New charges have been filed against Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former associate, that now include sex-trafficking of a minor, the New York Times reports.
Filed by federal prosecutors today, the new indictment builds on charges filed previously against Maxwell, and allege that she recruited an underage girl to give massages that led to sexual acts, in exchange for cash.
Maxwell, who been awaiting trail from jail after her arrest last July, has pleased not guilty to charges filed previously by prosecutors.
The new indictment issued on Monday cites an additional 14-year-old girl who is identified only as Minor Victim-4.
Epstein, who was also awaiting trial, was found dead in his cell in New York in August 2019.
Buttigieg rules out a new gas tax to pay for infrastructure plan
The Biden administration is hoping to assuage concerns that a new gas tax might be coming to pay for the president’s sweeping infrastructure plan.
The US transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, said Monday that the plan won’t rely on a new gas tax or a mileage tax. Speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN’s The Lead he walked back comments he made to CNBC last friday, which indicated the taxes might still be on the table.
The two-pronged proposal, which centers on both infrastructure and jobs, is expected to cost up to $4tn, according to administration officials.
“The president has a plan to fix our infrastructure and a plan to pay for it,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday. “But we are also open to having a discussion, and we certainly expect to have a discussion with members of Congress moving forward.”
The White House plan will also call for increasing the corporate tax rate 7 points to 28%, ending subsidies for fossil fuels and enforcing US tax rates for multinational corporations, according to CNN.
Internal debates on how much of the proposal to pay for have been ongoing for several weeks, with White House officials keenly aware of potential inflationary risks, officials said. Psaki told reporters the proposal laid out on Wednesday would include mechanisms to finance the entirety of the package over time.
That proposal is expected to include significant investments to repair roads, bridges and railways, as well as other key elements of an aging and, in some places, dilapidated US core infrastructure system. It will also include a major focus on domestic manufacturing and significant funds for school and child care infrastructure.
Space X is facing congressional scrutiny after regulators found the company’s commercial space launch may have violated US safety requirements and licensing, Reuters reports.
The December launch of Starship SN8 was flagged by Federal Aviation Administration officials in February for moving forward without assurances that risks from “far field blast overpressure” — a type of shockwave that can result from impact explosions — were adequately assessed.
The FAA approved the company’s plan to correct the issue, but the House transportation and infrastructure committee chairman, Peter DeFazio, and Representative Rick Larsen issued a letter Thursday citing concerns.
“Given the high-risk nature of the industry, we are disappointed that the FAA declined to conduct an independent review of the event and, to the best of our knowledge, has not pursued any form of enforcement action,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is preparing for its next launch, which was scheduled for today but postponed after an inspector was unable to be on site.
‘Faded away like a fish in a bag’ – witness in Chauvin trial
Blistering eyewitness testimony happening now in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd.
Prosecution witness Donald Williams, 33, a mixed martial arts fighter, was close to the back of the police vehicle next to which, on 25 May 2020, now-former police officer Derek Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the concrete by his neck.
Williams told the court that he could hear and see Floyd in distress and his martial arts experience indicated to him that Chauvin was choking out Floyd as he kneeled on his neck.
The jury, and the public watching in court or around the world by livestream, was shown some devastating clips of Chauvin allegedly “shimmying” in what Williams said was a martial arts move, altering his position very slightly so that it put more pressure on – as a fighter does when they have someone in a hold.
Williams heard Floyd talking about how much pain he was in, his distress as he said he couldn’t breathe, apologized to the officers and begged for his life.
“The more that the knee was on his neck, and the shimmying going on, the more you see him [Floyd] slowly fade away. His eyes rolled to the back of his head,” Williams said.
He described Floyd dying “like a fish in a bag” and said he saw “blood coming out of his nose”, adding “he had no life in him any more.”
Williams described the knee-position as a dangerous “blood choke” intended to cut Floyd’s airway. Williams has previously been heard but unseen shouting angrily at the police from the sidewalk, calling Chauvin a “bum” and accusing him of enjoying what he was doing, as Floyd suffers and begs.
By the end of this work-week, all adults – and some teens – will be eligible to get a Covid vaccine in Colorado, Associated Press reports.
Governor Jared Polis announced the expansion of the vaccine program onMonday, adding that everyone in the state will be able to get a dose by mid to late May. Over 1 million Coloradans have already been fully vaccinated.
“Every day we’re getting closer to ending the pandemic, but it’s not over yet,” Polis said during a news conference.
Across the US, roughly 95 million people have gotten at least one shot, and close to 53 million have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But even as new daily records for numbers of vaccines administered continue to be set, and states continue to ramp up their rates, public health officials have called for continued vigilance. Covid cases are again creeping up in some areas of the country.
Biden called on states to reinstate mask mandates on Monday, saying that “reckless behavior” was threatening progress made in containing the pandemic.
Hello everyone! I am Gabrielle Canon, signing on to take you through the news for the next few hours.
First up — Donald Trump jumped on an unusual opportunity to share his feelings about the state of affairs since he’s left office, taking over the microphone during a wedding being held at his Mar-a-Lago resort over the weekend,.
Celebrity tabloid site TMZ first released the video of the former-president’s rambling toast, where he aired complaints about Biden’s policies and rehashed fabricated accusations of election fraud, before congratulating the happy couple.
The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly has the story:
“Y’know,” the tuxedoed former president began, standing in front of a waiting band, “I just got, I turned off the news, I get all these flash reports, and they’re telling me about the border, they’re telling me about China, they’re telling me about Iran – how’re we doing with Iran, how do you like that?”
Read the rest of the story here:
Today so far
That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague Gabrielle Canon will take over the blog for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
The trial of Derek Chauvin in connection to the killing of George Floyd started in Minneapolis. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is facing charges of murder in the second and third degree and manslaughter.
Prosecutors played the video showing the final moments of Floyd’s life. In the video, Chauvin kneels on Floyd’s neck as Floyd repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe.” Bystanders are also heard urging Chauvin to stop kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Joe Biden announced that 90% of American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by April 19. By that date, 90% of Americans will live within five miles of a vaccination site, the president said. Biden also announced his administration is expanding its pharmacy vaccine program and spending nearly $100 million to vaccinate vulnerable communities.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed a feeling of “impending doom” as coronavirus cases rise in the US. During the White House coronavirus response team’s briefing today, Dr Rochelle Walensky said, “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared.” The CDC director urged Americans to continue wearing masks and socially distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus as vaccinations ramp up. Biden echoed Walensky’s concerns and asked states to reinstate mask mandates if they have rescinded them.
A CDC study showed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were highly effective at preventing coronavirus infections in real-world conditions. According to the study, the risk of infection was reduced by 90% two weeks after study participants received the second dose of a vaccine.
Gabrielle will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Protesters outside the Minneapolis court house where former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd today were acutely aware of the significance of the case and well as the precariousness of the outcome.
Jason Brown, 40, a vice president of a tech company and the president of Minnesota’s Arc of Justice advocacy group, who is Black, told the Guardian: “I wish for once America would stand up for us. … If [Chauvin] meant to do this or if he didn’t mean to, it happened.”
Brown is concerned that the jury, which is majority white, may not convict.
“The jury? I don’t think a Black man could get fair justice in America anywhere,” he said.
People are braced for the defense to try to tear down Floyd’s character and conduct on the day.
“[Floyd is] a Black man who’s not really on trial – but he is on trial. He died, but he’s on trial,” Brown said.
The city has emphasized that peaceful protest is encouraged, despite the heavily-protected court building and the deployment of National Guard troops.
But there is no doubt that if Chauvin is acquitted or even if convicted on the least serious charge, manslaughter, resulting protests could escalate and spin out of control.
“If they don’t get it right, we will get it right. The younger generations don’t have patience for nonsense,” Brown said.
Another protester, who identified only by her artistic moniker of Aesthetic Ash, said she left her home in California last May and has been participating in protests across the country since.
“I’m here to make sure the community knows that people genuinely care about George Floyd, they care about Breonna Taylor and they care about all the whose lives have been stolen too early,” she said.
Minnesota has only one previous recorded murder conviction of a police officer in the course of his duty – an officer of color.
Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech on his proposed infrastructure package on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the president will speak in the same union hall where he campaigned for Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb in a 2018 special election.
Lamb won that special election and has since won two re-election races to remain in the House of Representatives.
CDC study shows Pfizer and Moderna vaccines highly effective in preventing Covid infections
In case you missed it: a new CDC study provided “strong evidence” that the two mRNA vaccines approved for use in the US, produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are highly effective in preventing infections in what the agency called “real-world conditions” among healthcare personnel, first-responders and essential workers.
“This study shows that our national vaccination efforts are working,” said Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“These findings should offer hope to the millions of Americans receiving Covid-19 vaccines each day and to those who will have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated in the weeks ahead.”
Nonetheless, many experts fear a fourth wave of Covid-19 in the US as variants of the deadly virus continue to circulate in numerous states, many of which have almost fully reopened, and Americans prepare for the summer travel season.
Despite more than 2.5m vaccinations being administered per day and a shrinking death toll, Walensky believes a fourth wave is imminent.
“I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” she said. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now I’m scared.”
Walensky’s concern appears to be backed up by statistics. The US recently passed 30m cases of Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the seven-day average of hospital admissions has risen to 4,800, up 200.
The daily average of new cases has also risen, by 10% in a week, to about 70,000, far higher than the 40,000 to 50,000 daily cases of a few weeks ago.
Jackson county district court Judge Michael Klaeren ruled there was enough evidence and bound over Paul Bellar, Joe Morrison and Pete Musico to circuit court to stand trial.
Arguments were heard by Klaeren about whether the men should face trial following three days of testimony. They are accused of aiding six other men charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer. Five more people are also charged in state courts.
The FBI in October said it broke up a plot to kidnap Whitmer by anti-government extremists upset over her coronavirus restrictions.
Klareen said there was enough evidence for trial on charges of providing material support for terrorist acts, gang membership and using a firearm during a felony. The judge dismissed a charge of threat of terrorism against Musico and Morrison. Bellar did not face that charge.
Here’s some further reading…
As he walked away from the podium, a reporter asked Joe Biden if he believed some states should pause their reopening efforts because of the rise in coronavirus cases across the US.
“Yes,” the president replied.
A number of states have relaxed some of their coronavirus-related restrictions in recent weeks, as vaccinations have increased.
But the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Rochelle Walensky, warned of “impending doom” in connection to the recent rise in cases.
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope,” Walensky said during this morning’s briefing from the White House coronavirus response team. “But right now I’m scared.”
Joe Biden confirmed that 90% of American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by April 19. By that date, 90% of Americans will also live within five miles of a vaccination site.
Biden noted that the final 10% of American adults will be eligible to receive the vaccine by May 1, as he previously announced.
The president also announced his administration is expanding its pharmacy vaccination program to 20,000 more local pharmacies, and the federal government is investing nearly $100 million to get vulnerable communities vaccinated.
“We still are in a war with this deadly virus, and we’re bolstering our defense, but this war is far from won,” Biden said.
The president concluded his comments by asking Americans to continue to wear masks, socially distance and wash their hands to limit the spread of the virus.
Biden calls on states to reinstate mask mandates as coronavirus cases rise
Joe Biden is now speaking at the White House to deliver an update on the distribution of coronavirus vaccines in the US.
The president noted the country has administered a record number of shots in recent days, with 10 million doses being delivered over the three days of this past weekend.
“That would have been inconceivable in January,” Biden said. “My fellow Americans, look at what we have done over the past 10 weeks.”
But Biden emphasized that the country’s work to get the virus under control is far from over. Echoing comments from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Biden asked Americans to continue wearing masks and socially distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus.
At the White House coronavirus response team’s briefing this morning, the CDC director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, noted coronavirus cases have been on the rise in recent days.
“We’re giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains,” Biden said.
The president asked states that have rescinded their mask mandates to reinstate those public health orders.
“Mask up, mask up. It’s your patriotic duty,” Biden said. “It’s the only way we’ll get back to normal.”
Biden to announce 90% of US adults will be vaccine eligible by April 19, White House confirms
The White House has confirmed that Joe Biden will announce today that 90% of American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by April 19.
By that date, 90% of Americans will also have a vaccination site within five miles of where they live, the White House said in a new statement.
According to the statement, Biden will announce his administration is expanding the federal pharmacy vaccination program to 20,000 more local pharmacies across the US.
The president will also announce nearly $100 million in funding to help vaccinate vulnerable and at-risk communities, as well as Americans with disabilities.
Finally, Biden will announce his administration is going to establish a dozen more federally-run mass vaccination sites across the country. The White House said earlier today that two such sites will be set up in Gary, Indiana, and St Louis, Missouri.
Biden is expected to start speaking any moment, so stay tuned.
Georgia sued again over elections law
Georgia now faces two federal lawsuits over its sweeping new election law, both alleging state Republicans designed the measure to discriminate against Black and other minority voters.
A suit filed on Sunday by a coalition of civil rights groups, including the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, says the law is intentionally discriminatory and violates the 14th and 15th amendments of the constitution as well as the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The measure, signed into law on Thursday by Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, implements a number of changes to Georgia election law. It requires voters to show identification information both when they request and return a mail-in ballot. It also shortens the period in which voters can vote by mail, prohibits providing food and water to voters in line at the polls, limits the availability of absentee ballot drop boxes, requires county boards of elections to hear voter challenges within 10 days, and creates a pathway for Republicans in the legislature to meddle in local elections,
The law “is the culmination of a concerted effort to suppress the participation of Black voters and other voters of color by the Republican state senate, state house and governor,” lawyers representing the groups wrote.
“Unable to stem the tide of these demographic changes or change the voting patterns of voters of color, these officials have resorted to attempting to suppress the vote of Black voters and other voters of color in order to maintain the tenuous hold that the Republican party has in Georgia.”
The complaint is the second lawsuit filed challenging the provisions. On Thursday, almost immediately after Kemp signed the measure, the New Georgia Project and Black Voters Matter, two civic action groups, filed their own suit challenging the law.
Joe Biden said on Friday that the US justice department, charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, was also “taking a look at the Georgia measure”. The department did not file any major voting rights cases under Donald Trump.
Several more lawsuits challenging the Georgia law are expected. The suits will likely face an uphill battle among an increasingly conservative federal judiciary, especially at the appellate level that has looked skeptically on claims of voting discrimination in voting recently.
Biden to announce big vaccines boost – reports
Shortly after CDC director Rochelle Walensky spoke about her “sense of doom” about rising Covid case numbers, the White House trailed some altogether more optimistic words to come from Joe Biden this afternoon.
President Joe Biden plans to announce that 90% of US adults will be eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine in three weeks, and that his administration will more than double the number of pharmacies where shots are available, officials familiar with the matter said.
Biden will make the announcement on Monday afternoon at the White House, marking 19 April as a new milestone in the vaccination effort. He’ll also say that nearly all US adults will be able to get a shot within five miles of their homes, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Of course, the two lines of comment are not remotely mutually exclusive. Great strides are indeed being made in vaccinations across the US, with New York ready to vaccinate everyone over 30 and soon all adults, said Andrew Cuomo also on Monday, but case numbers are also rising, virus variants are dangerous and many states are pursuing reopening policies dangerously fast.
Here’s our current news lead, leading on Walensky’s remarks but “wrapping”, as they in the news business, other developments too:
Today so far
The White House press briefing has now concluded. Here’s where the day stands so far:
The trial of Derek Chauvin in connection to the killing of George Floyd started in Minneapolis. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is facing charges of murder in the second and third degree and manslaughter.
Prosecutors played the video showing the final moments of Floyd’s life. In the video, Chauvin kneels on Floyd’s neck as Floyd can be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” Bystanders are also heard urging Chauvin to stop kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed a feeling of “impending doom” as coronavirus cases rise in the US. During the White House coronavirus response team’s briefing today, Dr Rochelle Walensky said, “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared.” The CDC director urged Americans to continue wearing masks and socially distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus as vaccinations ramp up.
‘We’ve struck a deal’: Biden says agreement reached on infrastructure plan – live
US justice department has made 500 arrests in Capitol attack
US attorney general Merrick Garland announced this afternoon that the government has arrested a total of 500 people in the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol.
That includes the 100th arrest of a defendant on charges of assaulting a federal law enforcement officer. Earlier today, the US arrested its first defendant on charges that include assaulting members of the news media. The AG said in a statement:
Our efforts to bring criminal charges are not possible without the continued assistance of the American public. To date, we have received their more than 200,000 digital tips.
I assure the American people that the Department of Justice will continue to follow the facts in this case and charge what the evidence supports to hold all January 6th perpetrators accountable.”
On Wednesday, a federal judge sentenced a Capitol rioter to probation, not prison time, after she made an emotional apology to “the American people” for participating in “a savage display of violence”.
Hi all – Sam Levin here taking over our live coverage for the rest of the day.
The House judiciary committee has approved six antitrust bills that are targeting the large tech companies in an effort to restrict their power.
The bills, which have bipartisan support, could curb the market power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple, requiring them to separate their platforms from their other businesses. The AP summarizes:
The advance of the legislation comes as the tech giants already are smarting under federal investigations, epic antitrust lawsuits, near-constant condemnation from politicians of both parties, and a newly installed head of the powerful FTC who is a fierce critic of the industry.
The legislative package, led by industry critic Rep David Cicilline, targets the companies’ structure and could point toward breaking them up, a dramatic step for Congress to take against a powerful industry whose products are woven into everyday life. If such steps were mandated, they could bring the biggest changes to the industry since the federal government’s landmark case against Microsoft some 20 years ago.
Discussion on the bill dragged on late into the evening.
One bill would give states greater powers over companies in determining the courts in which to prosecute tech antitrust cases. Another would increase the budget of the Federal Trade Commission.
•Joe Biden said a deal had been struck on a bi-partisan proposal to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure. A group of Democratic and Republican senators previously said they had reached agreement on a $953 billion infrastructure plan.
•The deal falls short of Biden’s original $2.25 trillion plan, but the president said it must be passed concurrently with a much more partisan plan to increase spending on social programs. “If they don’t [both] come, I’m not signing it. Real simple,” Biden said.
•Rudy Giuliani’s New York law license has been suspended over his false claims of election fraud. A court said Giuliani’s “misconduct directly inflamed tensions that bubbled over into the events of January 6 2021 in this nation’s Capitol”.
•Nanci Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, said she will create a committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. “A temple of our democracy was attacked by insurrectionists,” Pelosi said. “It is imperative that we seek the truth as to what happened.”
Americans’ life expectancy fell by more than a year in 2020, according to a new report, with the reduction markedly more pronounced among Latino people and Black people.
Researchers found that life expectancy dropped by 3.05 years for Latino people, and 2.10 years for Black people. The decline was 0.68 years for white people.
Noting the decline among Latino people, researchers Theresa Andrasfay and Noreen Goldman wrote:
“This unprecedented change likely stems from social and economic inequities that are associated with both higher exposure to infection and higher fatality among those infected.
“Compared with Black and White individuals, Latino individuals in the US have lower rates of health insurance (affecting access to testing, treatment, and quality health care), are more apt to live in multigenerational and crowded households, and are more likely to hold frontline jobs involving risks of viral transmission without adequate protection.”
The president said resources would be deployed should Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, declare a state of emergency.
“We are on top of it, we are ready to move from the federal resources immediately,” Biden said.
“If in fact we’re asked for it. But we can’t go in and do it, but FEMA is down there taking a look at what’s needed.”
Joe Biden said his chief of staff Ron Klain has been across the potential response.
“My chief of staff has been deeply involved in this from the very beginning. We got the cabinet involved in it now in terms of dealing with FEMA. We’re working on it. I made it clear, I say to the people of Florida: ‘Whatever help you want that the federal government can provide, we’re waiting, just ask us, we’ll be there,’” Biden said.
Here’s some more on Rudy Giuliani losing (potentially temporarily) his law licence in New York today, from my colleague Sarah Betancourt:
Giuliani, 77, helped lead Trump’s legal challenge of his election loss as his personal attorney. He argued without evidence that voter fraud was rampant in Georgia, and that voting machines in the state and others were rigged. He urged Georgia’s Republican electors to vote for Trump, despite the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, and secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, countering there was no evidence of fraud.
The five-justice appellate division said Giuliani’s conduct threatened the public interest and warranted an interim suspension. The seriousness of the misconduct, the court said in a 33-page decision, “can not be overstated”.
Giuliani was admitted to New York’s state bar in 1969, and worked for the justice department under President Ronald Reagan. He was mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001.
Giuliani’s license will be revoked while disciplinary action over his practices are considered.
Two of his attorneys, John M Leventhal and Barry Kamins provided this statement to the Guardian:
“We are disappointed with the Appellate Division, First Department’s decision suspending Mayor Giuliani prior to being afforded a hearing on the issues that are alleged.
“This is unprecedented as we believe that our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest. We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing Mr Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years.”
Biden has pumped the brakes just a little on the infrastructure bill, saying it must be paired with a larger spending bill, which will likely only be supported by Democrats, if he is to sign it.
“If they don’t [both] come, I’m not signing it. Real simple,” Biden said.
“So, what I expect – I expect that in the coming months this summer, before the fiscal year is over, that we will have voted on this bill, the infrastructure bill, as well as voted on the budget resolution.”
Biden added: “But if only one comes to me – if this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem.”
The larger package would include more spending on the environment and social programs, along with tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. The plan is to pass it through the reconciliation process, which theoretically could be done with just Democratic votes.
Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker had earlier said she would not introduce the infrastructure bill until the second bill was prepared.
“There ain’t no infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said.
Some more from Joe Biden, who is very pleased about the infrastructure plan he announced earlier.
“I think it’s really important we’ve all agreed that none of us got all that we wanted,” Biden said, in a statement that is unlikely to impress those Democrats who pushed for more far-reaching legislation.
“I might add that the largest investment of rail since the creation of Amtrak, you all know I have nothing but affection for Amtrak, having traveled over a million miles on it, commuting every day. But it’s a big deal.”
The president famously commuted to Washington from Delaware during his time in the Senate. He added:
“This agreement is going to create new financing authority that is going to leverage capital on infrastructure and clean energy projects. It will provide folks with good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. The kind of jobs that provide a middle class life, with a little bit of breathing room.”
•Joe Biden said “we’ve struck a deal” on a proposal to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, after meeting with a bi-partisan group of senators. A group of Democratic and Republican senators previously said they had reached agreement on a $953 billion infrastructure plan, although that falls short of Biden’s original $2.25 trillion plan.
•NanciPelosi, the House speaker, welcomed the bipartisan package, but warned that it must be paired with the president’s bigger goals now being prepared by Congress under the budget reconciliation process – under which legislation requires just 51 votes to pass.
•Rudy Giuliani’s New York law license has been suspended over his false claims of election fraud. A court said Giuliani’s “misconduct directly inflamed tensions that bubbled over into the events of January 6 2021 in this nation’s Capitol”.
•Biden warned that the Delta variant Covid-19 strain is “more contagious, it’s deadlier, and it’s spreading quickly around the world” as he urged unvaccinated people to get the vaccine. The Delta variant could become the dominant strain in the US within two to three weeks.
The infrastructure plan agreement comes with a complex legislative push. Pelosi on Thursday welcomed the bipartisan package, but she warned that it must be paired with the president’s bigger goals now being prepared by Congress under a separate so-called the budget reconciliation process, Associated Press reports:
“This is important,” Pelosi said. “There ain’t going to be a bipartisan bill without a reconciliation bill.”
The Democratic leader vowed the House would not vote on it until the Senate had dealt with both packages.
The major hurdle for a bipartisan agreement has been financing. Biden demanded no new taxes on anyone making less than $400,000, while Republican lawmakers were unwilling to raise taxes beyond such steps as indexing the gasoline tax to inflation. But senators departed for the White House Thursday with a sense of confidence that funding issues had been addressed.
“We’re still refining the details, but from my perspective, it is paid for,” said Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican and one of 10 lawmakers who met with Biden for roughly 30 minutes.
CNN noted that “this proposal is significantly less than what Biden had initially proposed”.
The President initially put forward a $2.25 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and shift to greener energy over the next eight years. But after their late-night meeting on Wednesday with White House officials, Democratic leaders said they planned to move forward with a much larger Democratic-only approach to dramatically expand the social safety plan in addition to the bipartisan infrastructure plan.
Biden: ‘We’ve struck a deal’ on infrastructure plan
Joe Biden said a deal has been reached on a plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure, following a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators today.
“We’ve struck a deal. A group of senators – five Democrats and five Republicans – has come together and forged an infrastructure agreement that will create millions of American jobs.”
On Wednesday a group of Democratic and Republican senators said they had reached agreement on a $953bn infrastructure plan, raising hopes for a breakthrough agreement after arduous negotiations on Biden’s legislative priority.
The Biden administration has extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month, but said this is expected to be the last time it will do so.
As of the end of March, 6.4m American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nearly 1m said eviction was very likely in two months, and 1.83m said it was somewhat likely in the same period.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended the evictions moratorium from June 30 until July 31. The CDC said that “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium”.
A Biden administration official said the last month would be used for an “all hands on deck” multi-agency campaign to prevent a massive wave of evictions. One of the reasons the moratorium was put in place was to try to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by people put out on the streets and in shelters.
The extension announcement Thursday was accompanied by a flurry of eviction-related administration activity, including by the Treasury Department and the Justice Department. New Treasury guidance was issued, encouraging states and local governments to streamline distribution of the nearly $47 billion in available emergency rental assistance funding.
And Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta released an open letter to state courts around the country encouraging them to pursue a number of alternatives that would protect both tenants and landlords.
Pelosi announces House select committee to investigate Capitol riot
Nanci Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, said she will create a committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
“A temple of our democracy was attacked by insurrectionists,” Pelosi said during her weekly news conference. “It is imperative that we seek the truth as to what happened.”
The new committee will include Republican members but will be led by Democrats.
“January 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Pelosi said.
“It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day, and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen and that we root out the causes of it all.
“The select committee will investigate and report on the facts and the causes of the attack and it will make report recommendations for the prevention of any future attack.”
Rudy Giuliani’s New York law license suspended ‘effectively immediately’
A New York court has suspended Rudy Giuliani’s law license over his false claims of election fraud.
In a 33-page decision the court said Giuliani, while acting as a lawyer for Donald Trump, had violated a number of rules of conduct and should be suspended from practising law in the New York state.
Giuliani helped lead Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, engaging in baseless conspiracy theories along the way.
The court said Giuliani’s “misconduct directly inflamed tensions that bubbled over into the events of January 6 2021 in this nation’s Capitol”.
The ruling added:
We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that [Giuliani] communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.
These false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client. We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law.
Trump book: former president was ‘gravely ill’ with coronavirus
At least two people briefed on Trump’s condition after the then-president contracted coronavirus in October 2020 “feared that he wouldn’t make it out” of hospital, according to a new book extract published by the Washington Post.
Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History, the forthcoming book by Washington Post reportersYasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta, recounts the dizzying few days when Trump was hospitalized after contracting the virus.
From the Post extract:
[On Thursday October 1, two days after he debated Joe Biden], Trumpbecameterribly ill. Hours after his tweet announcing he and first lady Melania Trump had coronavirus infections, the president began a rapid spiral downward. His fever spiked, and his blood oxygen level fell below 94 percent, at one point dipping into the 80s. Sean Conley, the White House physician, attended the president at his bedside. Trump was given oxygen in an effort to stabilize him.
The doctors gave Trump an eight-gram dose of two monoclonal antibodies through an intravenous tube. That experimentaltreatment was what had required the FDA’s sign-off. He was also given a first dose of the antiviral drugremdesivir, also by IV. That drug was authorized for use but still hard to get for many patients because it was in short supply.
Typically, doctors space out treatments to measure a patient’s response. Some drugs, such as monoclonal antibodies, are most effective if they’re administered early in the course of an infection. Others, such as remdesivir, are most effective when they’re givenlater, after a patient has become critically ill. But Trump’s doctors threw everything they could at the virus all at once. His condition appeared to stabilize somewhat as the day wore on, but his doctors, still fearing he might need to goon a ventilator, decided to move him to the hospital.It was too risky at that point to stay at the White House.
Trump’s condition worsened early Saturday. His blood oxygen level dropped to 93 percent, and he was given the powerful steroid dexamethasone, which is usually administered if someone is extremely ill (the normal blood oxygen level is between 95 and 100 percent). The drug was believed to improve survival in coronavirus patients receiving supplemental oxygen. The president was on a dizzying array of emergency medicines by now — all at once.
At least two of those who were briefed on Trump’s medical condition that weekend said he was gravely ill and feared that he wouldn’t make it out of Walter Reed. People close to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said he was consumed with fear that Trump might die.
It was unclear if one of the medications, or their combination, helped, but by Saturday afternoon Trump’s condition began improving. One of the people familiar with Trump’s medical information was convinced the monoclonal antibodies wereresponsible for the president’s quick recovery.
A bipartisan group of senators is seeking Joe Biden’s support for a $953 billion infrastructure plan, raising hopes for a breakthrough agreement after arduous negotiations on his top legislative priority, Associated Press reports.
Biden is set to meet with some of the 21-strong group of Republican and Democrat senators at the White House this morning.
The senators have struggled over how to pay for the new spending. Biden has sought $1.7 trillion in his American Jobs Plan, part of nearly $4 trillion in broad infrastructure spending on roads, bridges and broadband internet but also the so-called care economy of child care centers, hospitals and elder care.
With Republicans opposed to Biden’s proposed corporate tax rate increase, from 21% to 28%, the group has looked at other ways to raise revenue. Biden rejected their idea to allow gas taxes paid at the pump to rise with inflation, viewing it as a financial burden on American drivers.
A federal judge blasted the “utter nonsense” issued by some Republican politicians as he delivered the first sentence to one of the Capitol rioters.
Judge Royce C Lamberth sentenced Anna Morgan-Lloyd, a 49-year-old Donald Trump supporter from Indiana, to three years of probation in connection with the January 6 attack.
At the hearing in Washington DC Lamberth warned that other defendants who had not been as cooperative or contrite as Morgan-Lloyd should not expect the same punishment.
He said the January insurrection was “a disgrace” before he criticized, without mentioning any names, Republican lawmakers who had defended the violent attack.
“I don’t know what planet they were on,” Lamberth said, according to CNN. The judge said recent releases of videos from January 6 “will show the attempt of some congressman to rewrite history that these were tourists walking through the capitol is utter nonsense”.
Good morning and welcome to today’s politics live blog.
Joe Biden has warned that the Delta variant Covid-19 strain is “more contagious, it’s deadlier, and it’s spreading quickly around the world” as he urged unvaccinated people to get the vaccine. In a tweet Biden said the Delta variant, which could become the dominant strain in the US within two to three weeks, leaves “young, unvaccinated people more vulnerable than ever”.
“Please, get vaccinated if you haven’t already. Let’s head off this strain before it’s too late,” the president said.
The Delta strain, which is believed to transmit more easily than previous Covid-19 incarnations, has already caused a spike in Covid-19 in the UK, where it accounts for 99% of all Covid-19 cases. It is predicted to account for 90% of Covid cases in the European Union by September.
In a video accompanying Biden’s tweet Anthony Fauci said “anyone who is not vaccinated is most at risk”.
“The vaccines are over 90% effective as much as 93, 94, 95% effective,” against the Delta variant, Fauci said.
“There’s no doubt about it that the way you stop this Delta variant is to get vaccinated.”
In other news we’ll be following today:
•Both Democratic and Republican senators said they have reached agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure deal. “The development amounted to a significant breakthrough that could pave the way for passage of a chunk of Biden’s domestic agenda,” CNN reported. “But there are many hurdles and many landmines ahead.”
•Biden is traveling to North Carolina this afternoon to “mobilize grassroots vaccine education”. The president will then visit a mobile vaccination unit.
Miami building collapse: one dead as rescue crews say 99 unaccounted for
A large-scale rescue operation was continuing Thursday evening at the site of a collapsed condominium block in Miami, where authorities said at least one person was killed, 10 injured and dozens more unaccounted for.
Crews reported hearing noises from inside the rubble as they searched for survivors at the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, a 12-storey apartment block that came crashing down at about 1.30am. Authorities said they expected the number of deaths to rise, but would not be drawn on the number.
On Thursday afternoon the Miami-Dade police chief, Alfredo Ramirez, said that 99 people remained missing, and that 53 condo residents were rescued or otherwise accounted for. The cause of the collapse was not known, he said, but an estimated 55 of the 130 apartments were affected.
Police have launched a homicide inquiry, according to Sally Heyman, a county commissioner who represents Surfside.
“It’s the unimaginable,” Daniella Levine Cava, the Miami-Dade mayor, said. “A massive search and rescue mission is under way. We are going to do everything we can possibly [do] to identify and rescue those who have been trapped in the rubble.”
More than 80 fire-rescue crews attended the scene in Surfside, a small, oceanfront city just north of Miami Beach. Early video of the aftermath of the collapse showed a boy being pulled from the wreckage, one of 35 people rescued alive, the Miami-Dade commission said.
“They brought dogs who can sniff for survivors in the rubble,” Eliana Salzhauer, a Surfside commissioner, told the Miami Herald. “They aren’t turning up very much. No one is celebrating anyone being pulled out.”
Salzhauer confirmed earlier reports that recent construction work on the roof had taken place and said residents told her a building inspector had visited the property on Wednesday. But she said it was too soon to speculate on the likely cause.
Jimmy Patronis, a Florida cabinet member and the state’s fire marshal, told reporters that crews had heard noises as they sifted through the wreckage. “The rescuers are hearing sounds from the rubble. It’s kind of hit or miss. You get into the zone where you are so passionate and so focused and so determined to make sure you are doing everything possible to save a life in an event like this,” he said.
Earlier, Frank Rollason, the director of the county’s emergency management department, said workers believed that they had rescued all reachable survivors. “Everybody who is alive is out of the building,” he told the Herald.
In one of the first rescues, he said, workers saved a trapped mother and child, although the mother’s leg had to be amputated to free her. Other terrified residents were plucked from their shattered balconies by rescue workers with cherry pickers, after finding escape routes blocked.
The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, visited the scene and spoke with survivors and rescue teams after cutting short an event in Tampa.
“It’s a tragic day,” he said at an afternoon press briefing. “The TV doesn’t do it justice. It is really, really traumatic to see the collapse of a massive structure like that.”
The governor said state emergency management officials were present and that engineers would investigate the cause of the collapse when it was safe to enter the site. “You’re not going to have those answers immediately,” he said.
Levine Cava, the Miami-Dade mayor, said in a tweet that Joe Biden had called to lend support. The US president, she said, “offered the full support of the federal gov[ernment] to help our community during this difficult time”.
Biden said he was waiting for DeSantis to issue a state of emergency before federal assistance could be given. “We are ready to move from the federal resources immediately, if in fact we’re asked,” he said. “But we can’t go in and do it. Whatever help you want that the federal government can provide, we’re waiting, just ask us, we’ll be there.”
The Surfside mayor, Charles Burkett, said he understood from the building manager that the condo block was “substantially full” of residents mostly sleeping at the time of the collapse.
“The building is literally pancaked,” Burkett said at the press conference. “That’s heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean to me that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”
Meanwhile, concerned friends of those unaccounted for went on social media to plead for information.
Witnesses gave harrowing accounts of the moments following the collapse. “I could hear somebody yelling, screaming. I could hear by the voice it was a little boy, I saw an arm sticking out of the debris,” Nicholas Balboa, who lives nearby, told CNN.
He said the boy and a person with him were trying to climb out but could not lift the heavy rubble. The boy was screaming, “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me,” Balboa said.
Families with children in pajamas were seen arriving at a Red Cross reunification facility set up for survivors at a nearby community center. The group was arranging hotels for displaced condo residents.
The building that collapsed was a southern tower of the condominium development, said Rollason, the director of the county’s emergency management department.
Residents of the other towers were evacuated and engineers were inspecting the buildings for safety.
The collapse sent up a cloud of debris, coating cars up to two blocks away with a light layer of dust. Photos and video from the scene show the collapse affected half the tower. Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area just outside the building.
Unconfirmed reports said that maintenance work had been taking place on the roof of the building that collapsed.
The building’s address is 8777 Collins Avenue, according to Surfside police. The sea-view condo development was built in 1981 in the south-east corner of Surfside, on the beach and includes more than 100 units. It had a few two-bedroom units on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 (£429,500) to $700,000, an internet search shows.
The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists.
Manchin backs debate on voting rights bill but Republicans set to block Democrats’ effort – live
Democrats on the Senate floor are using today as an opportunity to make their broader case for voting rights reform.
In a circular argument, Republicans have accused Democrats of using the procedural vote today to show that Republicans are unwilling to work with them, and to make a case for eliminating the filibuster – and thus justifying their votes to kill debate on the For the People Act
“Today’s show vote is about Democrats building their case to blow up the filibuster and destroy this institution if they don’t get their way—which is exactly why we must preserve the filibuster,” Republican senator Mitt Romney said, calling the bill “divisive”.
Texas governor vetoes bill protecting dogs from abuse
The governor of Texas has pulled a surprise move, vetoing a bipartisan bill that would have provided greater protections for dogs against human abuse.
The Republican governor, Greg Abbott, vetoed a bill on Friday that would have made unlawful restraint of a dog a criminal offense, sending animal rights activists and legislators on both sides of the aisle into a fray and spurring the hashtag #AbbottHatesDogs.
State senate bill 474, dubbed the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, aimed to ban the use of heavy chains to keep dogs tethered. The bill had bipartisan support in the legislature, passing the house 83-32 and the senate 28-3.
In his veto, Abbott said state statutes already existed to protect dogs from animal cruelty, and the penalties proposed in the bill of $500 to $2,000, and jail time of up to 180 days, were excessive. The bill said that dog owners could have dogs outside but could not restrain them with short lines and chains or anything that could cause injury and pain to the dog.
Dog owners would have faced a $500 penalty for a first offense and class C misdemeanor, and the next penalty would have been a class B misdemeanor, for a fine of up to $2,000 and up to three months in jail.
“Texans love their dogs, so it is no surprise that our statutes already protect them by outlawing true animal cruelty,” he wrote. He said the bill would compel every dog owner, on pain of criminal penalties, to monitor how much time a dog spends in the bed of a truck, leash length and other things.
Abbott said Texas was not a place for that kind of “micro-managing and over-criminalization”.
Today so far
It’s been a lively day so far and there is plenty more action coming up, especially as the US Senate prepares in about half an hour to hold the procedural vote on the For the People Act, the sweeping legislation designed to counter voter suppression efforts sweeping many Republican-controlled states of late.
My colleague Maanvi Singh on the US west coast will take over from here and bring you all the developments.
Here are some of the main news items in US politics up to this point.
Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchinissued a statement that he will vote this afternoon in favor of advancing the For the People Act voting rights legislation. It’s symbolic, as the Republicans will filibuster it and block the bill, but the prospect of Democratic unanimity on this after weeks of strife is a step forward for that party.
Pressure is building on Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris (who has taken control of border policies) to end the Title 42 rule adopted by the Trump administration in the coronavirus pandemic that allows the authorities to expel summarily migrants crossing the US-Mexico border seeking sanctuary.
Vice president Kamala Harris will preside over the vote today in the Senate over the voting rights legislation. This is an unusual move which Senator Richard Blumenthal called a “powerful” symbol of the importance given this issue by the White House.
Joe Biden is “absolutely revolted” by voter suppression legislation being passed in many Republican controlled states, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at today’s media briefing.
Interior secretary Deb Haaland announced today in remarks to the National Congress of American Indians 2021 mid year conference, a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies.
Today’s announcement is accompanied by a secretarial memo in which Haaland directs the department, under the supervision of the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, to prepare a report detailing available historical records, with an emphasis on cemeteries or potential burial sites, relating to the federal boarding school programs, NBC in Oklahoma reports.
Haaland recently reflected on the inter-generational trauma created by these policies in an op-ed for the Washington Post titled “My grandparents were stolen from their families as children. We must learn about this history.”
She said: “The interior department will address the inter-generational impact of Indian boarding schools to shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past, no matter how hard it will be. I know that this process will be long and difficult. I know that this process will be painful. It won’t undo the heartbreak and loss we feel. But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we’re all proud to embrace.”
Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and implemented policies establishing and supporting Indian boarding schools across the nation. The purpose of Indian boarding schools was to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly relocating them from their families and communities to distant residential facilities where their American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian identities, languages, and beliefs were to be forcibly suppressed. For over 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities.
The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative will serve as an investigation about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools.
Interior Department officials say the work will proceed in several phases and include the identification and collection of records and information related to the Department of Interior’s own oversight and implementation of the Indian boarding school program, as well as formal consultations with Tribal Nations, Alaska Native corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations to clarify the processes and procedures for protecting identified burial sites and associated information.
Secretary Haaland will receive the final written report on the investigation by April 1, 2022.
Vice-president Kamala Harris will preside over the US Senate for this evening’s procedural vote on the For the People Act.
Democratic hold-out Joe Manchin has now said he will vote with the rest of the Democrats in the chamber to advance the legislation to the debate stage.
This won’t happen, because the Republicans are expected to filibuster the bill and prevent Democrats getting the 60 votes needed to move the bill on.
But the prospect of unanimity from the Democrats in the vote, expected at 5.30pm, has brightened the skies for them and Harris gracing the chamber, in a slightly unusual move, to preside over the vote is a striking one.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, just popped up on CNN, telling Jake Tapper:
“It’s symbolic but it’s a powerful symbol and a sign of the White House’s engagement,” Blumenthal said.
“It’s only an opening round, it’s a vote to move forward to talk about the bill.”
Republicans will be unanimous in opposition, Blumenthal predicted, and the bill will be blocked.
“Make no mistake, we are by no means done after today, it’s just the beginning,” he said, prior to future versions of the legislation coming to the floor – including if that means persuading Manchin and other moderate Democrats to support reforming the filibuster rule.
“I’m in favor of abolishing it,” he said.
Pressure on Biden to end pandemic-related exclusions, expulsions at US-Mexico border
Joe Biden denounced, while he was campaigning for the White House, a program put in place under Donald Trump that returned tens of thousands of Central American asylum seekers to violent Mexican border cities to wait as their cases wound through US courts.
It was known as the Remain in Mexico policy and on his first day in office Biden halted the program, allowing some who had been waiting in danger for a long time to enter the US to go through their legal applications.
Yet, Reuters reports, he kept in place a Trump-era health order, known as Title 42, that allows US officials to rapidly expel migrants at US borders during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, five months into Biden’s presidency, the scenes at the Mexican border are little changed.
Many of the families living in tents in Reynosa – just across from McAllen, Texas – arrived after they were expelled by U.S. officials to Mexico without a chance to present their asylum claims.
Since Biden took office, U.S. border authorities have recorded more than 400,000 expulsions under Title 42, according to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. The vast majority of those expelled are Mexicans and Central Americans. Repeat crossings are common.
A White House spokesperson said Title 42 was a public health directive, not an immigration enforcement tool, and was necessary on health grounds. The Biden administration says it is working to strengthen the asylum system along the border.
But advocate groups, U.N. officials and even some fellow Democrats here say the continuation of Title 42 is subjecting migrants to the same dangers – kidnapping, extortion, and sexual violence – as the policies of the Trump administration.
Nearly 3,300 migrants and asylum seekers stranded in Mexico since Biden took office have been kidnapped, raped, trafficked or assaulted, according to a report here by the New York-based group Human Rights First released Tuesday.
“We believe that it is time to end Title 42,” Kelly Clements, the deputy high commissioner for the United Nations refugee agency, told Reuters. “We think now it is having the effect of sending more people, and children in this case, into harm’s way.”
The Reuters report has some more detail on this and also features the harrowing account of Salvadoran asylum seeker Liset Ortiz, who was kidnapped in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, on her way to the United States. You can read the full story here.
The vote in the US Senate is just under two hours away. Here’s Joe Biden.
Here’s Senate majority leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer welcoming Joe Manchin’s agreement to vote this afternoon in favor of advancing the voting rights For the People Act to the debate stage.
Republicans will block this, but if things now go as expected, Schumer will at least be able to display party unity on the Senate side of the Hill.
He’s flanked here by Senators Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
And here’s more of Manchin.
Manchin will vote with fellow Dems to advance voting rights bill
Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has put an end to a smidge of suspense on Capitol Hill, by issuing a statement that he will vote this afternoon in favor of advancing the For the People Act voting rights legislation to the next stage of congressional consideration.
This is entirely symbolic, unfortunately, as all Republicans in the Senate are expected to support filibustering the legislation – so the bill will not garner the necessary 60 votes to advance to the debate stage (US Senate is split 50-50 Dem-GOP) and will be blocked.
But the fact that the Democrats in the Senate will now be expected to demonstrate unanimity in advancing the bill is something/
Manchin has proposed a compromise version of the bill, which has won support from Barack Obama, Stacey Abrams, a tentative nod from the White House and zero Republican support. He does not support passing the bill as currently written (SR1).
But it appears that after much discussion and thought, Manchin will support his colleagues in voting to advance this bill to the debate stage.
The procedural vote is due at 5.30pm ET today.
In a statement moments ago, Manchin said: “Over the past month, I have worked to eliminate the far reaching provisions of S.1, the For the People Act – which I do not support. I’vefound common ground with my Democratic colleagues on a new version of the bill that ensures our elections are fair, accessible and secure.”
He added: “Today I will vote ‘YES’ to move to debate this updated voting legislation as a substitute amendment to ensure every eligible voter is able to cast their ballot and participate in our great democracy.”
Democrats believe this is an important step to bring Manchin on board with the party on the bill, later perhaps persuading him and Arizona moderate Senator Kyrsten Sinema to agree to reform the filibuster so the Republican minority can’t crush Biden legislation and bills like SR1 can be passed with a simple majority (Kamala Harris has a tie-break vote in the Senate).
The Biden administration warns: Democracy is in peril.
As we await the procedural vote in the US Senate on the For the People Act and various lawmakers and factions set out their stalls on Capitol Hill, here’s a quick recap on the main events of the morning so far in US political news.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Joe Biden is “absolutely revolted” by attempts to restrict voting access going on in many Republican-led states across the country, hence the priority to pass voting rights protections at the federal level.
Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging those who are still voluntarily avoiding getting vaccinated against Covid-19 to get the vaccine, saying that nearly every US coronavirus death at this point is “entirely preventable”.
With just a few hours left before the vote is due in the US Senate on whether to advance the For the People Act voting rights legislation to the next stage, allowing debate on the bill, pivotal Democratic Senator Joe Manchin says he’s not made up his mind yet.
Key votedue today on the Biden administration’s voting rights legislation. The US Senate has been underway since 10am ET and the vote is expected on whether to invoke cloture (allow debate to start on the bill) at 5.30pm ET.
Bleach peddler: Trump consumed ‘miracle cure’
The leader of a spurious church which peddled industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for Covid-19 is claiming he provided Donald Trump with the product in the White House shortly before the former president made his notorious remarks about using “disinfectant” to treat the disease.
Mark Grenon, the self-styled “archbishop” of the Genesis II “church”, has given an interview from his prison cell in Colombia as he awaits extradition to the US to face criminal charges that he fraudulently sold bleach as a Covid cure.
In the 90-minute interview he effectively presents himself as the source of Trump’s fixation with the healing powers of disinfectant.
“We were able to give through a contact with Trump’s family – a family member – the bottles in my book,” Grenon says. “And he mentioned it on TV: ‘I found this disinfectant’.”
Ahead of an important procedural vote on Democrats’ expansive voting rights bill, the feeling among Senate Democrats is a mixture of gloom and defiance.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on advancing Democrats’ voting rights package, the For the People Act, Tuesday afternoon and the wide expectation among Democrats and Republicans is the bill will be blocked through the filibuster, a legislative maneuver that lets a minority of senators stall or block movement on a bill.
For Democrats, in a perfect world the failure of the voting rights bill would trigger an effort in Congress to defang the filibuster.
But there is no support among the Republican caucus for gutting the filibuster, and not quite enough unity in their own caucus to get rid of the rule.
That leaves them with an unclear path forward on passing the Biden administration’s agenda or key protections for voting as Republican state lawmakers across the country push new laws that critics say are meant to hinder voting by voters of color.
“My hope is that if what we see is a unified effort to filibuster voting rights it will stiffen the spine of my Democratic colleagues to protect our democracy,” Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, said.
“No Senate rule is more important than the constitutional right to vote,” Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia said in referencing to protecting the filibuster.
Yesterday, former president Barack Obama, in a rare move, weighed in on the expected filibuster of the voting rights package saying “that’s not acceptable.”
Other Democratic standard bearers have offered similar denunciations and warnings. Democratic outside groups have announced plans to pour millions into voting rights initiatives in the aftermath of the voting rights bill vote.
That spending reflects the sense of defiance among Democratic lawmakers as well.
“If Republicans say that they are willing to veto even a discussion about protecting our democracy then that puts it directly to Democrats. Are we going to stand up and be counted?” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said.
“Or are we going to let the Republican veto hold? I think that it’s an important step today to get every senator on record about willingness to talk about protecting our democracy. And if that fails then the Democrats are going to have to talk about what the next path forward is.”
Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii said it was important for Democrats to keep a sense of hope.
“That doesn’t mean that if we fail today there won’t be disappointment but there will never be despondency. We will regroup and plan anew and charge right back up the mountain,” he said.
Fissures within the Democratic party persist though. Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, one of the most conservative members of the Senate Democratic caucus penned an op-ed published Monday night explaining her ongoing opposition to changing the filibuster, a position at odds with her colleagues.
“If [Senator ] Mitch McConnell believes that he will get even the tiniest advantage from removing the filibuster in the future, he will do it, regardless of what Democrats have done in the past,” Warren said in reference to McConnell, the Senate minority leader.
The op-ed argued there is a longterm risk for Democrats if they gut the filibuster now.
“Certainly there is risk to get rid of the filibuster but there is risk if we let the status quo where nothing happens continue,” Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado, another moderate Democrat, said.
Biden “absolutely revolted” by voting restrictions being enacted in GOP-led states – White House
White House press secretary Jen Psaki is holding her media briefing, hot on the heels of the coronavirus team briefing.
As the For the People Act legislation heads for a likely doomed vote in the US Senate at 5.30pm ET today, Psaki emphasized one of the reasons why passing legislation on this topic is a huge priority for Joe Biden and the efforts are “not over” even if they go nowhere on Capitol Hill this afternoon.
Psaki told reporters that Biden is “absolutely revolted” by attempts to restrict voting access going on in many Republican-led states across the country.
Here’s our Sam Levine (we recommend you sign up for his Fight to Vote news letter):
Anthony Fauci, the US’s top public health official, who leads the White House coronavirus team and is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, used the briefing just now to outline how the US has been following the UK in terms of infections recently.
Just as the UK came to be dominated by the UK variant and now the Delta variant that originated in India, so the same thing is happening in the US, leading health officials to speak of the joy of celebrating the summer while being on guard against a resurgence of the disease in the coming months – especially if people continue to shun the vaccine.
The Delta variant now accounts for 95% of new cases in the UK and youth are driving new infections, Fauci said, citing a study by Imperial College, London.
Fauci pointed out that the available vaccines are up to 93% effective against serious illness caused by the variants currently still spreading.
The Delta variant “is currently the greatest threat to the US in our attempt to eliminate Covid-19…we have the tools so let’s use them to crush the outbreak,” Fauci added.
The US expects to have 70% of adults over the age of 30 vaccinated by July 4th and to reach that goal with all adults “a few weeks” later, which is behind schedule.
Fauci was asked during press Q & A whether, if 20% to 30% of US adults continue to avoid being vaccinated, whether we’ll see the kind of surge and deaths that we saw in previous surges at the height of the pandemic, when 1,000 people were dying a day.
He said he would expect local or regional surges but “I do not foresee a surge like we saw over the last 18 months…even if we do we will not see 1,000 deaths a day.”
Fauci appeals to the “recalcitrant” not to persist in avoiding being vaccinated.
Nearly every US coronavirus death at this point “entirely preventable” – CDC
Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging those who are still voluntarily avoiding getting vaccinated against Covid-19 to get the vaccine.
“Every death is tragic. Nearly every death is, at this point, entirely preventable,” she said at the White House coronavirus team briefing today, which is still underway.
“We know our vaccines work,” Walensky added.
She warned that US health experts are very wary of a situation where variants currently dominating new infections – until recently the variant that originated in the UK and now the variant that originated in India – “could lead to further mutations that evade our vaccines” and if more people don’t get vaccinated it could produce “a chain that could lead to a more dangerous strain”.
Walensky also warned that 20% of people who’ve had Covid-19 are reporting various symptoms associated with “long Covid” – symptoms that persist more than four weeks after initial infection.
She listed “brain fog”, headaches, heart palpitations, coughing, joint pain, insomnia and prolonged loss of the sense of taste and/or smell.
The White House coronavirus briefing has begun. Jeff Zients, response coordinator since 2021, succeeding Deborah Birx, is leading up to letting everyone know that Joe Biden’s goal to have 70% of US adults vaccinated with at least one shot by the July Fourth holiday is a bit behind.
Meanwhile, he’s talking about the fact that new cases of Covid-19 in the US are down 90% since Biden took office in January, when the pandemic was at its peak a year after the first infections on the west coast.
More than 1,000 people will gather on the White House lawn on July 4, Zients said. That’s a much bigger gathering that the kind of neighborhood backyard cookouts that the president predicted would be possibly by July 4 as the US declared “independence from the virus”.
Zients says that 16 states and the District of Columbia have achieved the goal of 70% of adults having had at least one shot. The US expects to reach 70% of adults over the age of 27 having had at least one shot by the end of the July 4 holiday weekend..
He predicts the 70% of all adults goal will be achieved “a few weeks after”. Just to note, the struggle to make the numbers in the US is less about vaccine supply now and more about people declining the vaccine.
Zients said the aim is for “America to look like America again….the virus is in retreat, we are entering a summer of joy.”
He added: “But we are not done. Individuals who are still unvaccinated are still at risk.” Zients noted that the Delta variant, which originated in India, is still spreading across the US and younger people appear to be more vulnerable to it.
The current vaccines are highly effective against the Delta variant.
Donald Trump has “zero desire” to be speaker of the House of Representatives, his spokesman has said, though the former president continues to entertain discussion of the outlandish idea.
Under congressional rules, the House speaker does not have to be a sitting member of Congress, though all of them so far have been.
The notion of a Trump speakership was raised by his former adviser Steve Bannon. Trump himself called it “so interesting” last week, while current House minority leader and aspiring speaker Kevin McCarthy perhaps ironically misspoke when he seemed to encourage speculation.
McCarthy told Fox News: “You know, I’ve talked to President Trump many times, he tells me he wants to be speaker, and I think he should be president.”
A spokesperson later said the California representative had meant to say Trump thought McCarthy should be speaker.
On Monday, Trump was asked about the idea in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. Characteristically, he failed to fully disown it.
“Well,” Trump said, “I’ve heard the talk and it’s getting more and more. But it’s not something that I would have considered but … certainly there’s a lot of talk about it.
“I have a good relationship with Kevin, and hopefully we will do everything traditionally … so I have seen talk about that but it’s nothing that I’ve ever considered.”
Punchbowl News asked Jason Miller, Trump’s outgoing spokesman, for comment.
Trump, Miller said, “has zero desire to be speaker”.
Oregon progressive Senator Jeff Merkley and Minnesota’s Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate, Amy Klobuchar, introduced the For the People Act, along with majority leader Chuck Schumer, in the Senate in March.
Today they probably know it is going to be parked in a cul-de-sac and the Republicans, aided by Democrat Joe Manchin, are going to throw away the keys.
Here’s what Merkley tweeted yesterday.
And here’s Klobuchar earlier today reminding everyone that Barack Obama has spoken out to support a compromise version of the bill put forward by Manchin (which has garnered, to this moment, no Republican support and, therefore, is going nowhere without changes).
The vote due at 5.30pm ET today is not on the whether to pass the bill or make changes to the bill, it is merely on whether to invoke cloture and begin debating the bill.