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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Biden picks up items Trump dropped, with changes still in the works

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies Tuesday about the

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies Tuesday about the threat of right-wing extremists at a Senate hearing. Credit: Washington Examiner via Bloomberg / Graeme Jennings

The Biden administration seeks to pick up not only where the Trump administration left off but also where it checked out. On several fronts, restoration rather than revolution emerges as an unwritten theme for the new White House.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, appointed under Trump, testified Tuesday that his agents are pursuing roughly 2,000 domestic terrorism cases. Trump sought to downplay the threat of right-wing extremists and the need to monitor them, preferring to blame all seditious violence on the left.

Now, under the Democrats, and particularly in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, Wray plays up these cases as a priority. That’s a resumption of what you’d have expected to hear from law enforcement before Trump tried to skew Justice Department goals.

Wray delicately doused propaganda from the ex-president's loyalists at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. "We have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th," he said. "That doesn’t mean we’re not looking and we’ll continue to look."

Biden's efforts to revive certain general plans go beyond law enforcement. Like Trump and Barack Obama before him, Biden speaks of comprehensively rebuilding U.S. infrastructure. The subject should offer the potential for major bipartisan horse-trading because it involves material improvements in specific U.S. communities.

Roads, bridges, power generation, internet connection and other improvements did not make it into last year's Republican presidential platform, however, because other than reelecting Trump, there was no agenda. Trump and his aides talked for years about infrastructure, but then dropped the subject.

Meanwhile, it was reported last week that the U.S. and Canada plan to modernize a network of defense satellites and radar in the arctic, to offset a bigger military presence by Russia and China in the northern regions. Biden asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ramp up Canada’s spending on defense, including an upgrade of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD, according to The Wall Street Journal.

That doesn't sound like a shift in general direction so much as an end to Trump's grumblings about NATO, Western democracies, military spending and Americans who rail against Russia.

While in office, Trump took Twitter shots at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, The Washington Post's owner, regarding postal rates. But Biden seems to be taking a harder stand regarding the influential billionaire by supporting unionization at Amazon. Trump administration policy was more invested in keeping labor unions in check. Trump and his aides also raised the issue of antitrust moves against tech giants, which now seem to be moving forward under Biden.

Even the southern border, touted as a big point of difference between Trump and Biden, brings talk of restoring an orderly way of humanely handling asylum-seekers. Trump promoted a simplistic concept of either keeping these border-crossers out or admitting them. But the reality never really worked that way.

Expect no massive transformations in the months ahead regarding law enforcement, construction or defense. Restoration, or resumption, makes a more fitting mantra than revolution in these first 100 Biden days, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.