Biden prepares for State of the Union amid China balloon squabble – US politics live

LIVE – Updated at 18:06

Officials claim suspected spy balloon entered US three times during Trump presidency – follow the latest.

Interim summary


Joe Biden returns to the White House today from a weekend trip to Camp David, ahead of the State of the Union address tomorrow night. At 2.15pm today, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is due to brief the media in the west wing. It’s been a fairly tranquil start to the day in US politics news but stick with us for developments as they happen.

Here’s where things stand:

  • Former vice president Mike Pence postponed a visit to the key primary state of South Carolina today after his daughter went into labor in California. Speculation is rising that Pence, who’s essentially fallen out with Donald Trump, will run for the presidency in the 2024 election.

  • Federal investigators from the FBI are preparing to search Pence’s Indiana home, looking for additional classified materials, within the coming days, a fresh report today said, seeming to confirm last week’s initial report on this.

  • There’s a decline in the percentage of Americans who think the state of the USA is “strong,” according to the latest opinion poll, which shows predictable partisan splits.

  • Joe Biden is preparing to deliver his second state of the union address tomorrow evening, ready to tout his administration’s achievements so far and the relatively good state of the US economy right now, despite the event being clouded by rows over the Chinese spy balloon and the gaping hole in Biden’s legislative achievements on policing reform, especially embarrassing following the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis last month after a brutal beating by police.


17:33 Joanna Walters

Former US vice president Mike Pence was expected to visit South Carolina today, as the signals grow louder that he’ll make his own run for the White House in 2024 as a rival to the former boss he’s essentially fallen out with, Donald Trump. But that visit has been postponed.

Fresh reports say that Pence has decided to delay his trip to the crucial primary state because his oldest daughter, Charlotte Pence Bond, has gone into labor in California. The ex-veep and his wife, Karen Pence, headed for California instead and will reschedule the trip to South Carolina.

The news comes as there were more developments in reports that the FBI intends to search Pence’s home in Indiana for classified documents. Pence’s team had notified the National Archives last month that a “small” number of documents were discovered at his residence, it emerged last week. Pence has said he was unaware of their existence.

Meanwhile, Pence had been expected to drop in on North Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, today. The Charleston Post and Courier reported that Pence’s numerous visits to early primary states recently is fueling speculation about a 2024 presidential bid, while noting that Trump recently visited South Carolina and former state governor Nikki Haley is expected to announce her own 2024 bid in the state later this month.

South Carolina Republican US Senator Tim Scott is also, later this month, launching a Faith in America speaking tour and is also tipped as a possible 2024 candidate for the GOP nomination for president.

Pence revealed in his recently-published memoir, So Help Me God, that he blames Trump for events leading to the January 6, 2021, insurrection, when a pro-Trump mob attacked the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory.

Some of the mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence” after the outgoing president slammed him for his refusal to block certification in Congress, where the vice president holds the position of president of the US Senate, of Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 election.



Good morning, US politics blog readers.

Joe Biden is finalizing his State of the Union address after a weekend spent working on the remarks at Camp David. It will be his first address to a divided Congress and comes amid sharp criticism from Republicans over the week-long wait to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon. Military officials determined that downing the balloon over land from such high altitude could pose unnecessary risk to the people and property below and advised that shooting it over water was safer.

The Biden administration has said that the suspected surveillance balloon entered the US on three occasions while Donald Trump was president, though officials have not provided more details on how or when those incidents were discovered. According to Politico, the intelligence community has offered to brief Trump administration officials on the newly discovered intelligence, which they have said they were not aware of during their time in charge.

Meanwhile, we have a spate of new “State of the Union” polls, each containing a fair bit of pessimism about the direction of the country and confidence in Biden and his party.

Here’s what else we can expect today:

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief reporters with National Economic Council director Brian Deese at 2.15pm ET.

Vice-President Kamala Harris will host a meeting focused on the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle at 2pm ET.

The House has votes scheduled later this evening, while the Senate is out. It should be noted that despite the fervor of the new House Republican majority to launch its attacks on Biden, Congress generally is off to an unusually slow start this year.

Related: Biden faces ‘tightrope’ in balancing realism and optimism in State of the Union

FBI to search Pence’s home for classified materials – report


Federal investigators are preparing to search the Indiana home of former vice president Mike Pence for additional classified materials within the coming days, according to a new report by NBC News. The story confirms a report in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Pence’s team notified the National Archives last month that a “small” number of documents were discovered at his residence last month. Pence has said he was unaware of their existence. The revelation came after the discovery of classified materials at Biden’s home and office.

Both Pence and Biden have emphasized their cooperation with law enforcement, in stark contrast to Donald Trump, who defied a subpoena request to return to the National Archives hundreds of classified materials that he improperly took with him to his Florida resort after leaving the White House. Both Biden and Trump face special counsel inquires into their handling of the secret documents, though the cases are very different.

The FBI previously searched both of the locations associated with the president at his invitation, and found additional materials with classified markings at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware. No classified materials were found during an FBI search of Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, last week.



It’s become a cliche of the genre, but modern presidents to use the annual address to declare the state of the union “strong.” But Americans increasingly disagree with the diagnosis, according to a new poll from Monmouth University. Naturally, opinions diverge greatly on partisan lines.

Worrying for Biden, who has staked his presidency on proving that democracies can still deliver for their people, the poll found that most Americans – nearly 6 in 10 – believe the current government in Washington has had a negative impact on most people’s lives.

“Fundamental faith in the American system continues to erode, even when taking into account the fact that partisan views shift depending on who occupies the White House,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

He added: “Washington is not seen as a force for good, but it doesn’t have to be this way according to most Americans. The question is whether Washington specifically and the country more generally can overcome the lack of trust that permeates our current political climate.”



The state of the union address likely presents Biden’s with his biggest TV audience of the year – a rare chance to lay out his vision directly to the American people.

Biden, according to his Twitter account, is spending the morning polishing the primetime remarks – and maybe polishing off a few chocolate chip cookies as well.

This year’s speech, halfway through his first term, will take on heightened importance ahead of the expected announcement that he will run for re-election.

Viewers may also be watching the traditionally-lengthy address for signs that the 80-year-old president as the stamina – and mental acuity – to serve another four year term.

Holding court before a join session of Congress, Biden is expected to tout his legislative achievements, especially the laws passed with bipartisan support, and urge Republicans to continue to work with him to advance the business of the American people. It’s an unlikely prospect amid the deep partisan divide and the looming 2024 elections, but the White House hopes the gesture will leave Americans with the impression of a reasonable president blocked at every turn by an unreasonable opposition party.



Biden has offered his condolences after the catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake and its powerful aftershock left more than 1,700 people dead in Turkey and Syria.

In a statement, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the US was “profoundly concerned” by the devastating reports of mass causalities.

We stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance. President Biden has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess US response options to help those most affected. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the Government of Turkey.”

For the latest on the catastrophic quake, follow our live blog here:

Related: Turkey and Syria: more than 1,700 people confirmed dead after two large earthquakes strike – latest updates


15:49 Joan E Greve

The death of Tyre Nichols days after the 29-year-old father was brutally beaten by Memphis police has renewed calls for Congressional action.

Nichols family, joined by activists and civil rights leaders, have been clear: they want Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. But with Republicans now in control of the House, expectations that Congress will pass federal police reform are low.

The Guardian’s Joan Greve breaks down the debate in this helpful explainer.

Related: What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and is it likely to pass?



The relationship between the nation’s capital and the nation’s capitol is complicated, to put it mildly. This week, those tensions will take center stage on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans are moving ahead with a pair of resolutions that would override two bills passed by the DC Council.

One involves an overhaul of the city’s criminal code and the other would allow non-citizens to vote in local elections starting in 2024.

It has been decades since Congress last voted to overturn a DC law and the effort is unlikely to succeed this time. Doing so requires approval by both chambers of Congress and the president’s signature. But the clock is ticking: local DC laws are subject to a 30-day Congressional review period before they can be enacted.

Even if the House passes the resolutions, the Senate is not expected to take them up in time.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC’s nonvoting Delegate to Congress, has urged lawmakers to oppose the disapproval resolutions, which she called “profoundly undemocratic and paternalistic”.

“The nearly 700,000 DC residents, a majority of whom are Black and Brown, are worthy and capable of self-government,” she wrote in a letter to members of Congress, according to the Washington Post. “Congress, which is not accountable to DC residents, should not interfere with legislation duly enacted by the duly elected DC government.”

Separately, House Republicans have found themselves in an unlikely alliance with local DC officials, including the city’s Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser, as part of their push to get federal workers to return to in-person work.

Federal workers represent a substantial part of the city’s workforce, and their absence has had a devastating impact on the city’s economy.

House Republicans recently introduced the Show Up Act, which would compel federal agencies to enforce pre-pandemic tele-work policies. While Bowser has not endorsed the measure, she has urged Biden to do more to encourage federal employees to return to work, or to let DC use the still-empty buildings for housing or other purposes.



One silver lining for the president is that Americans are generally unhappy with all of their political leaders. The ABC News/Washington Post survey contains clear warning signs for House Republicans, who recently assumed control of the chamber.

More than 7 in 10 Americans have little to no confidence in the leadership of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. And the public largely disapproves Republican brinkmanship over the federal debt ceiling, the poll found.

Only about a quarter of Americans agree with House Republicans’ threat to block Congress from raising the nation’s borrowing limit, triggering a debt-default, as a means of extracting steep federal spending cuts. Two-thirds of Americans, by contrast, support the White House’s position that the issues should be dealt with separately. The poll found Americans are very concerned about the consequences of a default, which economists have warned would be catastrophic.

Americans are also skeptical of Republicans’ desire to investigate anti-conservative bias within the government, the survey found. Despite an unexpectedly weak performance in the November midterms, House Republicans are barreling forward with a slew of politically-charged investigations, wielding their narrow-majority in the chamber to go after the president, his family and his administration.

The views expressed in the poll are a cautionary tale for a party that has so far showed more interest in investigating the president’s son than the business of governing.



The state of the union is sour, at least according to a handful of new polls released on the eve of the president’s annual address to Congress.

Though Democrats defied expectations – and history – with their performance in the November midterms, Americans are largely unhappy with the president or his party. Facing weak job approval ratings, Biden receives little credit for his legislative accomplishments, massive federal investments aimed at rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, boosting the domestic semiconductor industry and lowering healthcare costs for seniors and veterans.

Discontent is particularly high on the economy, despite signs the outlook is brightening. Inflation is easing, the unemployment rate is at its lowest in decades and job growth remains strong.

Yet more than two-thirds of Americans express just some ore no confidence in Biden to make the right decisions for the country’s future, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post survey.

It also found that more than four in 10 Americans believe they are worse off financially since Biden took office, a polling high going back nearly four decades.

Meanwhile, the country remains wary of Biden’s desire to seek a second term, even among his own party. Just 37% of Democrats say they hope he stands for re-election, down from 52% in the weeks before the November midterm elections, a new poll from the The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found.

Biden has stated publicly that he intends to run, and his team is laying the groundwork for a second campaign, but the 80-year-old president has yet to formally announce his decision, expected sometime in the Spring.

Asked previously about the lack of enthusiasm, especially among his own voters, surrounding a possible re-election bid, Biden retorted: “Watch me.”

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