That wraps up the last statements of the Congressional hearing called Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation. In some ways it felt a lot of ground was covered during the six-hour questioning marathon of the three most powerful men in tech, but in others it is not clear what concrete action will be seen from the latest in a long line of panels on misinformation and hate speech.
As has happened in past hearings on the matter, Republicans repeatedly claimed conservative viewpoints are maligned on social platforms while Democrats argued that something must be done about misinformation and hate speech. Special attention was paid to how hate speech impacts minority communities including the LGBTQ+ community, the Black community, Asian Americans, and Spanish-speakers.
Zuckerberg frequently spoke in favor of reforming Section 230, a law that exempts platforms from legal responsibility for what is posted by users. Meanwhile, Dorsey put forward his plan of allowing for an open protocol shared by tech platforms to make for more transparency surrounding how content is moderated. He also expressed that Twitter would like to open its moderation operations up to outside researchers for review.
In the six hours of interrogation, Dorsey was the only one of the three executives who accepted any form of responsibility for the insurrection on 6 January.
No follow-up hearings on this particular subject were mentioned today, but the House financial services committee previously this year said in an antitrust hearing that there would be more to come – so we can expect to see these executives back on the Hill soon.
Congress member Kim Schrier, who is a medical doctor, talked about the concerns surrounding vaccine hesitancy caused by medical misinformation on social media.
She said a lot of doctors spend their days vaccinating on the front lines of the pandemic, only to come home to combat misinformation on social media in their free time.
Schrier also read out harassment and hate speech she received as a result of promoting the vaccine on social media, which she said was “particularly unsettling after the events of January 6”.
Some of the comments said they were going to make her “disappear” and that she should “expect riots”. One person wrote “we have weapons and will fight off forced vaccinations”.
In light of the violent misinformation surrounding medicine, Schrier suggested more people involved in regulating health misinformation should have a medical background.
Zuckerberg said the people who set policies are experts or get consulting from experts and that Facebook breaks those policies down into “simple protocols” that moderators and AI can follow “without requiring all those people to be medical experts”.
Democratic representative Marc Veasey of Texas took on misinformation, in particular that which targets Black Americans, in his questioning.
He said he would like to establish an independent organization of researchers and computer scientists “who could help identify and warn about misinformation trends before they become viral” and asked each executive if he would support it.
Zuckerberg and Pichai said they would in some form. Dorsey said he may but that he does not think the idea being put forward would be very effective.
“The more important thing is to get much more open standards and protocols that everyone can have access to and review,” Dorsey said.
To underscore the urgency if misinformation reform, Veasey cited the example of his local poison control having to make an announcement that ingesting bleach would not cure Covid-19 after bad actors – including Donald Trump – spread the idea that it could.
“We need to act quickly, he said. “We’re running out of time and that we need these companies to take affirmative action on addressing some of these issues.”
Jack Dorsey appears to be tweeting (and perhaps subtweeting) during the the hearings on Thursday. At around 11:26 am PST he tweeted a question mark with a poll where users could vote “yes” or “no”.
That was the point during the hearing during which he was being questioned about whether Twitter or other social media firms should be the final say in what content is allowed online. All of the executives said no, and Dorsey said he would defer to Congress on that.
He also tweeted “agreed” with a tweet that said more Congress members should ask Dorsey about his “protocols” idea, which he mentioned in his opening statements.
This would be an open-sourced tool that allows all social media platforms to cross-reference and share information on how they are moderating different content. It has barely been addressed since he mentioned it at the beginning of the hearing *checks clock* four hours ago.
Kathleen Rice in her questioning asked Dorsey about his tweets.
“What’s winning, yes or no?” she asked.
“Yes,” Dorsey smirked.
Republican Jeff Duncan of South Carolina just spewed a lot of racist misinformation at the executives, taking care to assert falsely that there was no racial motivation in the shootings of multiple Asian women in Atlanta last week at primarily Asian-American-owned businesses. He said calling it a hate crime is “misinformation”.
His line of questioning underscored a common issue with Republican questioning in these hearings, which often focuses on individual cases of content moderation decisions – like in this case the example of a tweet sent to Republican figurehead Candace Owens – rather than substantiative issues.
Congressman Tony Cárdenas of California has asked Mark Zuckerberg how the company addresses misinformation targeting Latino users, noting studies that show Facebook catches less false content in Spanish than in English.
Zuckerberg responded that Facebook has an international fact checking program with workers in more than 80 countries speaking “a bunch of languages” including Spanish. He also said Facebook translates accurate information about Covid-19 vaccines and other issues from English into a number of languages.
Cárdenas noted the example of his Spanish-speaking mother-in-law saying she did not want to get a vaccine because she heard on social media it would place a microchip in her arm.
“For God’s sake, that to me is unbelievable, that she got that information on social media platforms,” he said. “Clearly Spanish language misinformation is an issue.”
Cárdenas was part of a coalition that signed a letter in March alleging that Facebook is not doing enough to combat “rampant Spanish-language disinformation” circulating on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram that is putting Latino communities at risk.
It was signed along with the Facebook Oversight Board, an advocacy group, and groups including Free Press Action, the Center for American Progress and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
The letter included specific requests including that Facebook appoint an executive to oversee Spanish-language content moderation and enforcement, increase transparency regarding content translation and algorithms, and hire more Spanish-language content moderators based in the United States.
Zuckerberg said that Facebook does have an executive in charge of content decisions but not for Spanish specifically.
Congresswoman asks executives to address anti-Asian hate speech
After a number of hate crimes against Asian Americans in recent weeks, Democratic representative Doris Matsui of California has directly asked Dorsey and Zuckerberg what they are doing to address anti-Asian hate on platforms. She also asked why they took so long to remove racist hashtags that promoted blame for the coronavirus pandemic on Asian Americans, citing the recent attack on Asian women in Atlanta as a consequence of these policies.
“The issues we are discussing here are not abstract,” she said. “They have real world consequences and implications that are too often measured in human lives.”
She also cited a study that showed a substantial rise in hate speech the week after Donald Trump first used the term China flu in a tweet. Matsui suggested revisiting Section 230 protections.
Dorsey said he will not ban the racist hashtags outright because “a lot of these hashtags contain counter speech”, or posts refuting the racism the hashtags initiated. Zuckerberg similarly said that hate speech policies at Facebook are “nuanced” and that they have an obligation to protect free speech.
Pichai and Dorsey said in response to questioning on Thursday that they are open to some of the Section 230 changes proposed by Facebook.
Section 230 is a communications law that shields platforms from legal liability for what is posted by their users. It has repeatedly been targeted in debates surrounding misinformation as allowing misinformation to flourish without accountability.
Pichai said Zuckerberg had some “good proposals” and that the company would “certainly welcome legislative approaches in that area”. Dorsey in favor, but slightly less enthusiastically, said “we think the ideas around transparency are good”. He said, however that small platforms should not be held to the same standards.
As Zuckerberg repeatedly dodges responsibility for Facebook’s role in the Stop the Steal movement and subsequent Capitol riot, some have noted Facebook is still allowing political ads using the phrase “stop the steal” and spreading misinformation.
Zuckerberg has repeatedly dodged questioning and evaded accepting responsibility for Facebook’s role in the 6 January insurrection.
Frank Pallone, Democratic representative from New Jersey, admonished the executives and Zuckerberg in particular for this. Dorsey unlike the other two did accept some acceptability for Twitter’s role in 6 January riots.
Addressing Pichai and Zuckerberg in particular, Pallone said “you definitely give the impression that you don’t think that you’re actively in any way promoting this misinformation and extremism,” he said.
“You’re not passive bystanders – you are not nonprofits or religious organizations that are trying to do a good job for humanity – you’re making money,” he said. “The point we’re trying to make today is that when you spread misinformation, when extremists are actively promoted and amplified, you do it because you make more money.”
The most clear takeaway from the opening statements of both Congress members and the three executives in attendance is that we are seeing what we always see at tech hearings: Republicans shouting about “cancel culture” and perceived (and unproven) bias against conservatives on social media while Democrats attempt to address the erosion of democracy caused by misinformation and hate speech on social platforms.
Many have noted that this dichotomy has made it difficult to get anything done in the realm of tech regulation. While Republicans and Democrats both agree that tech has too much power and needs to be reined in, they have completely different perceptions of the reality of the situation and what to do about it.
See this thread from Daphne Keller, the platform regulation director at Stanford Cyber Policy Center, on why it is so interesting Zuckerberg is lobbying for Section 230 reform and more regulation, when in the past Facebook had been very against such legislation.
In other words, Facebook would like to help the very rules that moderate it. This may give it an advantage over other platforms, particularly smaller ones that may not have the resources to enforce the same extent of regulation that Facebook does.
Twitter’s Jack Dorsey makes opening statement
Jack Dorsey of Twitter gave his opening statements after Pichai, seeming to be videoing in from a sleek kitchen somewhere. His opening statements were live tweeted from his account on Twitter. You can read them in full below.
Google’s Sundar Pichai makes opening statement
Sundar Pichai of Google gave his opening statements next. He highlighted Google’s role in connecting users with vaccine information and other Covid-19 resources.
“We are energized by the opportunity to help people at scale and humbled by the responsibility that comes with it,” he said.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg makes opening statement
Now it’s time for opening statements from tech executives. First we have Mark Zuckerberg. He returns to his usual argument, which is that tech companies should not be making the decisions around what is allowed online.
As many have noted, this makes it easier for Facebook to shape policy that other companies may struggle to keep up with. He also stressed Facebook’s efforts to combat misinformation and its spread of vaccine information and called for Section 230 reform.
Protests outside the Capitol as tech hearing begins
Outside of the Capitol on Thursday protesters portrayed the tech executives testifying in front of Congress as violent insurrectionists whose images went viral in the days following the 6 January riots.
The protest was organized by SumOfUs, an 18 million member human rights advocacy organization. Executive director Emma Ruby-Sachs said Facebook’s inability to rein in ‘Stop the Steal’ content after the 2020 elections directly led to the riot.
“The platforms’ inability to deal with the violence, hate and disinformation they promote on their platforms shows that these companies are failing to regulate themselves,” she said. “After the past five years of manipulation, data harvesting, and surveillance, the time has come to rein in Big Tech.”
She added that Facebook’s micro-targeting and algorithms enabled groups that ultimately planned the insurrection. The report from SumOfUs also highlighted how ad tech platforms like Google and Amazon are funding and profiting off of disinformation websites. It said Google earned an estimated $19 million from Covid disinformation, and nearly 200 sites spreading electoral disinformation make over $1 million in ad revenue each month. Google accounts for 71% of all advertising dollars placed on the 200 disinformation sites.
“Lawmakers and the media tend to focus on Facebook and Twitter, while Google gets away with being a massive contributor to the disinformation machine. These websites have huge reach on Facebook, but are able to sustain themselves thanks to Google ads. Until Google changes its policies on the monetization of disinformation, the company is equally responsible for the violence on January 6,” said Ruby-Sachs.
Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic representative from Illinois, said in her opening statements announced she would be introducing a bill to address misinformation on social media called the Online Consumer Protection Act.
She cited the removal of Donald Trump from Twitter, which she said, citing a study, decreased misinformation 73% across social platforms. Indeed studies show a small number of individual social media “super spreaders” are responsible for the vast majority of misinformation. She did not give many details of the bill, but presumably it would address this.
“The witnesses here today have demonstrated time and time again, that self regulation has not worked,” she said. “They must be held accountable for allowing disinformation and misinformation to spread.”
My colleague David Smith wrote yesterday on why Mark Zuckerberg could be in for a rough ride before Congress today. The hearing will mark the first the Facebook CEO has appeared in front of lawmakers to address the platform’s role in fuelling the Capitol attack.
The testimony will come after signs that the new administration of Joe Biden is preparing to take a tougher line on the tech industry’s power, especially when it comes to the social media platforms and their role in spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories.
The question every politician should be asking is, what does Mark Zuckerberg want with us?
Zuckerberg will be joined by Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey, the chief executives of Google and Twitter respectively, at a hearing pointedly entitled “Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation” by the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee.
The scrutiny comes after a report found that Facebook allowed groups linked to the QAnon, boogaloo and militia movements to glorify violence during the 2020 election and weeks leading up to the deadly mob violence at the US Capitol.
Avaaz, a non-profit advocacy group, says it identified 267 pages and groups on Facebook that spread “violence-glorifying content” in the heat of the 2020 election to a combined following of 32 million users. More than two-thirds of the groups and pages had names aligned with several domestic extremist movements.
The top 100 most popular false or misleading stories on Facebook related to the elections received an estimated 162m views, the report found. Avaaz called on the White House and Congress to open an investigation into Facebook’s failures and urgently pass legislation to protect American democracy.
Read the full story below …
Hi, Kari Paul here – the Guardian’s west coast technology reporter – and I am going to be live blogging the next many hours of testimony from tech’s biggest CEOs: Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter.
All three executives will be answering for the major missteps and controversies of their platforms in recent years, with a focus on misinformation and the use of social media leading up to the 6 January riots at the US Capitol that resulted in several deaths.
The hearing is titled Disinformation nation: social media’s role in promoting extremism and misinformation by the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee.
It is the latest in a record number of hearings for the tech space in the past year, as executives have repeatedly been called to the Hill to testify on antitrust issues, misinformation, and hate speech.
‘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.