As it happenedended1616714941

Biden press conference: President stirs controversy on border, China and Trump and vows to run in 2024

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Joe Sommerlad,Justin Vallejo
Thursday 25 March 2021 23:29
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Joe Biden says he’ll run for a second term in 2024

On the 65th day of his presidency, Joe Biden held his first formal press conference since entering the White House on 20 January.

In the hour-long Q&A, Biden courted controversy on migration at the Mexico border, the US relationship with China, and the potential to face off against Trump in 2024 in a rematch that see two oldest presidential candidates in US history (Biden 82 v Trump 78).

Of the 15 presidents of the past 100 years, all but for Biden have held a press conference within 33 days of being sworn into office. Donald Trump did it 27 days in, while Barack Obama outdid Trump by a week at 20 days.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the company's role in polarising the US, blaming the "political and media environment" for promoting extremism and misinformation. His opening statement in the Senate big tech hearing came after a cutout of the Facebook boss dressed as the “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley appeared on Capitol Hill before Congress began grilling the social media platforms.

Kayleigh McEnany, former White House press secretary to Mr Trump, has meanwhile appeared on Fox News to claim Joe Biden is in “badly declining” health and is concealing his condition behind a Covid face mask, a baseless smear intended to undermine his first press conference as president, where questions on immigration, the coronavirus vaccine rollout, infrastructure and gun control are likely to be forthcoming.

His vice president, Kamala Harris, is also already facing criticism from Republicans Ted Cruz and Doug Ducey, Arizona’s governor, after being appointed to lead the country’s response to the latest surge in asylum seekers arriving at the US border with Mexico as the administration struggles to find temporary housing for hundreds of unaccompanied children.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the Joe Biden administration.

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 09:05
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Harris to lead immigration response as border crisis deepens

US vice president Kamala Harris will lead the country’s response to the latest surge in asylum seekers arriving at the US border with Mexico from Central America as it struggles to find temporary housing for hundreds of unaccompanied children.

The immigration portfolio is the first specific assignment Joe Biden has delegated to his deputy.

The president’s decision signals the administration is redoubling its efforts to address concerns about the thousands of migrant children in US government care, as the overwhelmed Homeland Security and Health and Human Services Departments manage a rapid increase in arrival numbers.

“I asked her, the VP, today, because she’s the most qualified person to do it, to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle, and the countries that can help, need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday.

The veep had this to say about the immigration crisis on Monday - before (somewhat unwisely) laughing when asked whether she would visit the border, allowing conservative commentators to accuse her of refusing to take the issue seriously.

Griffin Connolly has this report.

Biden taps Kamala Harris to lead White House immigration and border efforts

VP to work on ‘stemming’ the flow of unaccompanied children to the US border and addressing poverty, corruption, and gang violence in Central America

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 09:15
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Biden to host first presidential press conference

The president will hold the first press session of his reign later today, 64 days on from his inauguration, with questions on immigration, the coronavirus vaccine rollout, infrastructure and gun control likely to be forthcoming.

Griffin Connolly has this on the key issues.

The four burning questions Biden will face at his first official press conference as president

Biden has answered dozens of questions from media over first 64 days of presidency, but Thursday will be his first dedicated press conference

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 09:45
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White House mulling new gun control orders

The Biden administration is reportedly mulling new executive orders to reform firearm ownership laws in the wake of two deadly mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado, within the last week.

The president is “not waiting for anything to fail” in Congress, his press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday.

Alex Woodward has the latest.

White House reveals Biden plans for gun control executive orders

Administration wants to address ‘community violence and a range of issues that are root causes and lead to the deaths and impact we’re seeing that is so troubling’

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 10:15
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McConnell says he and Biden aren't talking

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says he hasn’t spoken with the president since his inauguration on 20 January.

McConnell complained that Democrats are not interested in bipartisan cooperation (which is pretty rich coming from the Grim Reaper himself) during an interview with Bill Hemmer on Fox News on Wednesday in which he revealed: “I don’t believe I have spoken with him since he was sworn in. We had a couple of conversations before that.”

But that appears not to be true.

Oliver O’Connell was watching.

McConnell complains Biden hasn’t spoken to him since inauguration

McConnell accuses Democratic administration of not being interested in acting in bipartisan fashion

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 10:45
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Biden likely to run for second term

The president looks likely to run for two terms after all, according to one of his advisers, despite campaigning on being a "transitional" president and wresting power away from Donald Trump with the aim of handing it over to a younger successor.

On the campaign trail in March 2020, Biden said: “Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else. There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.”

That bridge now appears to have been extended.

One longtime adviser was asked byThe Hill whether the president had had second thoughts about the duration of his tenure and answered: “I don’t think there’s any reason to say that he won’t.”

This is particlarly good news for comedy legend Dana Carvey, who has just perfected his Biden impersonation and debuted it on Stephen Colbert’s chat show.

Gustaf Kilander has more on the prospect of Biden running again in 2024 at the age of 81.

Biden likely to run for second term

Biden is oldest president in American history at 78 years old

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 11:15
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Ted Cruz and Arizona governor attack Harris appointment to border

The Texas senator and Cancun holidaymaker has sneered at Joe Biden tasking Kamala Harris with tackling the immigration crisis at the US-Mexico border, picking up on a almost two-year-old tweet to challenge her to allow the media “to film the empty cages” when children have been released from US Custom and Border Protection facilities.

Cruz’s attack is part of a predictable bad faith attack from Republicans calling for greater transparency from the administration on temporary containment facilities - as though the “zero tolerance” policies of Donald Trump never happened.

Doucy Ducey, Arizona’s governor, has meanwhile called her “the worst possible choice” to take on the situation.

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 11:45
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Kayleigh McEnany claims Biden ‘in hiding’ from the media

Another Trumpista with a conveniently short memory is the ex-president’s former press secretary, now a pundit at Fox News, who was accused of lying several times at the podium during her White House tenure despite overtly promising the lobby she would never do so.

Here she is with the bare-faced cheek to attack Biden for a lack of transparency ahead of his press conference.

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 12:05
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White House defends firing five staffers over cannabis use

Jen Psaki said during her daily briefing on Wednesday that the employees lost their jobs after a review that also “raised other security issues.”

She added that Biden had not stepped in to prevent the firings over admissions of past drug use because, although decriminalised in some states, cannabis remains “illegal federally.”

“What we tried to do as an administration was work with the security service who actually make these determinations about the suitability for serving in government,” Psaki said.

“In the past, and I served in the Obama-Biden administration when the rules were actually far more stringent, so that is not about anyone’s personal point of view it is about working through the process and the history and modernising it and taking steps to address the fact that marijuana is legal in a number of states across the country but it is still illegal federally, right? We know that.”

Graeme Massie has more.

White House defends firing five staffers over cannabis use

Jen Psaki said checks had revealed ‘security issues’ for some of those employees who lost jobs

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 12:35
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Biden’s agriculture secretary applaued for scrapping Trump plan to take food benefits from more than a million people

The US Department of Agriculture has announced the end of a Trump-era policy that could have stripped federal food benefits from over a million people during the pandemic by imposing stricter working requirements on those reliant on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme (SNAP).

A federal court allowed new agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack to withdraw the preceding administration’s appeal against an earlier ruling blocking the policy change.

“We are pleased to finally put to rest a policy that would have restricted the ability of states to provide nutrition assistance to able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) during times of high unemployment,” Vilsack said in a statement.

“The rule would have penalised individuals who were unable to find consistent income, when many low-wage jobs have variable hours, and limited to no sick leave.

“Groups with typically higher unemployment, including rural Americans, Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and People of Color, and those with less than a high school education would have been disproportionately harmed by this cruel policy.”

The move was applauded by his colleagues.

Joe Sommerlad25 March 2021 13:05

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