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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris must “lay down the law” with their family members about using their connections with the White House to profit financially, according to Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute. 

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Vice President Kamala Harris attends a virtual roundtable event with participants from local Black Chambers of Commerce, 2021

“They are not going to pay attention to what a lawyer says, and in both instances, both with the Biden and the Harris families, you have this sort of cultural history of this kind of cashing in,” Schweitzer said on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” Monday. 

His comments come after The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that White House aides have become concerned about Harris’s niece, Meena Harris, who has for some time used her famous aunt’s name and image while marketing videos, children’s books, clothing with phrases the now-vice president has said, designer headphones, and other items. 

“Some things can’t be undone,” a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. “That being said, the behavior needs to change.”

“Habits are hard to break, and oftentimes, political families feel a certain semblance of entitlements to be able to do these sorts of things,” said Schweizer. “Unless you get the president of the United States or the vice president explicitly calling off their families in public. This behavior is absolutely going to continue.”

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But part of the problem with ethics in Washington, D.C., is that the rules are written by political figures themselves, he added. 

“There are no proper repercussions,” said Schweizer. “When Kamala Harris was attorney general of California, her husband ran a small law firm in Los Angeles. Some of his clients had matters before her office, and there is evidence, some would argue that they got favorable treatment. So this is not a new area for the Harris family. It didn’t impact them negatively before. And unfortunately, I don’t think there is any reason for them to change their behavior right now.”

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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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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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Joe Biden to meet Justin Trudeau of Canada after Keystone pipeline order

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Joe Biden will hold his first bilateral meeting with the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, on Tuesday, the White House said on Saturday.

The meeting, which will be virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, will aim to elevate collaboration on shared concerns at a time when the relationship between the close allies has been strained by Biden’s decision to block the Canada-backed Keystone XL pipeline.

In a statement, the White House said Biden and his cabinet will also meet virtually with Canadian ministers on a range of issues.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said it would be “an opportunity for the two leaders to review joint efforts in areas of mutual interest such as the Covid-19 response, climate change and the economic ties that bind our countries, as well as the deep people-to-people bonds we share.

“The president will highlight the strong and deep partnership between the United States and Canada as neighbors, friends and Nato allies,” she said.

Trudeau called the US-Canada relationship “one of the strongest and deepest friendships between any two countries” and said: “It is built on common values, strong ties between our people and a shared geography … We will work together to end the Covid-19 pandemic and support people in both our countries.”

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Trudeau was the first world leader to congratulate Biden after the November election and Canada is looking forward to turning the page on the Donald Trump era, when relations between the two countries became somewhat strained.

While Biden has had at-times lengthy calls with foreign leaders, his Canada meeting will extend to lower-level meetings between cabinet ministers, as have interactions with Mexico and several European allies.

Biden revoked a permit for the Keystone pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels a day of carbon-intensive heavy crude from Alberta to Nebraska, on his first day in office last month, as part of a flurry of executive orders aimed at curbing climate change.

Trudeau has said Canada will seek exemptions to a US effort to ensure federal agencies buy US-produced goods. The US move could hurt Canada, given how tightly the two nations’ economies are integrated.

The two countries are in a shared standoff with China after Canada’s detention of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies on a US arrest warrant.

Beijing detained and charged two Canadians with espionage after the detention of Meng, who remains under house arrest.
(The guardian)

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