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FBI chief likens ransomware threat to 9/11 as Biden plans to confront Putin at G7 – live

fbi-chief-likens-ransomware-threat-to-9/11-as-biden-plans-to-confront-putin-at-g7-–-live

Joanna Walters

Donald Trump has responded to Facebook’s decision that his suspension from the social media platform will, initially, last for two years. And, in a parallel universe, the former US president mysteriously refers to some election somewhere with which this outlet is unfamiliar.

Davey Alba
(@daveyalba)

New trump statement reacting to Facebook’s decision just dropped. “Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election.” pic.twitter.com/kYR9g2VpDQ

June 4, 2021

The election we’re familiar with is this one:

Updated

Interim summary

We’re waiting for a press briefing at the White House by Jen Psaki, but for the moment, let us bring you a summary of the main events so far today.

  • Facebook has announced that Donald Trump will continue to be suspended from the social media platform for two years and will only be reinstated “if conditions permit”.
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin issued a warning today: ransomware hacking allegations from the United States are a deliberate attempt to provoke a confrontation between the US and Russia.
  • In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, compared the recent spate of ransomware attacks to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
  • Joe Biden is continuing talks with the Republican side today in an attempt to win bipartisan agreement on key legislative pieces stuck in Congress.

Trump suspension from Facebook to last two years

Facebook has announced that Donald Trump will continue to be suspended from the social media platform for two years and will only be reinstated “if conditions permit”.

Today’s decision comes just weeks after input from the Facebook oversight board – an independent advisory committee of academics, media figures and former politicians – who recommended in early May that Trump’s account not be reinstated.

However the oversight board punted the ultimate decision on Trump’s fate back to Facebook itself, giving the company six months to make the final call.



Trump has been suspended for two years.

Trump has been suspended for two years. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

The former president has been suspended since January, following the deadly Capitol attack that saw a mob of Trump supporters storm Congress in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The company suspended Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts over posts in which he appeared to praise the actions of the rioters, saying that his actions posed too great a risk to remain on the platform.

Following the Capitol riot, Trump was suspended from several major tech platforms, including Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. Twitter has since made its ban permanent.

We’ll bring you more reaction and developments but you can also follow the full story as it unfolds here.

Here’s a link to the decision as issued by Facebook itself. And here’s the column from last month from former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who is a member of the oversight board that upheld FB’s ban, #ICYMI.

Updated

Putin: US hacking claims an attempt to provoke confrontation

Russian president Vladimir Putin issued a warning Friday: hacking allegations from the United States are a deliberate attempt to provoke a confrontation with the United States, per Reuters:


President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that hacking allegations which some have linked to Russia were an attempt to provoke a political dispute ahead of a summit with US President Joe Biden on June 16, Interfax news agency reported.

He also said that he expected his summit with Biden, which is set to take place in Geneva, to be held in a positive atmosphere, though he anticipated no breakthrough.

Tensions between the two countries have been simmering for some time. Recall that in April the Biden administration issued new sanctions against Russia over cyberespionage:


The Biden administration on Thursday announced sanctions against Russia for its involvement in a recent major cyber espionage operation against the US, foreign influence operations around US elections and other concerns.

As part of an executive order signed by President Biden, the administration through the Treasury Department will block US financial institutions from purchasing bonds from Russia’s Central Bank, National Wealth Fund or Ministry of Finance after June 14 and from lending funds to these institutions. The directive also leaves open the possibility for the administration to expand the sanctions on Russian sovereign debt.

Additionally, the Biden administration is expelling 10 personnel from the Russian diplomatic mission in Washington, some of whom US officials say are representatives of Russian intelligence services.

Updated

One of the more crucial policy points for Joe Biden during his trip to meet with G7 leaders will be over a global minimum tax CNN has more. CNN’s Julia Horowitz explained the dynamics:


The Biden administration’s ambitious plan to overhaul the global tax system is about to face a crucial test.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen heads to a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in London on Friday and Saturday looking to build support from many of the world’s top economies — an important step in the administration’s efforts to rewrite international tax rules and discourage American companies from booking earnings abroad. G7 finance ministers are expected to back the US plan during the summit, according to a Reuters report citing a US Treasury official. Washington’s proposal will likely get a full endorsement when G7 leaders including President Joe Biden gather in the United Kingdom next week, the news agency reported.

Last month, the US Treasury proposed a global minimum tax of at least 15%, aiming to tackle an unwieldy international system rife with loopholes. Establishing a minimum rate could help discourage companies from shifting their profits to countries where they would pay less tax.

More and more Republicans have been calling for Dr. Anthony Fauci’s resignation, citing a trove of emails recently released to the public. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri released one such statement this morning.

Josh Hawley
(@HawleyMO)

Anthony Fauci’s recently released emails and investigative reporting about #COVID19 origins are shocking. The time has come for Fauci to resign and for a full congressional investigation into the origins of #COVID19 – and into any and all efforts to prevent a full accounting

June 4, 2021

It’s unlikely Fauci will resign or that Joe Biden will ask for Fauci’s resignation though. He said today he still is “very confident” in the chief medical adviser to the president.

DJ Judd
(@DJJudd)

Asked Friday if he still has faith in Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden tells reporters in the press pool he’s “very confident” in Fauci. pic.twitter.com/C2uSjIH7ju

June 4, 2021

FBI chief likens recent ransomware attacks to 9/11 challenge

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, compared the recent spate of ransomware attacks to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Here’s his comments in the Journal:


FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency is investigating about 100 different types of ransomware, many of which trace back to hackers in Russia, and compared the current spate of cyberattacks with the challenge posed by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“There are a lot of parallels, there’s a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention,” Mr. Wray said in an interview on Thursday. “There’s a shared responsibility, not just across government agencies but across the private sector and even the average American.”

Mr. Wray’s comments—among his first publicly since two recent ransomware attacks gripped the U.S. meat and oil-and-gas industries—come as senior Biden administration officials have characterized ransomware as an urgent national-security threat and said they are looking at ways to disrupt the criminal ecosystem that supports the booming industry. Each of the 100 different malicious software variants are responsible for multiple ransomware attacks in the U.S., Mr. Wray said.

Cyberattacks are something the president plans to bring up when he meets with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Earlier this week Biden told reporters that his administration is looking “closely” at possibly retaliating against Russia over ransomware attacks.

“Responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said recently.

Updated

The Texas Tribune throws out the possibility that Allen West could be gearing up to challenge incumbent governor Greg Abbott, a Republican. Here’s the Tribune:


West has not ruled out challenging Gov. Greg Abbott, and he has also had tension recently with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

A former Florida congressman who moved to Texas several years ago, West took over the party last summer, unseating incumbent James Dickey. He quickly made a name for himself for his willingness to speak out against fellow Republicans, including Abbott, whose coronavirus response he criticized.

West used the latest legislative session to push hard for the party’s eight legislative priorities, and he has spent recent days lamenting the lack of progress that lawmakers have to show on them.

It’s important to note that Abbott is a popular politician in Texas and has recently touted Donald Trump’s endorsement. He also won his last gubernatorial election by 13 percentage points. Unseating Abbott would not be easy.

The jobs report numbers out today were overall positive. My colleague Dominic Rushe has more:


The US added 559,000 jobs in May as the coronavirus pandemic receded, shaking off fears of a substantial slowdown in hiring after April’s disappointing monthly report.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that the unemployment rate had fallen to 5.8% from 6.1% in April, still significantly higher than the 3.8% unemployment rate recorded in February 2020 before Covid 19 hit the US but less than half its 14.8% peak in April last year.

The news comes one month after the labor department shocked economists by announcing the US had added just 266,000 new jobs in April – far below the 1m gain that had been expected.

April’s report led to sparring between the Biden administration and Republicans who claimed higher levels of unemployment benefits were keeping people from returning to work.

There are signs of a strong rebound across the US economy. Worker filings for unemployment benefits have dropped by 35% since late April and fell to a pandemic low of 385,000 last week, the labor department said Thursday.

Former congressman Allen West, the ex-Florida member of Congress-turned chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is stepping down from his post.

He had been leading the Texas Republican Party for less than a year, a short tenure for a chairman to abruptly end.

Aaron Blake
(@AaronBlake)

Texas Republican Party chairman and ex-Florida congressman Allen West is resigning, per the party’s vice chair –> https://t.co/M5EPchGxnc

June 4, 2021

There seems to be some confusion about the timing of when his departure will go into effect. While the vice chair of the party tweeted that West is stepping down at 5pm. today the party’s communications director tweeted that West will keep his job until early July.

Luke Twombly
(@ltwombly93)

He did announce his resignation but it is not effective at 5pm today. He will stay at the helm until early July. https://t.co/rBKiMWhOK0

June 4, 2021

Here’s a press release announcing West’s departure.

Aaron Blake
(@AaronBlake)

TX GOP release: “Lt. Col. Allen West will take this opportunity to prayerfully reflect on a new chapter in his already distinguished career.”https://t.co/NyEhmBzBMJ pic.twitter.com/VKASpK8o9k

June 4, 2021

Updated

Biden to hold further infrastructure talks with key Republican

Good morning readers, Daniel Strauss here. Let’s get started.

Joe Biden continues to find a deal with Republicans and conservative members of the Democratic party elusive on the primary legislative initiative his administration is focusing on.

Later today, Biden is meeting with Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. It’s the latest meeting between the president and the lead Republican negotiator over a major infrastructure funding package.

Kaitlan Collins
(@kaitlancollins)

President Biden is expected to speak to top Republican negotiator Sen. Capito about infrastructure this afternoon, I’m told.

June 4, 2021

Despite repeated counter offers by Capito and her team of Senate Republicans, the White House and Congress have not gotten close to a compromise. And that’s caused Biden and his top aides to warn that time is running out to come up with a bipartisan deal.

But there are persistent fissures within the Democratic Party as well. In an interview with CNN, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate caucus and the most outspoken conservative Democrat on Capitol Hill, warned that he’s not ready to give up on a bipartisan compromise. Per CNN:


In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Manchin said bipartisan infrastructure talks should continue even as pressure builds for Democrats to move ahead without Republicans, and he dismissed calls to create a special carveout from the Senate’s filibuster rules to pass a voting overhaul bill along straight party lines, a key priority for Democrats that faces stiff opposition from GOP lawmakers.

Manchin heads into a pivotal time for Congress where a number of key policy issues are on a razor’s edge in the Senate, giving the swing Democrat enormous sway over the future of the Biden agenda. At the centerpiece of that agenda is the infrastructure package that Biden and Republicans are furiously negotiating in a last-ditch attempt to cut a compromise, though they remain far apart.

The West Virginia Democrat is not ready to give up on those talks with Republicans quite yet, saying: “These (things) take time.”

Manchin’s comments underscore one of the more persistent aspects of Congressional gridlock that’s continued through the Biden administration: a small, moderate sect of the Democratic Party opposes the drastic go-it-alone approach other wings of the party are pushing for on a range of issues – from filibuster reform in the Senate to an infrastructure deal.

Updated

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Democrats’ domestic agenda faces setbacks by Republican obstructionism

democrats’-domestic-agenda-faces-setbacks-by-republican-obstructionism

Joe Biden’s far-reaching domestic agenda in the US is facing serious setbacks on a range of issues as the political quagmire of a tightly contested Senate is seeing Democratic ambitions sharply curtailed in the face of Republican obstruction.

On a number of key fronts such as pushing election reform and voting rights, efforts to curb gun control and to moving forwards on LGBTQ civil rights, there has been an effective push back by Republicans – and a handful of conservative Democrats – that is forcing Biden and the wider Democratic party on to the back foot.

The Senate, whom critics deride as an increasingly unrepresentative body that gives undue influence to smaller, less diverse Republican-run states, is scheduled to vote Tuesday on For the People Act, the voting rights bill that’s certain to be defeated having won no support from Republicans.

Republicans are expected to run down the clock – a controversial tactical rule known as a filibuster – on the package that requires lawmakers to reach a 60-vote threshold.

On Sunday, Ohio Republican senator Rob Portman shot down amendments proposed by West Virginia’s conservative Democrat Joe Manchin, whose rejection of the initial bill all-but scuttled the Democrats’ project. Portman described the planned legislation as a “federal takeover of our election system”.

“The bottom line is we should make it easy to vote in this country. We should also make it hard to cheat,” Portman said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Again, I appreciate [Manchin is] trying to find that middle ground, and, who knows, maybe something can be done.”

By forcing Republicans to carry out their filibuster and making their opposition clear and public to a law seen as defending the voting rights of communities of color. Democrats hope to embarrass the party. But – without destroying the filibuster, which Manchin also opposes – there is little chance of the bill passing.

Senate Democrats will also test calls for unity on LGBTQ civil rights, and another bill – The Equality Act – that is in search of Republican support. Schumer said last month the upper house is “considering” a vote on the bill but has yet to schedule it. Again, Manchin is the lone Democrat hold-out.

The proposed legislation would include sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alongside bans on discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin.

Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin, one of two openly gay senators in the 100-member chamber, has said that she is lobbying Republican colleagues but has achieved only “incremental progress”.

Baldwin has said she believes the Senate should “hold off” on a vote while “negotiations are productive” and progress is being made. The Senate is split 50-50 and only in Democratic control thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice-President Kamala Harris.

“There may be a time where there’s an impasse. I’m still trying to find 10 Republicans [to help pass the bill],” said Baldwin.

Republicans resistance to the legislation is focused on protecting the rights of religious institutions that condemn homosexuality and opposition transgender rights in sports. Yet it comes against a backdrop of broad public, business and judicial support on the issue.

Manchin, an anti-abortion Democrat , has said he is “not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it”. But he has also said he’ll seek to “build broad bipartisan support and find a viable path forward for these critical protections”.

Nor are Democrats currently likely to find broader opportunities for political unity on infrastructure spending where large-scale Democratic proposals are running into Republican counter-offers of a fraction of the size.

Former Republican presidential adviser Karl Rove told This Week with George Stephanopoulos President Biden faces two paths on infrastructure and both are riddled with obstacles. “[It will be] a bipartisan deal small enough to get Republican support, but not big enough to keep Democrats united, or a go-it-alone and go-for-broke plan that progressives want, with a price tag as high as $6tn that’s likely too big to pass,” Rove said.

Similarly, pending gun control legislation may also be resistant to winning enough support to pass.

As it stands, two House-passed bills to expand background checks on gun buyers have all but stalled out in the Senate. But rather than push legislation that Republicans will reject, Democrats may instead push for a vote on increasing the number of online and gun show sales covered by FBI background checks – a significant retreat on the original proposals.

Senator Chris Murphy, the Democrats’ point person to win Republican support for gun control, said he’s still talking with Republican leaders about “some ideas that would involve the expansion of background checks without getting all the way to universal”.

Asked if a bill on gun show checks would be favored by Republicans, two senators involved in discussions, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, offered a cool take on that likelihood.

“We’ll see if it goes anywhere,” Graham told Politico.

Toomey, who is set to retire next year, said: “Honestly, it’s unclear at this point.”

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Florida Pride parade crash that killed one appears unintentional, officials say

florida-pride-parade-crash-that-killed-one-appears-unintentional,-officials-say

A member of a men’s chorus group unintentionally slammed into fellow chorists at the start of a Pride parade in South Florida, killing one member of the group and seriously injuring another, the group’s director said Sunday.

The statement clarified initial speculation that it was a hate crime directed at the gay community.

The Wilton Manors vice mayor, Paul Rolli, and the Fort Lauderdale mayor, Dean Trantalis, said the early investigation shows it was an accident. The driver was taken into custody, but it was unclear whether he had been charged.

“The early investigation now indicates it looks like it was a tragic accident, but nobody’s saying finally what it is,” Rolli told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

The driver and the victims were a part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family, a small 25-member group of mostly older men.

“Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver is also a part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” President Justin Knight said in a statement Sunday, calling it “an unfortunate accident”.

Fort Lauderdale police detective Ali Adamson told reporters Saturday that authorities were investigating all possibilities from the collision. The police department did not immediately respond to additional questions about the investigation Sunday.

Trantalis, who is Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor, initially told reporters the act was deliberate, adding to the confusion Saturday night.

“It terrorized me and all around me … I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he said in a Twitter statement Sunday. “As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control.”

Wilton Manors is a tight-knit community near Fort Lauderdale with a vibrant downtown filled with cute shops, where people line up for Rosie’s famous hamburgers or to gossip and drink at Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar.

Photos and video from the scene showed Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz in tears while in a convertible at the parade.

In a statement Saturday night, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost”.

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Covid ‘remains a serious and deadly threat’ for unvaccinated people, Biden says – live

covid-‘remains-a-serious-and-deadly-threat’-for-unvaccinated-people,-biden-says-–-live

Democratic congressman Ted Lieu accused the US Conference of Catholic Bishops of hypocrisy for taking steps toward rebuking Catholic politicians who receive Communion and support abortion rights.

“Dear @USCCB: I’m Catholic and you are hypocrites,” Lieu said on Twitter.

Referring to Donald Trump’s attorney general, Lieu added, “You did not tell Bill Barr, a Catholic, not to take communion when he expanded killing human beings with the death penalty. You are being nakedly partisan and you should be ashamed. Another reason you are losing membership.”

Ted Lieu
(@tedlieu)

Dear @USCCB: I’m Catholic and you are hypocrites. You did not tell Bill Barr, a Catholic, not to take communion when he expanded killing human beings with the death penalty. You are being nakedly partisan and you should be ashamed. Another reason you are losing membership. https://t.co/kpIYRolnHD

June 18, 2021

Lieu also joined dozens of other Catholic Democrats in Congress in signing on to a “statement of principles” urging the USCCB not to continue with their efforts.

“We believe the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents,” the statement says.

“The Sacrament of Holy Communion is central to the life of practicing Catholics, and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory.”

Joe Biden has arrived in his home state of Delaware, where he will be spending the weekend. The president did not take any questions from reporters as he boarded and later exited Marine One.

The Hill
(@thehill)

President Biden arrives in New Castle, Delaware pic.twitter.com/Dhx3wsqVWM

June 18, 2021

Jill Biden will travel to Jackson, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday to visit coronavirus vaccination sites and encourage more Americans to get vaccinated.

The first lady, the vice-president and the second gentleman have recently been participating in a nationwide tour to areas with lower vaccination rates to encourage people to get their shots.

Michael LaRosa
(@MichaelLaRosa46)

🚨 HAPPENING TUESDAY: @FLOTUS ✈️ heads to Jackson, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee pic.twitter.com/rsheXMmMLf

June 18, 2021

Speaking at the historically Black Clark Atlanta University in Georgia today, Kamala Harris urged Americans to reject misinformation about the vaccines and protect themselves against the virus.

“Let’s recognize that we have power in every moment of crisis, including this one,” Harris said.

David Smith

Mike Pence, the former US vice-president, has been heckled as a “traitor” for his refusal to overturn last year’s election result during a speech to a gathering of religious conservatives.

Pence, who is widely seen as laying the groundwork for a White House run in 2024, had entered an auditorium in Orlando, Florida to a standing ovation on Friday. But a small group began shouted abuse including “traitor!” as he began a 28-minute speech. The dissenters were quickly escorted out by police.

Earlier, in a corridor outside the ballroom, an attendee named Rick Hurley, wearing a red “Make America great again” cap, also vented his frustration over Pence’s role in certifying Donald Trump’s defeat on 6 January amid false claims of voter fraud.

“We need to start fighting!” Hurley shouted at anyone who would listen. “We need to stop being so damned nice. What the hell’s going on? Why is Pence coming today? Donald Trump has his pen in his back still.”

Before being taken aside by police, he also remarked: “I’m ready to fight. I’m going to boo him off stage. I’ll take the bullet. I’ll walk to the front of the stage and look him in the eye and and say, ‘What are you doing here?’

In an interview, Hurley said he had been at the US Capitol on 6 January. “I want to know why Pence is here today.” he said. “He stabbed Donald Trump in the back and took the coins like Judas.”

Dozens of Catholic Democrats in Congress signed on to a letter denouncing the efforts to rebuke lawmakers who receive Communion and support abortion rights.

“We believe the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents,” the letter says.

“The Sacrament of Holy Communion is central to the life of practicing Catholics, and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of a woman’s safe and legal access to abortion is contradictory.”

Rosa DeLauro
(@rosadelauro)

As Catholic Democrats, we are committed to making real the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching: helping the oppressed, protecting the least among us & ensuring that all are given opportunities to share in the blessings of this great country. pic.twitter.com/nZHeUVfP2j

June 18, 2021

The lawmakers who signed the letter — including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Joaquin Castro and Ted Lieu — also made a point to list some of the Republican policies that they say contradict Catholic teachings.

“No elected officials have been threatened with being denied the Eucharist as they support and have supported policies contrary to the Church teachings, including supporting the death penalty, separating migrant children from their parents, denying asylum to those seeking safety in the United States, limiting assistance for the hungry and food insecure, and denying rights and dignity to immigrants,” the letter says.

The lawmakers encouraged the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to not continue with its efforts, saying, “We solemnly urge you to not move forward and deny this most holy of all sacraments, the source and the summit of the whole work of the gospel over one issue.”

‘I don’t think that’s going to happen,’ Biden says of efforts to block him from receiving Communion

Joe Biden took a couple questions from reporters after concluding his prepared remarks on his administration’s coronavirus vaccination efforts.

One reporter asked the president for his response to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops taking steps toward rebuking Catholic politicians, such as Biden, who receive Communion and support abortion rights.

“That’s a private matter, and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Biden replied.

The AP has more details on the USCCB’s decision:


U.S. Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved the drafting of a ‘teaching document’ that many of them hope will rebuke Catholic politicians, including [Biden], for receiving Communion despite their support for abortion rights.

The result of the vote — 168 in favor and 55 against — was announced Friday near the end of a three-day meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that was held virtually.

The bishops had cast their votes privately on Thursday after nearly three hours of impassioned debate.

Supporters of the measure said a strong rebuke of Biden was needed because of his recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while opponents warned that such action would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political divisions across the country.

Covid ‘remains a serious and deadly threat’ for unvaccinated people, Biden says

Joe Biden has just finished delivering remarks on reaching 300 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered since he took office in January.

The president praised the “whole of government response” that has allowed millions of Americans to get vaccinated. As of today, 65% of American adults have received at least one vaccine shot.

“Above all, we got here because of the American people,” Biden said.

ABC News
(@ABC)

Pres. Biden: “We’ve built equity into the heart of our vaccination program from day one.” https://t.co/xY8G8YiI04 pic.twitter.com/4HBMqXSsfN

June 18, 2021

The president also touted his administration’s efforts to get Americans of color vaccinated, while acknowledging more works needs to be done in that regard.

“We’ve built equity into the heart of our vaccination program from day one,” Biden said. “The more we close the racial gap in vaccination rates, the more lives we’ll save.”

While looking ahead to the country’s “summer of joy” as pandemic-related restrictions are relaxed, Biden emphasized that coronavirus “remains a serious and deadly threat” for unvaccinated Americans.

The president also warned that the delta variant of the virus could pose an even worse threat to unvaccinated people. Speaking directly to unvaccinated Americans, Biden said, “Act. Act now.”

Updated

As Joe Biden prepares to deliver an update on US vaccination efforts, Kamala Harris is in Atlanta, Georgia, to encourage more Americans to get their shots.

Speaking at the historically Black Clark Atlanta University this afternoon, Harris denounced misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines, saying, “Let’s arm ourselves with the truth.”

CBS News
(@CBSNews)

Harris speaks about the dramatic drops in COVID infections and deaths over the past five months: “Let’s recognize that we have power in every moment of crisis, including this one…When the American people come together, in the spirit of community, we can do anything. Anything.” pic.twitter.com/SIJlFEh57Z

June 18, 2021

The vice-president also noted that most of the Americans currently hospitalized with coronavirus are unvaccinated.

“Let’s recognize that we have power in every moment of crisis, including this one,” Harris said. “When the American people come together, in the spirit of community, we can do anything. Anything.”

As we prepare for Joe Biden’s remarks on the ongoing coronavirus vaccination efforts in the US, some reporters shared photos of a rainbow-lit hallway at the White House.

The colorful lights appear to be an homage to LGBTQ+ Pride month, which began on June 1.

darlene superville
(@dsupervilleap)

White House hallway lit up in rainbow colors for Pride Month. pic.twitter.com/lNFysOB31z

June 18, 2021

300 million vaccine shots administered since Biden took office, White House announces

More than 300 coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered since Joe Biden took office in January, the White House announced in a press release.

“Today, thanks to the President’s COVID-19 strategy, the virus is in retreat. 300 million shots have been administered in 150 days, COVID-19 cases and deaths have decreased by more than 90 percent, and the economy is experiencing the strongest rebound in decades,” the White House said.

“The results are clear: America is starting to look like America again, and entering a summer of joy and freedom.”



A man receives a shot at the FEMA-supported COVID-19 vaccination site at Valencia State College in Orlando.

A man receives a shot at the FEMA-supported COVID-19 vaccination site at Valencia State College in Orlando. Photograph: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

The White House noted that 65% of American adults have now received at least one vaccine dose, and 55% of adults in the US are fully vaccinated. Additionally, 15 states and DC have gotten more than 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated.

However, it is still unclear whether the US will hit Biden’s goal of having 70% of all American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, when America celebrates its Independence Day.

Biden is expected to deliver an update on his administration’s vaccination efforts at any moment, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has endorsed a Republican Senate candidate running against Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska who is up for reelection next year.

“Lisa Murkowski is bad for Alaska,” Trump said in a new statement. “Her vote to confirm Biden’s Interior Secretary was a vote to kill long sought for, and approved, ANWR, and Alaska jobs. Murkowski has got to go! Kelly Tshibaka is the candidate who can beat Murkowski—and she will.”

The endorsement is not a surprise, given that the former president has frequently criticized Murkowski since she voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial earlier this year.

Trump said of Tshibaka, “Kelly is a fighter who stands for Alaska values and America First. … Kelly is a powerful supporter of the Second Amendment and JOBS! I look forward to campaigning in Alaska for Kelly Tshibaka. She has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

According to CNN, Tshibaka has previously written in support of an “ex-gay” Christian organization that promoted conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Mike Pence heckled at conservative Christian conference

Victoria Bekiempis

Former Vice President Mike Pence was heckled during his speech at a conservative Christian conference on Friday, with some attendees shouting “traitor!” according to Forbes.

“It is great to be back with so many patriots, dedicated to faith and freedom and the road to the majority,” Pence remarked.

Pence, speaking at the Trump supporter-filled Faith & Freedom symposium, was cheered when he took the stage, NBC News journalist Ali Vitali said. Less than thirty seconds into his address, however, yelling emerged from the audience.

Andrew Solender
(@AndrewSolender)

Pence gets drowned out by hecklers at the Faith & Freedom Coalition summit, some of whom appear to be chanting “traitor!” pic.twitter.com/pAQxavsK3O

June 18, 2021

One woman who yelled “traitor!” was escorted out, Vitali reported.

Although Pence served Trump dutifully, some of the ex-president’s supporters turned on him. On 6 January, a mob of Trump’s supporters breached the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election.

Some insurrectionists shouted “hang Mike Pence,” shortly after Trump remarked that he would feel “very disappointed” if his then-deputy didn’t overturn the results, per Forbes.

Updated

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Republicans pushed back against Joe Manchin’s compromise proposal on a voting rights bill, which the Democratic senator laid out in a memo to colleagues this week. Manchin’s bill would include Republican demands like requiring voter ID and allowing voter purges, but Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said the proposal was still “an assault on the fundamental idea that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections”.
  • Joe Biden released a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in America. Biden signed a bill yesterday to make Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, a federal holiday. “Juneteenth is a day of profound weight and power,” Biden said in his proclamation. “On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice.”
  • Kamala Harris is visiting Atlanta, Georgia, as part of her tour to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated against coronavirus. Visiting a pop-up vaccination site at Ebenezer Baptist Church this afternoon, the vice-president thanked those present for getting their shots. “What you are doing truly is about leadership. These vaccines are safe and effective. It will save your life and lives of people that you love,” Harris said.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Joe Biden is nominating former congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small to a senior role in the department of agriculture, the White House just announced in a statement.

If confirmed by the Senate, Torres Small, who lost her reelection bid last year, would become undersecretary of rural development at the USDA.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Representative Torres Small kept a rural hospital from closing its doors, improved constituent access to healthcare over the phone, and helped secure tens of millions of dollars for broadband in New Mexico through USDA’s ReConnect Program,” the White House said.

“Throughout her career, Torres Small has employed her experience organizing in vulnerable, rural communities to achieve lasting investments that combat persistent poverty.”

Torres Small served only one term in the House before being defeated in November by Republican Yvette Herrell, who won the race in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District by about 7 points.

Kamala Harris toured the pop-up vaccination site at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and she thanked those who are getting their shots today.

“What you are doing truly is about leadership. These vaccines are safe and effective. It will save your life and lives of people that you love,” the vice-president said, per a press pool report. “We’re here to say thank you.”

Harris toured the vaccination site with several Democratic lawmakers, including Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

After Harris made her remarks to the newly vaccinated people at the site, Warnock joked, “The vice-president preached a good sermon today. Amen!”

Harris visits Georgia to encourage coronavirus vaccinations

Kamala Harris has arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, where she will continue her tour of southern states to encourage more Americans to get their coronavirus vaccines.



Kamala Harris exits Air Force Two, Friday, June 18, 2021, on arrival to Atlanta.

Kamala Harris exits Air Force Two, Friday, June 18, 2021, on arrival to Atlanta. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Harris is scheduled to tour a pop-up vaccination site at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr once preached, and then deliver remarks at a vaccination mobilization event at Clark Atlanta University, a historically Black college.

The vice-president will also later participate in a conversation on voting rights with community leaders at the university.

As part of Joe Biden’s “month of action” to increase vaccination rates, Harris kicked off her southern tour with a trip to South Carolina earlier this week.

“Vaccination gives protection,” Harris said in Greenville. “This act, in a way, is a projection of love thy neighbor.”

Updated

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