The Justice Department has closed its criminal investigation into whether a disparaging memoir by [Bolton] illegally disclosed classified information, and it is finalizing a deal to drop its lawsuit aimed at recouping profits from the book, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The agreement would end an effort that began under the Trump administration to silence Mr. Bolton and sue him over the book’s profits. Ending both the inquiry and the lawsuit is a clear rebuke by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland of the Trump Justice Department’s tactics in the matter.
The details of the agreement were unclear. A settlement by the Justice Department is likely to shield Trump administration officials from being forced to answer questions under oath about their time in office. A federal judge had given Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, approval to begin deposing those officials, but a settlement would end that litigation.
Bolton celebrated the news, telling Axios, “This is a complete vindication. … They’re just giving up.”
For Joe Biden, the Geneva summit was designed as the anti-Helsinki, a chance to show that he would not be taken advantage of by Vladimir Putin like Donald Trump had in Finland in 2018.
That meeting went so poorly that Fiona Hill, a former Trump adviser, said she considered faking a medical emergency or pulling a fire alarm to end the press conference.
Biden and Putin’s summit went about as well as it could have. Speaking after the four-hour talks, Putin praised Biden’s “moral values” and called the talks “extremely constructive”, while calling their relationship a “pragmatic one”.
He still peppered his remarks with claims that the US was funding his opposition and appeared to sympathise with the Capitol Hill rioters (Biden called it “ridiculous” to compare them to Russia’s opposition). But there was hope, however ephemeral, for progress. “There is no happiness in life, only glimmers of it. Cherish them,” Putin said, paraphrasing Tolstoy. He looked rather upbeat.
Biden, who spoke second, said he believed that Putin “was not looking for a cold war”. “It was important to meet in person. I did what I came to do,” said Biden.
The CNBC camera crew in Geneva captured Vladimir Putin’s departure from the Swiss city after he met with Joe Biden today.
During his solo press conference today, Putin described the summit as “quite constructive” and praised Biden as an “experienced statesman”.
However, he also deflected criticism of his human rights record by unfairly comparing his jailing of political opponents to the charges filed against the rioters who carried out the January 6 insurrection.
CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins said she appreciated Joe Biden’s apology for his abrasive tone when answering her question about his summit with Vladimir Putin.
But Collins said she also considered the president’s apology to be “completely unnecessary”.
Collins emphasized that her question to Biden about why he was confident Putin would change his aggressive behavior on the world stage was part of “just doing my job”.
“Asking the president a question does not mean it has a negative slant or a positive slant,” Collins said. “It is simply a way to get into the president’s mindset of how he is viewing something.”
During his “jet talk,” Joe Biden also apologized for getting frustrated by a question asked by CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins at the end of his press conference in Geneva.
“Look, to be a good reporter, you’ve got to be negative. You’ve got to have a negative view of life, okay, it seems to me. The way you all, you never ask a positive question,” Biden said. He later added, “I apologize for having been short.”
Collins asked the US president why he seemed so confident that Vladimir Putin would change his behavior when he seems to have continued his aggressive actions since Biden took office.
“I’m not confident,” Biden said. “Where the hell — what do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident?”
Biden went on to say that he believed the global response to Putin’s aggressive behavior would put pressure on him to alter his approach to foreign policy.
Biden – ‘Russia is in a very, very difficult spot right now’
More from Joe Biden’s jet talk just now – if talking to reporters before boarding Air Force One is his equivalent of Donald Trump’s preferred “chopper talk” tactic, which allowed him to blame the rotors of Marine One if he needed to not hear a question.
“Russia is in a very, very difficult spot right now,” Biden said, after his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva, responding to questions about why Russia might now want to cooperate with the US. “They are being squeezed by China. They want desperately to remain a major power.”
Biden also told reporters he was “of the view that in the last three to five years the world has reached a fundamental inflection point about what it’s going to look like 10 years from now.
“I mean that literally, I think it’s a genuine reality, many countries around the world are wondering, ‘How do I maintain and sustain my leadership in the world? The US is doing it.”
He also spoke about domestic issues, saying of one subject that Putin brought up in his own remarks to the press earlier, the Capitol riot of 6 January, “I never thought we would have people breaking down the doors of the Capitol. It reinforced what I have always known, thatevery generation has to re-establish the fight for democracy.
“And I have never seen such an outward assault on voting rights. There’s a lot at stake … as long as I’m president we are going to stick to the notion that we are open, accountable and transparent.”
Speaking of voting rights and the politics to which Biden will now return:
Speaking to reporters by Air Force One in Geneva, Joe Biden has expressed regret for some sharp words to a reporter who questioned him about the success of his summit with Vladimir Putin.
Here’s the AP’s take:
The initial exchange came at the press conference after the meeting. When a reporter asked Biden how he could consider the summit a success when Putin came out of it still denying responsibility for cyberattacks or other alleged wrongdoing, Biden shot back, “If you can’t understand that you’re in the wrong business.”
But Biden came over to reporters before getting on Air Force One, telling them he had been a “wise guy” and expressing regret for being “short”.
Biden also spoke positively about the summit and his meetings with allies on his weeklong trip to Europe, which was meant in part to show the US engaging again after Donald Trump’s withdrawal from US allies.
“I think we, the country, has put a different face on where we’ve been and where we’re going,” Biden said.
Democrats ready to advance infrastructure plans on their own – report
In Washington, Democrats are reportedly ready to ditch attempts to work with Republicans on Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposals – even as Biden continues to work with GOP moderates on a scaled-back, $1tn plan.
The Associated Press reports that though “top White House adviser” Steve Richetti has attempted to keep Democrats in Congress onside, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is moving ahead with the budget committee to prepare for a July vote on Biden’s $1.7tn American Jobs Plan and $1.8tn American Families Plan. It will be under the rules of reconciliation – meaning just 50 votes plus Vice-President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker will suffice for success.
Biden’s coronavirus rescue and stimulus package passed that way in March – without a single Republican vote and with Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has emerged as a hate figure on the left of the Democratic party, enjoying immense influence in shaping its contents given his ability to sink legislation by siding with the GOP if he so chooses.
“We’ll see where we’re going to go after a week or 10 days [of] more dialogue and negotiation [with Republicans],” Ricchetti said on Tuesday, according to a transcript of a private caucus meeting obtained by the AP.
A bipartisan group of 10 senators has closed on a nearly $1tn deal covering traditional infrastructure projects, without the family-related investments in childcare and other needs that Ricchetti said remain a top priority. Republicans reject those investments as costly and unnecessary.
“Just ask a working mom if childcare is part of her family’s infrastructure,” Senator Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan, told the AP. “Ask a family with an aging parent who needs help to live at home safely if home care is infrastructure. We understand that it is.”
On Tuesday, the bipartisan group presented their proposal to colleagues at closed-door Senate lunches. According to the AP, they “met with mixed reviews”.
Defying irony, GOP alleges White House ‘weakness’ toward Russia
Blogger Steve Benen begins:
President Joe Biden sat down in Geneva this morning with Russian president Vladimir Putin … as the meeting got under way, the Republican National Committee issued a press statement, letting reporters know the party’s takeaway from the international gathering.
“Giving Putin a meeting is just the latest win that Joe Biden has handed Russia,” the RNC said.
I can appreciate ironic humor as much as the next blogger, but it’s a bit jarring to see Republicans decide that they’re actually the tough-on-Russia party – as if the last four years were little more than a pesky mirage that didn’t really count.
Where to start on those last four years, or how to even start to hint at the sheer chutzpah – the sheer balls, in the sense of both “courage” and “absolute nonsense” – of the RNC’s approach? This might do for starters:
Joe Biden chose not to answer a question about whether he has reconsidered his comment that Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a “soul,” as he claimed after a 2011 meeting with the Russian leader.
Instead, Biden just put on his aviator sunglasses and started walking away from the podium, telling reporters, “Thank you very much.”
But as the president moved away from the podium, he took another couple questions. He seemed to grow agitated when a reporter asked why he is so confident that Putin will change his behavior.
Biden claimed that was a mischaracterization of his comments, saying, “I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior.” He instead argued that the global response to Russia’s actions would put pressure on Putin to change.
Biden’s press conference has now concluded after about 30 minutes.
Biden rejects Putin’s ‘ridiculous comparison’ between Capitol rioters and Navalny
Joe Biden was asked to respond to Vladimir Putin comparing his jailing of political opponents, like Alexei Navalny, to the charges filed against those who carried out the January 6 insurrection.
“I think that’s a ridiculous comparison,” Biden told reporters in Geneva.
The US president emphasized there was a great difference between storming the Capitol with weapons and threatening law enforcement officers versus marching for the right to hold free and fair elections.
During his own press conference earlier today, Putin used that unfair comparison to deflect a question about why so many of his critics are either imprisoned or dead.
Joe Biden downplayed the fact that his summit with Vladimir Putin was shorter than the White House had initially anticipated.
The talks between Biden and Putin lasted for about three hours, while White House officials said they expected the summit to wrap up after four to five hours.
Biden emphasized it was a remarkable feat for the two world leaders to come together for any length of time, and they felt satisfied with the discussion after a couple hours.
Confirming Putin’s earlier remarks about the respectful tone of the meetings, Biden said, “There were no threats.”
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.