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On first call with Putin, Biden raises election interference, bounties, Navalny poisoning - POLITICO
Biden called intending to raise concern about the suspected Russian SolarWinds hacking campaign, Russia reportedly placing bounties on American troops and interference in the 2020 election, the White House said.
Biden also intended to support Ukrainian sovereignty and his goal of extending a nuclear arms treaty for five years with Russia, Psaki said. The two leaders agreed to work urgently to extend the nuclear treaty by Feb. 5, when the deal is slated to expire, according to the Biden administrations readout of the call. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty limits the two nation's deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550 each. They also agreed to explore strategic stability discussions on a range of arms control and emerging security issues, the readout said. Biden and Putin agreed to be transparent and communicate consistently, according to the readout. "His intention was also to make clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia," Psaki told reporters. Biden's agenda for his call with Putin struck a decidedly different tone than former President Donald Trump, who was the subject of significant criticism for his relatively soft rhetoric toward Russia, especially relative to his broader America-first approach to foreign policy. Trump routinely attempted to undermine widely accepted evidence about the Kremlin's 2016 election interference, at one point telling reporters that he would take the Russian president's word over that of the U.S. intelligence community on the issue. Biden has vowed to turn the page from the Trump administration on U.S.-Russia relations and take a stronger stance against the Kremlin. In April 2018, Trump blamed poor relations between the U.S. and Russia on special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and Trumps campaign. The investigation found no Trump-Russia conspiracy but established that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in "sweeping and systematic fashion." Mueller's report also found repeated communication between Trump associates and people who indicated they had potentially harmful information about Hillary Clinton. On the large-scale hack into federal agencies uncovered in December which intelligence agencies said was likely Russias doing Trump baselessly suggested it may have been China. Biden has promised a forceful response to the campaign. My administration will make cybersecurity a top priority at every level of government, Biden said in a statement, and we will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office. After less than a week in office, Biden has now been on calls with several prominent foreign leaders, including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico. Biden has pledged to "restore dignified leadership at home and respected leadership on the world stage" in the wake of Trump's foreign policy.
Blinken confirmed as secretary of State - POLITICO
The longtime Joe Biden confidant faces a world that changed dramatically during Donald Trump’s time in office.
Blinken becomes the chief U.S. diplomat as the U.S. faces tests on multiple fronts, including: a pandemic that has killed 2.1 million people worldwide and ravaged economies; a rising and increasingly aggressive China; a Middle East riven by tensions between Iran and its neighbors; and an increasing exhaustion among Americans with the war in Afghanistan. He has pledged to make humility and confidence the twin cornerstones of his approach to the job, a reflection of the Biden teams view of how America should conduct itself in a world where Washington, D.C., is not the only power center. The 58-year-olds Senate confirmation hearing went relatively smoothly, with Republicans expressing delight at times at how often Blinken agreed with them. For instance, Blinken said former President Donald Trump was right to take a tougher stance on China, although he disagreed with some of the tactics used by the previous administration. He also indicated that he would support keeping some terrorism-related sanctions on the Islamist-led government in Iran, despite the Biden administrations goal of rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump quit in 2018. Still, some Republicans voted against Blinken. They included Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who complained ahead of Tuesdays vote about Blinkens past support for U.S. military interventions in places like Libya. He argued that Blinken hasnt learned the lessons from the chaos that has followed such interventions. My opposition of Mr. Blinken to be secretary of State is not so much because I oppose the administration. Its because I oppose the bipartisan consensus for war, Paul said. Blinken earned plenty of praise ahead of the Senate vote, too. The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, New Jerseys Bob Menendez, said Blinken was thoughtful and able to grapple with the most complex challenging issues facing our country, and committed to engaging Congress. Blinken has long stressed the importance of the United States working with international allies to advance its interests, including standing up to Beijing. Hes fiercely criticized Trump and the former presidents aides for pursuing more unilateral approaches toward diplomacy. At the same time, Blinken has argued that America should be open to cooperating with adversaries like China and Russia, especially on transnational challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. Under Blinken, the State Department is expected to help rebuild the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which Trump nearly dismantled as he radically restricted the number of refugees admitted each year. Blinken is well known in Foggy Bottom, where he served as John Kerrys deputy from 2015 to 2017. That familiarity may help him address the State Departments sagging morale: Foreign Service officers and other officials often felt marginalized under Trump, who generally ignored their advice and accused them of being members of a deep state bent on thwarting his policies. Trumps first secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, frequently sidelined career officials and concentrated decision-making in the hands of a few top aides. Trumps second secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, improved morale when he first took over, but soon lost the confidence of many veteran diplomats. His refusal to stand up for Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine caught up in Trumps first impeachment trial, was a particular sore point. Department employees say they will be watching closely how many in their ranks will be elevated to top positions at the State Department and the National Security Council under Biden and Blinken. So far, many of the top jobs have gone to outside political appointees or former career officials who left government before or under Trump. But many key roles remain unfilled, including a number of assistant secretary of State positions that could go to current career officials. Blinken has diplomacy in his blood. His father, Donald Blinken, is a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, and his uncle, Alan Blinken, served as U.S. ambassador to Belgium. Blinken was also deeply influenced by his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, an international lawyer who survived the Holocaust and later championed the idea of increasing trade connections as a means of achieving peace between rival powers.
Yellen confirmed as Treasury chief with more economic aid at top of agenda - POLITICO
She will be working with Congress on a Covid relief package.
Nobody deserves more credit than Chair Yellen for the longest economic expansion in American history, said Wyden, set to head the Senate Finance Committee, which voted unanimously on Friday to advance her nomination. The full Senate vote was 84 to 15, making Yellen the first woman to head the Treasury. She received support from most Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. I have very strong disagreements with Dr. Yellen on a number of her positions, particularly in the tax policy arena, but she has committed to us that she will work with us on these issues and the concerns that we have," Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said on Friday, after voting for her in committee. "I think the strong vote on our side to support her today is an indication that we want to engage. The Treasury chief wields expansive influence across the government, with a key role in shaping the administrations stance on taxes, the economy and financial regulation, while also serving as an international diplomat with a hand in trade negotiations and sanctions policy. But the immediate focus will be on stemming the economic pain of the pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 400,000 Americans and forced the shutdown of businesses across the country. The pandemic has caused widespread devastation, Yellen told the committee at her hearing. Whole industries have paused their work. Eighteen million unemployment insurance claims are being paid every week. Food bank shelves are going empty. The damage has been sweeping, and as the President-elect said last Thursday, our response must be, too. She suggested last week that the Biden administration will wait until the economy is stronger before pushing tax increases on wealthier Americans and corporations. Yellen said the administration would move to raise taxes for other things, such as a plan to increase infrastructure spending, that would come after the coronavirus relief legislation. Meanwhile, the administration will have to chart a course on dealing with China; President Donald Trump left office with tariffs still in place on more than $350 billion worth of Chinese goods, as well as duties on steel and aluminum imports that were implemented through his national security authorities. Yellen told the senators that the Biden administration would use all available tools to confront unfair Chinese trade practices but stopped short of endorsing Trumps tariff tactics. She is also under pressure from the left to focus on the interconnections between the financial system and climate change. Yellen said she plans to start a new Treasury hub that would examine financial system risks arising from climate change and on related tax policy incentives. She intends to appoint a very senior-level official to lead climate efforts. In written answers to senators released Thursday, Yellen endorsed the idea of a higher minimum wage, a position strongly backed by the left. Raising the minimum wage will lift tens of millions of Americans out of poverty while expanding access to opportunity for countless small businesses nationwide, she wrote. It matters how its implemented, and the Presidents minimum wage will be phased in over time, giving small businesses plenty of time to adapt.
Biden sets sights on 1.5 million vaccinations a day - POLITICO
The president said he was hopeful about ramping up capacity, as parts of the country start to bump up against limitations on how many shots they can administer.
Biden said he was optimistic that the vaccine would be readily available to those who want it by sometime in the spring. Were trying to get out a minimum of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days, and move in the direction where were well beyond that in the next 100 days, so we can get to the point where we reach herd immunity in a country of over 300 million people, he said. Bidens nominee for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, on Sunday similarly said that the administration had begun to look beyond its initial target of 100 million vaccinations. Thats a floor; its not a ceiling, Murthy said on ABCs This Week. Its also a goal that reflects the realities of what we face, what could go right but also what could go wrong. By the end of former President Donald Trumps time in office, the nationwide rate has hovered around that million-shots-a day mark, thoughstates and local officials have fretted that the supply is showing signs of unsustainability that may constrain them from meeting demand as they begin expanding eligibility to tens of millions of people. Some of Bidens top health advisers have expressed similar supply concerns as they wrap their heads around the first major test of the administration, and have intermittently swiped at their predecessors over the precarious state of the rollout the president has taken over. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that the situation was much worse than we could have imagined. Bidens chosen director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, said on Fox News Sunday that the supply was the most limiting constraint right now but that hope was that it will be resolved by later this year. Focus on the vaccination effort has intensified as at least two variants of the virus have begun to raise fears among medical experts. One strain, identified in the United Kingdom, appears to be more transmittable andpotentially more deadly , Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said on Monday while a strain of the virus found in South Africa has shown resistance to antibody treatments. Biden is increasing travel restrictions, including a ban on most non-U.S. citizens traveling fromSouth Africa and several other countries , in an effort to keep the variant strains of the coronavirus at bay.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders expected to announce gubernatorial bid - POLITICO
The former White House press secretary is the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to launch her campaign for Arkansas governor. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images Former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to launch her campaign for Arkansas governor on Monday, according to three people familiar with her plans. Sanders has long been planning to run for governor, and Donald Trump signaled his support for her anticipated bid upon her 2019 departure from the White House. The news was first reported by the Washington Post.
Bipartisan group of senators pushes back on Biden Covid plan - POLITICO
On a call with White House officials, senators objected to stimulus payments to wealthy Americans.
The 75-minute call, set up by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), is one of the first big calls the Biden administration has held as it works to buildcross-party support for the $1.9 trillion plan. Senators asked for more data on how the White House filled out its plan. The senators told the White House officials they support spending more on vaccine distribution but some balked at the stimulus payments, urging the White House to make them targeted, according to sources on the call. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) pressed the Biden officials on why families making $300,000 would be eligible and urged a focus on lower-income workers. I was the first to raise that issue, but there seemed to be a lot of agreement that those payments need to be more targeted, Collins said in an interview. I would say that it was not clear to me how the administration came up with its $1.9 trillion figure for the package. Collins said that topline number was a concern to her and that her bipartisan crew, led by Collins and Manchin, needed to reconvene to figure out how to respond to a proposal that Republican senators say cannot pass the Senate. That group was key to passing a $900 billion package in December, which many Republicans say makes an immediate large package difficult to pass. That package included $600 in direct payments to many Americans. I'm going to suggest that we get together and talk about what we think would be a reasonable package, and one that could garner bipartisan support, Collins said. The administration clearly is very eager to move very quickly. And we want to make sure that there is justification, especially since there's so much money remaining from the previous packages. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) also questionedthe price tag: This isnt monopoly money, as he put it. Theres a fundamental decision here on the part of the administration and that is do they want to work on the negotiation of a bipartisan proposal or do they want to try to move the larger package through reconciliation, King said of the partisan legislative tactic. That didnt come up today explicitly but thats sort of in the background. This isnt monopoly money, Sen. Angus King said. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo But King added the Biden officials on the call were open to the senators' input, and the topline number was specifically discussed on the call. If they were interested in just jamming this through they wouldnt have interrupted the Packers game, he joked, adding that both the White House and senators were eager to find an agreement. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) praised the new White House for setting up a call so quickly with the bipartisan group, a departure from the prior administration. She said senators requested more data on the status of state and local governments' funding relief to get a better sense of the administration's priorities and how they crafted the plan. That was a general issue that was expressed around a number of things: The more targeted the assistance can be where it's needed most, the more helpful, said Shaheen. The senators agreed, however, that vaccine distribution should be the priority over provisions like the $15 minimum wage, which cannot get the support of 10 Republicans. For now, the Biden administration is pursuing a bill through regular order rather than budget reconciliation, which can be used to evade a filibuster. But even some Democrats indicated they are not sold on the Biden package. Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), co-chairs of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, also joined the call. The White House has called for urgent action by Congress to send more money to hard hit communities and more resources to help ramp up vaccinations as the death toll surpassed 400,000 earlier this month. Biden has vowed to get 100 million vaccine shots to Americans within his first 100 days.
Marco Rubio: It's 'arrogant' to impeach Trump to ban him from running again - POLITICO
He said: "Who are we to tell voters who they can vote for in the future?”
Legal scholars, including members of the conservative Federalist Society, have presented this disqualification argument, countering Republicans who say that impeaching Trump after he has left office would be unconstitutional. The scholars wrote in a letter on Thursday that the Constitutions impeachment power must be extended to former officials who could try to run for reelection. Senate Democrats are expected to vote to convict Trump, arguing that he incited deadly violence after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. But at least 17 Republicans would need to join all Democrats for Trump to be convicted, and GOP senators have recently united around a bid to shut down the impeachment trial. Rubio echoed that argument on Fox News Sunday, saying the impeachment trial is counterproductive and will continue to fuel these divisions that have paralyzed the country. The first chance I get to vote to end this trial, I will do it, because I think it's really bad for America, he said.
State Republicans push new voting restrictions after Trump’s loss - POLITICO
Georgia is at the center of the effort, with state Republicans discussing voter ID changes and other new policies after Biden won the state.
The chair of the Texas Republican Party has called on the legislature there to make election integrity the top legislative priority in 2021, calling, among other things, for a reduction in the number of days of early voting. Jason Miller, a top Trump adviser, told the conservative site Just The News that Trump plans to remain involved in "voting integrity" efforts, keeping the issue at the top of Republicans' minds. And VoteRiders, a nonprofit group that helps prospective voters get an ID if they need one to cast a ballot, said it is expecting a serious push for new voter ID laws in at least five states, while North Carolina could potentially implement new voter ID policies that have been held up in court. Voter ID laws are usually very popular among the general public a 2018 Pew Research poll found that three-quarters of Americans surveyed supported laws requiring voters to present a photo ID but activists say they are problematic for several disparate groups of voters. They are students and other young people, theyre communities of color, theyre older adults who are no longer driving, people with low income, people with disabilities, said Kathleen Unger, the founder of VoteRiders. VoteRiders estimated that up to 25 million voting-age Americans lacked a government-issued photo ID. Georgia Republicans, in particular, are intensely focused on their states election laws, after the state became the epicenter of Trumps attempts to undermine confidence in the 2020 election results. Georgia Republicans have proposed a bevy of changes, from imposing limits on who can vote by mail to limiting the use of dropboxes, which allow people to return absentee ballots without using the postal system. The Republican state Senate caucus has endorsed ending no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia, which was disproportionately used by Democratic voters in the 2020 elections. (More than one-third of Bidens votes in Georgia were cast by mail, versus just 18 percent of Trumps votes.) Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has rejected Trumps fraud claims, also said he supported scrapping no-excuse mail voting because the system was too taxing on local election administrators. However, the states GOP legislative leaders have yet to agree on exactly what to change. Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who is the president of the state Senate, told 11Alive News that he wouldnt support ending no-excuse absentee voting, and state House Speaker David Ralston also sounded skeptical of ending the practice. Republicans are more universally aligned behind requiring absentee voters to submit a copy of an ID either when they request or return a ballot, which would replace the states signature verification system. Georgia already requires voters to show a photo ID when voting in person. I think that has the most likelihood of being signed into law, said state Sen. Larry Walker, the vice chair of the Republican Senate caucus. Walker said he would be very supportive of that change and said his constituents were deeply concerned, saying he has gotten thousands of emails, letters and texts. A large percentage of my constituents have lost faith in the integrity of our election system, he said. So we're going to try to address some things that we feel like can restore the public's confidence in the system. He also rejected that claim that changes would disenfranchise voters, citing the states high turnout. I dont think any of these ideas are burdensome or overly restrictive or lead to what I would consider voter suppression, he said. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan organization, 36 states have some form of voter ID law in place. The NCSL classifies Georgia as a strict photo ID state, meaning voters without approved ID must vote on a provisional ballot and take steps after the election to get their ballot counted. But Georgia is unique among the closest 2020 battleground states in that Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. That boxes out Democrats, who are broadly opposed to voter ID laws or other proposed electoral changes, like limiting absentee voting. Democratic governors in states with Republican legislatures, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, could veto changes to election laws if there isnt bipartisan agreement on what to alter. Looking at the disposition of the governments in them, Im not sure that really a lot of them are going to be able to go the distance the way that Georgia will, said Jason Snead, the executive director of the Honest Elections Project, a conservative group. But I think that there is certainly a lot of interest in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania, Republicans lawmakers have signaled their intent to introduce voter ID laws and try to repeal the states bipartisan law allowing no-excuse mail voting, though Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf stands in their way. The issue could percolate through the 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans will try to retake the governorship. It isnt a secret that further election law changes must be made, Pennsylvania state Rep. Seth Grove, a Republican who chairs the House State Government Committee, said at a hearing on the states election laws on Thursday afternoon, noting that both Democrats and Republicans have proposed changes to Pennsylvania election laws. Thursdays hearing was the first of a planned 14 total hearings on election laws. In Arizona, another swing state that Biden narrowly carried, Republicans in the state Senate have advanced legislation that would result in more automatic recounts. Some Republicans also introduced legislation to abolish the states permanent early voting list which a supermajority of voters are registered for although a cosponsor of the legislation told the Arizona Republic, It cant pass and I dont want to waste my time with it. And in North Carolina, the state's delayed voter ID policy could go into effect before the 2022 midterm election. In 2018, voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, but it was blocked by a federal judge from taking effect for the 2020 cycle. A federal appeals judge overturned a order effectively blocking its implementation, but there is an ongoing legal battle in both state and federal courts over the law. Election integrity, election security, these issues arent going anywhere, Snead said. And I firmly believe that if a legislature in a particular state does not pass a reform this cycle, it does not mean itll never pass a reform, right?
Amazon’s offering to help Biden’s vaccine push. There may be a reason why. - POLITICO
Amazon’s bid comes as Biden officials say they're trying to repair the vaccine distribution system they inherited.
To the extent that this is a backdoor to do that using our own government, we should not view that sanguinely, but we should be very concerned, he said. An Amazon spokesperson rejected the idea that the companys offer was motivated by a desire to gain competitive leverage or stir up good publicity. The spokesperson, noting that Amazon made a similar offer to states last month, said its a matter of public responsibility for corporations to lend their help to the health crisis. There are things that we as a country will have to do to get through this pandemic and that includes lending our experience and expertise on things like logistics and the testing program we built, the spokesperson said. Its unclear how seriously the new White House is taking Amazons offer, which a company spokesperson said is still being finalized. A White House representative, when asked about the administrations view, noted the vaccination effort represents a tremendous challenge that will require public, private and non-profit sectors working together to provide the solutions we need at the scale that we need them. Amazons bid comes as Biden officials say they are scrambling to repair a vaccine distribution system theyve inherited from the Trump administration. Jeff Zients, Bidens Covid-19 coordinator, this week complained that officials have limited ability to monitor vaccine allocations and distribution. Biden has pledged to mount a robust federal vaccination effort after former President Donald Trump pushed most of the work onto states, who say theyve had little insight into the nations vaccine supply. Amazons bid comes as Biden officials say they are scrambling to repair a vaccine distribution system theyve inherited from the Trump administration. | Alex Wong/Getty Images In Amazons letter to Biden, head of global operations Dave Clark said the companys scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19. The company, Clark wrote, is prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administrations vaccination efforts. Its a potentially attractive offer, some say. Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety policy for the nations largest hospital lobby, the American Hospital Association, said the vaccination effort needs more expertise in managing significant logistical challenges. We welcome announcements like this from Amazon that will help get more shots into arms across the country, Foster said. The Trump administration enlisted major companies to help distribute vaccines. It contracted with UPS and FedEx to handle ground shipping, American Airlines on air freight, and McKesson for distributing Modernas shot. Experts said a government collaboration with Amazon could prove beneficial if the company fills existing supply chain gaps. Other corporate giants joined the vaccination effort this week. In Washington state, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee partnered with Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco and others to help with the states rollout. Amazon is also opening a pop-up vaccination site at its Seattle headquarters on Sunday, aiming to administer 2,000 shots. The Amazon spokesperson said the company's internal Covid-19 testing sites could double as vaccination hubs. There are currently more than 650 across the company, the spokesperson said, with the ability to test up to 50,000 employees per day. An Amazon spokesperson rejected the idea that the companys offer was motivated by a desire to gain competitive leverage or stir up good publicity. | Mark Lennihan/AP Photo Some critics stressed any federal government arrangement with Amazon would need to be carefully vetted and in the absence of details, some saw potential landmines. Tech watchdogs caution that Amazons offer to help comes just two months after it launched an online pharmacy after years of speculation it was eyeing that market. Michelle Kuppersmith, executive director of Campaign for Accountability, a corporate watchdog group, said shes concerned about how Amazon would use information from a vaccination effort. Amazon is a company that has already amassed an unparalleled amount of data on Americans and we have no idea how it would treat the data gleaned through vaccine distribution, she said. Some Amazon critics said they viewed the companys offer to Biden as an attempt to shore up Washington support while the company and the tech industry overall face growing scrutiny of their business practices, including their use of user data. This is Amazons attempt to curry favor with Democrats and push the idea that its outsized power is something we should embrace, said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance advocacy group for sustainable community development, whos been tracking vaccine distribution efforts on the local level. Other critics are skeptical that Amazons offer will amount to much. This is a governmental function, said Alex Harman of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. It might require partnerships here and there, it might entail commandeering of private resources occasionally, but the actual doing of logistics, and figuring out logistics, thats what government is for.
Biden pays tribute to 'unbreakable' Hank Aaron - POLITICO
“For generations of athletes and civil rights advocates who followed, he showed how to be proud and be unafraid to stand up for what is right and just,” Biden said.
Hank Aaron passed away peacefully in his sleep on Friday, according to a team statement. | David Goldman/AP Photo President Joe Biden on Friday marked the passing of baseball legend Henry Hank Aaron, hailing the Hall of Famers monumental contributions to the game and legacy of fighting for racial equality. With courage and dignity, he eclipsed the most hallowed record in sports while absorbing vengeance that would have broken most people. But he was unbreakable, Biden said in a statement. Aaron, a longtime right fielder for the Atlanta Braves, endured frequent death threats from people who didnt want a Black player to surpass Babe Ruths home run record, which had stood for some 40 years. Biden said Aarons character was integral to winning over the hearts and minds of those who didnt want him to succeed.
Man who allegedly entered Senate chamber with taser, cuffs is ordered released pending trial - POLITICO
A federal magistrate judge in Tennessee on Friday ordered the pretrial release of Eric Munchel, who allegedly entered the Senate chamber during the Capitol riot.
I have no reason to believe Mr. Munchel is part of an organized, collective action against the government, Frensley said. The court believes ... Mr. Munchel does not pose an obvious and clear danger to the safety of this community." Frensley ordered Munchel into home detention with location monitoring as he awaits trial on felony charges of conspiracy and engaging in civil disorder, as well as misdemeanors of unlawful entry to a restricted building and disorderly conduct. Prosecutors indicated plans to appeal the release order to a judge in Washington, D.C., as they are doing in at least three other cases related to the riot. Frensley agreed to keep Munchel in custody until Monday at 11 a.m. ET, while prosecutors seek relief from the D.C. judge. However, Frensley suggested prosecutors presentation was designed more to play on the emotions triggered by the Capitol attack than to address the legal factors dictating when a defendant should be released. Ive made my decision, the magistrate said. Im comfortable and confident that the rulings Ive made in this case are correct. One factor that clearly played in Munchels favor: he traveled to Washington, D.C., and entered the Capitol alongside his mother, Lisa Eisenhart. She, too, is charged in the case, but testimony during a lengthy hearing Friday indicated that Eisenhart was the one who suggested they enter the Capitol. Frensley also heard that Munchel allegedly stashed a pocket knife in a backpack and left it outside. In a video, he can be heard saying he did not want to bring weapons into the Capitol. Munchels lawyer, Caryll Alpert, said Munchel believed the taser he had on him was legal to bring into the Capitol because hed encountered D.C. police the night before and they did not attempt to take it from him. Prosecutors stressed Munchels boisterous behavior in the Senate, shouting phrases such as, I want that f---ing gavel! He clearly possesses views that are extreme if he was willing to participate in that sort of conduct, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader said. Theres no reason to think he wouldnt engage in this conduct in the future. I have no idea what form that would take. He has shown the court what he is willing to do in stark terms." Late in the hearing, as it became increasingly evident that Frensley was likely to order Munchels release, a Washington-based prosecutor jumped into the videoconference hearing to contend that Munchel might attack others with conflicting political views. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ahmed Baset sought to present evidence that on the night of the riot, Munchel threatened and put his hands on a Bloomberg News reporter at a Washington, D.C., hotel. However, Frensley said the evidence portion of the hearing was over and he declined to consider it.
Pfizer ships fewer Covid vaccine vials to U.S. after Trump FDA label change - POLITICO
The change means fewer vials of vaccine as some states complain they've run out of shots.
Some syringes distributed by the federal government arent efficient enough to extract the sixth dose, leading hospitals to throw out precious vaccine. Earlier this month, officials from Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administrations vaccine accelerator, acknowledged the problem, and said the federal government was quickly evaluating options to reconfigure the vaccination kits sent to providers. Pfizer says the change to its label was made to provide clarity to healthcare providers, minimize vaccine wastage and enable the most efficient use of the vaccine. The FDA told POLITICO that before it made the label change at Pfizers request, it considered the availability of low-dead volume syringes the type needed to extract the extra dose and changes already made by the World Health Organization and European Medicines Agency to allow using the extra fluid. By far most importantly, [FDA considered] the need to ensure that the maximum number of individuals were vaccinated in the United States as rapidly as possible, since using 6 doses from the vials will vaccinate 16.6 percent more Americans than 5 doses would, a spokesperson said. But without enough specialized syringes, Pfizer's decision likely means that the U.S. will have fewer usable doses than it was counting on. The FDA label change is the latest twist in a troubled rollout that's seen vaccinations lag well behind targets set by the Trump administration. President Joe Biden signed executive orders this week invoking the Defense Production Act in an effort to try and rapidly accelerate the availability of certain supplies. Agencies are identifying supply shortfalls, such as the dearth of efficient syringes, according to a White House official. However, its unclear when production would increase. The Centers for Disease Control alarmed some state officials Thursday when the agency indicated it would start counting Pfizers vaccine vials as holding six doses, according to an email from the agency obtained by POLITICO. The CDC said it would increase the number of syringes it's shipping with the vaccine, but that they may not be the "low-dead-volume" variety capable of extracting the extra doses.