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Trump reportedly wants to skip the inauguration event and launch his 2024 campaign the same week

Joe Biden is supposed to be sworn in on 20 January

President-elect Joe Biden is hopeful Donald Trump will attend his inauguration next month in order to demonstrate a peaceful transfer of power, while adding that his predecessor’s presence would be of “no personal consequence” for him.

Talking to CNN’s Jake Tapper alongside vice president-elect Kamala Harris in their first joint interview since the election on Thursday, Mr Biden was asked whether he wanted Mr Trump to attend the 20 January event.

Mr Biden said the outgoing president’s presence would be “important in only one sense”.

“Not in a personal sense, important in a sense that we are able to demonstrate at the end of this chaos – that he’s created – that there is a peaceful transfer of power with the competing parties standing there, shaking hands, and moving on,” said Mr Biden.

“It is totally his decision and it’s of no personal consequence to me,” he added, “but I do think it is for the country.”

Mr Biden is set to be sworn in as president at midday on 20 January, and has already announced several members of his cabinet team even while Mr Trump continues to refuse to concede.

Mr Trump hasn’t yet said whether he will be attending the inaugural event or not but according to a report published by NBC News on Wednesday, he is planning to skip it and will not even invite Mr Biden and his wife Dr Jill Biden to visit the White House beforehand, as is the custom.

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Several US media reports have also said Mr Trump could announce his 2024 presidential run around the same time, something that has been hinted by many of his aides.

Last week the Daily Beast reported through sources that the president is not only certain of running in 2024, but he also plans to make the announcement during the inauguration week or even the same day if his legal efforts to overturn the election do not yield any results.

The president’s team has reportedly already started working on preparations for a run to reclaim the White House, and Mr Trump told a gathering of the Republican National Committee this week that he would “see them in four years”.

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Biden administration

Joe Biden administration defends its decision not to sanction Saudi Crown Prince

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The Biden administration defended its decision not to sanction Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally for his role in the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as the White House confirmed no more actions against the kingdom are imminent.

“The United States has not historically sanctioned the leaders of countries where we have diplomatic relations or even some where we don’t have diplomatic relations,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Behind the scenes there are a range of diplomatic conversations.”

Despite President Joe Biden’s comment Friday in an interview with Univision that “we’re going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday” — and a similar statement from at the White House on Saturday — the administration said it isn’t planning steps beyond the limited sanctions already announced against some Saudi officials.

“The recalibration of relations with Saudi Arabia began on January 20th and it’s ongoing,” the White House said in a statement. “The Administration took a wide range of new actions on Friday. The President is referring to the fact that on Monday, the State Department will provide more details and elaborate on those announcements, not new announcements.”

Psaki, in a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the administration has been “crystal clear at every level” about recalibrating the relationship with Saudi Arabia and about it’s plan to “turn the page from the last four years.”

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On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced what he called a new “Khashoggi Ban” policy, barring U.S. visas for 76 Saudi individuals who the U.S. said had threatened dissidents abroad.

That action came after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified version of an intelligence report that the Trump administration had withheld from the public. “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the intelligence agencies found.

Democratic lawmakers ramped up their calls for Biden to do more to hold the Saudi crown prince personally responsible. Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Fox that sanctions on Prince Mohammed should be considered “if we don’t see a change in behavior.”

The crown prince has said he accepts symbolic responsibility for the killing as the country’s de facto ruler. Saudi officials have said the murder was carried out by rogue agents who have since been prosecuted.

On Friday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said the government “completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.
(Livemint)

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Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House

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President Biden has brought back bipartisan meetings at the White House that diminished under his predecessor, trying to find common ground with Republicans even as they remain far apart on issues related to the next round of coronavirus relief.

Biden’s first meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office was with Republican senators on the coronavirus proposal and he has since met with bipartisan members of Congress on infrastructure and, later, supply chain issues. Biden’s outreach to Republicans has also extended beyond Capitol Hill to governors and local leaders as his administration grapples with the coronavirus and recent winter storms in southern states.

The meetings are another example of a return to more traditional governing under Biden and he is expected to make them a regular occurrence.

White House spokesman Michael Gwin said that the president is “glad to welcome lawmakers from both parties to the White House to work towards finding common ground on the challenges we face, and he’ll continue to do so throughout his time in office.”

“Biden’s brand is bringing people together, so it’s always helpful for him to remind voters that he’s trying to unite,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “For now, it helps him stay above the fray.”

While Biden is making an effort to reach across the aisle, the real test will be whether that engagement yields any results. Discussions with Republicans on COVID-19 relief have brought both sides no closer to a compromise. Democrats have pushed ahead to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal using budget reconciliation, creating tensions with Republicans.

“There are clearly issues where there is bipartisan consensus, but it requires presidential leadership and political capital to prevent the far left or far right from stopping it,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former spokesman in George W. Bush’s White House.

Biden’s effort to work across the aisle is reflective of his campaign trail pledge to be a unifier and a “president for all Americans.”

“He’s said he wants Republicans at the table from the very beginning,” said one longtime Biden adviser. “You can’t campaign on that for a year and a half and then not do it.”

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The adviser said Biden’s aim has always been to tone down the rhetoric and “break the fever.”

“Making them the opposition and not the enemy, that’s part of the deal,” the adviser said. “Part of the goal is normalizing talking to them. That is also a message that he’s sending not just to Republicans, but to Democrats, as well.

“He’s not under the illusion that we’ll get 67 votes, but this is how policymaking works,” the adviser continued, adding that Biden is a “creature of the Senate.”

Biden has forecast plans to pass a recovery and infrastructure package and Democrats have also introduced an immigration proposal on Capitol Hill, presenting his next tests to work with Republicans. Biden would need Republicans to join Democrats in order to pass an immigration overhaul.

In addition to Biden’s contacts, the White House says officials remain in constant contact with Republican offices on Capitol Hill and in the states.

Biden’s first meeting with GOP senators on Feb. 1 was cordial, according to participants, but Biden has remained committed to his $1.9 trillion relief proposal, which Republicans view as too expensive.

Biden’s outreach continued as he met with a bipartisan group of senators on Feb. 11 about infrastructure and, this week, with 11 lawmakers, including six Republicans, about addressing vulnerabilities in supply chains. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas.), who met with Biden on a trip to storm-stricken Texas on Friday, described the meeting as “very positive.”

“The political process has its ups and downs, and I’m hoping that this is an opportunity for us to do something truly important in a bipartisan way,” said Cornyn. “So far, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill is being passed strictly along party lines. I think that’s unfortunate.”
(Hill)

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Coronavirus Vaccine

Biden will honor 500K US COVID-19 deaths with candle lighting ceremony

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President Biden plans to mark 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the US with a candle lighting ceremony Monday, according to the White House.

The president will deliver a heartfelt speech at sundown at the White House’s Cross Hall to commemorate the grim death toll milestone, Biden’s press schedule said Sunday.

“The president will deliver remarks on the lives lost to COVID-19 in the Cross Hall,” the schedule states.

“[He will then] hold a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at sundown in the South Portico.”

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Biden will honor the lives lost to the illness — which on Sunday hovered just under 500,000, according to state health officials — alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden.

Biden and Harris also held a somber ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial a day before taking office last month to honor the 400,000 lives lost to the coronavirus.

“To heal, we must remember,” Biden said at the time.

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