Politico

Birx says she thought of quitting the Trump administration 'always'


Deborah Birx frequently contemplated quitting her post as White House coronavirus response coordinator due to the hyperpartisan environment within the Trump administration, she said in an interview set to air Sunday.

Asked by Margaret Brennan on CBS' "Face the Nation" if she ever thought of leaving the administration's effort to combat the pandemic, Birx flatly responded "always."

"I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day?" Birx said. "Colleagues of mine that I had known for decades — decades — in that one experience, because I was in the White House, decided that I had become this political person, even though they had known me forever."

Under Donald Trump, public health officials frequently grew frustrated with a president who would contradict guidelines and research by his own health experts on the virus. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert and one of the most front-facing members of the White House Covid response team, said he felt liberated after President Joe Biden took office.

During her interview with Brennan, Birx acknowledged that government Covid messaging was colored by the politics of the 2020 elections under Trump, but she denied ever withholding any information from the public.

Birx joined the Trump administration's Covid response team after serving as the U.S. leader in combating global HIV and AIDS under President Barack Obama. Her time working with the Trump White House made her a household name as she served as the administration's public face on the crisis, along with Fauci.

Birx announced last month she would retire from her position after assisting Biden's administration transition into the White House. During her interview with Brennan, Birx clarified her retirement would likely be within the next four to six weeks.

Her retirement announcement last month appeared to be tied to public outcry after The Associated Press reported she had traveled to family properties in Delaware with three generations of relatives during the Thanksgiving season. Though Birx said everyone was in her immediate household and that the trip was for maintenance on the properties and not to celebrate the holiday, she came under fire for appearing to flaunt Covid distancing guidelines as millions of Americans skipped celebrations due to the pandemic.

Birx said at the time that the experience was "a bit overwhelming" and "difficult" for her family.

“You know, they didn’t choose this for me. You know, they’ve tried to be supportive. But to drag my family into this, when my daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months,” Birx said in an interview with Newsy last month. “They’ve become deeply depressed.”

How Biden Can Fix Trump’s 1776 Disaster


Before even taking office, Joe Biden pledged to disband Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission — designed to promote “patriotic education” and counter the New York Times’ controversial “1619 Project,” which put slavery at the center of the American historical narrative. And by 12:01 p.m. on Inauguration Day, the commission’s extravagantly mocked1776 Report,” a 45-page, unsourced so-called “definitive chronicle of the American Founding” (released only 48 hours earlier on Martin Luther King Jr. Day), vanished from the White House website.

The disappearance was cheered by professional historians and large swaths of the population. The Trump administration’s commission was “a hack job” reflecting a “clumsy partisan intent,” argued two leading historians. It was a history written by non-historians that was responsible for “obscuring facts and ignoring historical context.” The American Historical Association called the report “a simplistic interpretation that relies on falsehoods, inaccuracies, omissions and misleading statements.”

But a thorough, historian-led, nonpartisan commission on the founding isn’t such a bad idea. These kinds of history-driven government initiatives, when done right, have in the past been useful tools for fostering unity and promoting civic responsibility—two things America is in bad need of today. If Biden wants to promote his call for “unity” and respond “to the call of history,” as he said in his inaugural address, he can offer no stronger foundation than a new, improved government-led project to provide a factual foundation of America’s origins and a non-partisan discussion of our founding ideals.

The 1776 Commission clearly faltered in conception and execution, but the basic premise of a government commission on our founding history has a long precedent. Since the 19th century, the federal government has created many such commissions, particularly regarding the American Revolution and founding era. They’ve expanded the focus of American history, boosted national unity and even promoted concepts of liberty internationally. In 1924, for example, President Calvin Coolidge signed the George Washington Bicentennial Celebration Commission into existence six years before the event and sought to “ensure intellectual rigor” by incorporating historians and the American Historical Association. It led to public commemorations around the world, historians’ presentations in the capital and the publication of an edited collection of Washington’s letters. Taking place during the Great Depression, it roused the “whole land” “in spite of economic distress,” said Commission Director Sol Bloom, and it did “more to aid in maintaining national sanity during these distressful times than anything else could possibly have done,” reported the Muncie Post-Democrat.

In 1973, Congress created the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, which offered a chance to reengage with America’s history. As President Gerald Ford said in 1976, “We Americans should pause and consider what our country means to us — and what it means to the world.” In the wake of Watergate and Richard Nixon’s resignation (some previously accused Nixon of politicizing the commemoration), the Bicentennial, which included public events and academic components, spurred unity and inclusivity with nearly all of the population participating in some fashion combined with a major expansion in diverse public historical sites.

Celebrations of history have also been used to sow division. In 1876, during the centennial of the American Revolution in and around Boston, patriot descendants excluded African Americans, Irish Americans and female suffragists from positions of social prominence and political power. The patriots’ heirs called those without the “common blood” un-American, while the minority groups labeled their accusers as “unworthy descendant[s].” This was a battle between a literal versus a symbolic inheritance of the American Revolution—could its ideals be expanded to all? It led to years of bitter social and political feuds, such as over what monuments went up, if certain types of protest were acceptable, and what political candidates properly represented the Founders’ beliefs and current citizens. (Sound familiar?) Certain revolutionary era events, like the Battle of Bunker Hill, were championed by Bostonians as “a glorious act of patriots,” while the Boston Massacre, where the mixed-race Crispus Attucks was the first American killed, was remembered as a “low and disgraceful mob.”

The United States is currently experiencing a “decline of historical thinking,” as the New Yorker called it. It’s evident in the bandying about of the word “patriot” in reference to those who rioted at the Capitol, in the overwhelming push toward STEM in education (accompanied by the seemingly daily closure of college history departments) and in Illinois State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford’s call for the abolishment of history classes in Illinois schools to “instead devote greater attention toward civics,” which confusingly can’t be effectively taught without history. Similarly, there has been an unfortunate recent anti-Founders movement. When history does appear in the news, it’s often been politicized. The 1776 Commission was one example, with its anachronistic references to the “Pro-Life Movement” and comparisons of American progressives to Mussolini. But the New York Time’s 1619 Project was also problematic—though it was journalism not a government report. The project claims that “our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written,” based on the questionably supported and readily disputable initial claim “that the colonists declared their independence from Britain … to protect the institution of slavery in the colonies” (although the Times’ later made a “clarification” and other alterations). Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, a critic of both projects, recently noted this connection: “[The 1776 Commission report is] the flip side of those polemics, presented as history, that charge the nation was founded as a slavocracy. … It’s basically a political document, not history.”

Neither project features writing from actual early American historians (though 1619 did have fact checkers and consultants, such as Leslie M. Harris—whose advice was “ignored”). They both offer big, bold claims that leave out conflicting evidence and often ignore the wider historical record. (For instance, each omits any substantiative references to Native Americans, loyalism or colonial history beyond the British thirteen.) They both also want to shape the future of American education.

Despite these criticisms, the “1776 Report” and the “1619 Project” each have worthwhile elements. You can’t tell the story of America accurately without slavery and racism, nor can you do so without the Founders’ understanding and promise of liberty. An inherent contradiction? Yes. But can either be avoided? No. Is the Declaration of Independence, flawed? Yes, but its evolution, content and impact are still important for every American to know, thus the conclusions of the “1776 Report” that “our Declaration is worth preserving, our Constitution worth defending” offer a legitimately productive starting point for discussion. “Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal, and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear and demonization have long torn us apart,” Biden said on Wednesday. To understand and engage with American history, the nation must consider these legacies and many more.

That’s where a new historical commission—hopefully with bipartisan support—can come in. The goal of this new commission, set up as our nation begins preparations to celebrate its 250th birthday on July 4, 2026, should be to produce a report that lays out key themes of the founding with additional suggestions for discussion questions and primary sources that offer differing perspectives. It needs to be suitable for a general reader and adaption for the classroom. It should aim for objectivity and should help establish baseline facts. It should also seek to update and expand our country’s narrative and correct mistakes (especially in widely assigned textbooks).

The commission should include historians and scholars of differing opinions, K-12 teachers, and museum staff from sites such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Park Service. And it should include students of varying perspectives, races, genders and ages. It’s important for educators to seek out the histories students actually want to learn to help inspire and inform future generations.

A national-level discussion will not, and should not, happen overnight and it should not be in isolation. But it should happen—for national unity, and to produce informed citizens who can protect themselves from misinformation, whether it originates from within the country or from a foreign adversary.

Whether a new commission is called or not, the politicization of history isn’t going anywhere. Partisan fighting over the meaning and history of the American Revolution has existed from the start; even the Founders themselves weren’t a united voice. But they were united in the belief that American ideals were important and worthy of public discourse. And we can ensure the nation gets the facts right as we continue that discussion today. By trying to find commonality in our past, we might just develop a shared appreciation for what we still can accomplish.

Will There Be a Trump Presidential Library? Don’t Count On It.


For months, as the end of Donald Trump’s term approached, historians and journalists have been playing a speculation game: What will Donald Trump’s presidential library be like?

“A shrine to his ego,” predicted a historian in the Washington Post. Others imagine a theme park, or a “full MAGA” exercise in rebranding his presidency. One report said he’s trying to raise an astonishing $2 billion to build it.

Here’s another, more likely possibility: There won’t be one.

It’s not because he doesn’t read books (presidential libraries aren’t that kind of library), and not because his presidency ended in a shocking insurrection at the U.S. Capitol fanned by Trump himself, resulting in a second impeachment. Other presidents have stepped down in borderline disgrace—Richard Nixon resigned; Herbert Hoover lost in a landslide, blamed for the Great Depression—and still got their libraries.



Trump likely won’t even manage to build a private library, such as the one Nixon finally created for himself. Or the “center” for which Barack Obama has had great difficulty even breaking ground, which will lack a government presence, a research facility, or archives.

Presidential libraries are complicated. And if you understand how they work—and how Trump himself works—it’s nearly impossible to imagine him actually pulling it off. The consequences of this failure, for Trump and his supporters, will go beyond just a building: Without a library, a center or some kind of institute to shore up his reputation, his legacy as a president and his place in history are likely to fall even further out of his control.


The first and most important reason not to expect a Trump Library is that it’s expensive to build one. The government might pay for lifetime Secret Service protection, but it doesn’t front the money for a library: No federal funds may be used to build or equip a presidential library, and no federal property may be used. To get the ball rolling, former presidents must create a nonprofit to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. While they may do so in unlimited sums, with almost no disclosure, from any source, anywhere in the world, it’s a lot easier to do it while in office.

Most presidents with federal libraries began planning—even fundraising—before their terms ended. Franklin D. Roosevelt opened his library about five months into his third term. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan even broke ground before they left office. And Obama, who initially announced he would do no active fundraising while in office, did passively accept millions as early as 2014. It’s that much harder for a one-term president, given the abrupt and often unexpected nature of their early departure from the White House. Needless to say, if Trump—who still hasn’t admitted he lost—has any such effort underway, he hasn’t made it public.

True, Trump is a wheeler-dealer, but the money requirement is stiffer than it appears: If a president wants to build a library that becomes a federal facility, the usual route is for him to donate all or part of it to the government. And in that case, the law mandates an additional operations and maintenance endowment to the National Archives of 60 percent of the cost of the full project.


Even for presidents who have demonstrated decades of mature perseverance and attention to their top donors, it can be difficult to raise that kind of money. Fundraising gets harder each year a president is out of office. It gets even harder after he dies. It might seem less expensive in the short run to skip donating the library to the government, to avoid that significant endowment. But in the long run, that’s more expensive: The endowment is what legally allows the government to cover future operating costs. Without government funding, personnel and resources, a president’s foundation would need to pay millions of dollars a year to run the facility in perpetuity. When that money ran out, the library would shut down, or at best throw itself at the mercy of Washington. Nixon’s foundation ran his for 16 years before finally giving up, begging the government to welcome the library into the federal fold (it did, in 2007).

Almost all presidents have had trouble with “site selection.” FDR’s mother didn’t want to deed part of the family estate. Harry Truman’s relatives didn’t want him to use the family farm. People in Cambridge, Massachusetts, didn’t want the Kennedy Library bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists to its tiny streets; the foundation got hung up in years of protests and construction delays, finally giving up on John F. Kennedy’s hand-picked site. Nixon resigned before he could finalize his secret scheme to build his library amid 4,000 acres he illegally wrested while president from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.



Where could Trump put his? Sometimes universities help provide homes for local presidents, like the University of Texas, which provided 30 acres on its Austin campus for LBJ. But it’s hard to imagine either of Trump’s colleges, Fordham or Penn, willingly hosting his library. Even less controversial presidents have run into friction with such plans. Duke University rejected Nixon, who got his law degree there. Stanford rejected the Reagan Library. Southern Methodist University faculty and students protested the George W. Bush Library, but the library eventually did open on its University Park campus. While each of these presidents had his controversies, none was as widely reviled by a large and diverse swath of the country.

However opposition forms, it can be hard to persist and overcome, for even the most patient and connected of former presidents. The Obama Center has had its groundbreaking delayed for years by community opposition in Chicago—the city that launched his political career.

Trump also has some challenges that are uniquely his own. As of this writing, we don’t know if he’ll run again in 2024. We don’t know if he’ll launch a competitor to Fox News, OAN and Newsmax. We don’t know if he’ll seek to form a new party, or if his party will seek to break from him (though the latter, currently, seems unlikely). We do know the announcement of a presidential library, center or whatever it may be called, is a sign of the end of a political career. A capstone. In effect, a notice of retirement—at least from office-seeking. And Trump has shown little inclination to step decisively out of the public eye.

Even if he did, Trump would then have to raise, legitimately, and according to the laws of the state in which he creates his foundation, hundreds of millions of dollars to build a traditional presidential library, with a museum, archives and space for public events, his foundation’s offices, and whatever other activities he wishes to attempt within such a limited legal and financial environment.

To say the least, Trump has shown little ability to operate a legitimate nonprofit foundation, never mind build an endowment. He’ll have considerable difficulty doing so in his home state of New York. Under a 2019 court order, after “admitting to personally misusing funds at the Trump Foundation,” Trump agreed to a settlement that—should he succeed in persuading anyone to give him the money at all—puts an extremely short leash on any nonprofit he might launch in that state.

If he does build a library, it’s likely Trump would want the legitimacy and imprimatur of the federal government, as a “seal of approval” for his story, told his way. He might even like to have the National Archives host his exhibits about how “great” he made America (again), and, perhaps, how great was the “theft” of his second term. But to do any of that, the law will require him not only to spend the money on the grounds and building, but to raise hundreds of millions of additional dollars—and give it, almost unthinkably, to the government.


If there’s a model for a rule-breaking outsider like Trump, it might be—ironically—the Obama library. But if anything, Obama’s experience shows just how hard it would be for a character not known for focus or persistence.



Obama is a popular, two-term former president who, until 2020, had won the most votes and raised the most money of any president in history. He left office tied with Dwight Eisenhower for the third-highest approval rating in more than 70 years. Yet Obama decided to skip the traditional presidential library, planning an Obama Center outside the National Archives system of official federal libraries. It will not be a research center, nor house his official records, and will have no role for the federal government. It’s not clear why Obama went this route, though the lack of federal involvement frees him from the endowment requirement, and gives him greater latitude to portray his presidency, and use the facility, however he likes.

After the Obama Foundation announced this break, the National Archives quietly announced it hopes future presidents will follow this new model, perhaps because the agency no longer wishes to be in the propaganda business. (Though the break has added to the storage burden of an agency already running out of space.) Given the Archives’ preference not to receive a donated library, it will be difficult for Donald Trump, and Joe Biden, and those who come after them, to go back to the tradition.

Of course, there’s one other outside possibility: Trump, never one to bow to norms, might forge his own model entirely. He could bypass the fundraising and the legal worries about running a charity and the thorny (and costly) issues with government involvement and not build or even operate a memorial to himself—yet still get one. And such a model would be, in a word, Trumpian.

Trump made his name in real-estate development, but few of the buildings with his name on them are ones he built, or even owns. What he really builds is his brand, licensing his name to others who actually build and operate his towers and hotels. He could, in theory, use the same toolkit for a monument to himself, licensing the Donald Trump name to a for-profit enterprise—maybe a casino, or a golf course, or a ticketed museum with an attached hotel—to operate as a tourist attraction for the MAGAs and the (morbidly) curious.

Given the challenges of the other models, that would likely be the only way he could come close to having the kind of Trumpian shrine most observers have predicted. He could even brand it a “library,” to avoid falling out of the club of former presidents—but that wouldn’t make it one.


While Trump almost certainly won’t have a traditional presidential library, and it’s unlikely he’ll have a private version of one, the pull—especially for someone seeking redemption, or even just acknowledgment—is strong. Nixon made plenty of efforts to rehabilitate his reputation, but it was the building of his library, 16 years after he resigned, that rescued him for history: Two former presidents and three former first ladies enthusiastically helped him and his wife Pat dedicate the private Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. Tens of thousands of supporters attended, and heard George H.W. Bush’s prediction that Nixon would be remembered “for dedicating his life to the greatest cause offered any President—the cause of peace among nations.”



Four years later, 4,000 mourners watched as five living U.S. presidents gathered for the first time, paying Nixon tribute and laying him to rest alongside Pat in the library’s Rose Garden. Bill Clinton famously bade him farewell by exhorting us to judge the man on nothing less than “his entire life and career.”

Could such future ceremonies, and their implicit rehabilitation, be in store for the 45th president?

Not without a presidential library. Which he won't have.

Judge orders Treasury to notify Trump before giving up tax returns


A federal judge on Friday ordered the Treasury Department to give attorneys for former President Donald Trump 72 hours' notice if it decides to turn over Trump’s federal tax returns to House Democrats.

District Court Judge Trevor McFadden said the order would last for two weeks, amid uncertainty over how the change in administrations will affect House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal’s long-running effort to get Treasury to turn over Trump’s returns. McFadden also ordered attorneys for all sides in the case to file a joint status report by Feb. 3.

Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to surrender Trump’s returns when Neal requested them in 2019. But with Democrat Joe Biden now in the White House, Treasury could decide to hand them over.

In a hearing before McFadden, House Counsel Douglas Letter said the committee still wants the returns and hopes Treasury “will follow what we believe is a clear legal obligation” to provide them.



Justice Department attorney James Gilligan told McFadden he had no idea whether Treasury or the DOJ, which backed Mnuchin’s decision, had changed its position or was about to, adding “they have a lot on their plate” with the change in administrations.

Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, has been seeking six years worth of Trump’s personal tax returns, and some of his business-related returns, citing a law that requires the Treasury secretary to turn over any returns requested by the chairs of Congress’ three tax committees.

While Neal said he needed the returns to examine the integrity of the IRS’ routine audits of presidents, Democrats were eager to pick through them for any signs of malfeasance.

After Mnuchin refused, saying Neal didn’t have a “legitimate legislative purpose” for wanting the returns, Democrats sued in federal court in July 2019. Since then, the case has moved at a glacial pace.

The latest back-and-forth is an example of the type of legal wrangling arising from his administration that will continue to dog Trump.

In a separate case, House Democrats said in December they would reissue a subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm for his financial records. And Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is seeking Trump’s tax returns in yet another case.

Letter expressed frustration at the delays in Neal’s case.

“Our feeling is enough is enough,” Letter said during Friday's hearing. "The statute is clear” that the Treasury secretary must give Trump’s returns to Neal.

Biden directs Treasury, IRS to find 8M who haven't claimed stimulus


The Treasury Department and IRS are working to get unclaimed economic relief payments to as many as 8 million households that haven’t yet received their due.

The undertaking, announced by the agencies Friday, is part of a broader initiative started by President Joe Biden’s executive order mobilizing the full federal government on various parts of Covid-19 relief and will include a web tool to help people find out if they’re eligible.

Much of the focus is on people not required to file tax returns.

“This is principally an issue associated with people who are non-filers, so they’re not filing income taxes in most cases because they don’t make enough to need to file federal income taxes,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said at a White House press briefing.

The planned online portal is an outgrowth of the existing IRS non-filer website established last year to help ensure names and contact information were registered for payments. Initial payments were distributed based on the past two years of tax return filings, but not all eligible recipients were in those databases since not everyone has to file tax returns.

Still waiting: Treasury and the IRS led two rounds of direct payments to individuals and households last year, the first following coronavirus aid legislation in March, the CARES Act, and then again after follow-up legislation was enacted in December.

A variety of hitches, though, prevented millions of eligible recipients from quickly getting the money they were owed, and many are still waiting.

“As many as 8 million households may be eligible for but have not yet received payments from the CARES Act signed in March; many of these households could be legally entitled to as much as $1,200 per adult,” according to a department fact sheet outlining the plan.

The goal is to swiftly get money out the door to help eligible recipients who for various reasons haven’t accessed their payments.

Other channels: In addition to the web tool, Treasury and the IRS will also reissue unclaimed economic relief payments from last year.

Hundreds of thousands of checks and debit cards authorized by the CARES Act were never cashed or activated. Some were accidentally thrown away. Debit cards, for example, were mailed in discreet envelopes that many people thought was junk mail or scam offers so they tossed them in the trash.

In addition to reissuing them, while turning off previously issued debit cards when new payments are made to help prevent fraud, Treasury and the IRS will also take outreach steps to encourage those who didn’t claim their benefits to do so on their 2020 tax returns due this year.

More education and awareness are needed in some cases, Deese said, noting plans to continue partnering with non-government groups to reach those missing out. The IRS worked through similar partnerships last year, too.

The underlying outreach will also attempt to connect with people who don’t have Internet access, or limited access, as well as those who don’t speak English.

Treasury and the IRS also plan to better target unserved households by leveraging information like addresses and zip codes on beneficiaries of other government assistance programs to pinpoint some who’ve missed payments.

Separate action: In addition to directing Covid-19 relief via executive order, Biden is taking other actions including quickly rescinding an executive order affecting Treasury and IRS personnel involved in tax regulations.

Lawmakers lauded Biden’s decision to eliminate the new Schedule F worker classification for all federal employees who work on regulations across the government, which would have stripped them of many labor protections. Former President Donald Trump issued the directive in October, telling agencies to start the Schedule F recharacterization on Jan. 19.

Critics said it would have effectively made rule-making federal employees the equivalent of political appointees — a negative for collecting taxes.

“The Ways and Means Committee previously called for this to be done, as it will preserve the nonpartisan nature of tax administration and limit the politicization of the federal government’s civil service,” Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in a statement.

Biden poised to pick Obama-era security veterans for 3 top cyber roles


President Joe Biden is expected to appoint former officials with extensive cyber policy experience to three crucial positions as his administration grapples with digital security threats including the massive SolarWinds hack.

Biden is likely to appoint Jen Easterly to be his national cyber director, according to three people familiar with the matter, choosing a veteran of the National Security Council and the military and intelligence communities to lead a newly created White House office that will guide his strategy and oversee agencies’ digital security.

The president will likely tap Robert Silvers, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, to head DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, handing him the mission of protecting U.S. critical infrastructure and federal computer networks from hackers, according to two people familiar with the matter.

And Biden is expected to name Eric Goldstein, another DHS veteran, to lead CISA’s Cybersecurity Division, filling one of the most important mid-level roles at the agency, according to a person familiar with the matter.

All three officials will play key roles as Biden weighs how his administration will respond to the SolarWinds cyber espionage campaign, a major series of cyberattacks in which hackers, believed to be from Russian foreign intelligence, compromised an untold number of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private corporations.

“All three of those folks have extensive experience in cybersecurity,” Michael Daniel, who served as President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator, told POLITICO when asked for his thoughts on the three candidates. “They bring a lot of skills to the administration and I think would be strong players.”

Easterly, the head of resilience at Morgan Stanley, served as deputy director for counterterrorism at the NSA from 2011 to 2013 before joining Obama’s NSC, where she served as special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism. She was also instrumental during the Obama years in establishing the military’s U.S. Cyber Command.

More recently, she advised Biden’s transition team on how to establish the cyber director office that she has now been tapped to lead. Congress created the Office of the National Cyber Director inside the Executive Office of the President in the latest defense policy bill.

Silvers, a partner at Paul Hastings, served as assistant secretary for cyber policy at DHS in the final year of Obama’s presidency, after spending two years as the department’s deputy chief of staff. He co-led the CISA section of Biden’s DHS transition team.

Goldstein, the vice president and head of cybersecurity policy for Goldman Sachs, spent four years at CISA’s predecessor, DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate, during the Obama administration. For the first half of 2017, he led its cyber division’s public engagement branch. During the transition, he served on Biden’s DHS review team as part of the CISA unit.

Reuters first reported that Easterly and Silvers were the leading candidates for their jobs, while CyberScoop first reported Goldstein’s expected nomination. Easterly, Silvers, Goldstein, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

“With these appointments, clearly the Biden Administration is making cybersecurity and the protection of United States infrastructure a top priority,” said Anthony Ferrante, a former NSC director for cyber incident response and FBI Cyber Division chief of staff. “He's building a strong and diverse team, with accomplished backgrounds in cyber offense, resilience, and investigations.”

Defining a new role

If confirmed by the Senate, Easterly will be instrumental in defining the structure and purpose of the amorphous new cyber director office. The position, the marquee recommendation of the congressionally chartered Cyberspace Solarium Commission, is essentially an upgrade of the National Security Council cyber coordinator post that former President Donald Trump eliminated in 2018.

Leading the new office would give Easterly the chance to leave a mark on the government’s cyber operations that will long outlast her tenure.

While many experts have championed the idea of a White House cyber office as a way of elevating the issue’s importance and proximity to the president, key questions about its activities and authority remain unanswered. How Easterly handles the job will help answer those questions and set a precedent for all of her successors. With a broad but untested mandate, it will be up to Easterly to establish whether her position becomes influential or superfluous.

Easterly will bring a key asset to the job of national cyber director: a past working relationship with Anne Neuberger, the NSA official whom Biden appointed to the new position of deputy national security adviser for cybersecurity.

Neuberger and Easterly both served from 2009 to 2010 on the implementation team for Cyber Command, then a subordinate unit of U.S. Strategic Command. They were instrumental in establishing the structure and operational mindset of the unit, which became a full combatant command in 2017.

After helping to create Cyber Command, Easterly and Neuberger continued to climb the NSA’s ranks together. From 2011 to 2013, Easterly was the NSA’s No. 2 counterterrorism official while Neuberger was serving as a special assistant to then-NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander.

It remains unclear how the White House will delineate responsibilities between Neuberger and Easterly.

Congress intended Easterly’s new role to oversee U.S. cyber defenses and the protection of government and civilian networks. Neuberger has experience with both the offensive and defensive work of the NSA, but her most recent work was on the defensive side, and her new position remains undefined.

Biden could task Neuberger with overseeing offensive cyber operations and cyber intelligence collection to avoid issues of redundancy or conflict with Easterly.

Guiding CISA through the post-Krebs era

As CISA director, Silvers would replace Chris Krebs, whom Trump fired in November for publicly debunking his conspiracy theories about the election.

Silvers will oversee the growth and maturation of the nation’s newest agency, established in late 2018 to replace the DHS division that helped defend ports, hospitals and power plants from cyberattacks and dirty bombs. With a workforce of roughly 2,200 employees, CISA is responsible for everything from helping state and local governments block ransomware attacks to helping schools plan for mass shootings.

Silvers will bring a key asset to the job of CISA director: an already strong relationship with his new boss, Biden’s DHS Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas. From 2013 to 2014, Silvers served as Mayorkas’ senior counselor while the latter was deputy secretary of homeland security.


As assistant secretary for cyber policy, Silvers played a leading role in bridging the sometimes frosty divide between the federal government and key industry sectors. He also helped oversee DHS’ response to major cyberattacks and data breaches. He “drove administration policy on technology risk issues, ranging from government access to encrypted data to security challenges involving intelligent and autonomous systems,” according to his law firm biography.

Silvers will take over an agency fresh off a successful run defending the 2020 election from cyber interference but also bruised by suspected Russian hackers’ massive and sophisticated breach of federal agencies and Trump’s firing of Krebs.

Krebs, who gained bipartisan acclaim while leading CISA and its predecessor, charted the agency’s initial course and helped make it a serious player in interagency discussions about digital security threats. Silvers will be responsible for guiding CISA through the second phase of its existence, as it tries to improve upon the services that it already provides while continuing to stay ahead of emerging threats in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence and nation-state hacking.

Navigating SolarWinds

Silvers’ success at CISA will depend in part on Goldstein’s stewardship of one of the agency’s key divisions.

CISA has spent the past several months scrambling to respond to SolarWinds, which compromised the networks of multiple departments and agencies along with many Fortune 500 companies. The 2-year-old agency has been overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis, which has taxed its personnel and occasionally left it struggling to provide timely aid to other agencies, according to POLITICO and other outlets.

CISA’s Cybersecurity Division oversees the defense of civilian federal networks, and SolarWinds will test Goldstein’s ability to triage his limited personnel and resources.

The division manages two programs, EINSTEIN and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation, that are supposed to block external threats and scan internal networks for anomalous behavior. The success of the SolarWinds campaign — in which suspected Russian hackers infected software that the government trusted and used command-and-control servers designed not to trip alarms — has raised questions about the efficacy of those two programs.

Goldstein’s earlier DHS career may have prepared him well for his new job. Before leading NPPD’s cyber partnerships branch, he served as a policy adviser in the directorate’s Federal Network Resilience branch, a senior adviser to the head of NPPD’s cyber arm and a senior counselor to the chief of NPPD.

The Capitol under guard


Following the failed insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the National Capital Region was flooded by an unprecedented security response that include nearly 25,000 members of the National Guard just days ahead of the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Unlike military operations overseas, this deployment occurred under the watchful eyes of photographers everywhere. Photojournalists captured the enormity of the troop movements, social media posts expressed both support and alarm and even some military personnel themselves leaked images to members of the media to document difficult working and living conditions.

While not unusual to see armed security personnel on the streets of the Washington, D.C., the spectacle of thousands of soldiers, at times fully armed with weapons of war, was a visual for the ages.
























Delay in power-sharing pact leaves Senate in limbo


Democrats are in control of the Senate. But Sen. Ron Johnson is still leading the Homeland Security Committee, even though he's term-limited and in the minority.

It's the latest complication of the 50-50 Senate split.

“I’m still chairman,” the Wisconsin Republican said this week. “They haven’t hung my picture in the cloakroom yet so that’s a sign I guess.”

As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell negotiate a power sharing agreement for a 50-50 Senate, committee assignments are still up in the air. That means that Republicans like Johnson are, for now, holding hearings and markups for President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees, even though Democrats are in charge of the Senate floor.

Johnson, who will eventually hand over the top GOP slot to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), said that his committee will hold a meeting next week on Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Mayorkas is facing resistance from Republicans and could be stuck in committee if he doesn’t receive enough GOP support.



In interviews this week, several senators laughed when asked who held the committee gavel.

"That’s a good question,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I assume that Leahy is, [chair]," he said, referencing Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who is set to take the helm of the Judiciary Committee, said that right now “it could be one of three people,” who is in charge. It’s either him, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who previously chaired the committee or Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who is slated to return as the top Republican in the new Congress.

A spokesperson for Grassley said that the Iowa Republican is still the chair of the Finance Committee.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services panel, is still calling Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) the chair of the committee even though Reed will eventually take that position. And Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, referred questions about the status of his chairmanship to leadership.

Risch, however, added that the negotiations over the power sharing agreement, known as an organizing resolution, are “not affecting anything” on his committee and that he’s working with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat, to confirm Biden’s secretary of State nominee, Antony Blinken.

“It’s kind of goofy at the moment,” acknowledged Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).

Negotiations between Schumer and McConnell over the organizing resolution are already hitting a snag. McConnell is calling for the resolution to include protections for the legislative filibuster, which Democrats are rejecting. And the talks are occurring as the Senate is preparing to hold a second impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump.

During floor remarks Friday, Schumer said that McConnell was making an “extraneous demand that would place additional constraints on the majority" and argued that the Senate should instead use the same power-sharing agreement as the last 50-50 Senate in 2001. McConnell countered that in 2001 “there wasn’t a need to reaffirm the basic standing rules that govern legislation in the Senate” because it was “safely assumed that no majority would break this rule for short-term gain.”

The 2001 agreement between then-Senate leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle came at a time when the Senate was far less polarized. Even that took weeks to negotiate after the November election. But it was finalized before then President-elect George W. Bush took office and there was also no switch in party control.

“This could go on for a while but it’s got to get resolved or it’s going to start short-circuiting a lot of what happens here including their agenda,” Thune said.



The delay in the organizing resolution could impact Biden’s more controversial Cabinet picks. Without an organizing resolution, Republicans still outnumber Democrats on key committees and could theoretically block nominees from moving forward.

In addition, the longer the delay, the less likely the Senate will act soon on a coronavirus relief package, a top priority for Biden and Democrats. Biden’s initial proposal is already facing resistance from Republicans and Democrats aren’t likely to hold hearings on it until the committee ratios are settled.

The impasse over the resolution also means that the 10 new senators will need to wait for their committee assignments.

“For new members, they are eager to report back to their constituents what their committees are and they can’t do that,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “That’s obviously very frustrating.”

The new members insist that they’re keeping busy crafting legislation and say they are confident they’ll see their assignments soon.

“It does seem it will be 50-50 on committees and then we’ll get the committee assignments,” said freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). “Unlike a lot of the folks in my class, I’ve been here for a little longer, six weeks. But that’s OK, I’m a patient person.”

Patience, however, could wear thin if the talks go for much longer. After six years in the minority and winning control of Washington, D.C., for the first time in a decade, Democrats are eager to get going on their agenda.

“Things are on hold,” Durbin said. “I’ve got a lot of things I want to do ... I want to get started on immigration. Everybody’s talking about immigration and I’m thinking this is our committee. We ought to be moving on it.”

White House launches ‘comprehensive threat assessment’ on domestic extremism


President Joe Biden has asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a “comprehensive threat assessment” of domestic extremism following the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a violent mob that left five people dead.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Friday that Biden decided to ask for the review, which will be coordinated with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, because “clearly more needs to be done” to address the rising threat posed by violent extremists across the country.

“The January 6th assault on the capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat,” Psaki said. “The Biden administration will confront this threat with the necessary resources and resolve.”


The pro-Trump rioters who breached the Capitol earlier this month included members of the far-right, self-described “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys and far-right militia groups Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. All three groups have increasingly provided security or worked alongside neo-Nazi and white supremacist factions, according to national security experts.

The review, ordered on Biden’s second full day in office, underscores how countering domestic extremism will be a top priority for Biden’s national security team. POLITICO previously reported that the Biden White House planned to elevate the issue on the National Security Council, and that new personnel with expertise in domestic extremism would be brought on to support the counterterrorism directorate and homeland security advisers in the coming days and weeks.

One person being brought on is Josh Geltzer, who was the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council from 2015 to 2017. Geltzer, Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall and deputy Homeland Security adviser Russ Travers will oversee the joint threat assessment, which will “draw from analysis across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations,” Psaki said.

“The key point here is that we want fact-based analysis on which we can shape policy,” she added. “This is really the first step in the process and we will rely on our appropriate law enforcement and intelligence officials to provide that analysis.”

A separate policy review effort will be conducted by the National Security Council in parallel to the broader threat assessment, Psaki said, in order to determine how the government can better share information about domestic extremism threats and prevent radicalization. Relevant parts of the federal government will also be asked to coordinate on monitoring and countering evolving threats, radicalization, operational responses, social media activity “and much more,” Psaki said.

The increased emphasis reflects Biden and his team’s alarm at what the Jan. 6 attack on Congress revealed about the country they are now tasked with leading. “Don’t you dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists,” Biden said in remarks the day after the assault.



Current and former officials who spoke to POLITICO this week broadly agreed that there needed to be some kind of National Security Council-driven process to address the rising threat. That process was largely absent during the Trump era and left agencies trying to determine their respective roles, said one former senior counterterrorism official.

“This is a Day One problem, so in responding to this, the new administration will use the tools it inherits on Day One,” a source close to the White House said. “Whether more can be done with more tools like domestic terrorism legislation is an urgent question and that will be considered.”

‘No way’: Murkowski rules out switching parties


Lisa Murkowski has made no secret of her distaste for former President Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. But she said there is “no way” she would caucus with the Senate Democrats and give Chuck Schumer an outright Senate majority.

The Alaska moderate also revealed that she did not vote for Trump in November, choosing to write in someone that she did not reveal. But she still considers herself a Republican, even after Trump took hold of the GOP.

“I can be very discouraged at times with things that go on in my own caucus, in my own party,” Murkowski told a trio of reporters on Friday. “But I have absolutely no desire to move over to the Democratic side of the aisle. I can't be somebody that I'm not.”

Murkowski is up for reelection in 2022 and is one of the few true moderates left in the Senate, along with Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). She had previously stated that if the GOP remains the party of Trump, she doesn’t necessarily know how she fits in. She also called on Trump to resign.

She said after she lost her 2010 primary to a conservative firebrand she spoke to the Libertarian Party about running under their ticket. But her answer was, “Thank you, but no thank you. I don't fly a flag of convenience.” She won the general election with an impressive write-in campaign.

“Now, some of the Republicans will say, you are not really one of us. Let's define: What is the Republican Party nowadays? Now there's an interview for you. But really, where are we, the Republican Party? Who really exemplifies the heart of the party right now?” She said on Friday. “In many ways, we are a party that is really struggling to identify.”

Murkowski said many people in her state did not like Trump’s style but backed his policies, particularly related to his support for energy exploration. Alaska has long been mired in an economic slowdown, and Murkowski said Biden’s suspension of energy exploration permits gives her a “lot of heartburn.”

In 2001, Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party after several months of a tied Senate, giving Democrats the majority. It appears no such switch is on the way this time around.

“As kind of disjointed as things may be on the Republican side, there's no way you can talk me into going over to the other side, that's not who I am,” Murkowski said.

Her remarks mean that the Senate is likely to stay locked in a 50-50 tie for two years pending some unpredictable retirement or event. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has also repeatedly ruled out switching caucuses and just won reelection to another six-year term as a Republican.

Still. It’s clear Murkowski has major reservations about the GOP’s direction with Trump expected to captivate a significant portion of the Republican Party for years to come. She said she didn’t vote for Trump because she wanted “to vote affirmatively for somebody. I don't want to vote for somebody that I don't feel confident, and strong and good in. I don't want to accept the lesser of two evils.”

'Packed us together like sardines': Guard deployed to Capitol struggles to contain Covid


The National Guard has struggled to implement a plan to test troops flowing into and out of Washington, D.C., for Covid-19, with some Guard members being forced to find their own tests and others pressured to leave their quarantine early to report to duty.

Already, hundreds of Guard members who poured into Washington, D.C., after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol have tested positive for Covid-19 or are quarantining in nearby hotels, three Guard sources said. Guard leadership has declined to release an official number of positive cases, but troops and lawmakers alike worry that the deployment is becoming a superspreader event.

“Ideally, these guys should all be in hotels. When they’re taking rest time, they should be taking it outside the campus with an ability to be separated and socially distanced,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “Ultimately we’ve got to make sure that they’re not taking their extended rest time on campus, that they’re in hotel rooms.”

The problem was compounded on Thursday night, when thousands of troops who had been standing duty in the U.S. Capitol were told to vacate congressional buildings and take their rest breaks outside and in nearby parking garages. POLITICO obtained photos of Guard members packed together and sleeping on the ground in the garages. One unit was forced to rest in a garage with only one bathroom available for 5,000 troops.

The Senate Rules Committee is investigating the issue, with a particular focus on concerns about the Guard implementing proper coronavirus precautions, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, the top Republican on that panel, told POLITICO. The decision to force thousands of troops into a packed parking garage created a Covid-19 hazard, senators said.


“I think we’ve got to figure out what went wrong because I think there’s going to be a National Guard presence on campus for the foreseeable future,” Murphy added.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said Friday morning that an officer “issued an order without authority or without going through the chain of command,” adding: “We are going to be able to identify who that person was.”

Several senators called attention to the matter on Thursday night, with some even reaching out directly to National Guard commanders and Capitol Police officials. Murphy spoke with the Capitol Police chief, who has since denied that the department ordered the troops to vacate congressional buildings.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who herself was a member of the National Guard for 22 years, said she and other lawmakers are in touch with Guard officials about ensuring a safe environment for troops stationed at the Capitol. And Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he was outraged over the “ingratitude” displayed toward the soldiers.

“Obviously the Senate had not gotten as involved in this because we had hoped it was being worked out between Capitol Police and the Guard,” said Murphy. “Obviously there’s some rough edges, so there’s a lot of us working on this right now.”

Guard leadership has attempted to implement a comprehensive plan to test all Guard members on arrival in Washington, D.C., and before they depart for their home station in an attempt to limit the virus’ spread, said one Guard member, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. The majority of cases are asymptomatic, and originated from the troops’ home stations, the guard member said.

In recent days, congressional leadership has made a significant push to test all 25,000 troops, both those who are continuing their mission in Washington, D.C., and those who are leaving, the guard member also said. The goal is to test 100 percent of the force in the next few days.

But despite the Guard’s best efforts, more than 100 troops have tested positive, and several hundred are quarantining in nearby hotels after being exposed to a positive case or exhibiting symptoms.

Guard members say virus countermeasures were unevenly implemented. On arrival in Washington, D.C., several units were only given temperature checks and asked about any possible Covid-19 exposure, two Guard members told POLITICO. One Washington, D.C., Guard member said he and others were forced to get their own Covid-19 test. Others who were exposed to the virus said they had been told to disregard their quarantine or cut it short and report for duty due to the urgent need for additional troops in the days leading up to the Inauguration.



“We did not get Covid tests on arrival,” said another Guard member. “Right after the holidays they packed us together like sardines in buses and rooms for this.”

The CDC’s guidelines for quarantining after a negative test — which are recommended following any exposure to the virus because tests are not 100 percent accurate — are increasingly being “completely disregarded,” the Guard member added.

Meanwhile, social distancing is “almost impossible” in the halls of Congress, the D.C. armory and the parking garages, one guard member said, troops were packed into tight spaces that made it impossible to socially distance.

“You should have seen late-coming states scavenge for space,” that Guard member added. “It would have made a great sitcom: people literally making offices out of hallways and any unoccupied space.”

Many of the Guard members who spoke to POLITICO said their units had been given no clear guidance on Covid-19 testing plans, either for arrival in Washington, D.C., or before they depart. The troops who are currently in quarantine will pose a “logistical challenge” as their units start to head home.

The Guard has not finalized a plan for these members, but they will most likely either stay in their hotels until their quarantine is over, or be transported home in separate vehicles with other Covid-19-positve troops, the person said.

Some Guard members, including members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, were given the option to receive the first dose of the vaccine before deploying to Washington, D.C. Others received the vaccine last week, and still others are set to receive their first dose on Friday, said one Maryland Guard member. But the Guard does not have a standardized plan to vaccinate all 25,000 troops before they return to their home states.

Fauci: Trump administration's Covid strategy 'very likely did' cost lives


The Trump administration’s lack of candor and habitual breaks with scientific guidance in its pandemic response “very likely did” cost lives, Anthony Fauci said Friday morning.

“When you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Friday.

“There's no secret, we've had a lot of divisiveness, we've had facts that were very, very clear, that were questioned,” Fauci said. “People were not trusting what health officials were saying. There was great divisiveness, masking became a political issue.”

Former President Donald Trump faced significant criticism over the final year of his presidency for his pandemic response, which strayed often from the guidance of his own administration's health officials and veered often into bizarre territory.

From the pandemic's early stages, Trump regularly downplayed the risk Covid-19 posed to Americans and predicted often that the U.S. would soon have the virus beat, even as cases spiked around the country. He resisted the best practices recommended by his own public health team, declining to wear a mask in public and holding large-scale rallies, both indoors and outdoors, with thousands of supporters.

Trump frequently touted the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19 despite there being no evidence of it being effective. At one point last spring, he suggested Americans should inject themselves with disinfectants to combat the virus.

Fauci's regular appearances at White House coronavirus briefings made him a household name throughout the pandemic, but his relationship with Trump quickly soured as the NIAID chief refused to fall in line with the then-president's inconsistent and at-times dangerous Covid-19 rhetoric. Trump called Fauci an idiot and a “disaster,” saying “if we listened to him, we’d have 700,000 [or] 800,000 deaths.” Trump accused Fauci and other health officials of exaggerating the pandemic’s severity and criticized officials for saying early on that masks weren’t necessary.

As the pandemic wore on, Fauci's appearances at the White House grew increasingly rare, as did contact between the two men.

Fauci said in a news conference with White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday that his work with the Biden administration thus far has been "liberating." Fauci has said the Trump administration prevented him from making some media appearances and that the White House hampered the flow of public health information.

“You didn't feel you could actually say something and there wouldn't be repercussions about it,” Fauci said in the news conference Thursday. “One of the new things in this administration, is if you don't know the answer, don't guess. Just say you don't know the answer."

Fauci said in an interview Thursday that there is “complete transparency” under the Biden administration.

On CNN Friday, he also said that there was a coronavirus strategy under the Trump administration, but that it “wasn’t articulated well.”

“The separation of the federal government and the states ... was really a lesion,” Fauci said on CNN. “You don’t want the federal government to do everything and you don’t want the states to do everything. ... What we saw a lot of was saying ‘OK states, do what you want to do.’ And states were doing things that clearly were not the right direction.”

Biden’s Covid-19 strategy has included directing FEMA to establish Covid-19 liaisons to "maximize cooperation between the federal government and the states” and reimbursing states for using the National Guard in relief efforts.

“The best thing to do is to have a plan, have the federal government interact with the states in a synergistic, collaborative, cooperative way, helping them with resources and helping them with a plan, at the same time respecting the individual issues that any individual state might have,” Fauci said.

Opinion | Trump Showed How Easily Presidents Can Abuse Emergency Powers. Here’s How Congress Can Rein Them In.


On his first day in office, President Joe Biden made official what should have been obvious: There is no emergency at the southern border, other than perhaps the humanitarian crisis brought about by the Trump administration’s own immigration policies. Biden’s executive order rescinding Donald Trump’s 2019 declaration of a national emergency will halt further construction of a wall that has stigmatized immigrants, harmed the environment and served as an ugly symbol of xenophobia.

But while Biden’s order will end this particular abuse of presidential emergency powers, it will not safeguard our democracy from future abuses. Trump’s presidency revealed a fatal weakness in the law governing national emergencies. And the time to fix that law is precisely when the White House is occupied by someone who is unlikely to abuse it.

Under the National Emergencies Act, the president has near-total discretion to declare a national emergency. Such a declaration in turn unlocks powers contained in more than 100 different provisions of law. These include authorities not just to reallocate military construction funds, as Trump did for his border wall, but to take over radio stations, control domestic transportation and suspend the prohibition against government testing of chemical agents on unwitting human subjects. There are also powers that allow the president to detail members of the U.S. armed forces to other nations and to prohibit or limit the export of any agricultural commodity.

Most Americans would be shocked to discover just how many national emergencies are currently in force and what powers they give the president. Since the law’s enactment in 1976, presidents have declared 69 national emergencies; 39 remain in effect today. Most are for the purpose of imposing economic sanctions on hostile foreign actors. The emergency power that authorizes those sanctions, however, is broad enough to permit the targeting of Americans—allowing the president to freeze their bank accounts and make it illegal to give them a job, rent them an apartment or even sell them groceries.

Ironically, when Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, its purpose was to rein in presidents’ excessive reliance on emergency declarations. To that end, the law included a significant check against presidential abuse. It allowed Congress to terminate emergency declarations using a so-called legislative veto—basically, a law passed with a simple majority that would take effect without the president’s signature. In 1983, however, the Supreme Court ruled that legislative vetoes are unconstitutional. Today, if Congress wants to terminate an emergency declaration, it must pass legislation that the president signs into law or (more likely) muster a two-thirds supermajority in each house to overcome the president’s veto.

The consequences of gutting Congress’ role became apparent two years ago, when President Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding for a wall along the southern border. At the time, unlawful border crossings were hovering near a 40-year low, and Congress had already considered and denied Trump’s request for several billion dollars in funding. In a rare bipartisan rebuke, Congress voted twice to terminate the border wall emergency. But it was unable to override Trump’s vetoes, and the declaration remained in place.

Litigation has proved an inadequate substitute for congressional intervention. For one thing, in the absence of any statutory definition of “national emergency,” courts have avoided the question of whether an emergency actually existed. They have focused instead on other legal problems with Trump’s actions. And even though some judges have found those actions unlawful, the government generally has been allowed to continue construction pending the lengthy appeals process. All in all, the Trump administration was able to complete work on more than 450 miles of barrier fencing.

Trump’s abuse of emergency powers prompted multiple reform efforts in Congress, with several bills introduced in both houses. The leading proposal would require national emergency declarations to terminate after 30 days unless Congress voted to approve them. This would give the president flexibility when it is needed most—in the immediate aftermath of an emergency—while ensuring that Congress can provide a backstop if the president overreaches.

The approach has broad bipartisan support: A Republican bill was approved by the Senate Homeland Security Committee with the support of all committee Democrats, and a version was incorporated into two major Democratic reform packages. The bill excludes emergency declarations that rely solely on the sanctions authority, as that authority is routinely used for purposes Congress endorses. Lawmakers are nonetheless considering alternative ways to amend that power to provide checks against misuse.

There is some danger, though, that momentum for reform could wane—particularly among Democrats—now that Biden has taken office. He has not stated his position on emergency powers reform, and lawmakers generally are averse to measures that would constrain presidents of their own party. Moreover, some members of Congress might view Trump as an aberration, trusting that Biden and future presidents will adhere to the norms of self-restraint that by and large guided past presidents’ use of national emergency declarations.

That would be a mistake. Once shattered, norms are not easily put back together. Trump demonstrated that emergency powers can be a convenient tool to evade the will of Congress on questions of policy. The temptation to deploy that tool will prove irresistible sooner or later.

Indeed, the next abuse could be much worse. Although Trump misused emergency powers on several occasions, he stopped short of deploying some of the most potent authorities—such as one provision that could potentially allow the president to control U.S.-based internet traffic—to try to sway the election, or to hold on to the White House despite his electoral loss. If the United States ever again has a president committed to undermining democracy, emergency powers could be a key part of the strategy.

Whatever the next abuse might be, if we wait until it occurs, it will be too late. Reforming emergency powers at that point would require either the signature of the very president who wants to exploit them or that rarest of congressional actions, a veto override. Only a president who has no intention of misusing emergency powers would be willing to sign such reforms into law. Paradoxically, action must be taken when the risks are lowest.

Some Democrats might worry that Republican lawmakers would place party over the public interest and block Biden’s actions in a genuine emergency. That is possible, but unlikely. The leading reform proposal would allow Congress to approve an emergency declaration by a simple majority—which Democrats currently have—with no opportunity to filibuster in the Senate. What’s more, even during the Trump administration, when Republicans controlled the Senate and almost always acted in lockstep with the president, they broke rank on emergency powers: Twelve Republican senators voted to terminate the border wall emergency, and 19 co-sponsored a bill to reform the National Emergencies Act. And in all cases, the president would have 30 days to make full use of emergency authorities. On balance, the odds of successful obstructionism in a true crisis are much smaller than the likelihood of a future president harnessing these dangerous authorities for personal or political gain.

There are myriad laws and institutions in this country that are meant to serve as guardrails for our democracy. The silver lining of Trump’s disastrous presidency is that we now know exactly where the weaknesses in these guardrails lie. Failing to address them when we have a chance to do so would be civic malpractice. The time to reform emergency powers is now—under a president who seems more inclined to rescind bogus emergency declarations than issue them.

Austin confirmed as first Black defense secretary


The Senate on Friday confirmed Lloyd Austin to be the new Defense secretary, making the retired Army general the first Black person to run the Pentagon.

Austin's nomination was approved in a 93-2 blowout despite concerns among Democrats and Republicans about appointing another recently retired general to lead the Defense Department.

The quick confirmation vote comes amid a push on Capitol Hill to get President Joe Biden's national security team on the job as quickly as possible — Austin is the second member of Biden's Cabinet to be confirmed.

The vote came just a day after the House and Senate approved a waiver to allow Austin to serve. Austin, who retired from the military in 2016, falls short of the legal requirement that military officers be out of uniform for seven years to serve as Defense secretary.

Austin, a former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, is the second four-star general to be granted the waiver in four years. Congress also passed an exception for former President Donald Trump's first Pentagon chief, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis.

Despite the trailblazing nature of Austin's nomination and his lengthy record, lawmakers in both parties were concerned that installing another general atop the Pentagon would upend already out-of-whack civil-military relations. Even some supporters of Trump and Mattis, such as Republican Sen. Tom Cotton or Arkansas, argued that supporting Mattis in 2017 was a mistake and Congress should never grant the waiver again.



But Austin doubled down on civilian control of the military at a Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing Tuesday. Most senators were satisfied by Austin's commitments to bolster civilian control of the military and empower senior civilians at the Pentagon rather than surround himself with former military brass.

"Mr. Austin has a storied career in the Army, but those days are behind him," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of Friday's vote.

"He must once again demonstrate to the world that the U.S. military will always support out friends, deter our adversaries and, if necessary, defeat them," Schumer said. "Lloyd Austin is the right person for the job."

The outgoing Republican chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jim Inhofe, argued Austin is the right pick to helm the Pentagon as the military redirects its focus toward matching gains by China and Russia.

"We are in the most threatened times that we have been in," Inhofe said. "And I can't think of a better person to take the helm than Gen. Austin to provide that leadership."

In his first days on the job, Austin will likely oversee the dismantling of Trump's restrictive transgender troop policy. Biden has pledged to roll back Trump's ban and return to the Obama-era policy that allows transgender people to serve openly. Austin testified to senators that he supports overturning the ban.

He also pledged to quickly review the Pentagon's efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the department is doing all it can to help distribute vaccines and vaccinate troops.

He will also take over a Pentagon that is grappling with issues of systemic racism and extremism in the ranks after months of racial unrest in the country and a deadly insurrection this month at the U.S. Capitol in which some former military members took part.


"The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies," Austin testified on Tuesday. "But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks."

It’s the historic nature of the choice that also underscores one of Austin’s major challenges: making the military more diverse, particularly at the higher ranks.

"If African Americans are gonna be successful, we have to work harder, stay longer and get in earlier. It’s always been that way," said Rep. Anthony Brown, a former Army officer. "We have to clear that bar with a whole lot more room to spare than other people. Austin is clearing that bar."

"The moment he walks through the door will energize the department," he added.

But it won’t be that easy to make the military more representative, warned retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chief of naval operations.

“He has got to push through this, hold the services’ feet to the fire on this issue, because it's a priority for the country. And now's the time,” he said in an interview.

Yet bringing more equality to the military goes well beyond promoting more Black officers, he said.

"My biggest regret when I was a CNO and chairman is I couldn't do much on the Latinx stuff at all," Mullen said. "I was pushing women and minorities and the Latinx piece of it, you know, there was no place to push. I didn't have a pool and that has to be created."

Austin is the first Pentagon nominee to be confirmed in this administration.

Biden has also nominated Kathleen Hicks to be Austin's deputy and Colin Kahl to be Pentagon policy chief, but neither has received confirmation hearings yet.

Nolan McCaskill contributed to this report.

Yellen clears Senate committee, heads for final vote to be Treasury secretary


The Senate Finance Committee on Friday unanimously approved Janet Yellen’s nomination for Treasury secretary, sending her candidacy to the full Senate for a vote that could come as early as today.

The overwhelming support for Yellen suggests that she will have no problem clearing the final hurdle to confirmation, after which she will begin working with Congress to advance President Joe Biden’s plan for an additional $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

“I have very strong disagreements with Dr. Yellen on a number of her positions, particularly in the tax policy arena, but she has committed to us that she will work with us on these issues and the concerns that we have," said Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). "I think the strong vote on our side to support her today is an indication that we want to engage.”

The Treasury chief wields expansive influence across the government, with a key role in shaping the administration’s stance on taxes, the economy and financial regulation, while also serving as an international diplomat with a hand in trade negotiations and sanctions policy.

But the immediate focus will be stemming the pain of the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.

“The pandemic has caused widespread devastation,” she told the committee earlier this week at her nomination hearing. “Whole industries have paused their work. Eighteen million unemployment insurance claims are being paid every week. Food bank shelves are going empty. The damage has been sweeping, and as the President-elect said last Thursday, our response must be, too.”

She also suggested Tuesday that the Biden administration will wait until the economy is stronger before pushing tax increases on wealthier Americans and corporations. Yellen said the administration would move to raise taxes for other things, such as a plan to boost infrastructure spending, that would come after the coronavirus relief legislation.

Meanwhile, the administration will have to chart a course on dealing with China; President Donald Trump left office with tariffs still in place on more than $350 billion worth of Chinese goods, as well as duties on steel and aluminum imports that were implemented through his national security authorities.

Yellen told the senators that the Biden administration would use all available tools to confront unfair Chinese trade practices but stopped short of endorsing Trump’s tariff tactics.

She is also under pressure from the left to focus on the interconnections between the financial system and climate change. Yellen said she plans to start a new Treasury “hub” that would examine financial system risks arising from climate change and on related tax policy incentives. She intends to appoint a “very senior-level” official to lead climate efforts.


In written answers to senators released Thursday, Yellen also endorsed the idea of a higher minimum wage.

“Raising the minimum wage will lift tens of millions of Americans out of poverty while expanding access to opportunity for countless small businesses nationwide,” she wrote. “It matters how it’s implemented, and the President’s minimum wage will be phased in over time, giving small businesses plenty of time to adapt.”

Democrats race toward Trump's second impeachment trial


House Democrats will deliver an impeachment charge against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of a second trial in the coming days.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer first announced the move on Friday morning, effectively rejecting a request from Senate Republicans to delay the start of the proceedings for two weeks so that Trump can formulate a legal defense.

In a statement later on Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed the plan and dismissed concerns by Republicans that Trump’s legal team wouldn’t have adequate time.

“The former president will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers,” Pelosi said, referring to her hand-picked team of House Democrats who will essentially serve as prosecutors in the Senate trial.

Democrats have not yet offered details on when the trial will begin, but Pelosi’s decision to formally deliver the article of impeachment on Monday means that the Senate trial will likely begin early next week, absent a consent agreement between Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Under Senate rules, an impeachment trial must begin within one day after the House sends its article if the chamber is in session, unless Schumer and McConnell agree to a different timetable.

“The Senate will conduct a trial on the impeachment of Donald Trump,” Schumer said in a floor speech Friday. “It will be a fair trial. But make no mistake, there will be a trial.”

McConnell — whose GOP members have been consulting with Trump — has argued that the House should wait until next Thursday to transmit the article. That timeline, he said, would give Trump until Feb. 11 to prepare his defense.

“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” McConnell said on the floor Friday. “The sequel cannot be an insufficient Senate process that denies former President Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself.”

The exact format of the Senate’s unprecedented second impeachment trial is still unclear, though lawmakers of both parties say they expect it to take up less time than the three weeks spent on Trump’s first trial in early 2020. Whether the Senate also brings in witnesses is another open question.

Days before the trial is set to begin, many GOP senators are lamenting a process that they say will only disrupt the Senate’s jam-packed schedule confirming Biden’s nominees and potentially moving to an additional Covid-19 relief package.

“Absent some agreement, we won't be doing any confirmations, we won't be doing any Covid-19 relief, we won't be doing anything else other than impeaching the person who's not even president,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters Friday.

“I think what McConnell laid down was eminently reasonable, in terms of making sure that we got [due] process,” added Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a moderate who could be a critical vote in Trump’s trial. “The process has to be fair. So yeah, so we gotta get started, I guess."

Without an agreement, the trial would require all 100 senators to attend the trial six days a week — almost certainly complicating Biden’s agenda in the first few weeks.

A team of Democratic House impeachment managers are expected to spend several days arguing that the former president played a major role in inciting violence at the Capitol, focusing on a speech he delivered to a pro-Trump rally just hours before rioters breached the complex.

Trump this week began to prepare his defense, hiring attorney Butch Bowers — who has represented several high-profile Republicans in ethics cases — to lead his team.

While Democrats are expected to vote to convict Trump, it’s unclear how many Senate Republicans will join them. Seventeen Republicans will need to join all Democrats in order to convict Trump.

Several GOP senators argue Democrats are stoking further division and are coalescing around the argument that it’s legally dubious to convict a private citizen.

“I think you're opening up Pandora's box, anything they can do, we can do,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally. “You engage in post-presidential impeachment — you're going to destroy the presidency over time.”

But not everyone is on board with that argument, including scholars from the conservative Federal Society. And Democrats have argued that Trump — or any president — should be held accountable for his behavior while in office, even if it’s in the final days or weeks of a term.

“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president or any official could commit a heinous crime against our country and then be permitted to resign so as to avoid accountability and a vote to disbar them from future office,” Schumer said Friday.

Biden increases food aid payments to low-income families with children


The Biden administration will announce Friday that it is bumping up aid payments for millions of low-income households with children by 15 percent. It is part of several new actions aimed at getting more government assistance out as the pandemic drags on.

The backstory: The Pandemic-EBT program, known as P-EBT, was created last spring to help replace the subsidized or free meals that tens of millions of children normally get at school. The program gives households benefits on a debit-like card that can only be used to buy groceries.

P-EBT worked relatively well to replace meals in the spring, because almost all schools were closed. But now the program is more complicated with some schools doing online-only learning, some in-person and some a mix of the two.

The program has been plagued with delays this year because of a mix of political failure in Congress and bureaucracy at the Agriculture Department.

As POLITICO reported last month, the vast majority of households have not received any P-EBT benefits this school year, even though the money has been authorized since September. Many states have not even sent USDA their plans for approval, which means the aid will be even further delayed.

What's new: This school year, households are eligible to receive up to $5.86 per child per day of school missed. That rate will increase by 15 percent. It's not clear whether the increase will be applied to the many months of benefits that are owed to most families that are eligible.

“As soon as the president took office, he called for immediate action on the hunger crisis gripping vulnerable families and children," said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. "The announcement today provides more food dollars directly to food insecure kids living in low-income households who are missing critical meals due to school closures."

More SNAP increases on tap: The USDA also said it will begin working with the Department of Justice to review whether it can provide an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payments to nearly 40 percent of households that have seen no real increase during the crisis.

Under the Trump administration, USDA determined that it only had the authority to bring all SNAP households up to existing maximum payment levels, which meant that households already getting the maximum payments saw no increase. (The Trump administration defended its stance in court last year).

The USDA is also now beginning to review what's known as the Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for how the department comes up with the payment levels that households should get in the program.

The current plan "is out of date with the economic realities most struggling households face when trying to buy and prepare healthy food," according to the department. "As a result, the benefits fall short of what a healthy, adequate diet costs for many households."

Biden prepares executive orders aimed at combating hunger, protecting workers


President Joe Biden will sign two executive orders on Friday aimed at fighting hunger, protecting American workers and providing economic relief to families whose jobs and livelihoods have been destroyed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The measures ask agencies across the government to expand, extend and at times re-examine guidelines to find ways to provide further aid for Americans while working within existing authority, including by strengthening worker protections and increasing food benefits.

While they are not meant as a stand-in for the nearly $2 trillion economic relief package Biden proposed last week, the orders reflect the White House’s efforts to shore up the economy while lawmakers debate whether to enact a new, massive aid package — a process that could take months.

“These actions are concrete and will provide immediate support to hard-hit families,” Brian Deese, the head of the White House’s National Economic Council, told reporters on a call Thursday evening. But, he added, “They are not enough. And much, much more is needed.”

Through one executive order, Biden will ask the Department of Agriculture to consider increasing food assistance benefits and money to help families with schoolchildren buy groceries. He will ask the Treasury Department to consider taking action to ensure that more Americans who are eligible to receive economic relief checks are able to get them.

And he will call on the Labor Department to clarify guidelines that until now had forced American workers who refused an offer to return to work to lose their unemployment benefits, even if heading back to the workplace would have put them or their families at heightened risk.

The second order is focused on protecting federal workers and contractors, in part by restoring collective bargaining power and worker protections by revoking measures that President Donald Trump had signed. It also eliminates Schedule F, a class of worker that Trump had established that stripped many federal civil service employees of job protections.

It asks agencies to take a look at which federal employees are earning less than $15 per hour and come up with recommendations to get them above that wage.

The orders are the latest in a blitz of executive actions that Biden has taken since he took office on Wednesday. The more than two dozen measures he has signed have been aimed in part at turning around the pandemic, tackling climate change and reversing some of Trump’s policies, including the so-called Muslim ban on travelers from certain countries.

Deese called on Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan that Biden laid out last week, which proposed $1.9 trillion in additional federal funding to tackle the pandemic, provide another round of direct payments to working families and extend unemployment benefits, among other priorities. But Republicans have panned that proposal, saying it is too expensive and comes too soon after the $900 billion aid package that Congress passed last month.


Pressure rises on Biden to shut tech out


A Silicon Valley résumé is looking increasingly toxic in Washington — and that’s complicating President Joe Biden’s efforts to fill out his team to take on tech.

In the wake of the social media fueled riot on the Capitol, many on the progressive left have argued that Twitter and Facebook’s early reticence to restrict extremist content highlights the danger of the hands-off approach Washington, D.C., has taken to the tech industry for years.

“We’re seeing the detrimental effect of this unchecked power,” said Morgan Harper, a senior adviser with the progressive pressure group American Economic Liberties Project. “It’s endangering lives.”

It’s a stance shared by many on the party’s left-leaning flank, who argue social media companies allowed years of heightened levels of partisan vitriol that culminated in the Jan. 6 violence. And that’s on top of other criticism that had already been building against Silicon Valley, ranging from antitrust violations to the abuse of user data. It’s a very different environment from the Obama administration, when Silicon Valley executives were praised as innovative leaders and seen as key partners to the administration.

Tech industry critics are seizing on the moment, and ramping up the pressure on Biden to think twice before hiring tech industry veterans for the many still-unfilled administration roles that touch on tech. While they had unsuccessfully raised objections to some of Biden’s early picks, they are marshaling more forces to oppose choices that, they say, are deal breakers.

This week, more than 40 liberal advocacy groups sent an angry letter to Biden amid reports that he was considering Renata Hesse, a former Obama-era official who has worked in private practice with Google and Amazon to lead antitrust efforts at the Justice Department.

“We urge you to avoid appointing to key antitrust enforcement positions individuals who have served as lawyers, lobbyists, or consultants for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google,” reads the letter, whose signatories include Demand Progress, the Open Markets Institute and Public Citizen.


This moment, the groups say, is too critical to risk bringing on people who could harbor sympathy for former tech industry employers: Washington, D.C., is just beginning to grapple with some coherent way of handling the tech industry, from antitrust to content moderation to user privacy, so it is no time to put in charge those whose loyalties, or thinking, are muddled.

Biden has so far struck a middle ground, appointing both industry veterans and tech critics. The list includes former Facebook lawyer Jessica Hertz as White House staff secretary, former Facebook board member Jeff Zients as his Covid-19 coordinator, one-time Facebook public policy director Louisa Terrell to head the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, and nominating frequent Facebook critic Vanita Gupta — until now the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — to the No. 3 spot at the Department of Justice.

The Biden team says that anyone they hire or appoint will share the president’s tough-on-tech approach to the industry. The Biden transition said in a statement that those picked by Biden for such posts will have “values that align” with what he espoused during the campaign, namely to “hold technology companies accountable.”

It’s an approach that reflects the fact that Biden gained the White House without the backing of Democrats' liberal wing.

But there are signs that Biden could be taking the worries on the left seriously. Talk swirled in Washington this week, for example, that the Biden campaign might have floated Hesse’s name, in part, as a trial balloon that would leave liberal advocates amenable to a choice with fewer tech ties.

Hal Singer, a Democrat and antitrust economist at EconOne, argued that ignoring the advocacy groups’ demands would undercut Biden’s message of economic populism and damage his relationship with progressives whose support he’ll likely need to pass his agenda.

“To put in a person who represents the gatekeepers would be a slap in the face,” said Singer, whose clients have included telecom companies often in conflict with tech firms. “And he’s going to have a lot of big policy battles ahead, and he’s going to want them in his corner. Why would you turn away your most natural friends in those fights?”

Now president, Biden faces filling a number of open posts central to Washington’s tech debates, including head of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, chair of the FTC, and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

What’s more, there are scores of other administration roles likely to touch on tech, scattered from White House National Economic Council to the State Department, which has been deeply involved in the global debate over rules governing the internet.

There are signs that even potential Republican allies on the effort against tech companies could be alienated by tech world picks.

Rep. Ken Buck (R.-Colo.), a prominent conservative voice on antitrust, tweeted an article on Tuesday from the liberal American Prospect on the concerns over Hesse and others.

“Joe Biden should not be appointing someone who worked for Google and Amazon to lead Antitrust Division,” Buck tweeted. “This is very concerning for those of us who want to hold Big Tech accountable.”


Jeff Hauser, director of the progressive Revolving Door Project, said: “If they don’t listen to the left on this, they’re going to get eaten up by the right on this.” His group has been a major voice pushing for Biden to keep tech out of his administration.

Some argue, however, that shying away from tech industry appointments could make it more difficult for Biden to get the reckoning he wants from the industry.

“The regulatory reckoning is here,” said Niki Christoff, a former John McCain campaign staffer who backed Biden this time around and who has served in executive roles in Google, Uber and Salesforce. But having worked in that targeted industry, said Christoff, means “you understand where the flex points are, and where you can have more tailored, effective, efficient oversight.”

And some natural allies for the administration have said that having experience in the tech industry could be a boon for Biden in the particularly tough battle ahead.

Phil Weiser, the attorney general of Colorado who is leading a multistate antitrust investigation of Google, said this week that people who worked in Silicon Valley and grew disillusioned could make for a good federal competition enforcer.

“I would encourage people out there, don’t paint with too broad a brush,” said Weiser, speaking at a virtual event on tech policy in the Biden administration on Tuesday.

“Those in tech are sometimes the most critical of tech,” Jen Pahlka, who served as deputy U.S. CTO in the Obama administration said at that same event. “They can sometimes be uniquely useful in crafting arguments about where we need to go to make tech more fair, more equitable.”

Leah Nylen and Cristiano Lima contributed reporting.

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