8.28pm EST20:28

Evening summary

Mitch McConnell called out Marjorie Taylor Greene without naming her and said the embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” – and basically the racist QAnon movement – a “cancer for the Republican party”. In the same afternoon, he threw his support behind Liz Cheney, who is taking heat from pro-Trump Republicans for voting for impeachment.
Investigators have made a preliminary determination that the Capitol police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the 6 January Capitol riot shouldn’t be charged.
Twitter officially banned the MyPillow account, less than a week after banning its chief executive, Mike Lindell.
Dick Durbin accused Lindsey Graham of delaying the confirmation hearing of Merrick Garland with “no justification”.

Updated
at 8.48pm EST

8.12pm EST20:12

Report: Investigators recommend that officer who fatally shot Capitol rioter shouldn’t be charged

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that investigators have made a preliminary determination that the Capitol police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the 6 January Capitol riot shouldn’t be charged.

Babbitt, whose Twitter feed showed her deeply entrenched in the racist pro-Trump QAnon movement, had traveled to Washington from her home in San Diego to demand that Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, be sworn in as president.

She entered the Capitol as part of a violent and destructive mob aiming to disrupt the certification of Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

Multiple videos captured the moment in a Capitol hallway where Babbitt was at the front of a crowd stopped at a barricaded door to the Speaker’s Lobby. Video shows the mob shouting at a cluster of officers who are guarding the door, telling them to step aside, as other Trump supporters pound on the door’s glass, shattering it.

One clip appeared to show Babbitt hopping up to push herself through one of the door’s glass panels, towards where members of Congress were. The footage shows a shot ringing out, and Babbitt falling to the ground.

The officer who shot her, a lieutenant, was placed on leave, according to the Wall Street Journal. The lieutenant “was essentially serving as a potential last line of defense between the rioters and members of Congress, thus providing some justification for his actions and falling well short of the standard necessary to charge a police officer with a civil-rights violation for a shooting”.

7.50pm EST19:50

Remember that meeting between Joe Biden and a group of Republican senators to discuss the coronavirus relief package? After two hours, it appears to have wrapped up with no consensus on a package, according to the senators present.

Yamiche Alcindor
(@Yamiche)
Senator Susan Collins at the WH standing alongside other GOP senators says the senators had a “productive” two hour meeting with President Biden. She said it was a “good exchange of views” and they agreed to follow up on how they can continue to work together. pic.twitter.com/8tBzmGeFap

February 2, 2021

Paul Nelson
(@KSLPaul)
Utah Senator Mitt Romney says the meeting between Pres. Biden and Senate Republicans was cordial and the White House staff listened closely, but no official agreement was reached to accept their COVID-19 proposal.

February 2, 2021

7.46pm EST19:46

McConnell slams Majorie Taylor Greene’s conspiracy theories

Mitch McConnell drew some lines in the sand on Monday for the Republican party when he gave a statement to the Hill regarding the embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories”, and another to CNN in support of Liz Cheney.

Though the Senate minority leader never called Majorie Taylor Greene out by name in his three-sentence statement to the Hill, it was clear who he was talking about when he referred to “somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr’s airplane”.

Greene, a freshman Republican representative from Georgia, has long been a supporter of the racist pro-Trump QAnon movement. In his statement to the Hill, McConnell said somebody who believes these conspiracy theories “is not living in reality” and that the embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” is a “cancer for the Republican party”.

“This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party,” he said.

Meanwhile, Liz Cheney, a representative from Wyoming, has taken heat from members of her party for voting to impeach Donald Trump. McConnell, who voted last week to keep alive an effort to dismiss the Senate impeachment trial, sent a clear message in his statement of support to CNN.

“Liz Cheney is a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them,” McConnell said. “She is an important leader in our party and in our nation. I am grateful for her service and look forward to continuing to work with her on the crucial issues facing our nation.”

Updated
at 7.57pm EST

6.48pm EST18:48

It appears Twitter has officially suspended the My Pillow account, less than one week after suspending its chief executive, Mike Lindell.

Donie O’Sullivan
(@donie)
The MyPillow account has been suspended. pic.twitter.com/XAAxjW6re2

February 1, 2021

And yes even after the year that was 2020, it still feels weird to bring this up on a politics blog, but to jog everyone’s memory, Lindell was the avid supporter of Donald Trump who was photographed carrying notes into the White House advocating for martial law.

Lindell was banned last week after he continued to perpetuate the baseless claim that Trump won the 2020 US presidential election.

Retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s have said they would stop carrying My Pillow products, Lindell has previously said. He is also facing potential litigation from Dominion Voting Systems for claiming their machines played a role in alleged election fraud.

6.30pm EST18:30

Merrick Garland has yet to receive a confirmation hearing, weeks after Joe Biden nominated him to be his attorney general.

And that’s due to a hiccup that has left the Senate judiciary committee under the control of the Republicans.

While the Democrats have the Senate majority, the Senate hasn’t passed a power-sharing deal, leaving Republicans still in control of committees. Incoming committee chair Dick Durbin, the Democratic whip from Illinois, accuses Lindsey Graham, who is still the chair of the judiciary committee, of delaying the hearing with no justification.

Manu Raju
(@mkraju)
Durbin wants a hearing for Merrick Garland on Feb. 8, but there’s a problem: Lindsey Graham is still chairman of the committee because the Senate’s power-sharing agreement has not been finalized yet. Until it is, Dems need GOP backing to schedule hearings https://t.co/MZKZ7Xlp9V

February 1, 2021

In a letter to Graham, Durbin wrote that delaying Garland’s confirmation “jeopardizes our national security” and that “there is simply no justification for delaying Judge Garland’s hearing any further”.

“He is a mainstream, consensus pick who should be confirmed swiftly both on his merits and because of the pressing need to respond to the 6 January insurrection and other national security risks,” Durbin wrote.

Read more on Merrick Garland’s background here:

Updated
at 6.36pm EST

6.06pm EST18:06

The number of active hate groups in the US declined last year as more far-right extremists migrated online in ways that made them harder to track, the the Southern Poverty Law Center said in its annual report.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racism, xenophobia and anti-government militias, identified 838 active hate groups operating across the country in 2020, a drop from the 940 documented in 2019 and the record-high of 1,020 in 2018.

“It is important to understand that the number of hate groups is merely one metric for measuring the level of hate and racism in America, and that the decline in groups should not be interpreted as a reduction in bigoted beliefs and actions motivated by hate,” the report reads.

Read more here:

5.11pm EST17:11

In her first call to a foreign leader, the vice-president, Kamala Harris, spoke with the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

Philip Melanchthon Wegmann
(@PhilipWegmann)
Kamala Harris calls Justin Trudeau, the White House announces, her first call to a foreign leader as vice president.

February 1, 2021

Updated
at 6.05pm EST

4.44pm EST16:44

Hey all, Vivian Ho on the west coast taking over for the unbeatable Joan E Greve.

As she already mentioned, we have a meeting with Joe Biden and a group of Republican senators to discuss the coronavirus relief package to look forward to later today.

As of now, CNN has a preview of what should expect of the House’s pre-trial impeachment brief on Tuesday:

The House impeachment team plans to argue the riot was the result of an intentional effort months in the making. They intend to show how Trump repeatedly claimed that the election would be stolen from him before November 3, then unleashed a flurry of disinformation as part of his “stop the steal” campaign to try to overturn the election result and question the validity of President Joe Biden’s win, which culminated in Trump’s actions on January 6 inciting the rioters that attacked the Capitol.

The case will be “starkly different” than the first impeachment trial of Trump in 2020, which drew on hours of complicated testimony – this time the impeachment team has video.

Updated
at 4.46pm EST

4.30pm EST16:30

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Vivian Ho, will take over for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

Joe Biden will meet with a group of Republican senators today to discuss the coronavirus relief package. The Republican senators have proposed a $600 billion package, which is more than $1 trillion less than what Biden has called for spending. Democrats have urged Biden to stand firm in the meeting, and Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the president is more concerned that the legislation will be too small rather than too large.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and House speaker Nancy Pelosi filed their joint budget resolution. The move paves the way for congressional Democrats to pass the coronavirus relief package using reconciliation, meaning they may not need Republican support in the Senate.

The US gross domestic product is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of this year, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office. But the agency also noted that the country’s unemployment rate is not likely to return to its pre-pandemic level until 2024.
Biden threatened to issue sanctions against Myanmar over the country’s military coup. “The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action,” the president said in a statement. “The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.”
The Pentagon and the department of health and human services are working to expand access to at-home coronavirus tests. HHS is giving $230 million to the health care company Ellume to produce more of the tests, which are available over the counter and provide results within 15 minutes. The at-home tests have a 95% accuracy rate.
Vivian will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

4.17pm EST16:17

The House rules committee will meet Wednesday at 5 pm ET to discuss the resolution to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from her two committees.

A number of Democratic lawmakers have said Greene, who has voiced support for the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory QAnon, should be stripped of her committee assignments.

Politico reported earlier today that House Democrats planned to give minority leader Kevin McCarthy a 72-hour deadline to remove Greene from her committees, or they would move to do so on their own.

3.56pm EST15:56

Schumer and Pelosi file joint budget resolution

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and House speaker Nancy Pelosi have filed a joint budget resolution, paving the way to pass Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package through reconciliation.

If Democrats use reconciliation, the relief package would need only 51 votes to pass the Senate, which is now evenly divided between the two parties.

“Congress has a responsibility to quickly deliver immediate comprehensive relief to the American people hurting from COVID-19,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement.

“The cost of inaction is high and growing, and the time for decisive action is now. With this budget resolution, the Democratic Congress is paving the way for the landmark Biden-Harris coronavirus package that will crush the virus and deliver real relief to families and communities in need.”

The news comes about an hour before Biden is set to meet with Republican senators who have proposed spending $600 billion on the next relief package. Biden’s plan has a price tag of $1.9 trillion.

“We are hopeful that Republicans will work in a bipartisan manner to support assistance for their communities, but the American people cannot afford any more delays and the Congress must act to prevent more needless suffering,” Pelosi and Schumer said.

3.36pm EST15:36

The House unanimously approved a resolution allowing the remains of Brian Sicknick to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

House Press Gallery
(@HouseDailyPress)
The House took up and adopted H. Con. Res. 10 – Permitting the remains of the late USCP Office Brian D. Sicknick to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

February 1, 2021

Sicknick was a Capitol Police officer who died as a result of his injuries during the January 6 riot.

3.12pm EST15:12

Martin Pengelly

The Lincoln Project has condemned John Weaver, a co-founder of the anti-Trump Republican group who is alleged to have made unsolicited sexual overtures to males as young as 14.

Weaver, 61, is a Republican consultant who worked with presidential candidates John McCain and John Kasich. His alleged online comments to young men were reported in mid-January by the American Conservative and Scott Stedman, an independent reporter who said he received messages from Weaver, data analyst Garrett Herrin and Axios.

Then, Weaver said: “The truth is that I’m gay. And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.

“To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you.”

He also said he would not return to the Lincoln Project after a period of medical leave.

But on Sunday, the New York Times published a report based on interviews with 21 men, one of whom it said Weaver messaged when the man was 14, “asking questions about his body while he was still in high school and then more pointed ones after he turned 18”. Weaver did not comment.

In a statement, the Project said: “John Weaver led a secret life that was built on a foundation of deception at every level. He is a predator, a liar, and an abuser. We extend our deepest sympathies to those who were targeted by his deplorable and predatory behavior.”

2.57pm EST14:57

Conor Lamb, a centrist House Democrat from Pennsylvania, criticized Senate Republicans’ coronavirus relief proposal in a new Twitter thread.

Lamb said the Republicans’ $600 billion plan was “just not good enough” for working families who have financially suffered because of the pandemic.

Conor Lamb
(@ConorLambPA)
Our job is to fight for workers & the middle class.

The GOP takes from them after giving to big companies all year. You can’t cover that up with unity or bipartisanship.

It’s just not good enough.

February 1, 2021

“The cuts in the GOP Senators’ plan come from those same people who make around $60K or have lost jobs,” Lamb said.

“The GOP takes from them after giving to big companies all year. You can’t cover that up with unity or bipartisanship. It’s just not good enough.”

Joe Biden will meet with the Republican senators who crafted the $600 billion plan in about two hours. The president has called for spending $1.9 trillion on the next relief package.

2.43pm EST14:43

Marjorie Taylor Greene said she would “soon” meet with Donald Trump, as the QAnon-supporting congresswoman faces calls to resign from the House.

The Georgia lawmaker said she had a call with Trump last week, claiming the former president offered her his support. (Trump’s team has not confirmed the call.)

“He’s doing really well,” Greene told the conservative outlet One America News in an interview today.

“I’m excited to go visit him soon and continue to give him a call and talk to him frequently. Great news is, he supports me 100 percent, and I’ve always supported him. President Trump is always here for the people, and he’s not going anywhere. So I look forward to, to joining him and what his future plans may be.”

Trump has been staying at his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago since he left office last month.

2.17pm EST14:17

Ron Wyden, the incoming Democratic chairman of the Senate finance committee, released a statement criticizing Republican senators’ coronavirus relief proposal.

Phil Mattingly
(@Phil_Mattingly)
Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chair @RonWyden, calls Senate GOPer Covid relief proposal “far too small to provide the relief the American people need.” pic.twitter.com/LiO0bi6qmd

February 1, 2021

Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, argued the proposal was “far too small to provide the relief the American people need” amid the pandemic.

“In particular, a three-month extension of jobless benefits is a non-starter,” Wyden said. “Workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own shouldn’t be constantly worrying that they are going to lose their income overnight. An extension of benefits for at least six months is essential.”

Joe Biden will meet with the Senate Republicans who crafted the $600 billion proposal at the White House in about three hours.

2.02pm EST14:02

Tom McCarthy

With mere hours left before a deadline for Donald Trump to officially answer the impeachment charge against him, the former president is still scrambling to assemble a legal defense, announcing that he has hired two new lawyers after a five-person team abruptly quit their roles.

Trump has until noon on Tuesday to reply to a charge of incitement of insurrection, for encouraging the assault on the US Capitol on 6 January in which five people died. His trial in the Senate is scheduled to begin on 9 February.

With most Republicans signaling support for the former president, the trial is seen as having little chance of ending in conviction, which would open the way for the Senate to bar Trump, 74, from ever holding office again.

But the trial is still seen as a potentially explosive disruption in Washington, where the Biden administration is laboring mightily to get its agenda off the ground and some Republican leaders have been attempting to creep away from Trump.

Read the full report:

1.45pm EST13:45

Martin Pengelly

A fascinating report from Politico says Democrats under House majority leader Steny Hoyer are set to give Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy 72 hours to take meaningful action against Marjorie Taylor Greene, or they will kick the QAnon-supporting, conspiracy spouting Georgia congresswoman off her committee assignments themselves.

Here’s a taste of the triple-bylined report:

The move comes amid intense fury within the Democratic caucus over Greene’s incendiary rhetoric, including peddling conspiracy theories that the nation’s deadliest mass shootings were staged. Greene also endorsed violence against Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats before she was elected to Congress.

Last week, Greene was officially awarded seats on the education and labor Committee and the budget committee. Republicans have been slow to act, with McCarthy saying only he’s planning to have a ‘conversation’ with Greene some time this week. And Greene has shown zero contrition.

The report goes on to say initial attempts to remove Greene’s committee assignments will stop short of moving for censure or expulsion, but that those options are on the table too.

Jahana Haynes, a Connecticut Democrat who represents the site of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, told reporters on Monday: “If we are waiting for Kevin McCarthy to have a moral compass … that’s never going to happen.” Hayes also said Greene’s “elevation in the party is dangerous”.

At the weekend, Greene said she had spoken to Donald Trump. The former president had offered his full support, she said. Here’s some further reading from Joan E Greve, steward of this blog, about what all this says about the Republican party and its immediate future: