Day 55: "Risky business."
1/ Biden deployed FEMA to the U.S.-Mexico border to help shelter and transfer thousands of unaccompanied migrant teens and children, who are currently being held in Customs and Border Protection detention facilities and tent shelters. There are roughly 4,000 children currently in CBP custody – a 25% increase from a week earlier. The Biden administration has struggled to expand Health and Human Services shelter capacity, where about 8,500 teens and children are currently being held. Unaccompanied minors continue to arrive more quickly than HHS officials can match them with sponsors. The current average time children spend in facilities designed to hold adults for 24 hours, has increased to 117 hours – 45 hours longer than the legal limit. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that a CBP facility is “no place for a child,” but that border agents are “working around the clock in difficult circumstances to take care of children temporarily in our care.” The White House, meanwhile, has declined to call the situation a “crisis” or label it a national emergency, which Trump did in 2019 to circumvent Congress and fund his border wall with money lawmakers refused to give him. (New York Times / NBC News / ABC News / Washington Post / Vox / CNN)
2/ FEMA will temporarily house up to 3,000 migrant teenage boys at a Dallas convention center in an effort to alleviate overcrowding at border facilities in South Texas. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will be used for up to 90 days starting this week. (Associated Press / Washington Post)
3/ The CDC’s Covid-19 guidance during the Trump administration was not grounded in science or “primarily authored” by staff, according to a review ordered by Biden’s CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, as part of her pledge to restore public trust in the agency. The review found that some guidance “used less direct language than available evidence supported,” “needed to be updated to reflect the latest scientific evidence,” and “presented the underlying science base for guidance inconsistently.” (Washington Post / CNN)
4/ The CDC warned that the U.S. could see another surge in Covid-19 cases as states relax restrictions and Americans return to airports for spring break travel. “I’m pleading with you, for the sake of our nation’s health,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “Cases climbed last spring, they climbed again in the summer, they will climb now if we stop taking precautions when we continue to get more and more people vaccinated.” The Transportation Security Administration, however, has screened more than 1 million people every day since Thursday – the highest volumes in a year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, warned states against the “risky business” of eliminating public health measures, saying even though things are headed “in the right direction,” caseloads were still too high to declare “victory” by eliminating restrictions. “Don’t spike the ball on the five-yard line. Wait until you get into the end zone. We are not in the end zone yet.” (CNBC / NBC News / CNN / CBS News)
5/ The Justice Department arrested and charged two men with assaulting the Capitol Police officer who died after being sprayed with a chemical by rioters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. While it’s not clear whether Brian Sicknick died because of his exposure to the spray, Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios were charged with nine counts, including assaulting three officers with a deadly weapon. The Justice Department said that the rioters were recorded on video talking about attacking officers, including Sicknick. (Washington Post / NPR / New York Times)
6/ The U.S. has about 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than it has disclosed, which brings the actual number of troops to around 3,500. The Trump administration and the Taliban agreed last year to remove all remaining American forces by May 1. Biden, meanwhile, hasn’t decided whether U.S. troops will stay beyond May 1 or leave, ending America’s longest war after more than 19 years. (New York Times)
7/ The Defense Department’s inspector general’s office concluded its long-delayed investigation into Michael Flynn and his acceptance of money from Russian and Turkish interests before joining the Trump administration, a potential violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The inspector general’s investigation was opened in April 2017, but was put on hold for more than three years. After Trump’s pardon, however, the Justice Department allowed the inspector general’s office to resume its investigation. The watchdog’s office closed its investigation one week after the Biden administration took office and forwarded its findings to the Army. (Washington Post)
8/ The White House is expected to propose a suite of federal tax increases on corporations and the wealthy – the first major hike in almost 30 years – to fund key initiatives like infrastructure, climate, and expanded help for poor Americans. The tax hikes would be included as part of infrastructure and jobs packages and would likely include repealing portions of Trump’s 2017 tax law, which benefited corporations and wealthy individuals. The planned increases reportedly include: raising the corporate tax from 21% to 28%; increasing the income tax rate on people making more than $400,000; expanding the estate tax; paring back tax preferences on pass-through businesses such as LLCs; and setting up a higher capital gains tax rate for individuals making at least $1 million. The Tax Policy Center found that the plan would raise around $2.1 trillion over 10 years. (Bloomberg)
9/ Officials found the audio recording of Trump’s call urging Georgia’s top investigator to find evidence of voter fraud in the trash folder on her device. The audio file of the Dec. 23 call between Trump and investigator Frances Watson was discovered as part of a public records request. State officials originally said they did not think audio of the call existed. It’s also not clear why Watson moved the audio of the call to her trash folder. (CNN)
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