A Justice Department watchdog has opened an investigation into whether any current or former officials tried improperly to wield the powers of the department to undo the results of the presidential election.
The investigation, which was announced by the office of the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, followed a New York Times article that detailed efforts by Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division, to push top leaders to falsely and publicly assert that ongoing election fraud investigations cast doubt on the Electoral College results. That standoff prompted President Donald J. Trump to consider replacing the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and install Mr. Clark at the top of the department to carry out that plan.
“The inspector general is initiating an investigation into whether any former or current D.O.J. official engaged in an improper attempt to have D.O.J. seek to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election,” Mr. Horowitz said in a statement.
The investigation will encompass all allegations concerning the conduct of former and current department employees, though it would be limited to the Justice Department because other agencies do not fall within Mr. Horowitz’s purview. He said he was announcing the inquiry to reassure the public that the matter is being scrutinized.
On Saturday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, urged Mr. Horowitz to open an investigation, saying that it was “unconscionable that a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people’s will.”
This is the second known investigation into the actions of top Justice Department officials during the final weeks of the Trump administration. Earlier this month, Mr. Horowitz opened an investigation into whether Trump administration officials improperly pressured Byung J. Pak, the U.S. attorney in Atlanta, who abruptly resigned after it became clear to Mr. Trump that he would not take actions to cast doubt on or undo the results of the election, according to a person briefed on the inquiry.
Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee said this weekend that it has initiated its own oversight inquiry into officials including Mr. Clark.
Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the top Democrat on the committee, sent a letter to the Justice Department saying that he would investigate efforts by Mr. Trump and Mr. Clark to use the agency “to further Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.”
Mr. Durbin asked the acting attorney general, Monty Wilkinson, to preserve documents, emails and messages related to meetings between top Justice Department officials, the White House and Mr. Trump, as well as any communications related to Mr. Pak’s resignation.
The House is poised to deliver to the Senate on Monday its article of impeachment charging former President Donald J. Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” formally advancing the process even as the trial itself has been delayed.
At 7 p.m., the House impeachment managers will march the charge across the Capitol. That is the official, if ceremonial, start of the Senate trial process, during which the managers are expected to make their case that Mr. Trump should be held accountable for his role in inciting the deadly assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, will read the article on the Senate floor.
Senate leaders last week struck a deal to pause the trial until the week of Feb. 8 to give the prosecution and the defense time to draft and exchange legal briefs, a timetable that also allows President Biden time to install members of his cabinet. Senators will be sworn in as jurors on Tuesday.
“During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet nominations and the Covid relief bill, which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader.
The looming trial has already sent lawmakers burrowing into dueling positions, deepening the schisms in an already divided Senate. As some Republicans in the chamber, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have grown increasingly worried that failing to distance themselves from Mr. Trump could damage the party for years to come, others have made clear that they oppose even the idea of a trial and will try to dismiss the charge before it begins.
In a Monmouth University poll released on Monday, 52 percent of Americans said they wanted the Senate to convict Mr. Trump, compared with 44 percent who did not. But the poll found overwhelming opposition among Republicans, with only 11 percent saying they wanted him to be convicted and 85 percent opposing it.
Impeachment managers have signaled that they intend to present a straightforward case focused on the storming of the Capitol, which played out in public view and left many of the senators who will serve as jurors in the trial cowering for safety. Representative Madeleine Dean, Democrat of Pennsylvania and one of the impeachment managers, said on Sunday that she expected the trial to “go faster” than Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020, which lasted 21 days.
“Some people would like us to turn the page: ‘Oh, let’s move on,’” Ms. Dean said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We must remember, I believe, that this impeachment trial, I hope conviction, ultimate disqualification, are the very first powerful steps toward unity.”
President Biden’s Treasury Department is studying ways to speed up the process of adding Harriet Tubman’s portrait to the front of the $20 bill after the Trump administration allowed the Obama-era initiative to lapse, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday.
The decision to have Ms. Tubman replace Andrew Jackson as the face of the $20 note was set in motion in 2016 by the Treasury secretary at the time, Jacob Lew. President Donald J. Trump opposed the idea, and his Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, stopped work on that part of the currency redesign, arguing that adding new security features to the money was a more urgent priority. Mr. Mnuchin said that notes with new imagery could not be put into circulation until 2028 and that a future Treasury secretary would make the call whether to replace Jackson.
The Treasury Department, which Mr. Biden has nominated Janet L. Yellen to lead, plans to accelerate that timeline.
“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” Ms. Psaki said. “It’s important that our money reflect the history and diversity of our country.”
A Treasury spokeswoman said that she had no information to share on when a new design of the $20 bill might be released.
Mr. Trump professed to be a fan of Andrew Jackson, a fellow populist, and was a fierce opponent of altering historical images and statues.
Mr. Mnuchin’s decision to slow-walk the change drew backlash from some Democrats in Congress and triggered a probe from the Treasury inspector general about whether the process faced improper political interference. The inquiry found no wrongdoing by Mr. Mnuchin.
Under Mr. Lew’s plan, the new design was supposed to be unveiled in 2020 on the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
Preliminary designs of the note that were obtained by The New York Times revealed that — before Mr. Trump took office — conceptual work on a bill bearing Tubman’s likeness on the front and a statue of Jackson on the back was already underway.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Senate president pro tempore, is expected to preside over former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial when it formally begins on Tuesday, assuming a role filled last year by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., aides and other officials said on Monday.
The Constitution states that the chief justice of the United States presides over any impeachment trial of the president or vice president. But it does not explicitly give guidance on who should oversee the proceeding for others, including former presidents, and it appeared that Chief Justice Roberts was uninterested in reprising a time consuming role that would insert him and the Supreme Court directly into the fractious political fight over Mr. Trump.
Mr. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, recently reclaimed the mantle of president pro tempore — the position reserved for the longest-serving member of the majority party — when Democrats took control of the Senate. Mr. Leahy, 80, has been in office since 1974.
The role was largely ceremonial in the first impeachment trial of Mr. Trump a year ago. But as the presiding officer, Mr. Leahy could issue rulings on key questions around the admissibility of evidence and whether a trial of a former president is even allowed under the Constitution. (Mr. Leahy is also still expected to have a vote in the trial, like other senators.)
The job could also have gone to Vice President Kamala Harris, in her capacity as president of the Senate. But there were clear drawbacks for Ms. Harris in overseeing what is likely to be a divisive proceeding that is all but certain to be regarded by some as an effort by Democrats to use their newfound power to punish the leader of the rival political party.
Mr. Leahy’s presence on the dais could open Democrats to similar charges from the right, particularly if he issues a contentious ruling, but officials said there was no clear alternative without the chief justice. In a statement, Mr. Leahy said he would take “extraordinarily seriously” his trial oath to administer “impartial justice.”
“When I preside over the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, I will not waver from my constitutional and sworn obligations to administer the trial with fairness, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws,” he said.
Senate aides suggested Ms. Harris may still be able to intervene to break a tie if the trial ever deadlocked 50-50, as she can in the Senate’s normal course of business.
It would take two-thirds of the Senate, 67 votes, to convict Mr. Trump, but if he were convicted, only a simple majority would be needed to bar him from holding office again.
The chief justice declined through a spokeswoman to comment.
President Biden will ban travel by noncitizens into the United States from South Africa because of concern about a coronavirus variant spreading in that country, and will extend similar bans imposed by his predecessor on travel from Brazil, Europe and the United Kingdom, his press secretary said Monday.
The move comes as officials in the new Biden administration are trying to get their hands around a fast-changing pandemic, with public health officials racing to vaccinate the public — and to expand the supply of vaccine — as more contagious variants of the coronavirus spread.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease specialist, said at the White House last week that “we’re following very carefully” the variant of the virus in South Africa because it appears to be more highly contagious. On Monday, Moderna said its vaccine is effective against new variants of the coronavirus that have emerged in Britain and South Africa. But the immune response is slightly weaker against the variant discovered in South Africa, and so the company is developing a new form of the vaccine that could be used as a booster shot against that virus.
And Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offered a blunt assessment of the vaccination campaign on Sunday, predicting that supply would not increase until late March. Federal health officials and corporate executives agree that it will be impossible to increase the immediate supply of vaccines before April because of lack of manufacturing capacity. A third vaccine maker, Johnson & Johnson, is expected to report the results of its clinical trial soon.; if approved, that vaccine would also help shore up production.
“I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have, and if I can’t tell it to you then I can’t tell it to the governors and I can’t tell it to the state health officials,” she told “Fox News Sunday.”
Mr. Biden’s travel ban is a presidential proclamation, not an executive order; typically, proclamations govern the acts of individuals, while executive orders are directives to federal agencies. It will go into effect Saturday and apply to non-U.S. citizens who have spent time in South Africa in the last 14 days. The new policy, which was earlier reported by Reuters, will not affect U.S. citizens or permanent residents, officials said.
On his last full day in office, Mr. Trump tried to eliminate the Covid-19-related ban on travel the United Kingdom, Ireland, 26 countries in Europe and Brazil, saying it was no longer necessary. Jen Psaki, now the White House press secretary, said at the time that ending the ban was the wrong thing to do; on Monday, she announced during her regular briefing that it would remain intact.
“With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she said.
Ms. Psaki also said the Biden administration intends to hold regular public health briefings three times a week, beginning this Wednesday. She said Mr. Biden would be “briefed regularly” on the pandemic, adding, “I suspect far more regularly than the past president.”
The variants of the coronavirus that are now spreading in South Africa and Brazil have not yet reached the United States. But on Monday health officials announced a case of the variant found in South Africa had been recorded in New Zealand in a returned traveler who had been released from hotel quarantine after twice testing negative. Over two dozen countries have now reported cases of the variant.
In addition to the travel bans, Mr. Biden issued an executive order last week requiring that all international travelers present negative coronavirus tests before leaving for the United States. The move extended a C.D.C. requirement for the tests that was issued by the Trump administration but set to expire on Tuesday.
A White House official said Sunday that the C.D.C. will not issue waivers from that policy as some airlines had requested.
President Biden reversed his predecessor’s ban on transgender troops serving in the military, administration officials announced Monday, moving swiftly into a social issue that has tangled the Pentagon over the past five years.
With Lloyd J. Austin III, his new defense secretary, by his side in the Oval Office, Mr. Biden signed an executive order restoring protections first put in place by former President Barack Obama that opened up the ranks of the armed services to qualified transgender people.
“What I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform,” Mr. Biden said from behind the Resolute Desk moments before putting his signature on the document.
The move was expected, as Mr. Biden indicated in November that he would work to restore the protections, which were reversed by former President Donald J. Trump.
But the swiftness signaled a willingness by the new Biden administration to put its own stamp on Defense Department social issues. It follows an announcement from Mr. Austin on Saturday that he was ordering up a review of how the Pentagon has been handling sexual assault issues.
Mr. Biden and the Defense Department leadership will also have to wrestle with a reckoning on race that is facing the Pentagon, where officials have had to confront a stark fact: close to one in five of the protesters who have been arrested for breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6 — many of them with links to white supremacist organizations — have ties to the American military.
On the transgender issue, advocacy groups that have been fighting the ban since it was announced three years ago — in a tweet from Mr. Trump — have argued that the Pentagon does not need to spend months studying how to allow transgender people to serve because it had already done so. One such group, the Palm Center, said in a policy memo last summer that the military could reopen to transgender people rapidly if ordered to do so.
“A big ship can take time to turn around, so often the Pentagon needs to study policy changes and move cautiously,” Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, said last July in an interview. “But this is the rare case where, since the military left inclusive policy for already-serving transgender personnel in place even as it implemented its ban, the switch is just waiting to be flipped.”
The Trump ban had essentially ended an Obama administration initiative to allow transgender troops to serve openly in the military.
The newest residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have arrived: the Biden family’s two German shepherds, Champ and Major.
The dogs officially joined President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, in the White House on Sunday, said Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for Dr. Biden.
“Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace, and Major loved running around on the South Lawn,” Mr. LaRosa said in a statement.
Dr. Biden confirmed their arrival on Twitter on Monday. “Champ and Major have joined us in the White House!” she wrote.
Their arrival ends the longest period at the presidential residence without a pet of some kind since President Andrew Johnson’s term, from 1865-1869, according to the Presidential Pet Museum.
The Biden family got Champ from a breeder in 2008 after Mr. Biden was elected vice president, according to Politico, and they adopted Major in 2018 through the Delaware Humane Association, making him the first rescue dog to live in the White House.
Mr. Biden has occasionally posted on social media about his pets. “No ruff days on the campaign trail when I have some Major motivation,” Mr. Biden wrote on Instagram in October.
Later that month, he wrote on Twitter: “Some Americans celebrate #NationalCatDay, some celebrate #NationalDogDay — President Trump celebrates neither. It says a lot. It’s time we put a pet back in the White House.”
The tradition of presidential pet ownership dates to George Washington’s two terms, and has been carried on by 31 of the 46 presidents. Donald J. Trump was the first president in more than a century without a pet. Johnson, the last pet-less president, was known to leave flour out for a family of white mice that were living in his bedroom, according to the Presidential Pet Museum.
Major and Champ’s predecessors weren’t just cats and dogs: Theodore Roosevelt had horses, dogs, a Hyacinth macaw parrot, kangaroo rats, five guinea pigs and a one-legged rooster, as well as a short-tempered badger named Josiah and a green garter snake named Emily Spinach. Calvin Coolidge kept a raccoon, named Rebecca, according to the Presidential Pet Museum. Herbert Hoover had several dogs as well as a wild opossum named Billy.
More recent four-legged White House residents include Bo and Sunny, two Portuguese water dogs belonging to Barack Obama and his family.
The Bidens have also said that they have plans to get a cat.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican with deep ties to the former party establishment, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2022, voicing frustration with the deep polarization and partisanship in Washington.
“It has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and mark progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision,” Mr. Portman said in a statement disclosing what was viewed as a surprise announcement coming so soon after the last election.
Mr. Portman, a former top trade and budget official in the administration of George W. Bush, was once regarded as a conservative stalwart, but as his party has shifted to the right in recent years, he has come to be seen as one of the few centrist Republican senators interested in striking bipartisan deals. He was one of the lawmakers responsible for pushing through the new North American trade deal in 2019 and was part of a bipartisan coalition that pushed the House and Senate leadership late last year to embrace a pandemic relief measure after months of delay.
His decision to step aside illustrates how difficult it has become for more mainstream Republicans to navigate the current political environment, with hard-right allies of former President Donald J. Trump insisting that Republican members of Congress side with them or face primary contests.
Mr. Portman called it a “tough time to be in public service.”
“We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground,” he said.
Mr. Portman, who also served 12 years in the House, would have been seeking his third Senate term. He said he made his decision public now to give others time to prepare for a statewide race.
President Biden signed an executive order on Monday intended to strengthen “Buy American” provisions that encourage the federal government to purchase goods and services from U.S. companies, saying it would help bolster workers, labor unions and American manufacturing.
“I don’t buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House. “It must be part of the engine of American prosperity now. We’ll buy American products and support American jobs, union jobs.”
Existing law already requires the government to contract with American companies when possible, but there are many exceptions and waiver opportunities that for years have frustrated advocates for small and medium-size businesses.
Previous administrations, including that of President Donald J. Trump, have tried to clamp down on the process in the hopes of directing more federal money toward an American work force that sometimes struggles to compete with goods and services imported from abroad.
Mr. Biden said the executive order would go further than previous efforts by reducing opportunities for waivers from the Buy American requirements and by tightening standards that would result in fewer federal contracts being awarded to overseas companies.
But administration officials acknowledged on Sunday night during a briefing with reporters that the changes would take time. Mr. Biden’s executive order will direct agencies to re-evaluate the current Buy American procedures and will set a deadline by which they are required to report their findings back to the White House for consideration.
An administration official who briefed reporters on Sunday evening described the effort as one aimed at improving the economic situation for Americans over the longer term, after the country emerges from the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The official declined to be identified because the president had not formally announced the policy.
The official said Mr. Biden’s order would create a position at the Office of Management and Budget, which is part of the White House, to oversee the revisions to the Buy American requirements. He said such oversight would “bring more accountability” to the process.
He said the order would also require a review of the waiver process that grants companies exemptions from the provisions. And he said it would examine the way in which a company’s “domestic content” is measured in the hopes of closing loopholes that companies use to claim that their goods and services are made in America.
Brandon Straka, a conservative activist and media personality, has become one of the most high-profile defendants to face charges after the Capitol riot.
Mr. Straka, 44, urged a crowd outside the Capitol to grab a protective shield from a police officer who was guarding an entrance, according to a criminal complaint that was unsealed on Monday. Mr. Straka yelled, “Take the shield!” as the officer fought with the horde to get his shield back, the complaint said.
Mr. Straka reached the top of the Capitol steps but did not enter the building, turning back when tear gas poured from the entrance, the complaint said.
Mr. Straka is a New York hairstylist who rose to prominence in recent years as the founder of a movement called the WalkAway Campaign, which urged Democrats to leave their party. Mr. Straka has described himself as a “former liberal” who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 but switched his allegiance to former President Donald J. Trump.
“We are walking away from the lies, the false narratives, the fake news, the race-baiting, the victim narrative, the violence, the vandalism, the vitriol,” his website says.
Mr. Straka was also banned by American Airlines last year after he was removed from a flight for refusing to wear a mask.
The day before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Mr. Straka was a featured speaker at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, according to prosecutors. He referred to the attendees as “patriots,” telling them to “fight back” as part of a revolution.
After the riot, Mr. Straka tweeted: “Also- be embarrassed & hide if you need to- but I was there. It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republic because literally nobody cares about them.”
As was the case with many other defendants, it was a family member who sent the F.B.I. a video of Mr. Straka at the Capitol.
Mr. Straka did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He faces charges that include impeding a law enforcement officer and disorderly conduct.
Also on Monday, a prosecutor asked a judge to cut off internet access for Riley June Williams, who is accused of stealing a laptop from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the insurrection, after finding new evidence that she may have instructed others to destroy evidence.
After the riot, Ms. Williams changed her phone number and deleted many of what appeared to be her social media accounts, according to the F.B.I.
“We have indications that she was instructing other people to delete messages as well,” the prosecutor said at a hearing in Washington.
The hearing is scheduled to continue on Tuesday.
President Biden has selected his longtime physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, to serve as his doctor in the White House, an official said on Monday.
Dr. O’Connor succeeds Dr. Sean P. Conley in a role that drew unusual scrutiny during President Donald J. Trump’s administration.
At 78, Mr. Biden is the oldest president in history, and with his selection of Dr. O’Connor, he is bringing aboard a doctor with whom he has a longstanding personal relationship.
A retired Army colonel, Dr. O’Connor served as physician to Mr. Biden when he was vice president and continued serving as Mr. Biden’s physician after he left office.
In December 2019, Mr. Biden’s campaign released a three-page memo from Dr. O’Connor in which he described Mr. Biden as “healthy” and “vigorous,” adding that he was “fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency.”
Dr. O’Connor’s hiring was reported Monday by ABC News.
With the House poised to transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, Republicans are finding themselves in dueling positions over the impending trial of former President Donald J. Trump.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Republican who voted to convict Mr. Trump in his first impeachment trial, said on Sunday that he believed the former president had committed an impeachable offense, and that the effort to try him even after he left office was constitutional.
“I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense,” Mr. Romney said on “State of the Union” on CNN. “If not, what is?”
But even as Mr. Romney signaled his openness to convicting Mr. Trump, other Senate Republicans made clear that they opposed even the idea of a trial and would try to dismiss the charge before it began. Taken together, the comments underscored the rift that the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and the ensuing fallout have created in the Republican conference, as senators weighed whether they would pay a steeper political price for breaking with the former president or for failing to.
Some Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have grown increasingly worried that if they do not intervene to distance themselves from Mr. Trump, their ties to the former president could hurt the party’s political fortunes for years. Others, skirting the question of whether Mr. Trump committed an impeachable offense, have argued that holding a Senate trial for a president who has already left office would be unconstitutional, and would further divide the nation.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, called holding a trial “stupid” and “counterproductive,” likening it to “taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire.”
“The first chance I get to vote to end this trial,” he said, “I’ll do it because I think it’s really bad for America.”
Asked if he thought Mr. Trump had committed an impeachable offense, Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, called it “a moot point” and argued that pursuing an impeachment trial against a former president would be both unconstitutional and a waste of time.
Mr. Romney, citing both the Capitol riot and an hourlong call Mr. Trump placed to the Georgia secretary of state pressuring him to overturn the election results, said the allegations already in the article of impeachment “themselves are of a sufficient nature that the American people are outraged.”
Federal officials, showing how rapidly the Biden administration is overhauling climate policy after years of denial under former President Donald J. Trump, aim to free up as much as $10 billion at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to protect against climate disasters before they strike.
The agency, best known for responding to hurricanes, floods and wildfires, wants to spend the money to pre-emptively protect against damage by building seawalls, elevating or relocating flood-prone homes and taking other steps as climate change intensifies storms and other natural disasters.
“It would dwarf all previous grant programs of its kind,” said Daniel Kaniewski, a former deputy administrator at FEMA and now a managing director at Marsh & McLennan Companies, a consulting firm.
The FEMA plan would use a budgeting maneuver to repurpose a portion of the agency’s overall disaster spending toward projects designed to protect against damage from climate disasters, according to people familiar with discussions inside the agency.
In the past year FEMA has taken a leading role in fighting Covid-19 — and the agency’s plan is to count that Covid spending toward the formula used to redirect money to climate projects. Doing so would allow the Biden administration to quickly and drastically increase climate-resilience funding without action by Congress, generating a windfall that could increase funding more than sixfold.
The agency’s plan would need to be approved by the White House budget office. After Mr. Biden’s win, members of his transition team said they saw the new funding as a way for the incoming administration to make good on its promise to address climate change.
The proposal marks an effort by the Biden administration to address what experts call climate adaptation — an area of climate policy that’s different from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and focuses on better protecting people, homes and communities from the consequences of a warming planet.
Beijing’s rush for antisatellite arms began 15 years ago. Now, it can threaten the orbital fleets that give the United States military its technological edge. Advanced weapons at China’s military bases can fire warheads that smash satellites and can shoot laser beams that have a potential to blind arrays of delicate sensors.
And China’s cyberattacks can, at least in theory, cut off the Pentagon from contact with fleets of satellites that track enemy movements, relay communications among troops and provide information for the precise targeting of smart weapons.
Among the most important national security issues now facing President Biden is how to contend with the threat that China poses to the American military in space and, by extension, terrestrial forces that rely on the overhead platforms.
The Biden administration has yet to indicate what it plans to do with President Donald J. Trump’s legacy in this area: the Space Force, a new branch of the military that has been criticized as an expensive and ill-advised escalation that could lead to a dangerous new arms race.
Mr. Trump presented the initiative as his own, and it now suffers from an association with him and remains the brunt of jokes on television. But its creation was also the culmination of strategic choices by his predecessors, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, to counter an emboldened China that raised bipartisan alarm.
“There’s been a dawning realization that our space systems are quite vulnerable,” said Greg Grant, a Pentagon official in the Obama administration who helped devise its response to China. “The Biden administration will see more funding — not less — going into space defense and dealing with these threats.”
Lloyd J. Austin III, a retired four-star Army general who was confirmed last week as Mr. Biden’s secretary of defense, told the Senate that he would keep a “laserlike focus” on sharpening the country’s “competitive edge” against China’s increasingly powerful military. Among other things, he called for new American strides in building “space-based platforms” and repeatedly referred to space as a war-fighting domain.
“Space is already an arena of great power competition,” Mr. Austin said, with China “the most significant threat going forward.”
In his first 48 hours in office, President Biden sought to project an optimistic message about returning the nation’s many homebound students to classrooms. “We can teach our children in safe schools,” he vowed in his inaugural address.
The following day, Mr. Biden signed an executive order promising to throw the strength of the federal government behind an effort to “reopen school doors as quickly as possible.”
But with about half of American students still learning virtually as the pandemic nears its first anniversary, the president’s push is far from certain to succeed. His plan is rolling out just as local battles over reopening have, if anything, become more pitched in recent weeks.
Teachers are uncertain about when they will be vaccinated. With alarming case counts across the country and new variants of the coronavirus emerging, unions are fighting efforts to return their members to crowded hallways.
The Chicago Teachers Union told members to defy orders to return to the classroom on Monday and to begin working remotely. The teachers say the district has not done enough to keep students and teachers safe during the pandemic. Students are supposed to come back to classrooms on Feb. 1.
Given the seemingly intractable health and labor challenges, some district officials have begun to say out loud what was previously unthinkable: that schools may not be operating normally for the 2021-22 school year. And some labor leaders are seeking to tamp down the expectations Mr. Biden’s words have raised.
“We don’t know whether a vaccine stops transmissibility,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers union.
Some virus experts, however, have said there is reason to be optimistic on this question.
Ms. Weingarten said a key to returning teachers to classrooms in the coming months would be promises to allow those with health conditions, or whose family members have compromised immune systems, to continue to work remotely; the collection of centralized data on the number of coronavirus cases in specific schools; and assurances from districts that they would shut down schools when cases occur.
Fights over those very demands have slowed and complicated reopenings across the country.
Mr. Biden’s executive order directs federal agencies to create national school reopening guidelines, to support virus contact tracing in schools and to collect data measuring the impact of the pandemic on students. The White House is also pushing a stimulus package that would provide $130 billion to schools for costs such as virus testing, upgrading ventilation systems and hiring staff members.
Research has pointed to the potential to operate schools safely before teachers and students are vaccinated, as long as practices like mask wearing are adhered to, and especially when community transmission and hospitalization rates are controlled.
At a news conference Monday, Mr. Biden indicated that he believed teachers could go back to work in person safely before they are vaccinated, as long as schools are able to regularly test staff and students for the virus, update their ventilation systems and develop sanitation protocols. “We should be able to open up every school, kindergarten through 8th grade, if in fact we administer these tests,” he said.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served as a White House press secretary under former President Donald J. Trump, announced her candidacy for governor of Arkansas on Monday, running for a seat her father, Mike Huckabee, once held.
Ms. Sanders is seen as Mr. Trump’s preferred candidate for the election, which will be held in 2022, and her candidacy will serve, to some extent, as a test of Mr. Trump’s remaining strength in the Republican Party. The party has found itself divided after the tumultuous final weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency, his false claims of widespread voter fraud and his role in igniting a riot by his supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
She announced her run in a video posted on her website Monday morning.
The Supreme Court on Monday put an end to two lawsuits that had accused President Donald J. Trump of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clauses by profiting from his hotels and restaurants in New York and Washington.
In brief orders, the court wiped out rulings against Mr. Trump in the two cases and dismissed them as moot. There were no dissents noted.
The move means that there will be no definitive Supreme Court ruling on the meaning of the two provisions of the Constitution concerning emoluments, a term that means compensation for labor or services. One provision, the domestic emoluments clause, bars the president from receiving “any other emolument” from the federal government or the states beyond his official compensation.
The other provision, the foreign emoluments clause, bars anyone holding a federal “office of profit or trust” from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state” without the consent of Congress.
The New York case was brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which represented competitors of Mr. Trump’s businesses that said they had been disadvantaged by the payments he received.
The other case was brought by Maryland and the District of Columbia, which accused Mr. Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from his Washington hotel.