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April 9, 2021 at 10:15 am #1204188282
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, dead at 99
by Max Foster, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Luke McGee, CNN
Updated 1:08 PM ET, Fri April 9, 2021
London (CNN) Prince Philip, the lifelong companion of Queen Elizabeth II and the longest-serving consort in British history, died at the age of 99 on Friday.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.
The death of the duke comes after a period of poor health. Philip spent a month in two London hospitals, where he was treated for an infection and underwent heart surgery, before being discharged in mid-March.
Philip’s funeral will be held at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, “in line with custom and with His Royal Highness’s wishes,” the College of Arms, which oversees many ceremonial aspects of the royal family’s work, said in a statement Friday.
The statement added that the duke would not have a state funeral, and that the funeral would not be proceeded by a lying-in-state.
“The funeral arrangements have been revised in view of the prevailing circumstances arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and it is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral,” the statement added.
More details on funeral arrangements are expected to be confirmed by Buckingham Palace on Saturday, according to a royal source.
The royal family joined the British government in asking the public to not gather at the royal residences, in light of coronavirus restrictions, and “make a donation to a charity instead of leaving floral tributes in memory of The Duke of Edinburgh.”
An online condolences book has been launched on the family’s official website for those who wish to leave messages, Buckingham Palace said.
The College of Arms also gave details for the period of mourning, stating that all “official flags, including the Union Flag, will be flown at half-mast from now until 08:00 on the day following the funeral.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the duke, saying that he’d “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world.”
US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden said in a statement: “Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK, the Commonwealth, and to his family. The impact of his decades of devoted public service is evident in the worthy causes he lifted up as patron, in the environmental efforts he championed, in the members of the Armed Forces that he supported, in the young people he inspired.”April 20, 2021 at 10:06 am #1204211257
Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93
BY MYCHAEL SCHNELL 04/19/21 08:59 PM EDT
Former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was also the Democratic nominee for president in 1984, died on Monday at the age of 93.
Kathy Tunheim, a spokesperson for the family, confirmed the former vice president’s death in an email to The Hill. Axios first reported the news of Mondale’s death.
According to Tunheim, Mondale died peacefully of natural causes at his home in downtown Minneapolis at 7:21 p.m. while surrounded by his immediate family.
Prior to serving as vice president during former President Carter’s single term in the White House, Mondale represented Minnesota in the Senate for 12 years. Before that, he was Minnesota’s attorney general for four years. Mondale also held a post in the Clinton administration, serving as ambassador to Japan.
Mondale was the recipient of many calls and messages from friends and current and former public officials in his final days, according to Tunheim.
Axios on Monday evening reported that Mondale spoke with President Biden, Vice President Harris, former presidents Carter and Clinton, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) by phone on Sunday as his health was fading. He also spoke to his friend and former campaign staffer Tom Cosgrove.
According to Axios, Mondale sent a final goodbye email to 320 staffers, spanning more than four decades, to express how much they meant to him, adding that he knew that they would keep up “the good fight.”
“Before I Go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me. Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight,” Mondale wrote, according to Axios, which obtained a copy of the email.
“Joe in the White House certainly helps,” Mondale continued before signing the note from “Fritz.”
The message, Axios noted, was prepared to be sent upon his death.
Cosgrove told Axios that Mondale was relieved after Biden won over former President Trump in the 2020 election, telling Axios that “there was a difference after the inauguration–a letting go” and adding that “there was a big exhale of relief.”
Mondale made history during his time in politics. He became the first major-party candidate to select a female running mate, tapping former New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro to join him on the Democratic ticket.
Additionally, Mondale was the first vice president to have an office in the White House, leading to unprecedented, frequent access to the president, according to the Wilson Center.
Mondale was married to his wife, Joan Mondale, from 1955 until her death in 2014. He is survived by his two sons, Ted and William Mondale, in addition to a brother and six grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Eleanor.April 20, 2021 at 4:40 pm #1204211980
Derek Chauvin found guilty of all three charges for killing George Floyd
by Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper, CNN
Updated 7:13 PM ET, Tue April 20, 2021
Minneapolis (CNN) The former Minneapolis Police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes last year was found guilty Tuesday of all three charges against him in one of the most consequential trials of the Black Lives Matter era.
Derek Chauvin, 45, was convicted on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The jury deliberated for more than 10 hours over two days in coming to their decision.
Wearing a mask inside the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Chauvin had no apparent reaction to the guilty verdict. Afterward, his bail was revoked and he was placed in handcuffs and removed from the court through a side door.
The second-degree murder charge said Chauvin assaulted Floyd with his knee, which unintentionally caused Floyd’s death. The third-degree murder charge said Chauvin acted with a “depraved mind,” and the manslaughter charge said his “culpable negligence” caused Floyd’s death.
Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for manslaughter. Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend about 12.5 years in prison for each murder charge and about four years for the manslaughter charge. In this case, the state has asked for a tougher sentence than the recommendations provide. Chauvin’s sentencing is set for eight weeks from now.
The verdict comes about 11 months after excruciating bystander video showed Chauvin impassively kneeling on the neck and back of Floyd, handcuffed and lying prone on the street, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020. Under the officer’s knees, the 46-year-old Black man gasped for air, repeatedly exclaimed “I can’t breathe” and ultimately went silent.
His final moments illustrated in clear visuals what Black Americans have long said about the ways that the criminal justice system dehumanizes Black people, setting off mass protests across the country as well as incidents of looting and unrest.
Over about three weeks of testimony in court, Minnesota prosecutors have repeatedly told jurors to “believe your eyes” and rely on that video.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It is exactly that. You can believe your eyes,” prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher said in closing arguments. “This wasn’t policing. This was murder.”
The defense called seven witnesses of its own–but not Chauvin himself, as he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Chauvin’s use of force was reasonable, that he was distracted by hostile bystanders and that Floyd died of other causes.
Tears of joy in and out of court
In a first for Minnesota, the trial was broadcast live in its entirety to accommodate Covid-19 attendance restrictions, giving the public a rare look into the heart of the legal system.
Tensions have been high throughout the Twin Cities region, and authorities ramped up security in anticipation of a verdict. The Hennepin County Government Center has been surrounded by fencing and barricades since jury selection began in March. More than 3,000 Minnesota National Guard members have also been activated in the Twin Cities, while businesses in Minneapolis have boarded up windows.
But the all-guilty verdict led to cries of joy and sighs of relief among those in Minneapolis, including outside the Cup Foods store where Floyd took his final breath.
Inside court, Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s younger brother, clasped his hands over his head in prayer as the verdict was read, according to pool reporters, including CNN’s Josh Campbell. During the third guilty verdict, his hands shook back and forth and he kept his head down and eyes closed as his head nodded up and down, the report said.
After court concluded, Philonise Floyd was seen crying as he hugged all four prosecutors.
“I was just praying they would find him guilty,” he explained. “As an African American, we usually never get justice.”
The Floyd family, the Rev. Al Sharpton, attorney Ben Crump, and other close allies called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a post-verdict press conference that was in turns triumphant, joyous, relieved, and solemn.
“We frame this moment for all of us, not just George Floyd,” Crump said. “This is a victory for those who champion humanity over inhumanity, those who champion justice over injustice, those who champion morals over immorality.”
For Philonise Floyd, who testified about his brother during the trial, the verdict was personal.
“I feel relieved today that I finally have the opportunity for, hopefully, getting some sleep,” he said. “A lot of days that I prayed and I hoped and I was speaking everything into existence. I said I have faith that he will be convicted.”
President Joe Biden on earlier Tuesday said he was praying for the “right” verdict in the case, noting that the evidence was “overwhelming.” After the verdict, he and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke on the phone with the Floyd family and their attorneys, according to video posted by Crump.
“Nothing is going to make it all better,” Biden told them, but “at least now there’s some justice.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, cautioned that the verdict was not the end of the road.
“I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice,” he said.
The nation’s largest police union, the National Fraternal Order of Police, also praised the trial as fair.
“Our system of justice has worked as it should, with the prosecutors and defense presenting their evidence to the jury, which then deliberated and delivered a verdict,” the statement read. “The trial was fair and due process was served. We hope and expect that all of our fellow citizens will respect the rule of law and remain peaceful tonight and in the days to come.”
Prosecutor says trial is “pro-police”
Prosecutors called 38 witnesses over the course of three separate phases of the trial.
First, bystanders at the scene testified about their fear and horror as they watched Floyd slowly die under Chauvin’s restraint. Next, a series of police supervisors and use-of-force experts–including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo–criticized Chauvin’s continued kneeling as excessive and unreasonable, particularly after Floyd had passed out, stopped breathing and had no pulse.
Finally, five separate medical experts explained that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen when Chauvin restricted his ability to breathe in what’s known as “positional asphyxia.”
In the state’s closing argument, Schleicher said Chauvin kneeled on Floyd for so long because of his pride and his ego in the face of concerned bystanders.
“He was not going to let these bystanders tell him what to do. He was going to do what he wanted, how he wanted, for as long as he wanted. And there was nothing, nothing they can do about it because he had the authority. He had the power, and the other officers, the bystanders were powerless,” he said. “He was trying to win, and George Floyd paid for it with his life.”
He contrasted Chauvin’s “ego-based pride” with the proper feelings of pride in wearing a police badge and praised policing as a noble profession. He insisted the state was prosecuting Chauvin individually–not policing in general.
“This is not an anti-police prosecution; it is a pro-police prosecution,” he said. “There is nothing worse for good police than bad police.”
In response, Nelson said Chauvin acted as a “reasonable officer” would in that situation and said there was no evidence he intentionally or purposefully used force that was unlawful.
“You have to take into account that officers are human beings, capable of making mistakes in highly stressful situations,” Nelson said. “In this case, the totality of the circumstances that were known to a reasonable police officer in the precise moment the force was used demonstrates that this was an authorized use of force, as unattractive as it may be. This is reasonable doubt.”
The three other former officers on scene–Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao–are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They have pleaded not guilty, and their joint trial will be held this summer.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Josh Campbell, Omar Jimenez, Peter Nickeas, Brad Parks, and Sara Sidner contributed to this report.April 28, 2021 at 12:35 pm #1204233720
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Izindaba zewebhu zakamuva ngesikhathi sangempelaApril 30, 2021 at 12:11 pm #1204236541
Harris and Pelosi make history as the first women to lead Senate and House during presidential address to Congress
by Betsy Klein, CNN
Updated 9:30 PM ET, Wed April 28, 2021
(CNN) Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made history during President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress just by taking their seats–marking the first time two women would be sitting behind the President.
Harris entered the House chamber Wednesday night to a round of applause for Biden’s first joint-session address to Congress. Once reaching the podium, Harris and Pelosi elbow-bumped.
When asked about the significance of two women sitting behind the President for the address, Harris replied, “Normal,” to reporters in the Capitol as she led the Senate delegation to the House chamber.
Asked her view on the historic moment, Pelosi told MSNBC on Wednesday, “It’s about time.”
In his opening remarks, Biden paid tribute to the historic nature of his vice president, the first woman to serve in that role in American history.
“Thank you all–Madame Speaker, Madame Vice President,” the President said. “From this podium, no president’s ever said those words–and it’s about time.”
Harris, who is also the first Black person and first South Asian person to hold the role, is sitting on the President’s right as he delivers remarks. And Pelosi, who became the first woman in her role in 2007, is on the President’s left.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain noted the historic nature of the dais seating as he previewed the speech last week.
“For the first time in American history, behind the President when he speaks, will be two women: a woman vice president, and woman speaker of the House. Presidents have been addressing Congress since George Washington did it,” Klain said during a conversation with Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, adding, “It wasn’t until 14 years ago that the first time one of those seats was filled by a woman. So it took a long time to get to that milestone. Fourteen years later, for the first time, there’ll be two women behind the President.”
The symbolic seating also connotes the first time that women are first and second in the presidential line of succession, a sign of women in power in their respective roles.
Harris, who sat in the chamber last year as a California senator, has forged a path toward becoming one of the President’s most important advisers, telling CNN’s Dana Bash in an exclusive interview last week that she is the last one in the room when Biden is making key decisions, including withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan.
And Pelosi is playing an integral role in getting Biden’s ambitious agenda passed, keeping her caucus aligned for the massive Covid relief package passed last month and a key player in ongoing negotiations on the infrastructure proposals the Biden administration views as an opportunity to transform the American economy.
The politicians in the two prime seats on the rostrum are always noteworthy for their visibility, providing real-time direct reaction to the President’s remarks. Their applause has become largely divided on party lines over the years, with a few rare bipartisan moments of cheering in each address. And, of course, there have been iconic moments where the reaction is less than positive.
Pelosi was the subject of one such moment in 2020 when she ripped up her paper copy of then-President Donald Trump’s speech. In that same speech, Trump appeared to ignore Pelosi’s attempt at a handshake.
“I tore up a manifesto of mistruths,” Pelosi said later that week. “It was necessary to get the attention of the American people to say, ‘This is not true. And this is how it affects you.’ And I don’t need any lessons from anyone, especially the President of the United States, about dignity.”
And in 2019, Pelosi’s sarcastic clap directed at Trump became a meme, launching a GIF seen around the world. She was also observed shaking her head and rolling her eyes.
But the political dynamic Wednesday was be markedly different than the Trump-era State of the Union address, with Democrats now in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Harris and Pelosi have Biden’s back Wednesday evening, and are likely to provide a unified front of support as the President speaks, as they are well aware of their symbolic image of American women in power.
This story has been updated with further developments.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Caroline Kelly, and Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.May 1, 2021 at 10:56 am #1204238241
Court watchers buzz about Breyer’s possible retirement
JOHN KRUZEL AT 5:00 AM EST
The possibility of Justice Stephen Breyer’s imminent retirement is hanging over the Supreme Court as the current term enters its final weeks and Democrats cling to the slimmest of Senate majorities.
With the death of liberal stalwart Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg still resonant, a number of court watchers expect that Breyer, 82, will announce his departure this summer, clearing the way for President Biden and Senate Democrats to fill his seat.
“I’m sure Breyer realizes what a blow Justice Ginsburg’s non-retirement was to the possibility of ever having an even mildly progressive Court in our lifetime. And that describes Breyer—mildly progressive,” said Dan Kobil, a law professor at Capital University. “So I think he would not want to double down on what many view as her miscalculation.”
For his part, Breyer has said little in public about the prospect of his retirement. In an interview with Axios last year, the Clinton nominee said obliquely that factors like who the president is and the ideological makeup of the court were “not totally irrelevant” as justices weigh when to leave the bench.
Over the last 50 years, Supreme Court justices have tended to step down when the White House is held by the same party as the president who appointed them, a dynamic some legal scholars refer to as a “strategic retirement.”
If Breyer plans to follow the modern trend, the politics are favorable now—though just barely, with Democrats’ 50-50 control of the Senate hinging on Vice President Harris’s tie-breaking vote.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, said he believes Breyer should retire in coming months while Democrats still have the power to confirm his replacement.
“If one Democrat leaves for whatever reason, the Democrats could lose the Senate,” Chemerinsky said in an interview with The Hill. “For Breyer to have someone with his values and views replace him, retiring this summer could be crucial. If the Republicans take the Senate, they will not confirm a Biden nominee.”
If Breyer were to step down soon, his retirement would bookend a term that began with the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Republicans fast-tracked her confirmation a little more than a month after Ginsburg’s death and about a week before the 2020 election, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.
Court watchers fumed over Ginsburg’s refusal to retire during Obama’s presidency when Democrats held both the White House and, for a time, the Senate. Instead, she remained on the bench until her death created a third Supreme Court vacancy for former President Trump to fill.
A week after Ginsburg succumbed to cancer in September, The New York Times reported that Obama had taken subtle steps to encourage her to retire in 2013, just before Democrats lost control of the Senate to Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections.
Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, but the GOP-controlled Senate refused to hold a vote or a hearing on Obama’s nominee to replace him, Merrick Garland. The GOP Senate then did confirm Trump’s chosen nominee.
The Biden administration said earlier this month that the president seeks no influence over Breyer’s decision, even as the justice faces mounting pressure from progressive groups to step down.
“He believes that’s a decision Justice Breyer will make when he decides it’s time to no longer serve on the Supreme Court,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, adding that she was not aware of any conversations between the president and the justices since he entered the White House.
At the same time, Biden has made no secret of his desire to diversify the bench, having pledged during the 2020 campaign to nominate the first Black female Supreme Court justice. Many court watchers believe he will choose Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer clerk who is a federal district court judge in D.C. and is now Biden’s nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
If Jackson, 50, were ultimately seated on the Supreme Court, she would become the youngest member of a rejuvenated liberal wing that would count Justices Sonia Sotomayor, 66, and Elena Kagan, 61, as its oldest members.
Breyer is the court’s oldest justice, born a decade before his next oldest colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas, 72, the court’s most conservative member.
But unlike Ginsburg—who faced multiple bouts of cancer before finally succumbing to the disease—Breyer has had no known health scares, other than a shoulder fracture he sustained in a 2013 bicycle accident. And by all outward indications, Breyer still enjoys the job.
Some court watchers who spoke to The Hill think Breyer may remain on the court for another year. They note that he already hired a full set of clerks for next term, and barring some unforeseen circumstances, Democrats would still control the Senate in summer 2022.
“If Breyer thinks he can still do the job well and he enjoys it, why leave?” said Ben Johnson, a law professor at Penn State University. “It’s every lawyer’s dream gig!”
Others believe his departure is more imminent. Harvard Law professor Mark Tushnet said he expects Breyer to announce his retirement in coming months, putting the odds in the 70-percent range.
“If so, I’d assume that he’ll make the decision in his own mind fairly soon, and might have done so already,” he added, “then inform the White House roughly in early June, and release his letter to the president shortly after the term ends.”
Brianne Gorod, a former Breyer clerk who now serves as chief counsel at the progressive nonprofit firm Constitutional Accountability Center, declined to offer a prediction on the possibility of Breyer’s retirement, but said his legacy on American law is already visible.
“Justice Breyer believes deeply that our Constitution was adopted to establish a government that would work for the American people,” she said, “and that belief shapes his approach to judging.”May 10, 2021 at 1:13 pm #1204249582
McCarthy schedules vote to oust Cheney for Wednesday
BY SCOTT WONG 05/10/21 03:32 PM EDT
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday that he has officially scheduled a vote for Wednesday to oust GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her No. 3 leadership post.
The widely anticipated vote, which will take place behind closed doors and by secret ballot, comes as McCarthy and his pro-Trump allies have been plotting Cheney’s ouster for the past two weeks as she has continued to condemn President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen.
McCarthy and other Republicans have argued that Cheney’s comments—at news conferences, in media interviews and in op-eds—have knocked the GOP off message at a moment when the party is trying to unify and win back the House in next year’s midterms.
Cheney, one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, has called this moment a “turning point” for the GOP and said refusing to stand up to Trump’s lies could lead to more violence like what the country saw during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“It had been my hope that our driving focus would be taking back the House in 2022 and implementing our Commitment to America. Despite the mainstream media working overtime against us, I believe we still have a great chance to do so. Unfortunately, each day spent relitigating the past is one day less we have to seize the future,” McCarthy said in Monday’s letter to House GOP colleagues.
“This is no time to take our eye off the ball. If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team,” McCarthy continued.
“Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it’s clear that we need to make a change. As such, you should anticipate a vote on recalling the Conference Chair this Wednesday.”
Trump, McCarthy, and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have all endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a key Trump ally, to replace Cheney as Conference chair once she is successfully ousted.
Some Cheney allies have accused Trump, McCarthy, and others of trying to “cancel” Cheney for holding opposing views. But McCarthy tried to push back on that narrative, suggesting that dissenting views are fine so long as they don’t undermine the broader goals of his leadership team.
“We are a big tent party. We represent Americans of all backgrounds and continue to grow our movement by the day. And unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate,” McCarthy wrote in his letter.
“All members are elected to represent their constituents as they see fit,” he said. “But our leadership team cannot afford to be distracted from the important work we were elected to do and the shared goals we hope to achieve. The stakes are too high to come up short. I trust you agree.”May 11, 2021 at 9:34 am #1204250752
Biden expected to tap Rahm Emanuel for Japan ambassador
BY BRETT SAMUELS 05/11/21 10:44 AM EDT
President Biden is expected to nominate former Chicago mayor and longtime Democratic insider Rahm Emanuel as U.S. ambassador to Japan, a source familiar with the matter confirmed.
The Financial Times and The Guardian both reported that the Biden administration had finalized its pick of Emanuel to serve as its envoy in Japan, an increasingly important ally as the U.S. seeks to address Chinese influence.
Both news outlets reported that Biden would announce Emanuel’s nomination later this month as part of a larger rollout of ambassador picks.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment, and the White House has remained mum about potential ambassadorships as reports have trickled out.
The Hill first reported in February that Emanuel was favored to be Biden’s pick for ambassador to Japan. He was briefly considered for the same post in China, but that role is likely to go to a more experienced diplomatic hand.
As a member of Congress, Emanuel led Democrats to the House majority in 2006, working closely with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to return the party to power for the first time in roughly a decade.
The wins preceded former President Obama’s victory in 2008 and even bigger gains in the House. Emanuel, once thought to be a future Speaker himself, ended up working with Obama at the White House before jumping into the Chicago mayor’s race and winning after longtime Mayor Richard Daley (D) announced he would not run again.
But his time as Chicago mayor, and his handling of the 2014 police shooting of Black teenager Laquan McDonald in particular, has made him toxic among progressive Democrats, some of whom already were at odds with him over other past positions. He further alienated progressives early in the Biden administration with his calls for a more moderate agenda and compromise with Republicans.
Emanuel has maintained strong ties with members of Biden’s orbit, however. He was previously floated as potential Transportation secretary during the transition, and offered outside guidance in the early weeks of the Biden administration.
Japan has solidified itself as a critical ally to the United States on issues of trade and defense as the two countries collaborate to confront an increasingly aggressive China, as well as an unpredictable North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was the first foreign leader to meet with Biden at the White House when he traveled to Washington, D.C., last month.May 11, 2021 at 9:38 am #1204250759
Biden administration in talks with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for India ambassador post: reports
BY CELINE CASTRONUOVO 05/05/21 11:16 AM EDT
The Biden administration is reportedly in talks with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) on a potential appointment as the U.S. ambassador to India or another top ambassadorship role.
The conversations were first reported Tuesday by Axios, based on details shared by people familiar with the matter, and two sources later told NBC News about the talks.
Garcetti, who has served as Los Angeles mayor since 2013, is one of several candidates being considered for the India posting, a person familiar with the matter told Axios.
owever, the sources noted that no final decision has been made. President Biden is expected to announce his first batch of ambassadorship nominations later this month, Axios reported.
Garcetti, who endorsed Biden in January 2020 during the Democratic presidential primary, co-chaired Biden’s inaugural committee and was previously among a list of rumored favorites for Transportation secretary before Biden nominated Pete Buttigieg for the role.
Should Garcetti be nominated for an ambassadorship, the 50-year-old mayor of the country’s second-largest city will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Garcetti’s deputy communications director, Alex Comisar, said in a statement to The Hill Wednesday that the reports on the talks were “speculative.”
“We aren’t going to engage in speculation,” Comisar added. “We’re 100% focused on ending the COVID pandemic and passing a justice budget for the city.”
The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.
The Los Angeles mayor, who considered running for president himself, said at a news conference in December when announcing he would not be joining Biden’s Cabinet, “As the administration reached out to me about serving, I let them know early this week that my city needs me now, and then I want to be here and that I need to be here.”
Los Angeles currently faces a record level of homelessness, and a court order issued last month demanded the city and county find shelter for unhoused residents of the notorious Skid Row neighborhood that have now spread throughout the city.
A possible appointment as U.S. ambassador to India comes as the country of more than 1 billion people is facing a record number of COVID-19 infections, with government officials struggling to distribute vaccinations to crowded populations.
On Tuesday, India became the second country to report a total of 20 million COVID-19 cases. Experts have pointed to a lack of safety restrictions and the rise of a more contagious variant as some of the reasons behind the surge.
Some countries have announced efforts to aid India in its response to the recent wave, with the Pentagon on Monday saying it would be sending four cargo planes filled with “critical supplies” to the South Asian country.May 12, 2021 at 11:15 am #1204252371
GOP votes to dump Cheney from leadership
BY SCOTT WONG AND MIKE LILLIS 05/12/21 09:21 AM EDT
In an extraordinary bow to former President Trump, House Republicans voted Wednesday to purge GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney from her leadership post, punishing the conservative Wyoming Republican for daring to refute Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
The decision was made by voice vote, meaning there will be no tally of the lawmakers who voted to dump Cheney, or of those who wanted her to stay on. Sources inside the closed-door vote said it was an overwhelming vote against Cheney. Some guessed the split was three to one.
That represents a remarkable shift from a similar challenge to her leadership status in February, when she won handily. And it marked the first time in recent memory that a congressional GOP leader was toppled by rank-and-file Republicans in the middle of their term through a formal vote.
Trump was not on Wednesday’s ballot, but he was the elephant in the room as Cheney’s colleagues voted to condemn her for what has become an unpardonable sin in today’s Republican Party: calling out the former president for his repeated falsehoods about his election defeat.
“You can’t have a conference chair who recites Democrat talking points,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), former head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a close Trump ally, said after the vote.
Yet not all conservatives agreed.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), another Freedom Caucus member, was a rare conservative supporting Cheney. A sharp critic of “cancel culture,” Buck warned after the vote that Republicans likely alienated voters who agree with Cheney’s criticisms of Trump — or at least her right to air them from a position of leadership.
“Liz didn’t agree with President Trump’s narrative and she was cancelled,” Buck said. “We have to deal with this narrative at some point. There are major issues—the border, spending—there are major issues. But to suggest that the American people in 2022 won’t consider the fact that we were unwilling to stand up to a narrative that the election was stolen, I think will be taken into consideration with their vote.”
Less than 30 minutes before the GOP gathering, Trump weighed in with another broadside against Cheney, accusing her of promoting unnecessary wars in a message that paved the way for Republicans to oust her shortly afterward. After the vote, he attacked Cheney again in a highly personal message characterizing her as a “warmonger.”
“She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country,” Trump said in a brief statement.
Amid all the attacks, Cheney has not backed down.
“I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” Cheney said before a bank of television cameras after the vote.
And in a speech on the House floor Tuesday night, a defiant Cheney made clear that her ouster won’t stop her from speaking out against Trump’s ongoing efforts to sow doubt about President Biden’s victory and undermine the election system.
She repeated that same message in a speech to GOP colleagues on Wednesday, just moments before they cast her out.
“If you want leaders who will enable and spread [Trump’s] destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy,” Cheney said inside the room, according to a source.
She then asked her colleagues to pray with her for the protection of American democracy, and recited Scripture: “Help us to speak the truth and remember the words of John 8:32. ‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’”
Cheney’s rebuke was a clear shot at Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who wants to be Speaker and has made the determination that Republicans cannot flip control of the House without Trump’s support.
In a letter to colleagues this week, McCarthy said removing Cheney from the No. 3 leadership post was necessary to resolve “internal conflicts” that have distracted and divided Republicans as they focus on winning back the majority in 2022.
With Wednesday’s vote, Republicans are now “very unified,” Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) told The Hill. “We have a diverse conference with diverse views; we celebrate that. And we look to our leadership for our messaging, and we don’t want to distract from that message.”
Even so, there were signs of Republican fissures everywhere. Cheney’s allies have rushed to her defense, warning that ousting the political scion for the crime of truth-telling would send a terrible message to voters that the GOP favors Trump over election integrity.
“Kevin McCarthy (an employee of Donald Trump) may win … but history won’t be kind,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who’s emerged as Cheney’s most vocal backer, tweeted Tuesday night. “Never has our party gone after it’s own leadership like this, but Kevin and Steve Scalise made history, because Trump has thin skin. I’d be embarrassed if I was them.”
There is also a looming GOP fight over who will fill Cheney’s shoes as the No. 3 House Republican.
One of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for provoking the Jan. 6 attack, Cheney is expected to be replaced by moderate Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a Trump loyalist, by the end of the week. However, some conservatives are balking at the GOP leadership’s handpicked successor, warning that Stefanik is much too liberal to represent the 212-member conference.
Her critics point to her vote against Trump’s 2017 tax cuts and her opposition to several GOP border security bills that Trump had favored.
“We must avoid putting in charge Republicans who campaign as Republicans but then vote for and advance the Democrats’ agenda once sworn in,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the Freedom Caucus, wrote to his GOP colleagues.
“Therefore, with all due respect to my friend, Elise Stefanik, let us contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats.”
On Tuesday, Roy declined to name his preferred choice for conference chair but advocated for Republicans to take some time to allow for internal negotiations over whether Stefanik is the right choice.
“I think we oughtn’t rush it,” Roy told reporters in the Capitol. “We’ve got an agenda that we need to build to make sure the American people are following our ideas.”
Roy and other conservatives have said it might be wise to just keep Cheney’s post vacant, a move that would allow Cheney’s deputy, House Republican Conference Vice Chairman Mike Johnson (La.), to assume the role of chief messenger for the House GOP for the next two years.
“I’ve expressed some of the same concerns” about Stefanik’s voting record, Johnson told reporters. “I think a deliberate effort would serve the conference well and all involved. I’ve been on record saying that I don’t think we should rush such an important decision.”
Other conservatives have thrown their weight behind Stefanik, praising both her communications skills and her role defending Trump during his first impeachment.
“She’s got the support of the president, the support of the leader, support of the whip,” Jordan told reporters outside the Capitol. “And I think she’s probably going to be the next conference chair, don’t you?”May 14, 2021 at 10:43 am #1204255036
GOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump
BY SCOTT WONG AND MIKE LILLIS 05/14/21 09:24 AM EDT
House Republicans on Friday elevated Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as the party’s conference chair, capping a tumultuous three-week stretch that exposed deep divisions in a conference beholden to former President Trump.
Stefanik, who was backed by Trump and top House GOP leaders, easily defeated Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who launched a last-minute challenge over concerns Stefanik’s voting record is too liberal. The vote, conducted by secret ballot, was 134-46.
Three other Republicans—Reps. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.)—each received a single vote. Nine lawmakers voted present.
Cheney, for her part, did not vote, steering clear of the gathering altogether.
After the vote, Stefanik brushed aside the criticisms about her voting record, pledging that she’d fight to keep Republicans as one voice heading into the 2022 midterm elections, where they like their odds of flipping control of the House.
“The American people are suffering under the far-left, socialist policies of President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In just over 100 days, we have an economic crisis, we have a border crisis and we have a national security crisis,” Stefanik told reporters, flanked by other members of the GOP leadership team.
“We are unified, working as one team. We are focused on putting forth policies and communicating them to the American people to beat Democrats, and we are going to win the majority in 2022.”
The closed-door election was held two days after House Republicans took the unprecedented step of voting to oust Cheney from the No. 3 leadership post for continuing to call out Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen and cast blame on the former president for the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Removing Cheney marks a near-term victory for GOP leaders hoping to move beyond the controversies swirling around Trump’s post-election actions by demoting his most prominent—and persistent—GOP critic.
But it also carries risks.
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was the highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress, leading to charges that women have no place in the highest ranks of Republican leadership — even a scion of one of the most powerful conservative families in the country. And Cheney, from her new spot in the rank and file, says she won’t remain silent about the former president, vowing to fight tooth-and-nail to diminish Trump’s iron grip over the party heading into future elections.
“We have got a huge set of policies we have got to be able to implement—we have to get people to vote for us. And we can’t do that if we are a party that’s based on a foundation of lies,” Cheney said Thursday night in a Fox News interview.
“I think what the former president is doing is dangerous.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House minority leader, has dismissed the idea that Cheney’s persistent anti-Trump campaign will complicate the GOP’s effort to turn the page with Stefanik. Voters, he suggested, are more interested in kitchen-table issues than the GOP’s internal fights.
“She can talk whatever she wants,” McCarthy said Thursday night. “I think the American public are concerned about gas lines, inflation, kids not getting back in school, the jobless claims.
“I think that’s what they want to see people work on and work towards.”
In swapping Cheney for Stefanik, Republicans have installed a 36-year-old lawmaker who hails from a blue state and has a more moderate track record on Capitol Hill, including a vote against the tax cuts that stand as Trump’s signature domestic achievement. Yet Stefanik’s district, after siding twice with Barack Obama, turned sharply toward Trump in 2016 and 2020. And Stefanik responded in turn, rebranding herself as a Trump loyalist and winning national acclaim in the party after aggressively defending the 45th president during his first impeachment.
Her victory underscores how today’s Republican Party values absolute loyalty to Trump over conservatism.May 18, 2021 at 12:29 pm #1204260567
Demings planning to run for Senate instead of Florida governor
BY MAX GREENWOOD AND REID WILSON 05/18/21 08:26 AM EDT
ORLANDO, Fla. — Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) is planning to run for Senate next year, forgoing a widely expected campaign for Florida governor in order to take on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), according to two people familiar with her plans.
Demings’s expected entrance into the Florida Senate race gives Democrats a top-tier challenger to Rubio, who is expected to run for a third term in 2022. She has expressed interest for months in pursuing statewide office, floating potential runs for both governor and Senate.
“Val is an impressive and formidable candidate whose potential entrance would make the race against Rubio highly competitive,” one national Democrat with knowledge of the party’s Senate strategy said.
One person familiar with Demings’s plans said a decision could come sometime this summer.
Demings’s plans were first reported on Tuesday by Politico.
If she does ultimately jump into the race as she is expected to, she will likely face a primary against a handful of other high-profile Democrats, including Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).
But a gubernatorial bid would also put her up against other prominent Florida Democrats.
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) jumped into the governor’s race earlier this month, leaving behind a House seat that Republicans are likely to contest. And Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat, has also teased a gubernatorial run, with an announcement expected on June 1.
Demings, 64, is likely to benefit, however, from her broad national profile. She was considered as a potential running mate for President Biden last summer, and she was placed in the national spotlight once again earlier this year when she served as one of the House impeachment managers in former President Trump’s second Senate trial.
Still, Rubio is seen as a challenging opponent. He first won his seat in 2010 by a nearly 20-point margin over Crist, who ran at the time as an independent. In 2016, he won reelection by a roughly 8-point margin, far more than Trump’s 1-point victory.
Perhaps most notably, he outperformed Trump by nearly 10 points in his home turf of Miami-Dade County, one of Florida’s Democratic strongholds, driven by his support among Hispanics, who make up a significant portion of the electorate.May 18, 2021 at 12:52 pm #1204260616
Israeli jets pound Gaza as rocket fire resumes and Palestinians hit streets to protest
by Hadas Gold, Ofri Eshel, Abeer Salman, Kareem Khadder and Mohammed Tawfeeq
Updated 2:13 PM ET, Tue May 18, 2021
Jerusalem (CNN) Israeli warplanes continued to pound Gaza on Tuesday and rocket fire into Israel resumed after a brief lull, as Palestinian protesters hit the streets in cities across the West Bank and elsewhere.
Thousands gathered in various towns in the West Bank, including Ramallah and Hebron, on Tuesday after a number of Palestinian groups, including Hamas militants in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, called for mass strikes.
“The first priority for the Palestinian political leadership now is to have Israel stop its crimes and massacres against our people in Gaza,” Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee in Ramallah, told CNN on Tuesday.
Israel imposed a partial closure on the West Bank on Tuesday, an Israeli security source told CNN, with only men older than 45 and Palestinian construction workers with work permits allowed to enter Israel.
Israeli airstrikes continued through the night into Tuesday. The Israel Defense Forces said warplanes had struck nine rocket launch sites in Gaza on Tuesday in addition to targeting a tunnel system in northern Gaza, several residences of Hamas commanders and an anti-tank squad in Gaza City.
The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said 213 people, including 61 children, had been killed and 1,400 others injured in the current round of violence. More than 2,500 Palestinians are now without homes and more than 38,000 are considered internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
Israel briefly allowed trucks carrying international aid into Gaza for the first time since the conflict began last week, but Israeli authorities halted the entrance of aid trucks in response to mortar fire at two border cross crossings.
Monday night and early Tuesday morning had brought a brief respite in southern Israel from militants’ rockets. The Israel Defense Forces did not report any warning sirens overnight, the first time in a week Israel went a night without rocket fire from Gaza.
The attacks resumed later Tuesday, with one mortar killing two civilians at an agricultural packaging factory on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, bringing the total number of dead in Israel to 12 since violence erupted just over a week ago. Sirens also sounded once again Tuesday in Ashkelon and other towns, sending residents fleeing again into shelters.
Now into its eighth day, this is the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian confrontation since the two sides fought a war in 2014.
Speaking Tuesday following a visit to the Israeli air force base at Hatzerim, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said operations would continue “as necessary to restore peace to the citizens of Israel.”
Referring to Israel’s attacks on Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Netanyahu said: “I have no doubt that we took them back many years.”
“I’m sure all our enemies around see what price we’re charging for the aggression against us, and I’m sure they’ll learn the lesson too,” he added.
Around dawn, the IDF destroyed an office building near Gaza. An advance warning was given that the tower would be targeted, witnesses said, and there were no reports of casualties. Israel has not commented on the incident.
The destroyed building was among several pieces of infrastructure used by civilians that have been targeted by the IDF. Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of “deliberately” operating near buildings like hospitals and schools, thereby endangering civilians who risk becoming human shields.
Over the weekend, Israeli forces destroyed a building housing offices for international media outlets Al Jazeera and The Associated Press, claiming it contained Hamas military intelligence assets. Hamas has denied that allegation.
Dozens of Israeli jets bombed more than 9 miles (14 km) of Hamas’ tunnel system in Gaza Sunday night into Monday morning and targeted 14 residences Monday that the Israeli military said belonged to commanders from the Palestinian militant group.
Hamas authorities and video from the ground showed a health clinic in Gaza City damaged by an Israeli airstrike on a nearby target, its windows blown out. The Ministry of Health in Gaza said the clinic was one of its main coronavirus testing centers.
The ministry earlier warned the destruction of medical facilities could lead to a surge of Covid-19 cases because those fleeing to shelters would be “exposed to the spread of infectious diseases, especially the danger of spread of the coronavirus.”
A spokesperson for the IDF told CNN on Tuesday that it targeted the main operations center of the Hamas internal security forces in the Rimal neighborhood, and that the building was close to the clinic.May 24, 2021 at 10:37 am #1204269063
O’Rourke considering Texas governor bid: report
BY MAX GREENWOOD 05/24/21 09:44 AM EDT
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) is reportedly weighing another bid for higher office–this time for Texas governor.
That the former Senate candidate and 2020 presidential contender is thinking about launching a challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was first reported on Monday by The Associated Press. There’s currently no timeline for a decision, and he has only begun to think about it recently, according to the news outlet.
If he does end up challenging Abbott, it would mark O’Rourke’s third consecutive election cycle seeking statewide or national elected office.
He rose to prominence in 2018 during his high-profile Senate run against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which he narrowly lost. Months later, he launched a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, though he suspended his campaign in November 2019, months before the primaries and caucuses began.
After dropping out of the presidential race, O’Rourke launched a political action committee (PAC) to boost Democrats in Texas ahead of the 2020 election. He has also been teaching virtual classes at two Texas universities.
Democrats have sought to make gains in Texas in recent years, though their efforts have been dealt a series of setbacks. In 2020, former President Donald Trump carried the state for a second time, while Democrats failed to make any gains down ballot.
Following their 2020 losses, the Texas Democratic Party commissioned a retrospective of the election, eventually concluding that a lack of in-person campaigning and inadequate voter outreach amid the coronavirus pandemic played a crucial role in their defeats.
Texas Democrats face new challenges in 2022. The Republican-controlled state legislature has advanced a raft of new voting measures that Democrats fear will drive down turnout and hurt their chances of winning in Texas.May 25, 2021 at 11:37 am #1204271872
I haven’t watched the news for weeks. Apparantly missed a lotNot now
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