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.
Final victim of Florida condo collapse identified by relative
The final victim of the condo building collapse in Florida has been identified, a relative said Monday, more than a month after the middle-of-the-night catastrophe that ultimately claimed 98 lives.
Estelle Hedaya, an outgoing 54-year-old with a love of travel, was the last victim identified, ending what her relatives described as a torturous four-week wait.
Her younger brother, Ikey Hedaya, confirmed the identification to the Associated Press. The news comes just days after rescuers officially concluded the painstaking and emotionally heavy task of removing layers of dangerous debris and pulling out dozens of bodies.
“She always mentioned God anytime she was struggling with anything,” he said. “She had reached a different level spiritually, which allowed her to excel in all other areas.”
Her brother said he is drawing strength from God, just as he’d seen his sister do in troubling times. A funeral was scheduled for Tuesday.
The site of the 24 June collapse at the oceanside Champlain Towers South has been mostly swept flat, the rubble moved to a Miami warehouse. Although forensic scientists are still at work, including examining the debris at the warehouse, authorities said there are no more bodies to be found where the building once stood.
In the end, crews found no evidence that anyone who was found dead had survived the initial collapse, fire chief Alan Cominsky has said.
Search teams spent weeks battling the hazards of the rubble, including an unstable portion of the building that teetered above, a recurring fire and Florida’s stifling summer heat and thunderstorms. They went through more than 14,000 tons of broken concrete and rebar before finally declaring the mission complete.
Miami-Dade fire rescue’s urban search-and-rescue team pulled away from the site Friday in a convoy of firetrucks and other vehicles, slowly driving to their headquarters. The fire chief saluted their bravery, saying they had worked 12-hour shifts while camping out at the site and also dealing with the heavy emotional burden.
Linda March, a 58 year-old attorney and fellow former New Yorker, was close friends with Hedaya. Oddly the two were among the last three victims to be identified, along with 24-year-old Anastasia Gromova of Canada.
Leah Sutton, who knew Hedaya since birth and considered herself a second mother to her, said she and March were both “forces to be reckoned with”.
“My two beautiful amazing fearless friends saved for last, have to believe there was a reason for them to be last,” she said Monday. “Estelle’s love of God was unbelievable and unwavering.”
The dead included members of the area’s large Orthodox Jewish community, the sister of Paraguay’s first lady, her family and their nanny, along with an entire family of four that included a local salesman, his wife and their two young daughters, four and 11, who were buried in the same coffin.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what will happen at the collapse site. A judge presiding over several lawsuits filed in the collapse aftermath wants the property sold at market rates, which would bring in an estimated $100m or more. Some condo owners want to rebuild, and others say a memorial should be erected to remember the dead.
California and New York City to mandate vaccine for government workers
California and New York City announced Monday that they would require all government employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or face weekly Covid-19 testing, and the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require healthcare workers to receive the shot.
Meanwhile, in a possible sign that increasingly dire health warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates began to creep up again, offering hope that people who have previously been reluctant to receive the shot may finally be getting inoculated.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all municipal workers – including teachers and police officers – will be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or face weekly Covid-19 testing, making the city one of the largest employers in the US to take such action.
“Let’s be clear about why this is so important: this is about our recovery,” de Blasio said.
California said it will similarly require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all state workers and healthcare employees starting next month.
The move comes amid a surge in cases in California, which have risen 218% over the last two weeks, while hospitalizations are up 62%, according to New York Times data. In the month since California lifted all Covid safety restrictions for its “grand reopening”, the state capitol has reinstated a mask requirement after several aides contracted Covid-19, and Los Angeles county is again requiring mask-wearing indoors, even for people who are fully vaccinated. The San Francisco Bar Alliance, which represents almost 500 bars, is recommending that members require guests to show proof of vaccination to enter the establishments.
California saw a 16% increase in vaccinations over last week and is one of the country’s most vaccinated states with 77% of adults having received at least one vaccine dose, but there are still plenty of unprotected people to transmit the virus, experts say.
“Primarily, we’re seeing infections in the unvaccinated,” said George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
The VA’s move came on a day when nearly 60 leading medical and healthcare organizations issued a call through the American Medical Association for health care facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated.
“I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop,” Veterans affairs secretary Denis McDonough told the New York Times.
Elsewhere, St Louis became the second major city to mandate that face masks be worn indoors, regardless of vaccination status, joining Los Angeles in re-imposing the orders.
“For those who are vaccinated, this may feel like punishment, punishment for doing the right thing,” St Louis county executive Sam Page, a Democrat, said Monday. “I’ve heard that, and I feel that frustration.”
Dr Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner, applauded the moves but called on President Joe Biden to “lead by example” and impose similar mandates on federal employees and in public venues where the government has jurisdiction, like on planes, trains and government buildings.
She also said all hospitals and nursing homes need to require all employees get vaccinated.
“We need vaccine mandates and vaccine verification,” Wen said. “We’re well past the time for the Biden administration to get on board with this. What we’re doing is not working. Doing more of the same is not the answer here.”
The White House has so far deferred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on masking guidance, which recommends that those who are unvaccinated wear masks indoors. But officials acknowledged over the weekend that they are considering changing that guidance and recommending that the vaccinated also wear masks indoors.
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
Wen, who is also an emergency physician and public professor at George Washington University, said public health experts have been worrying for months about this very scenario.
“We were worried the honor system would not work, the unvaccinated would be behaving as if they’re vaccinated and people would think the pandemic is over,” she said. “That’s precisely what has happened, and it’s incredibly frustrating.”
Dr Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist Yale’s School of Public Health, said the U.S. should not have been caught off guard after watching the Delta variant ravage India in May and then land in the United Kingdom, Israel and other highly vaccinated nations with force last month.
“We have learned multiple times to not take anything for granted with CovidO,” he said.
The US is around 67% immune from Covid-19 when prior infections are factored, but it will need to get closer to 85% to crush the resurgent virus, said Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.
“So we need a lot more vaccinations. Or a lot more infections,” he tweeted Sunday.
Jha said the nation has to brace for another rough few months. The disease has killed almost 611,000 people in the US since the pandemic started last year.
Vaccinations ticked up over the weekend, with about 657,000 vaccines reported administered Saturday and nearly 780,000 on Sunday, according to CDC data. The seven-day rolling average on Sunday was about 583,000 vaccinations a day, up from about 525,000 a week prior.
Public health experts on Monday said the uptick in vaccinations is encouraging but warned that it’s far too early to say if the numbers mean that millions of unvaccinated people are finally beginning to overcome their reticence.
The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the country shot up over the past two weeks, from more than 19,000 on 11 July to nearly 52,000 on 25 July , according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Some prominent conservative and Republican voices that have spent months casting doubt on the vaccination effort have recently started sounding a different tune.
House minority whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was among the members of the GOP Doctors Caucus who held a press conference at the Capitol late last week imploring their constituents to lay lingering doubts aside.
A week ago, on 19 July, Fox News host Sean Hannity declared: “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations.”
And in Tennessee, the brother of a popular local conservative radio host who had been a vaccine skeptic urged listeners to get vaccinated as his brother was in critical care in the hospital battling Covid-19.
“For those listening, I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you, ‘Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories,’” Mark Valentine said of his brother, Phil Valentine, Thursday on WWTN-FM in Nashville.
Arizona secretary of state tells Trump before election lie rally: get over it
Arizona’s secretary of state had a message for Donald Trump before he appeared in Phoenix on Saturday: “Take your loss and accept it and move on.”
Trump was set to speak at an event organised by Turning Point Action, a conservative group, and called the “Rally to Save Our Elections!”
Republicans in the most populous county in Arizona continue to pursue a controversial audit of ballots in an attempt to prove Trump’s claim that his loss to Joe Biden in the state, and nationally, was caused by widespread voter fraud. It was not.
Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, spoke to CNN on Friday. Asked what she wanted to tell Trump, she said: “Well, I mean, like most grownups, take your loss and accept it and move on … Nothing that’s going on here is going to change the outcome, and, really, this is nothing more than being a sore loser.”
Hobbs also said Trump’s appearance – like support for his lies from local Republican officials, office holders and congressional hopefuls lining up to speak at Saturday’s event – was dangerous.
“The bottom line is it doesn’t matter what he says or does,” she said. “Nothing is going to change the outcome of the 2020 election. But it also doesn’t change how dangerous this is.”
Trump’s lie about electoral fraud stoked the deadly attack on the US Capitol in Washington on 6 January this year. He retains power in the Republican party, which has swung behind him in seeking to obstruct investigations of the assault.
“The bottom line is that Arizonians are tired of being led by conspiracy theorists,” Hobbs said. “They don’t support this fake audit, and they’re ready for leaders who are going to put those partisan games aside and deal with real issues.”
Hobbs is hoping to become governor of Arizona. Midterm elections will also see a key Arizona Senate seat up for grabs again. Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and a prominent campaigner for gun control reform, won the seat on Biden’s coattails last year. But that was to complete a term and he must run again to secure a full six years in the seat.
On Friday, the former president blasted “Rinos”, or “Republicans in Name Only” whom he regards as insufficiently loyal. One GOP Arizona state senator offered a pithy reply.
“If he hadn’t started an insurrection in DC and gotten kicked off here,” Paul Boyer wrote on Twitter, “I could’ve responded directly to him. So there’s that.”
Trump said his remarks would be broadcast by networks including Newsmax and One America News, upstart rightwing operations which have sought to challenge Fox News on the right of the political spectrum.