Getting vaccinated and following public health guidelines are patriotic duties, Biden said.
“We need all Americans to keep washing their hands, stay socially distanced, wearing their masks,” he said. “Get vaccinated, when it’s your turn. It’s a patriotic responsibility.
“After a long dark year, we can show once again, that we are the United States of America, that there’s nothing we have cannot do if we do it together,” he said.
Joe Biden promotes his American Rescue Plan in Ohio, on ACA anniversary
The president is promoting his administration’s coronavirus rescue plan at a hospital in Columbus, on the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being signed into law.
The administration also announced today that Americans can now sign up for insurance through the ACA until 15 August. The Biden admin had already extended the enrollment period until 15 May, so that the millions of Americans who’d lost employer-provided health insurance coverage could still get coverage. The coronavirus relief package that Biden signed into law this month also expanded insurance subsidies for people who earn between 100 and 400% of the poverty level.
“Millions of families will be able to sleep a little more soundly at night, because they don’t have to worry about losing everything if they get sick,” Biden said in Ohio. “A few clicks, and a short conversation that’s all it takes to start seeing these benefits, increased coverage and lower premiums.”
All Georgia residents, 16 and older, will be eligible for Covid-19 vaccines starting this Thursday.
The state’s governor Brian Kemp announced the news just two weeks after the state expanded vaccine eligibility to cover everyone aged 55 and older. Georgia will join only a handful of states, including Texas, Alaska and Mississippi, that have expanded vaccine access to the general adult population.
About 11% of Georgia’s population has been fully vaccinated, and more than 19% have received at least one dose.
In Colorado, where residents remember a long history of mass shootings, the Boulder shooting has been traumatizing, said Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser.
“Columbine is still feeling the effects,” said Weiser on CNN, referring to the 1999 high school massacre that killed 15. Supervisors and family of the shooting have been “retraumatized based on what happened yesterday – because that’s how trauma works,” he added. “Colorado is suffering.”
As historian Kathleen Belew noted, the suspect in the Boulder shootings was born days before Columbine. “That’s how long we’ve failed to take action,” Belew said.
Today so far
That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
The Boulder police identified the 10 victims of yesterday’s mass shooting at a grocery store. The victims were Denny Strong, Neven Stanisic, Rikki Olds, Tralona Bartkowiak, Teri Leiker, Officer Eric Talley, Suzanne Fountain, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray and Jody Waters. Their ages ranged from 20 to 65.
The shooting suspect has been charged with ten counts of first-degree murder, the Boulder police chief said. Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as 21-year-old Ahmad Alissa. Court documents showed Alissa purchased an assault rifle less than a week before the shooting.
Joe Biden called for a new assaults weapons ban in response to the Boulder shooting. The president also called on the Senate to immediately pass the two background checks bill that the House approved earlier this month. “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future,” Biden said. “This is not and should not be a partisan issue. It is an American issue.”
But it remains unlikely that gun regulations can pass the evenly divided Senate. Asked this afternoon whether he believes he has the political capital to get gun restrictions passed by Congress, Biden said, “I don’t know. I haven’t done any counting yet.”
The Senate confirmed Shalanda Young as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Young will immediately step in as acting director of the agency, and many Democrats have called on Biden to nominate the longtime Hill staffer as the full-time OMB director, after Neera Tanden was forced to withdraw her nomination over controversial tweets.
Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Joe Biden plans to release his initial 2022 spending requests next week, with a plan to release a full budget proposal in the coming months, according to Bloomberg News.
The document will include Biden’s discretionary funding priorities, broken down by agency with some additional details within them, the Office of Management and Budget said. …
Biden will separately propose additional spending on infrastructure, clean energy and other domestic policy issues. Those measures could cost roughly $3 trillion.
‘Our priority is to provide Congress with early information about the president’s discretionary funding priorities, which is what they need to begin the appropriations process,’ OMB spokesman Rob Friedlander said.
Biden’s initial request will not include plans for raising revenues, which is why, an agency official said, the Biden administration is shying away from calling the document a ‘skinny budget’ or ‘budget blueprint,’ the terms typically used to describe a new president’s initial funding requests.
Biden’s full budget will be released ‘later this spring,’ Friedlander said, and will ‘show how his full agenda of investments and tax reforms fits together in a fiscally and economically responsible plan to address the overlapping crises we face.’
Biden’s proposal is meant to help guide congressional negotiations over the budget, but his plan is likely to face intense opposition from Republicans in Congress, who have already raised complaints that the president’s infrastructure plan is too expansive.
A daughter of one of the victims of the Boulder shooting reflected on her loss in a moving Twitter tribute to him.
Erika Mahoney, the daughter of 61-year-old Kevin Mahoney, said she was “heartbroken” to learn that her father was one of the 10 victims in the shooting.
“I am heartbroken to announce that my Dad, my hero, Kevin Mahoney, was killed in the King Soopers shooting in my hometown of Boulder, CO,” Mahoney said in her Twitter post. “My dad represents all things love. I’m so thankful he could walk me down the aisle last summer.”
Mahoney expressed appreciation to the Boulder police department for “being so kind through this painful tragedy”.
“I am now pregnant. I know he wants me to be strong for his granddaughter,” Mahoney said. “I love you forever Dad. You are always with me.”
Former congressman Beto O’Rourke, who has repeatedly called for stricter gun regulations since a 2019 shooting in his hometown of El Paso claimed 23 lives, offered his condolences to Mahoney.
After arriving in Columbus this afternoon, Joe Biden answered a question from a reporter who asked whether he believed he has the political capital to get gun restrictions passed through Congress.
“I hope so,” the president replied, according to a pool report. “I don’t know. I haven’t done any counting yet.”
It seems unlikely that the Senate can pass the two background checks bills that the House approved earlier this month, given that the upper chamber is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
Some Republicans have said they are open to narrow legislation on gun regulations, but the House-approved bills appear to be a non-starter for the Senate minority.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat of Illinois, told CNN that she will be voting against Joe Biden’s nominees until the president commits to appointing more Asian-American officials to key positions.
Axios reported earlier today that Duckworth and one of her Senate colleagues, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, confronted a senior administration official yesterday about the lack of Asian-American nominees.
[Duckworth and Hirono] leveled the complaint to deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon during a Zoom call between the White House and the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Hours earlier, Biden finalized the permanent secretaries of the 15 executive departments when the Senate confirmed former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as Labor secretary.
Duckworth noted that the Cabinet lacks a single AAPI member, according to four Senate Democratic aides briefed on the call. Hirono backed her up.
The senators’ complaints come as the nation has witnessed a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Six of the eight victims in last week’s Atlanta shooting were also Asian women, raising concerns of a potential hate crime.
Duckworth’s threat could have serious implications for Biden’s ability to get his nominees confirmed, given that the Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
A key member of the legal team that sought to steal the 2020 election for Donald Trump is defending herself against a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit by arguing that “no reasonable person” could have mistaken her wild claims about election fraud last November as statements of fact.
In a motion to dismiss a complaint by the large US-based voting machine company Dominion, lawyers for Sidney Powell argued that elaborate conspiracies she laid out on television and radio last November while simultaneously suing to overturn election results in four states constituted legally protected first amendment speech.
“No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” argued lawyers for Powell, a former federal prosecutor from Texas who caught Trump’s attention through her involvement in the defense of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on 6 January in an effort to stop the certification of an election they considered invalid, killing a police officer in violent clashes in which four others died.
But lawyers for Powell argued her false statements about election fraud in the months preceding the Capitol insurrection were unmistakably not presented as true facts.
“It was clear to reasonable persons that Powell’s claims were her opinions and legal theories on a matter of utmost public concern,” her legal motion says.
The filing brought expressions of disbelief from Trump critics.
“This is her defense. Wow,” tweeted the Republican representative Adam Kinzinger.
“Bad argument!” tweeted Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. “[Powell] should have gone with an insanity defense due to #TrumpDerangementSyndrome.”
Senate confirms Shalanda Young as deputy OMB director
The Senate has confirmed Shalanda Young as the next deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a vote of 63-37.
Young, a longtime Hill staffer, had attracted the praise of lawmakers of both parties, and 13 Senate Republicans, along with every Democratic senator, supported her nomination.
Young has been named as a potential nominee to lead the OMB, after Neera Tanden was forced to withdraw her nomination due to bipartisan opposition over her past tweets.
Young will serve as the acting OMB director for now, and Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters today that there was no update on who Joe Biden will nominate to lead the agency.
If Young were nominated and confirmed to lead OMB, she would be the first Black woman to serve as the agency’s director.
A powerful and political message from former first lady Michelle Obama.
She has tweeted a pointed post aimed at Republican legislators who are busy trying to pass voting restrictions based on spurious claims about system abuse, which usually disproportionately affect minority voters, while shunning gun safety measures.
Obama tweeted: “I’m heartbroken by these recent tragedies of gun violence, and I just keep thinking about all the leaders who won’t take a stand to save lives and yet line up to pass bills that make it harder for us to vote.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki spoke with reporters on Air Force One as Joe Biden traveled to Columbus, Ohio, this afternoon.
Psaki said she did not yet have any update to provide on whether the president would travel to Boulder, Colorado, after a mass shooting there claimed 10 lives yesterday.
Asked whether Biden was considering executive action to address gun violence, the press secretary said the president is considering a number of options right now.
“There’s an ongoing process, and I think we feel we have to work on multiple channels at the same time,” Psaki said.
Boulder shooting suspect bought assault rifle just days ago
Police have identified a 21-year-old man as the suspect who opened fire inside a crowded Colorado supermarket yesterday, and court documents showed that he purchased an assault rifle less than a week before the attack that killed 10 people, including a police officer.
Supermarket employees told investigators that Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa shot an elderly man multiple times outside the Boulder grocery store before going inside, according to the documents, according to The Associated Press. Another person was found shot in a vehicle next to a car registered to suspect’s brother.
The news agency further reports:
The documents did not say where the gun was purchased. Authorities said Alissa was from the Denver suburb of Arvada and that he engaged in a shootout with police Monday afternoon inside the store.
The suspect was being treated at a hospital and was expected to be booked into the county jail later in the day on murder charges.
Investigators have not established a motive, but authorities believe he was the only shooter, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.
A law enforcement official briefed on the shooting told The Associated Press that the gunman used an AR-15 rifle, a lightweight semiautomatic rifle.
Officials were trying to trace the weapon. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
The suspect’s family told investigators they believed Alissa was suffering some type of mental illness, including delusions.
One of the most conservative Democrats in Congress,West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, has not been slow to point out that he doesn’t support a bill that’s already successfully passed in the House and expands background checks to almost all gun sales.
Representatives voted to approve two bills earlier in March. One extends the window for background checks before a gun is sold and the other extends background checks to all sales and transfers, with exceptions for family members, an immediate threat or a temporary hunting agreement.
“What the House passed? Not at all,” Manchin said, when asked if he supports the legislation.
Manchin suggested he wanted a bill that provided a bigger carve-out for private sales between individuals who know each other.
“I come from a gun culture. I’m a law-abiding gun owner,” Manchin said, adding that he supports “basically saying that commercial transactions should be background checked. You don’t know a person.”
“If I know a person, no,” Manchin said.
Manchin and Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) previously offered legislation to expand background checks to all commercial sales, including those at gun shows or on the internet. Of the GOP senators who supported the bill in 2013, only two are still in the Senate: Toomey and Senator Susan Collins (Maine).
Collins still supports the proposal. Majority leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to put the House bill on the floor for a vote. However, it’s unlikely Democrats would be able to get 60 votes, since that requires the support of 10 Republicans.
Toomey said he didn’t think “the House has passed anything that can pass the Senate.”
Police say officer who shot and killed unarmed Daunte Wright intended to fire Taser
Police in a Minneapolis suburb said an officer accidentally shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man on Sunday afternoon during a traffic stop, releasing graphic body-camera footage they say shows the officer intended to use a Taser not a handgun during the death of unarmed Daunte Wright.
The incident plunged the suburb of Brooklyn Center into a night of unrest as Minneapolis remains on edge during the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd. Hundreds of protesters clashed with police in riot gear who deployed teargas and flash bangs to disperse the crowds.
At a press conference inside Brooklyn Center police headquarters, surrounded by riot police and national guard troops, the police chief, Tim Gannon, described the shooting as “an accidental discharge” and confirmed no weapon had been recovered from Wright’s vehicle.
The mayor of Brooklyn Center, Mike Elliott, said he had spoken to Joe Biden, who offered assistance.
“I want to say that our hearts are aching right now,” Elliott told reporters. “We are in pain right now. And we recognise that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
“We will get to the bottom of this. We will do all that is in our power to make sure that justice is done for Daunte Wright.”
Elliott also said he supported firing the officer involved, who was later identified as Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center police department.
Protesters returned to the streets again on Monday evening, despite a 7pm curfew imposed by the governor of Minnesota. Hundreds of people gathered in the cold and rainy weather outside the Brooklyn Center police department, which was ringed by a metal fence, concrete barriers and police dressed in riot gear. Police later deployed flashbangs, teargas and smoke to disperse the crowd.
Earlier in the day,mourners and outraged community members had made their way to the site where Wright was killed. On a grey, damp morning, Ben Witz and his sister came to the site to lay balloons.
“This is more difficult because there was another, there was another unarmed shooting,” Witz said, explaining that family members lived in the area and that the community was still traumatized from Floyd’s killing and the unrest that followed.
“It seems like it’s a common occurrence now with the police,” Witz said. “It’s crazy what’s happening. It really is.”
The body-camera footage showed Wright being apprehended by two officers, when a third female officer approaches the scene. A struggle ensues and Wright gets back into his vehicle, at which point the female officer opens fire.
“Holy shit. I just shot him,” the officer is heard saying.
As the body-camera footage was released, a small group of activists in the police headquarters waiting area demanded the officer, who has not been identified, be fired immediately.
“Seeing the video just confirms what we already knew,” said Toshira Garraway, the founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. “It’s just killing after killing after killing.”
She added: “They will always say, ‘I was afraid, or it was an accident.’ But the fact of the matter is: this was a murder. If she is not fired, this is only going to escalate.”
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, told reporters she was on the phone with her son as the encounter occurred. According to her account, reported by local TV news, her son called as he was being pulled over and asked about insurance for the vehicle, which she had recently given him.
She said she heard officers instruct her son to get out of the car and then “scuffling” shortly before the phone hung up.
“A minute later, I called and his girlfriend answered, who was the passenger in the car, and said that he’d been shot and she put it on the driver’s side, and my son was laying there lifeless,” she said.
Police said officers determined the driver had an outstanding warrant.
Heavily armored national guard troops worked to barricade the police station on Monday morning, as fewer than a dozen protesters faced the building across a road.
Two national guard Humvees, guardsmen carrying long guns and dozens of officers in riot gear were outside the station as police installed concrete blocks. A couple of members of the Original Black Panthers of Minneapolis group chatted with state troopers.
Witz, 40, a liquor store employee, said he was concerned the business would be vandalized if protests over Wright’s killing led to major unrest.
“It was like a war zone,” Witz said of the unrest that followed Floyd’s death. “And now we’re seeing it here and, I mean, why do we have to vandalize, I mean, I, as a white person I don’t get it, but I want to be educated.”
On Sunday evening, hundreds of protesters marched to the police station and were met by officers in riot gear who discharged teargas, flash-bangs and other munitions. Crowds had largely dispersed by midnight.
The Minnesota department of public safety commissioner, John Harrington, said around 20 businesses at the Shingle Creek shopping center were broken into. The mayor, Elliott, urged protesters “to be peaceful and that peaceful protesters are not dealt with force”.
Brooklyn Center is a suburb in north-west Minneapolis with a population of about 30,000. Tensions are high as the murder trial of Chauvin entered its third week.
Amid drizzle and grey skies on Monday, protesters such as Bethany Hemrich came to pay her respects near the site where Wright had been shot dead less than 24 hours before.
“As a mother of a Black child, I couldn’t even fathom,” Hemrich, who is white, said. “My son is 10, and I brought him to [the] George Floyd memorial and had to explain racism to him.”
As her voice broke, she continued: “They didn’t have to kill him. I feel like if it was a white person, they wouldn’t have shot him.”
Quinn Redeemed, 46, spoke of the tension in the area around police-involved deaths of Black people.
Redeemed said: “This just added gasoline to the fire. We’re tired and fired up. The world needs to really see what’s going on. And now, the world is watching Minnesota.”
Police kill student who fired at them at Tennessee high school, authorities say
A student at a Tennessee high school has been shot and killed by police after opening fire on officers responding to reports of a gunman on campus, authorities said on Monday.
David B Rausch, the director of the Tennessee bureau of investigation, said at a news conference that police found the student in a bathroom at Austin-East magnet high school in Knoxville, a city about 180 miles (290km) east of Nashville. They ordered him out, but he wouldn’t comply, and that is when he reportedly opened fire, Rausch said. Police fired back.
The student died at the school, and an officer was wounded and taken into surgery, authorities said. No one else was hurt.
“It’s a sad day for Knoxville, and it’s tough for Austin-East,” Rausch said.
Asked about the overwhelming police response to a call that came in just before afternoon dismissal, the Knoxville police chief, Eve Thomas, said, “We have a student, a school incident. It’s our worst fear, an active shooter in a school.”
The shooting comes as more classrooms are reopening to students after months of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic, which cut down the number of mass killings in the US. The nation has seen series of mass shootings in recent weeks, including eight people killed at three Atlanta-area massage businesses on 16 March and 10 people killed at Colorado supermarket on 22 March.
Speaking outside a hospital, Knoxville’s mayor, Indya Kincannon, told WATE-TV that she had spoken with the wounded officer and he was conscious and in good spirits.
Kincannon, a former Knox county schools board president, spoke at a February press conference about the gun violence that took the lives of three Austin-East students less than three weeks apart this year. Two of the victims were 15, and the other was 16. The shootings did not take place in the school.
“I know that school is a safe place,” Kincannon said at that time, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “It’s a place where people are learning … The issues with violence are happening in the community, and it’s affecting kids when they’re outside of the school. That’s why we are focusing our efforts to protect the innocent, protect the school, protect the children and students and staff.”
Bob Thomas, the superintendent of Knox county schools, tweeted on Monday that a shooting had occurred but the building had been secured.
“The school building has been secured and students who were not involved in the incident have been released to their families,” Thomas said.
He added in a separate tweet that authorities were gathering information and about “this tragic situation” and that additional information would be provided later.
Police urged people to avoid the area, adding that a reunification site had been set up on a baseball field behind the school for students to be reunited with family.
Last week, the Republican governor signed off on legislation that would make Tennessee the latest state to soon allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns – openly or concealed – without first clearing a background check and training.
The state’s governor, Bill Lee, backed the legislation over objections from law enforcement groups, who argued that the state’s existing permit system provided an important safeguard for knowing who should or shouldn’t be carrying a gun.
The law, which does not apply to long guns, will take effect 1 July. The new measure also increases certain penalties relating to theft, and also makes exceptions for people with certain mental illnesses and criminal convictions.
Alex Rodriguez and billionaire Marc Lore near deal for NBA’s Timberwolves
Former MLB star Alex Rodriguez and billionaire Marc Lore appear to be close to owning the Minnesota Timberwolves, finalizing a deal with current owner Glen Taylor, according to reports.
The pair released a statement on Saturday:
“We look forward to entering this phase of the process with Glen Taylor. Our respect for him and the legacy he built lays an amazing foundation for what is to come. We are excited by the prospect of getting to know the Timberwolves organization, the talented team and their incredible fans.”
The letter of intent paves the way for a 30-day exclusive negotiating window. If a deal is finalized, they would first become minority owners, according to the Athletic, and in 2023, would gain full control.
The Athletic reported an agreement was reached on a $1.5bn price and that the team would remain in Minneapolis – a requirement from Taylor, who has owned the team for almost 30 years.
ESPN also reported the deal was being finalized.
Rodriguez attempted last year to buy the New York Mets alongside ex-fiancee Jennifer Lopez, and Lore was among the other partners in that bid.
Lore, a billionaire New York native, stepped down as Walmart CEO in January. The former entrepreneur created Jet.com (sold to Walmart for $3bn) and Diapers.com (sold to Amazon for $545m), among other business ventures.
A three-time AL MVP, Rodriguez retired in August 2016 with 698 home runs, a .295 average and 2,086 RBIs in 22 years. He was suspended for the 2014 season for violations of Major League Baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract.
A-Rod, now 45 years old, earned about $448m as a player. The 14-time All-Star started his career with Seattle, signed a record contract with Texas in December 2000, and then moved from shortstop to third base when he was traded from the Rangers to the New York Yankees ahead of the 2004 season.