Americans, according to four sources with knowledge of the changes, ANNIE SNIDER reports.

The changes to the safety assessment for the chemical PFBS, part of a class of “forever chemicals” called PFAS, is the latest in a series of eleventh-hour steps the Trump administration has taken to hamstring Biden’s ability to support aggressive environmental regulations. “They’re just trying to lay as many landmines as possible,” said a Democratic congressional aide with knowledge of the changes.

Biden has accepted Trump’s offer to stay at Blair House before the inauguration (The Washington Post)

YOHANNES ABRAHAM’s political career didn’t start off so well. As a young staffer working for Obama’s primary campaign in 2007, he was given the responsibility of driving around top Obama adviser VALERIE JARRETT on a snowy day in Des Moines, Iowa.

He got lost. Not wanting to look dumb, however, he just kept driving. Keep cool, ya know? But after they passed the same gas station three times, Jarrett spoke up and suggested he ask for directions.

She didn’t hold it against him — Abraham later became her chief of staff. Now, he’s set to be the chief of staff for Biden’s National Security Council.

Six of the 17 Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon. Those six Republicans and all 21 Democrats passed three articles of impeachment. Less than two weeks after this vote, Nixon would announce his resignation before the vote could reach either the House or Senate floors.

Today 10 House Republicans voted for Trump’s impeachment.