The Washington Post United States of America
Breaking news and analysis on politics, business, world national news, entertainment more. In-depth DC, Virginia, Maryland news coverage including traffic, weather, crime, education, restaurant reviews and more.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed a maskless man who accused him of disregarding coronavirus measures - Washington Post
The Democratic mayor told police that he feared the maskless man could infect him with the coronavirus, adding that he was also concerned for his personal safety.
The encounter between Wheeler and the unidentified man was recorded by former Portland mayor Sam Adams, who later told police that the man, who was unmasked, had accosted them on the street with a video camera. Tim Becker, a spokesman for the mayors office, told The Washington Post in an email Monday that Wheeler is cooperating with police and encourages others involved to do the same. Adams declined to comment. The incident comes after a turbulent year for Portlands mayor, who in July, was tear-gassed by federal agents while attending racial justice protests. He was later forced to move out of his condo in September after protesters broke windows and tossed a burning object inside the building.Earlier this month, Wheeler said a woman confronted him at another restaurant and later swatted him on the shoulder. As protesters arrive at their doorsteps, Democratic mayors in Portland, St. Louis abandon their homes Over the past year, Wheeler has been highly criticized by protesters over his management of police amid last summers protest crackdowns. At one point, some urged him to resign for what they saw was an insufficient response to calls for police reform. Hes also faced criticism for his early handling of the pandemic in the city. On Monday, the states department of health reported 291 new coronavirus cases and three deaths in Multnomah County, the citys county seat. Wheeler served as Oregons treasurer from 2010 until 2016, when he was first elected mayor of Portland. He was reelected for a second term in November. On Sunday night, at about 8 p.m., Wheeler was leaving McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House after dining with Adams when a maskless, middle-aged White man suddenly approached, the mayor later told the Oregon police department. The man, who told Wheeler he had taken pictures of him at the pub, accused the mayor of disregarding coronavirus safety measures during his meeting with Adams, Wheeler wrote in an emailed statement to police. He accused me of sitting in a restaurant without a mask, Wheeler said. "I informed him the current covid regulations allow people to take their mask off for the purpose of eating and drinking. The man then followed him to his car while recording with his phone, Wheeler said, and refused to back away despite Wheelers multiple requests. He was within two feet of the mayors face, Wheeler told police. Thats when the mayor said he gave the man a final warning: I informed him that I was carrying pepper spray and that I would use it if he did not back off, Wheeler told police. When the man didnt comply, Wheeler said, he pepper-sprayed him in the eyes. The man, who appeared surprised, according to Wheeler, finally backed off. You just pepper-sprayed me for no reason at all, the man says in the recording captured by Adams. Actually, Adams said in the recording, I was here, and you were like a foot from him. He asked you to back away, and you didnt. Wheeler later described the man to the police as a White man in his 40s. Catch up on the most important developments in the pandemic with our coronavirus newsletter. All stories in it are free to access. Wheeler told police he feared the maskless man could infect him with the coronavirus, adding that he was also concerned for his personal safety following the incident where a woman allegedly smacked him in a restaurant earlier this month. Before leaving, Wheeler said, he threw the man a bottle of water so he could wash out his eyes. Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.
Biden says he’s willing to negotiate parameters of coronavirus deal, but ‘time is of the essence’ - The Washington Post
The legislation includes a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks; an increase and extension of emergency unemployment benefits that are set to expire in mid-March; an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and hundreds of billions of dollars for state and…
Biden insisted at an event at the White House that he is courting Republican support for his proposal, saying, I prefer these things to be bipartisan. He specifically referenced a 16-member bipartisan group of senators that conferred with top White House officials Sunday and raised a variety of concerns, including asking whether a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks in the proposal could be targeted to those most in need. As structured by House Democrats, some portion of the checks could end up going to families making more than $300,000 a year who have not suffered income loss during the pandemic. I proposed that because it was bipartisan, I thought it would increase the prospects of passage, the additional $1,400 in direct cash payments to folks, Biden said at the White House event. Well, theres legitimate reasons for people to say: Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making X number of dollars or Y? Im open to negotiate those things. Biden said that this is just the process beginning on negotiations over his relief package, which he unveiled before his inauguration. But he also laid out a tight time frame, suggesting that the process would end probably in a couple weeks, which might not allow for the kind of protracted negotiations necessary to produce a bipartisan bill, especially in light of growing opposition from a number of Republicans saying it is too expensive. Catch up on the most important developments in the pandemic with our coronavirus newsletter. All stories in it are free to access. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) weighed in on the proposal for the first time Monday, saying it misses the mark. Noting that Congress just approved an additional $900 billion in pandemic relief in December, McConnell said, Any further action should be smart and targeted, not just an imprecise deluge of borrowed money that would direct huge sums toward those who dont need it. In addition to the new round of stimulus checks, Bidens proposal includes an increase and extension of emergency unemployment benefits set to expire in mid-March; an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and hundreds of billions of dollars for state and local governments, schools, vaccine production and distribution, increased testing, and more. Democrats are making plans to use a budgetary tool known as reconciliation, which would allow the package to pass with a simple majority vote in the Senate, instead of the 60 votes normally required for major legislation. This approach could amount to an abandonment of Bidens calls for bipartisan unity, but many Democrats say the matter is too urgent to wait. The Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, and it is looking unlikely that Bidens plan could garner 60 votes in the chamber given the level of GOP opposition. Senior Democrats drafting plan to give parents at least $3,000 per child in Biden stimulus Asked Monday how long he would try to get GOP support before greenlighting reconciliation, Biden said the decision on reconciliation would be made by congressional leaders. The first step in that process is for the House and Senate to pass budget bills that lay out the terms for passing the coronavirus relief legislation. House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said Monday that his committee is in the process of drafting a budget bill and we will be prepared to go to the floor as early as next week. The Senate is also prepared to vote on a budget resolution as early as next week, according to a senior Democrat involved in planning who spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of a public announcement. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been outspoken in favor of using the budget reconciliation process, saying on CNNs State of the Union on Sunday, Were going to use reconciliation that is 50 votes in the Senate, plus the vice president to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now. The Senate is set to convene for former president Donald Trumps impeachment trial on Feb. 9, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated Monday that Biden wanted to see action on his relief bill before then. Reaching agreement on a final package in the next two weeks is not realistic, but passing budget resolutions would at least get the process started.
Democrats press ahead with second impeachment trial, as GOP is divided on how to defend Trump - The Washington Post
Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is set to start in the Senate on Feb. 9.
Members of the Republican National Committee also were in a heated debate over the weekend on how to respond to impeachment and how fiercely to defend Trump, who maintains support among a majority of the 168 committee members, party officials and members said. On Jan. 24, the day before an impeachment article was set to be sent to the Senate, lawmakers discussed the upcoming trial for former president Donald Trump. (The Washington Post) House impeachment managers are planning to send an article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, alleging incitement of insurrection after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a violent riot that left a Capitol Police officer and four others dead. On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the second impeachment trial will start Feb. 9 after reaching a deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that will allow the Senate to focus on President Bidens agenda and also for Trump to put together a defense. When asked whether the trials two-week delay would cost Democrats the little Republican support they had for impeachment, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) balked and said the events of Jan. 6 went far beyond the many other norms Trump had broken in office. I cant imagine how Republican opposition to insurrection would fade over the space of a couple of weeks, Warren said on CNNs Inside Politics on Sunday. Were talking about a president who stood in front of a mob and told them to go to the Capitol and invade, told them to go to the Capitol and stop the lawful business of government so that he could try to stay in the White House. That is so fundamentally wrong. ... We need accountability, accountability for Donald Trump and accountability for everyone who participated in that insurrection. Romney, who clashed frequently with Trump, said there was a preponderance of legal opinions that supported moving forward with a trial even though Trumps term is finished. He said he hoped the impeachment process would be over quickly. Romney did not say whether he would vote to convict Trump, but he did say theres no question that the article prepared by the House suggests impeachable conduct. He said he wanted to hear the presidents defense before deciding. It is pretty clear that over the last year, there has been an effort to corrupt the election in the United States, and it was not by President Biden, it was by President Trump, Romney told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Within his party, Romney was in the minority Sunday. Later on the same show, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called a second impeachment trial of Trump stupid and bad for America. On ABCs This Week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) refused to say outright that the election was not stolen, echoing a number of other Republicans who have called for unity but refused to acknowledge that Biden won fairly, thereby perpetuating the falsehood that fueled the Capitol riots. On Meet the Press, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said whether Trump had committed an impeachable offense was a moot point because he is no longer president. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has argued that holding a trial after the president left office is beyond the Senates constitutional authority, said on Fox News that the more I talk to other Republican senators, the more theyre beginning to line up behind the position I announced a couple weeks ago. He did not specify which senators. Meanwhile, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois sent a mass email to dozens of RNC members praising Trump and urging the RNC chairwoman and others to embrace a resolution she drafted opposing impeachment. In a recent interview, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told The Washington Post she opposed impeaching Trump. McDaniel declined to comment on the resolution. But Bill Palatucci, a committee member from New Jersey and a close ally of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, responded to the email, opposing the resolution. He said there was a constitutional argument that a trial could go forward. The RNC can best contribute to that healing process by acknowledging the role former president Trump played in the insurrection, condemn it and promise that we will do our best to make sure it never happens again, Palatucci wrote. Biden has largely refrained from weighing in on impeachment issues, though on Friday, he signaled an openness to delay the trial by two weeks so that the Senate could confirm more of his Cabinet nominees and take up his initial request of Congress: approval of a $1.9 trillion relief package to address the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout it has caused. On ABCs This Week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said she believed the Senate could juggle all those tasks at once perhaps confirming nominees in the mornings, running the impeachment trial in the afternoons and passing legislation at night. Klobuchar also argued that not only is the trial constitutional, but there is a legal remedy beyond simply removing Trump from office in this case, barring Trump from holding office again if he is convicted. She cited a report from the New York Times that revealed the former president had considered a plan to oust the acting attorney general to install at the top of the Justice Department an official more open to pursuing the baseless allegations that the election had been rigged for Biden. I think were going to get more and more evidence over the next few weeks, as if its not enough that he sent an angry mob down the Mall to invade the Capitol, didnt try to stop it and a police officer was killed, Klobuchar told ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos. I dont really know what else you need to know. The facts were there. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), one of the Houses nine impeachment managers who essentially will serve as prosecutors during the Senate trial, said Sunday that the fact that 10 GOP House members voted for impeachment gave her hope that an increasing number of Republican senators will come to the same view. Ten was an historically high number, Dean said on CNNs State of the Union. I find that to be heartening. Dean declined to say whether the allegations against Trump will be expanded to include recent revelations that he may have tried to do more to overturn the election results, including having considered ousting the acting attorney general to install a Justice Department official sympathetic to Trumps unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. I think you will see that we will put together a case that is so compelling because the facts and the law reveal what this president did, Dean said. I will not be previewing our strategy and our case. ... We will put forward a very strong case for impeachment, for disqualification, for conviction. Asked how long she anticipated the Senate trial to last, Dean said she would expect that it would go faster than the Senates first impeachment trial of Trump last January, which ended in an acquittal after three weeks. Some people would like us to turn the page, Dean said. She then invoked Bidens words on the eve of his inauguration in which he said that healing from the losses brought by the coronavirus requires people to remember. We must remember, Dean said Sunday, that this impeachment trial ... [is] those first very powerful steps toward unity in our country moving forward. Cat Zakrzewski contributed to this report.
Fight over the rules grinds the Senate to a halt, imperiling Biden’s legislative agenda - The Washington Post
The two parties have yet to agree how to operate the 50-50 chamber days after Democrats took control.
Meanwhile, key Republicans have quickly signaled discomfort with or outright dismissal of the cornerstone of Bidens early legislative agenda, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes measures including $1,400 stimulus checks, vaccine distribution funding and a $15 minimum wage. On top of that, senators are preparing for a wrenching second impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, set to begin Feb. 9, which could mire all other Senate business and further obliterate any hopes of cross-party cooperation. Taken together, this gridlock could imperil Bidens entire early presidency, making it impossible for him to deliver on key promises as he contends with dueling crises. This reality could force Democrats to choose within a matter of weeks whether they will continue to pursue the sort of bipartisan cooperation that Biden and many senators of both parties have preached, or whether to pursue procedural shortcuts or rule changes that would sideline the GOP but also are likely to divide their caucus. Things move faster and faster nowadays, said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), commenting on the rising tensions Friday. It doesnt seem like theres a honeymoon period. Uncertainty reigns in Senate as Schumer pushes fast agenda and McConnell calls out Trump Much of the current conflict over the Senate rules comes courtesy of veteran Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who transitioned to minority leader Wednesday after six years as majority leader. Just hours after Bidens inauguration, moments after a smiling Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was first recognized as majority leader, McConnell pointedly noted on the Senate floor that the country elected a smaller House Democratic majority, an evenly split Senate and a president who promised unity. The people intentionally entrusted both political sides with significant power to shape our nations direction, he said. May we work together to honor that trust. Two days earlier, he had notified his Republican colleagues in the Senate that he would deliver Schumer a sharp ultimatum: agree to preserve the legislative filibuster, the centerpiece of minority power in the Senate or forget about any semblance of cooperation starting with an agreement on the chambers operating rules. The calculations for McConnell, according to Republicans, are simple. Not only is preserving the filibuster a matter that Republicans can unify around, it is something that potentially divides Democrats, who are under enormous pressure to discard it to advance their governing agenda. Republicans very much appreciate the consistency and the rock-solid fidelity to the norms and rules that make the Senate a moderating force in policymaking, said Scott Jennings, a former McConnell aide. The legislative filibuster is the last rule driving bipartisanship in Washington. The Senate filibuster has evolved over the course of its history into a de facto supermajority requirement, requiring 60 votes to end debate and advance legislation. Rarely has one party held enough votes to defeat filibusters without at least some cross-aisle cooperation. The rule has been eroded over the past decade. After McConnell led a broad blockade of President Barack Obamas nominees, Democrats under then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) in 2013 allowed executive appointees and lower-court judges to be advanced with a simple majority vote. McConnell, in turn, eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees when Democrats threatened to block the nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch in 2017 and two years later changed the rules to more quickly confirm presidential nominees. McConnell and other Republicans last week reminded Democrats that many of them praised the filibuster in the past particularly in the two-year period in 2017 and 2018 where the GOP controlled the House, Senate and White House. Twenty-seven Senate Democrats who now serve signed an April 2017 letter calling on Schumer to preserve the status quo. But most of those Democrats who watched McConnell exempt Republican nominees from filibuster rules where he saw fit under Trump, after using them to the GOPs advantage for six years before that to block Obamas legislation and nominees now find his early power move to be infuriating. Were not going to go along with it, said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who was among those who signed the 2017 letter. There will be some kind of resolution that does not involve Mitch McConnell getting what he wants. Return of the technocrats: Biden aims for normal after four years of tumult Schumer said as much Friday on the Senate floor, telling McConnell that he considered any guarantee surrounding the filibuster to be an extraneous demand departing from the arrangement that the two parties worked out the last time there was a 50-50 Senate, in 2001. Whats fair is fair, Schumer said, noting that McConnell changed Senate rules twice as majority leader. Leader McConnells proposal is unacceptable, and it wont be accepted. While the two leaders later that day cut a deal delaying Trumps impeachment trial by two weeks with a nudge from Biden, who wants to see progress on Cabinet confirmations there is no visible progress on structuring the Senate. Without an organizing accord, Republicans remain in the majority of most Senate committees veteran GOP lawmakers such as Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Richard C. Shelby (Ala.) and James M. Inhofe (Okla.) continue as chairs of key panels while veteran Democrats eager to seize the gavels and advance their long dormant agendas can only wait and wonder. Panel budgets and staff hiring also remain frozen pending a deal. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), for instance, is in line to be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and thus oversee Bidens appointments to the Justice Department and federal bench, as well as key legislative items including an immigration overhaul and police reforms. Asked last week about the status of the panels chairmanship, he said, I have no idea. Bidens least controversial Cabinet nominees have moved forward in the first days of his administration, thanks to the unanimous consent of Republicans: Avril Haines was confirmed as director of national intelligence and Lloyd Austin was confirmed as defense secretary last week, while Janet Yellen is set to be confirmed as treasury secretary on Monday. But other, more controversial nominees could remain in limbo while McConnell and Schumer remain at an impasse. Many senators and aides believe the matter can be settled quickly with Schumer acknowledging reality that many Democrats, including Biden, are not convinced that the filibuster needs to be scrapped. Biden, who spent 36 years as a senator before becoming vice president in 2009, said in July that hed take a look at filibuster elimination if Republicans bogged his agenda down in the Senate: Its going to depend on how obstreperous they become. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated Friday that Biden had not yet reached that point, saying he intended to work with both Schumer and McConnell to advance his pandemic relief proposal: He wants it to be a bipartisan bill. Advancing that legislation absent GOP cooperation would not necessarily require changing long-standing Senate rules. Democrats are already eyeing the special budgetary procedure known as reconciliation, which can allow fiscal matters involving taxation and spending to pass with a simple majority vote. Republicans used it during the Trump administration, for instance, as a vehicle for partisan health care and tax bills. But there are nonbudgetary matters that reconciliation simply cannot be used for including key Democratic agenda items such as climate-change legislation, expansions of civil rights and voting access, gun restrictions and more items that have little, if any, GOP buy-in. That stands to only compound the already immense pressure to ditch the rule a campaign that is already being pushed by former senators and Senate aides, opinion journalists with considerable influence inside the Democratic caucus and by a legion of activists that emerged as a potent force during the Trump administration. Fix Our Senate, a coalition of progressive and labor groups formed to advocate for filibuster elimination, has already launched a six-figure ad campaign and plans to deploy field operatives in states where Democratic senators has expressed reluctance to ditch the rule. There is absolutely no reason to give Sen. McConnell months and months to prove what we absolutely know that he is going to continue his gridlock and dysfunction from the minority, said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the group. The pressure is also coming from within the Democratic caucus itself, where key voices are urging Schumer not to let Republicans weaponize Senate rules even as McConnell threatens to paint them as hypocrites for abandoning their pledges of bipartisanship. Millions of people are giving up on their government because theyre hurting, and we are not responding, said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats and will have a key role in the reconciliation process as the incoming Budget Committee chairman. We have an enormous agenda and we have got to move as quickly as we can, and in my view weve got to use all of the tools that are available. The path ahead is likely to be decided by a small group of moderate Democrats, elected from red and purple states, who have signaled support for keeping the filibuster while hinting that their patience for partisan obstruction might not be infinite. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has been the most outspoken Democratic opponent of changing Senate rules and has sought to assemble a bipartisan cadre of centrist senators willing to hammer out deals across the aisle. Other Democratic senators including Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have also signaled support for the status quo while also hinting that GOP stonewalling could change their minds. Manchin told reporters last week that while his mind hadnt changed on preserving the filibuster, he backed Schumer as he seeks to hammer out an operating accord with McConnell. And he signaled that, when it comes to a dysfunctional Senate, there is one Democrat he may take his cues from going forward. If theres one person who can make it work, its Joe Biden, he said, adding the president understands how this place used to work, how it should work and how it can work if it doesnt work under Joe Biden, it doesnt work at all. Read more at PowerPost
Justice Department, FBI debate not charging some of the Capitol rioters - The Washington Post
Law enforcement officials are considering forgoing charges against those who went into Congress but are not linked to violence, threats or destruction.
Justice Department officials have promised a relentless effort to identify and arrest those who stormed the Capitol that day, but internally there is robust back-and-forth about whether charging them all is the best course of action. That debate comes at a time when officials are keenly sensitive that the credibility of the Justice Department and the FBI are at stake in such decisions, given the apparent security and intelligence failures that preceded the riot, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal deliberations. Trump entertained plan to install an attorney general who would help him pursue baseless election fraud claims Federal officials estimate that roughly 800 people surged into the building, though they caution that such numbers are imprecise, and the real figure could be 100 people or more in either direction. The Post obtained hours of video footage, some exclusively, and placed it within a digital 3-D model of the building. (TWP) Among those roughly 800 people, FBI agents and prosecutors have so far seen a broad mix of behavior from people dressed for military battle, moving in formation, to wanton vandalism, to simply going with the crowd into the building. FBI report warned of war day before Capitol riot Due to the wide variety of behavior, some federal officials have argued internally that those people who are known only to have committed unlawful entry and were not engaged in violent, threatening or destructive behavior should not be charged, according to people familiar with the discussions. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Jan. 22 announced the National Security Council will build new capability to focus on domestic extremism. (The Washington Post) Other agents and prosecutors have pushed back against that suggestion, arguing that it is important to send a forceful message that the kind of political violence and mayhem on display Jan. 6 needs to be punished to the full extent of the law, so as to discourage similar conduct in the future. There are a host of other factors complicating the discussions, many of which center not around the politics of the riot, but the real-world work of investigators and prosecutors, these people said. The Justice Department has already charged more than 135 individuals with committing crimes in or around the Capitol building, and many more are expected to be charged in the coming weeks and months. By mid-January, the FBI had already received more than 200,000 tips from the public about the riot, in addition to news footage and police officer testimony. There is absolute resolve from the Department of Justice to hold all who intentionally engaged in criminal acts at the Capitol accountable, Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in an email. We have consistently made clear that we will follow the facts and evidence and charge individuals accordingly. We remain confident that the U.S. District Court for Washington, DC can appropriately handle the docket related to any resulting charges. The primary objective for authorities is to determine which individuals, if any, planned, orchestrated or directed the violence. To that end, the FBI has already found worrying linkages within such extremist groups as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters, and is looking to see if those groups coordinated with each other to storm the building, according to people familiar with the investigation. Prosecutors have signaled they are looking to bring charges of seditious conspiracy against anyone who planned and carried out violence aimed at the government a charge that carries a maximum possible prison sentence of 20 years. Evidence builds against self-styled militia members But even as Justice Department officials look to bring those types of cases, they privately acknowledge those more determined and dangerous individuals may have operated within a broader sea of people who rushed through the doors but didnt do much else, and prosecutors will ultimately have to decide if all of those lesser offenders should be charged. Officials insisted they are not under pressure in regards to timing of decisions about how to handle those type of cases. For one thing, investigators are still gathering evidence, and agents could easily turn up additional photos or online postings that show a person they initially believed was harmless had, in fact, encouraged or engaged in other crimes. Investigators also expect that some of those charged in the riot will eventually cooperate and provide evidence against others, and that could change their understanding of what certain people said or did that day, these people said. Nevertheless, these people said, some in federal law enforcement are concerned that charging people solely with unlawful entry, when they are not known to have committed any other bad acts, could lead to losses if they go to trial. If an old man says all he did was walk in and no one tried to stop him, and he walked out and no one tried to stop him, and thats all we know about what he did, thats a case we may not win, one official said. Another official noted most of those arrested so far have no criminal records. Meanwhile, defense lawyers for some of those charged are contemplating something akin to a Trump defense that the president or other authority figures gave them permission or invited them to commit an otherwise illegal act. If you think of yourself as a soldier doing the bidding of the commander in chief, you dont try to hide your actions. You assume you will be held up as a hero by the nation, criminal defense lawyers Teri Kanefield and Mark Reichel wrote last week. Such a defense might not forestall charges but could be effective at trial or sentencing. Trumps looming impeachment trial in the Senate will also focus further attention on his actions and raise questions about the culpability of followers for the misinformation spread by leaders around bogus election-fraud claims rejected by courts and state voting officials. Its not a like a bunch of people gathered on their own and decided to do this, its not like a mob. Its people who were asked to come by the president, encouraged to come by the president, and encouraged to do what they did by the president and a number of others, said one attorney representing defendants charged in the breach who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal strategy. Prosecutors have other options. For rioters with no previous criminal records or convictions and whose known behavior inside the Capitol was not violent or destructive, the government could enter into deferred plea agreements, a diversion program akin to pretrial probation in which prosecutors agree to drop charges if a defendant commits no offenses over a certain time period. Such a resolution would not result in even a misdemeanor conviction, and has been used before in some cases involving individuals with a history of mental illness who were arrested for jumping the White House fence. Criminal defense attorneys note there may be further distinctions between individuals who may have witnessed illegal activity or otherwise had reason to know they were entering a restricted area, and those for whom prosecutors cant show such awareness. There is also a question over whether charging all of the rioters could swamp the federal court system. In 2019, D.C. federal courts recorded only about 430 criminal cases, and fewer than 300 last year, when the legal system slowed significantly due to the pandemic. Many of those cases, however, had multiple defendants. The workload of prosecuting the rioters could be eased if some of the cases were farmed out to other U.S. attorney offices around the country, but so far D.C. prosecutors have shown no interest in doing so. The law generally requires that individuals be prosecuted in the district in which a crime occurred. The crime happened here. Prosecutors and judges can see the crime scene from their office windows. I find it strange anyone would suggest it be done anywhere else, a person familiar with the investigation said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an internal debate. Beyond all the evidence-gathering and charging decisions left to do, federal officials concede there will likely be some number of people who were there that day and are simply never identified, due to some combination of luck, masks or lack of social media posts. Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.
Turned off by Biden’s approach, GOP opposition to stimulus relief intensifies - Washington Post
Biden may find he can get a big plan or a bipartisan plan — but not both.
Bidens relief package is being declared dead on arrival by senior Senate Republicans, some of whom say there has been little, if any, outreach from the Biden team to get their support. Liberals are demanding the president abandon attempts to make a bipartisan deal altogether and instead ram the massive legislation through without GOP votes. And outside groups are turning up the pressure for Biden and the Democrats who control Congress to enact economic relief quickly, even if it means cutting Republicans out of the deal. In the face of these competing pressures, Biden may discover he can get a big covid-19 stimulus bill or a bipartisan deal but not both. The path Biden chooses with his first major piece of legislation could set the tone for the remainder of his first term in office, revealing whether he can make good on his promise to unify Congress and the country. Its important that Democrats deliver for America. If the best path to that is to do it in a way that can bring Republicans along, Im all in favor of that, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. But if Republicans want to cut back to the point that were not delivering what needs to be done, then we need to be prepared to fight them. Our job is to deliver for the American people. Publicly, top aides insist Biden is serious about wanting a bipartisan deal on the relief bill. They say this should be achievable given the magnitude of the economic and health-care crisis besetting the nation a year after the pandemic began, with more than 412,000 dead and the economy newly shedding jobs. Some Democrats have expressed optimism that GOP frustration with how the Trump administration ended could convince some Republicans to be more open to a fresh start with a Democratic president, especially since longtime lawmakers know Biden from his decades in the Senate and as vice president. But when Bidens relief plan rang in at nearly $2 trillion this month, and included liberal priorities like an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, some Republicans saw it as a sign that Biden wasnt really serious about getting their support. Even those Republicans who have suggested theyre open to making a deal have made clear that the package would need to undergo significant changes. I suspect the whole package is a nonstarter, but its got plenty of starters in it. And a lot of them are things that we proposed in terms of more assistance to the states, said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), referring to money for vaccine distribution and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Theres some things in there that arent going to happen. Theres some things that can happen. And thats how this process should work. Outreach to GOP lawmakers before and after the plans release appears to have occurred only at the staff level so far and has been confined to a limited number of senators, including members of a bipartisan group who helped break a stalemate over coronavirus relief legislation late last year. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Jan. 21 defended President Biden's plan for 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days. (The Washington Post) On Sunday, Biden economic adviser Brian Deese is scheduled to directly brief the senators in that group on a Zoom call. But as of Friday, Senate GOP leadership had not been formally briefed, and multiple GOP lawmakers who are part of the bipartisan talks said they had heard nothing from the White House, even though Biden pitched himself on the campaign trail as a bipartisan dealmaker. I have not personally [heard from the White House], and Im disappointed in that, not about me but about, you know, its one thing to talk about outreach, another thing to do it, said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a senior lawmaker who is a member of the bipartisan group that will confer Sunday with Deese. Its much more successful around here if you try to get the bipartisanship at the start so that its a foundation of trust, Portman added. Trump impeachment trial will start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says Instead, Biden unveiled his $1.9 trillion plan without any bipartisan buy-in, leaving Republicans to question the need for such a big new package coming on the heels of the $900 billion Congress approved in December for economic relief, vaccines and more. Including that legislation, Congress has already devoted about $4 trillion to fighting the pandemic and the economic devastation it wrought. I look forward to hearing their views. My own thought is that we should only be spending money where there is need that needs to be met, and so Id like to see the figures and calculations behind their proposal, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another member of the bipartisan group, said. I think theres a recognition on both sides of the aisle that where theres need, we in Congress have a responsibility to help meet that. But we dont want to be borrowing money thats not absolutely necessary. Questioned about how a nearly $2 trillion package filled with proposals that are anathema to Republicans could be described as a bipartisan overture, White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted it was. Is unemployment insurance only an issue that Democrats in the country want? Do only Democrats want their kids to go back to schools? Do only Democrats want vaccines to be distributed across the country? Psaki said at a White House press briefing. He feels that package is designed for bipartisan support. She said Biden would be getting personally engaged in finding support for his plan. Hes very eager to be closely involved, roll up the sleeves and make the calls himself, she said. The Trump economy left Black Americans behind. Heres how they want Biden to narrow the gaps. Psaki said that in trying to sell the package to Republicans, the White House approach would be to ask them which priorities they would cut. The wide-ranging proposal includes a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals, an extension and increase in emergency unemployment benefits that would otherwise expire in mid-March, and an enhanced child tax credit, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars to help schools reopen and increase testing and vaccine production and delivery. Some Republicans are open to a number of these provisions but view others such as the minimum wage increase as unrelated to the coronavirus and designed to appease an antsy liberal base more than garner bipartisan backing. Bidens opening order was such an overreach that instead of opening negotiations, it just scared Republicans away, said Brian Riedl, policy expert at the libertarian-leaning Manhattan Institute and a former GOP Senate aide. Riedl said Republicans may be open to a deal somewhere between $500 billion and $1 trillion but that Bidens opening bid made that less likely. The opening offer can be so extreme it can poison the well and push the other side away. While insisting that Bidens preference is for a bipartisan deal, Psaki has repeatedly declined to rule out moving forward under special Senate rules that allow legislation to pass with a simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes normally required. That was how President Barack Obama enacted the Affordable Care Act and how Republicans passed their massive tax cut early in President Donald Trumps first term. The procedure could allow Biden to pass his coronavirus relief package with only Democratic votes. But the path forward under this so-called budget reconciliation process could be tricky. The Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, giving Democrats control only because Vice President Harris can cast tie-breaking votes. That means any individual Democratic senator could hold the legislation up with an array of demands. Also, Senate leaders thus far havent even been able to agree on a deal on how to operate the Senate with a 50-50 split, and theyre also still arguing over the timing and process for Trumps impeachment trial. Both issues are emerging as impediments to Biden getting his Cabinet confirmed and also probably need to get resolved before the Senate could take up a relief bill. Democrats in Congress and within the White House are split on how much time to devote to trying to strike a bipartisan deal before turning to budget reconciliation and leaving Republicans behind. Biden was vice president when Obama devoted many weeks to futile negotiations with Republicans over the Affordable Care Act, before finally passing the legislation without a single GOP vote. Biden was also involved in negotiations over the $787 billion stimulus bill Obama signed in February 2009 in the throes of the financial crisis. Many Democrats wanted a larger package at the time, but Republicans balked; subsequently, many economists have concluded that a larger stimulus bill would have helped the nation climb out of the Great Recession more quickly. With that history in mind, budget reconciliation has emerged as the clear preference for many liberal Democrats, especially in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested in a conversation with donors Thursday evening that she was open to advancing Bidens proposal via the reconciliation process in coming weeks, according to a person familiar with her remarks. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm the private comments, which were first reported by Punchbowl News. House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said he wasnt aware of a final decision on how to proceed but that Democrats were wary of spending too much time negotiating with Republicans at a moment of urgency. To haggle over every little provision of Bidens plan (with Republicans) might not be able to be done on a timely basis, Yarmuth said. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), chair of the New Democrat Coalition, noted that last year Republicans refused for months to pass any additional relief, after a spate of legislation in the spring, before finally agreeing to another bill in December. We cant let that happen again, DelBene said. People need certainty and visibility going forward, and thats why this package is so important.
Biden sticks to vaccine goals nearly met by his predecessor - The Washington Post
The accelerating pace of inoculations suggests that he inherited a program poised to meet his target of 100 million doses in 100 days.
My eyes got big when I saw that, Kavita Patel, a physician who served in the Obama White House, said at the time. Thats not going to be easy to fulfill. Six weeks later, the same target appears much less ambitious because of greater manufacturing certainty and the increased pace of inoculations in the final days of the Trump administration. To defend the objective, Biden and his top aides have selectively interpreted that progress and issued broad-brush promises about expanding the availability of critical supplies, part of an effort to emphasize a break with the policies of their predecessors. Even with vaccine shortages and bottlenecks in delivery, the pace needed to meet the new administrations goal 1 million doses administered per day was already achieved Friday and four other daysof the previous eight, according to Washington Post data. The accelerating speedof the program undercuts assertions by some Biden advisers that they were left no plan by the Trump administration and suggests they need only to keep their feet on the pedal to clear the bar they set for themselves. I dont think they would have set those goals if they had any concern about being able to meet them, said Dan Sena, a Democratic strategist who helped chart the partys takeover of the Housemajorityin 2018. I think Americans across the country are going to remember two things: the day they got vaccinated and day they went back to school or to work. To ensure success, top Biden aides have presented unflattering portraits of the state of the immunization campaign begun by their predecessors and promised to overhaul the use of the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law used to compel production of critical items. But the Trump administration used the law 18 times in relation to vaccine production, according to current and former officials. Biden said this week that he was invoking it, which aides said meant directing agencies to explore prioritizing certain contracts. His plan envisions the possible use of this authority in a number of categories, but does not identify specific manufacturers or a timetable for what they would be able to produce, and at what cost to the rest of the supply chain. Aides have stressed the need to acquire more specialized syringes to extract extra doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and German company BioNTech. Those syringes enable six or seven doses from vials that otherwise might contain five. Biden, when asked whether he was aiming too low, bristled at the question. When I announced it, you all said its not possible. Come on, give me a break, man. Its a good start. On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Trump administration had averaged about 500,000 vaccinations a day halfthe 1 million daily needed to meet Bidens target. But the seven-day average has risen steadily, from 482,865 two weeks ago to 1,022,342 Friday, according to Post data. Before leaving the administration Wednesday, Paul Mango, former deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services, said he looked at the numbers and saw that nearly 3.5 million vaccinations had been completed over the previous 72 hours. Were averaging 1.1 million a day now, he said. They would have to slow down not to meet their target. What changed in the new year? The initially slow rollout of the vaccines has sped up, which federal health officials promised it would, in part as states, localities and providers have trained workers and set up clinics. We need to remember that these are new vaccines on new platforms with slightly complex requirements for storage, handling and administration, Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at the end of December. Supply of the shots, while still faroutstripped by demand, has expanded modestly. Manufacturing has become more regular after initial hiccups. Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies whose products have been authorized for emergency use, have each agreed to provide 100 million doses to the federal government by the end of March. Because both vaccines are two-dose regimens, that allotment is enough to fully vaccinate 100 million people. That means that if the Biden administration were to oversee the administration of only 100 million shots in its first 100 days, a sizable portion of the projected supply would remain on the shelves. More important, 1 million vaccinations per day is not nearly enough if the aim is to halt virus transmission in six months, said Peter J. Hotez, a vaccine scientist at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. A better target, he said, would be 300 million vaccinations in the first 100 days an aim he acknowledged would require additional supply. We dont have the vaccine for it, he said. Nor do we have the infrastructure. Psaki said Friday that the administration would work to surpass its target, and it has already announced a raft of policies intended to ramp up distribution and bring additional federal resources to bear on the effort. Were not picking up our bags and leaving at 100 days, she said. What Biden said in December, as he unveiled his health team, was that he would aim for at least 100 million shots, suggesting he was setting a floor, not a ceiling. The goal, which Biden said he had developed in consultation with Anthony S. Fauci, the nations top infectious-disease specialist and a medical adviser to his White House, was packaged with other aims for his first 100 days, including a request that everyonewear masks for that period. Since then, the goal has generated significant confusion, in some ways mirroring the uncertainty about the vaccination goals that the Trump administration had promised to achieve by the end of 2020 20 million people fully vaccinated, 20 million shots administered, or 20 million shots distributed to state and local authorities. The previous administration ended up falling short on every version of that promise. CDC officials were supportive of Bidens 100 million target and considered it a stretch goal that was attainable, according to a federal health official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal deliberations. The framing around the 100 million was deliberately vague, the official said. It was often left unstated whether 100 million shots meant 50 million people fully vaccinated with two doses, or 100 million first shots, the person said, adding, There was meant to be wiggle room. Meanwhile, the president-elects transition team was communicating with manufacturers about their anticipated supply, as well as with national pharmacies about their capacity for immunizations, according to people familiar with the discussions. What Biden meant was simply that 100 million shots would be administered, said Atul Gawande, a former transition adviser and a surgeon affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Bostons Brigham and Womens Hospital. He defended the objective and said the risk of overpromising was acute. Setting expectations is a crucial part of all of this, Gawande said. The message from the previous administration was that by spring, youd see the general public being vaccinated and much of life returning to normal as early as the beginning of summer. That assumed everything would go perfectly. Modeling done by the transition team indicated 100 million shots would mean about 33 million people fully immunized and 67 million fully or partially immunized, according to two people familiar with the estimates. Thats out of an estimated 260 million people in the United States considered eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine, although not all are expected to accept it. Officials knowledgeable about the White House response said there is confidence in the target but reluctance to revise it upward, especially before congressional negotiations over another relief packagedesigned to boost resources for vaccination sites and staffing. There is also uncertainty about whether a third vaccine candidate, developed by Johnson & Johnson, might soon make more doses available. Critically, it is a single-dose regimen that is easier to store and administer. The company could announce trial results within days, setting the stage for emergency clearance if those results are favorable. Experts disagreed about what a reasonable target shouldbe for the first 100 days but said uniformly that Biden should communicate honestly about what his administration can achieve as well as what his predecessors already put in place. Patel, for her part, said she remains apprehensive about the original aim. Julie Morita, a former transition adviser and executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nations largest health philanthropy, said the administration can reassess its aspirations, either down or up, depending on whats learned about the reliability of manufacturing estimates and the capacity of vaccinators. If a good chunk of the speedup happened under the Trump administration, lets celebrate that and say the challenge is now to maintain it, said Matthew Ferrari, an epidemiologist at Pennsylvania State University. We need to be transparent about every aspect of the pandemic, the response and its consequences. Given barriers to distribution and access that remain pronounced, however, Ferrari said 100 million doses seemed like a reasonable target. If the new team gets situated and sees additional possibilities, said David Kimberlin, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, they should say, Its looking doable, and were aiming now for 200 million doses." I think they are just trying to lower expectations, which I think is a very smart strategy, said one former Trump official involved in Operation Warp Speed, the initiative aimed at speeding development of vaccines and therapeutics. We saw what happened to us when we set the expectations high. Amy Goldstein contributed to this report.
Boris Johnson says British coronavirus variant may be more deadly - The Washington Post
The variant, already spreading around the world, was previously reported to be only more contagious.
At a news briefing Friday at 10 Downing Street, Johnson and his advisers gave the first indication that the strain also might be more deadly. Englands chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, offered an example. He said that among 1,000 men in England age 60 or older who get infected, the original virus would kill 10. The new variant, he said, would kill 13 or 14. That would represent a 30 percent rise in mortality, though it is important to note that absolute risk of death remains low. Since the variant was detected in Britain last year, public health officials had stressed that the mutated virus did not appear to make people sicker or increase deaths. So this small but measurable rise in mortality is potentially worrying. Denmark is sequencing all coronavirus samples and has an alarming view of the U.K. variant Vallance did not explain why the variant might be linked to more deaths whether that might relate to something inherent in the strain or to overwhelmed health systems being unable to prevent otherwise survivable cases from becoming deadly. The calculation that the variant might be more lethal came from the governments New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which examined several surveillance studies. Vallance called the new data preliminary. I want to stress that theres a lot of uncertainty around these numbers, and we need more work to get a precise handle on it, he said. But it obviously is a concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility. The variant has been detected in more than 50 countries and is the dominant strain in Britain. Scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it could become predominant in the United States within two months. Britons lament U.K. variant label, as highly contagious version of coronavirus spreads around the world Johnson and his science adviser repeated assertions that existing vaccines remain effective against the original virus and the variant. Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, told science reporters, As grim as it sounds, whether the fatality rate is 1 percent or 1.3 percent doesnt really change the fact that for a minority of people, this is a very dangerous virus that is best avoided. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine and an infectious-disease expert at the University of East Anglia, called the evidence of a slight increase in mortality really disappointing but said it would not change how Britain is fighting the pandemic via a combination of national lockdown and mass vaccinations. The novel coronavirus, like all viruses, is replicating and changing all the time with errors and mutations occurring in its genetic material. Most of those mutations are not important, but some could make a virus more or less infectious, or make people more or less sick. In addition to the U.K. variant, mutations discovered in South Africa and Brazil are being watched closely, as the changes in their genetic makeup might help them elude antibodies produced to fight the original virus. Vallance said of those variants, They have certain features which means they might be less susceptible to vaccines.
Kremlin warns Russians against pro-Navalny protests, detains opposition activists - The Washington Post
The warning and the arrests triggered an outpouring of support for the jailed opposition leader from prominent Russians who usually shun politics.
In a letter reportedly written from prison, Navalny suggested his life was at risk and declared that, "just in case," he has no intention of killing himself. Right now its impossible to further shut up in this situation because once they deal with him, theyll deal with everyone else whos critical in the slightest, said Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of a cult dystopian science fiction trilogy and survival games series, in an interview Friday. If you keep shutting up and you keep pretending that everything is normal, you get the feeling that the situation will deteriorate way faster and it will be completely uncontrollable, said Glukhovsky, whose young fan base includes many gamers. In every looming and sickening dictatorship, if you do not back the newly arrested person, soon they will come after you. Navalnys protest movement, explained The disconnect between the Kremlin and Russian social media influencers underscored Putins problems in reaching beyond his aging, conservative base to connect with the young, urban Russians who want to be part of the modern world. Igor Denisov, the former captain of Russias national soccer team,also came out in support of Navalny. His comments showed the depth of alarm in Russia over Navalnys near-fatal poisoning in August and his imprisonment immediately after he flew home from Germany, where he received treatment. I have never been interested in politics, and I will never be interested in politics, Denisov said. But this is not about politics. He added: I want to support Alexei Navalny and his family, his wife and his children. Alexei should be free. I do respect him. I wish everybody peace and kindness. It is unusual in Russia for sports heroes to speak out politically, but hockey star Artyom Panarin, one of the countrys top players, also posted Free Navalny on Instagram. Russian authorities rounded up members of Navalnys team ahead of Saturdays planned rallies. His press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, tweeted late Thursday that police were pounding on her door telling her she would be detained before the Moscow protest rally. She was jailed Friday for nine days. Georgy Alburov, another member of Navalnys team and co-author of a viral video, Putins Palace: History of the Worlds Biggest Bribe, was jailed Friday for 10 days. The video, which alleges that a massive luxury palace was built for Putin on the Black Sea, has been viewed more than 57 million times. Navalnys team posted a letter Friday on Navalnys Instagram page that he was said to have written in the Matrosskaya Tishina detention center. In it, he thanked supporters after learning from his lawyer that the video had gone viral. He also suggested that its success could anger the Kremlin and that his life was in danger. Therefore, just in case, I declare it is not my plan to hang myself on the window bars, or to open my veins or throat with a sharpened spoon, Navalnys letter said. My psycho-emotional state is completely stable. I know for sure that there are many good people outside my prison and help will come. Political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center predicted that authorities would ignore the mounting pressure to free Navalny as the regime moves to a full-scale authoritarian approach, crushing political opponents and civic activists. They will not listen to anyone, he said. This is a kind of civil war on civil society by the state. Even so, the outpouring of support for Navalny from celebrities and social media influencers, such as popular video blogger Yury Dud, poses a major challenge to the Kremlin, Kolesnikov added. The current young generation is more radical than previous generations, he said. They want to live in a modernized Russian, not an old-fashioned, traditional Russia. This a generation that was born under Putin and is still living under Putin. For them, Navalny is a more inspiring person, if they compare Navalny as a patriotically oriented figure who returns to Russia with Putin, who is much older and more old-fashioned. Russias Interior Ministry warned Friday that tough action would be taken against protesters Saturday. Unsanctioned protests will be regarded as a threat to public order and will be immediately suppressed, it said. Opposition social media pages were shut down. Navalnys wife, Yulia Navalnaya, said Friday on Instagram that she will demonstrate Saturday for myself, for him, for our children, for the values and ideals we share, despite the risk of arrest. I will come out for an amazing, very talented politician who is making Russia better despite all odds, she said. Ill go for the guy who tweets funny jokes and does great investigative work. Ill go for the fearless, courageous man who gets poisoned ... and never gives up no matter what. Im going for the man I love very much. An opposition lawmaker in Novosibirsk, Sergei Boiko, was arrested. Many other members of Navalnys team were arrested in cities across Russia. Lyubov Sobol, a prominent member of Navalnys team, was detained Thursday but released the same night. Despite the crackdown, however, Russian authorities appeared to be losing control of the narrative amid an outpouring of support for Navalny from Russian celebrities. For all those who didnt know it, or who simply doubted: Formerly it was gangsters who committed mayhem, but now the state does it easily, said Dud, the video blogger who has more than 8 million YouTube followers. The biggest risk here is that when lawlessness becomes the norm, very often everyone becomes its victim, including those who once established and enforced this norm. Well-known actress Yana Troyanova posted that Russia was being plundered in a completely insolent way, referring to the Putins Palace video. She called on Russians to join the Saturday protests just to feel that you are a free person. I thought that nothing could surprise me, after assassination attempts, attempts at his life and Yulias life, the numerous political prisoners, she wrote, referring to Navalny and his wife. But I am shocked after this film. Are we going to be silent after this film? Our country is being robbed. A young Russian pop star, Elizaveta Gyrdymova, known as Monetochka, posted a song on Instagram in support of Navalnys freedom. This is not about politics, but about civil society and justice, she commented. Other supporters included rapper Noize MC, popular TV host and blogger Alyona Vodonayeva, actress Varvara Shmykova and news presenter Leonid Parfyonov. I thought such evil kings only existed in some very scary fairy tales. But no, this is our reality, Vodonayeva said, referring to Putin. The first novel in Glukhovskys dystopian science fiction trilogy, Metro 2033, set in the Moscow Metro in a post-apocalyptic world, tells a dark story of fascistic leaders who construct a big lie to fool people to keep them trapped underground after a nuclear holocaust. He said he was not a particular Navalny supporter but that it was impossible to ignore the authoritarian turn after what he called a chain of murderous poisonings, not only of Navalny but of other Kremlin critics. How can you be for the entire state machinery of Russia opposing the only truly independent prominent politician, with first trying to eliminate him physically, he said in an interview Friday. How can you be for banning all kinds of civilized political activity in the country, including penalizing even single [person who] protests, turning Russia definitely into an autocracy, prolonging Putins ability to stay in power personally for another decade and a half from now? Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that protests are illegal and unacceptable. He said provocateurs were behind the protests. There can be only one position the position of the unconditional need to comply with the law and the inadmissibility of organizing illegal actions, and even more so provoking the participation of young people, children and so on in these actions, he said. Russias telecommunications authority, Roskomnadzor, said Friday that social media platforms TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Russias VKontakte were heeding its demands to take down videos urging children to participate in Saturdays protests. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny calls for protests after court orders him to be held for 30 days upon his return Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny detained on his return to Moscow A whistleblowers tale of Vladimir Putins palace - and the crisis of corruption.
‘This is absurd’: Scores of National Guard members banished to Senate parking garage, soldiers say - The Washington Post
“I’ve never in my entire career felt like I’ve been booted onto the curb and told, ‘Figure it out on your own,’ ” a Maryland National Guard member told The Washington Post.
The Guard members have hotel rooms to sleep in, officials said. But soldiers are on duty for a day or two, working shifts a few hours at a time and cannot easily return to their hotels, many of which are in Virginia and Maryland. So they nap wherever they can on concrete, indoor tennis courts, or if they are lucky, on carpet floors. Capitol Police moved the Guard members off the grounds, officials said, as foot traffic from lawmakers and other officials increased in the area. Two soldiers who spoke to The Post estimated hundreds of troops were moved to the garage as officials struggle to find places to put thousands still in Washington. More than 25,000 National Guard members arrived after the Jan 6. Capitol riot to help secure Wednesdays presidential inauguration, and many have already departed. The two soldiers, noncommissioned officers in the Maryland National Guard, said troops inhaled exhaust fumes, shared few toilets with hundreds of soldiers and struggled to sleep under the harsh fluorescent lights. Ive never in my entire career felt like Ive been booted onto the curb and told, Figure it out on your own, said one of the soldiers, who said he served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with reporters. This is absurd, said the other soldier, who said one of his men was nearly struck by a car. Lawmakers, in response to news stories from Politico and other news outlets, channeled outrage on Twitter. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), an Army veteran who served in Iraq, said Thursday night the Guard members were sent back to the Capitol complex. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), also an Army veteran who served in Iraq, said Capitol Police officers apologized to the troops. Both soldiers said austere quarters are realities of the profession. But these conditions, they said, unnecessarily hamstring their duties. Their spaces have few electrical outlets to charge smartphones, they said, which are used for mission planning and to keep in contact with one another. As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, U.S. Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area outside of the Capitol. They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities, said Capt. Edwin Nieves Jr., a D.C. National Guard spokesman. One portable toilet used by soldiers was overflowing onto the sidewalk, a photo obtained by The Post shows. Both Maryland soldiers said the coronavirus is raging among National Guard members. One said he personally knows several soldiers who have been infected. The soldier laughed when asked by a reporter to describe the protocols in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. Theres none, he said. We are on top of each other all day, every day. Weve given up. Nieves did not immediately return a request for comment about coronavirus protocols. Some Guard members said the conditions were not as bad as suggested on social media. One member from the Wisconsin National Guard said they have rested in the garage between their shifts for days. It is uncomfortable, but there are not many places to easily put thousands of soldiers in the District, he said. Some lawmakers offered their offices in the wake of viral photos of Guard members on concrete floors. Yeah this is not okay, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted. My office is free this week to any service members whod like to use it for a break or take nap on the couch. Well stock up on snacks for you all too. But one of the soldiers said he doubted the motivations of politicians eager to score public relations wins, noting that lawmakers were happy to take photos of themselves delivering pizza after photos of sleeping soldiers in the Capitol went viral. Now I feel like a wet paper towel, he said. You wiped me down and threw me away. Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.
India is giving away millions of coronavirus vaccine doses as a tool of diplomacy - The Washington Post
The Indian government has sent free vaccines to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives.
Since Wednesday, the Indian government has sent free doses to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives more than 3.2 million in total. Donations to Mauritius, Myanmar and Seychelles are set to follow. Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are next on the list. The shipments reflect one of Indias unique strengths: It is home to a robust vaccine industry, including Serum Institute of India, one of the worlds largest vaccine makers. Early in the pandemic, Serum Institute formed a partnership to produce the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. By this year, it had already stockpiled 80 million doses. Some of that production will be delivered this month to the Covax initiative backed by the World Health Organization to distribute vaccines to poorer countries. On Thursday, a fire broke out at a building under construction at Serum Institutes headquarters in which five people died, New Delhi Television reported. Serum Institute said the blaze would not impact its production of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In the race to combat the pandemic, several countries are using vaccine production as a route to enhance their global influence. But the Indian government seems to be the first to deliver multiple gifts to neighboring countries. China has made a concerted push to sell its vaccines to countries around the globe for months but only recently announced donations to Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines. It is not clear if the free vaccines have been shipped. On Thursday, Pakistans foreign minister had a call with his Chinese counterpart and announced that China would donate 500,000 vaccine doses by Jan. 31. Indias diplomatic initiative has its own hashtag #VaccineMaitri, or vaccine friendship and received a high-profile plug from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India is deeply honoured to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community, he wrote on Twitter. The push comes at a time when the virus is in retreat in India. The country is a distant second to the United States in terms of coronavirus cases, with about 10.6 million. Daily cases have dropped significantly since last fall. India launched its nationwide vaccination drive, one of the worlds largest, on Jan. 16. The country is aiming to vaccinate 300 million people by the summer, starting with 10 million health-care personnel. Regulators fast-tracked the approval of two vaccines the AstraZeneca vaccine and, more controversially, a vaccine called Covaxin developed in India that does not yet have efficacy data. So far India is providing the AstraZeneca vaccine to its neighbors. Some analysts questioned whether the donations would have a lasting impact on existing sources of tension, such as a boundary dispute with Nepal. You have neighbors who resent Indias overweening ways as it is, said Manoj Joshi, a foreign policy analyst and senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. I dont think theyre going to be so terribly grateful that they forget all that. Conspicuously absent from the list of countries receiving free vaccine doses is Pakistan, Indias rival and neighbor to the west. The relationship between the two countries hit a nadir in 2019 when they engaged in their first aerial dogfight in nearly 50 years following a terrorist attack in Kashmir. Pakistan recently approved the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has not approached India about a potential shipment, said two Indian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. Well cross that bridge when we come to it, one of the officials said. A spokesman for Pakistans Foreign Ministry referred queries to the Health Ministry, which did not respond. India is monitoring its vaccine supply on a weekly basis to make sure it can meet both domestic needs and demands from other countries, one of the Indian officials said. Commercial exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine including to Brazil and Morocco will begin within days. Countries that received the free vaccine doses this week expressed their thanks. On Wednesday, an Indian military transport plane landed at the only international airport in Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan nation wedged between India and China. It carried 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, enough to vaccinate more than one-tenth of the total population targeted for immunization. Lotay Tshering, Bhutans prime minister, said in a statement that the Bhutanese people were immensely grateful for the doses. It is of unimaginable value when precious commodities are shared even before meeting your own needs. Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report. Who will make coronavirus vaccines for the developing world? India holds the key. India launches what could be the worlds largest vaccination campaign. But its unclear if one of the vaccines works.
Biden fires Trump-appointed labor board general counsel who refused to resign - The Washington Post
The fracas began earlier Wednesday when the Biden administration asked now-former general counsel Peter Robb to resign, a White House official said, a precedent-breaking move.
But Robb, a Trump appointee with 10 months left in his Senate-confirmed role, refused. In a letter to the White House, he called the request unprecedented since the nascence of the National Labor Relations Act and said his removal would set an unfortunate precedent, according to Law360. Biden reportedly told Robb he should step down by 5 p.m. or he would be fired. By 8:45 p.m., the general counsel position on the NLRBs online organizational chart was listed as vacant. A spokesperson for the NLRB declined to comment, and Robb did not respond to an emailed request. Labor groups celebrated Robbs dismissal and hailed it as a welcome departure from Trump administration policies they deemed hostile toward workers and unions. Biden, who pledged on the eve of the election to be the most pro-union president youve ever seen, has sought to appeal to working-class Americans and received several key endorsements from organized labor. Advocates said they hope the action is the first of many such changes. This is exactly the kind of aggressive posture that Ive been hoping to see from the new administration, Angus Johnston, a historian and founder of StudentActivism.net, wrote on Twitter. Robb, a former management lawyer who was involved in President Ronald Reagans infamous battle against the air traffic controllers union, brought a pro-business approach to the board, which is tasked with overseeing union elections and upholding workers rights to organize. Republicans decried Robbs firing and said Biden was jeopardizing the agencys independence. Other critics pointed out that President Barack Obama did not fire Ronald Meisburg, the boards top prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush and served out his term, which lasted more than a year after the Democrat took office. Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), the Republican leader of the House Education and Labor Committee, said Bidens request for Robbs resignation was inappropriate and an outrageous ultimatum. I urge President Biden to rescind this ill-advised and divisive action against a Senate-confirmed official and allow General Counsel Robb to finish the job he was appointed to do independently and free from political influence, Foxx said in a statement. Major labor unions, like the Service Employees International Union and the Communications Workers of America, were among those to raise concerns during Robbs tenure, and they had pushed Biden to sack him. Emma Kinema, an organizer with CWA, said pressure on Democrats from her union and others made the change happen. Terrence Wise, a McDonalds employee in Kansas City and an activist with Fight for $15 and a Union, said that Robb stood in our way. It really is a new day, Wise said in a statement. By asking Peter Robb to step down on day one, President Biden is already showing how things are changing in Washington. Its proof this administration is putting workers ahead of giant corporations and their cronies.