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Rahm Emanuel floated for Transportation secretary

President-elect Biden is strongly considering Rahm Emanuel to run the Department of Transportation, weighing the former Chicago mayor’s experience on infrastructure spending against concerns from progressives over his policing record.

Why it matters: The DOT could effectively become the new Commerce Department, as infrastructure spending, smart cities construction and the rollout of drone-delivery programs take on increasing economic weight.


  • “You're talking about 20–25% of the economy,” former Secretary Ray LaHood told me.

The big picture: Final decisions on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development will happen after the president-elect announces his picks for Defense and Justice, and Cabinet decisions are all interconnected.

  • “Everybody's on hold until they see what the administration is going to do about Rahm,” said LaHood.
  • Mayors appear to dominate the DOT contenders. In addition to Emanuel, sources tell Axios that contenders include LA's Eric Garcetti, Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — though each of them also could land elsewhere in his administration.
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has zeroed in on Emanuel, calling him “a pretty divisive pick” in a New York Times interview.
  • Emanuel was mayor of Chicago during the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The police initially called it a justifiable homicide, and the city delayed the release of dashcam footage for over a year. After the footage went public, one officer was convicted of 2nd-degree murder.

Between the lines: While progressive opposition to Emanuel will be fierce, there will be concerns with other candidates, as well.

  • Most of the mayors have faced criticism about policing and criminal justice reform.
  • Black Lives Matters demonstrators have been protesting outside Garcetti’s home for several nights.

But but but: Emanuel’s advocates point to his record in Chicago, where he worked on hiring minorities for a $2.3 billion rail extension project, and he partnered with the Chicago Transportation Authority to bring ex-offenders back into the workforce.

  • Garcetti also can claim credit for finishing a $1.86 billion modernization project for Los Angeles International Airport 18 months ahead of schedule.

Be smart: Where the fight actually matters — in the U.S. Senate — Emanuel may be able to count on some Republican allies who remember him as a White House dealmaker — and a former colleague in the House gym.

The cloudy science on school reopening during the pandemic

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

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Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

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Schumer: Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

Why it matters: Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice for “incitement of insurrection" after a violent pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol, resulting in five deaths.

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CDC shifts COVID vaccine guidance, expanding minimum interval between doses for exceptional cases

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

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Texas attorney general sues Biden administration over deportation freeze

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and asking for a temporary restraining order.

Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security.

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Biden administration unveils 3-pronged plan to combat domestic extremism

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced at a briefing on Friday that the Biden administration will roll out a three-pronged, interagency plan to assess and combat the thread by domestic violence extremism.

Why it matters: The federal government's approach to domestic extremism has come under scrutiny in the wake of the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. In his inaugural address, Biden repudiated political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism, vowing to defeat them.

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Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

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House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is constitutionally required to begin the impeachment trial at 1 p.m. the day after the article is transmitted. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been pushing for the trial to begin in mid-February, arguing that it will force the Senate to delay other important business.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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