Reporters in the room said there was audible laughter after the video of Hawley running played. Hawley was the first senator to declare he would object to certifying the election.

– Maanvi Singh

The hearing has restarted with more from Pat Cipollone’s interview. He is describing White House officials as near-unanimous in wanting the rioters out of the Capitol as it was being attacked.

I can’t think of anybody, you know, on that day, who didn’t want people to get out of the Capitol,” Cipollone said.

Asked what the president wanted, Cipollone appeared to invoke executive privilege.

Mark Meadows said ‘Get Ivanka down here’, according to Cipollone

“Get Ivanka down here”. That’s what chief of staff Mark Meadows said as White House officials tried to figure out how to get Trump to stop the rioters at the Capitol, according to testimony from then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

“I remember him getting Ivanka involved, said ‘get Ivanka down here.’ He felt that would be important”, Cipollone said.

Ivanka Trump is, of course, the president’s daughter, who was an adviser in the White House and told the committee she never believed Trump’s claims the 2020 election was stolen.

It seems the House GOP twitter account has deleted tweets attacking Sarah Matthews and describing tonight’s testimony was “heresy”.

Matthews, who has described herself as a “lifelong Republican” and has worked as a staffer for the House GOP, was previously derided as a “pawn” in Nancy Pelosi’s “witch hunt.”

The Twitter account is run by Representative Elise Stefanik’s staff.

– Maanvi Singh

The January 6 committee is now taking a 10-minute recess.

Just before they broke, several former top officials confirmed that they believed ensuring a peaceful transfer of power was among the president’s duties, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared Kushner and Keith Kellogg, Pence’s national security adviser.

“Rather than uphold his duty to the Constitution, president Trump allowed the mob to achieve the delay that he hoped with keep him in power,” congresswoman Elaine Luria said as the hearing’s first half concluded.

Official said Secret Service agents ‘called to say goodbye to family’

Secret Service agents feared for their lives as the Capitol was stormed, an unnamed White House security official testified to the committee.

“There’s a lot of yelling, a lot of… very personal phone calls over the radio,” the official said. Others “called to say goodbye to a family member”.

“I think there were discussions of reinforcements coming, but again, it is just chaos. They’re just yelling”, the official continued. “It sounds like that we came very close to either the service having to use lethal options, or worse.”


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Explosive testimony piles pressure on Trump – how likely are criminal charges?

In six televised hearings, the House January 6 committee has presented extraordinary testimony about Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and its culmination, the deadly attack on the US Capitol by a far-right mob.

The committee is made up of seven Democrats and two rebel Republicans, Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, who refused to follow their party in bending the knee to Trump.

Set free of bipartisan considerations when the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, withdrew cooperation, the panel has been able to act in a purely prosecutorial manner. It has also worked on how to present its findings, using TV industry expertise to present hearings honed, contained and aimed at convincing the American people Trump should never be president again.

The committee cannot charge Trump with a crime. But the US Department of Justice can, a possibility that has stoked intense speculation in Washington and the world.

Here are the key legal issues at stake:

Can the committee make criminal referrals?

Yes. It has done so in the cases of Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro, Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino, Trump aides who refused to cooperate. Pleading not guilty to criminal contempt of Congress, Bannon and Navarro face time in prison. The DoJ declined to charge Scavino and Meadows.

Will the committee refer Trump?

The chair, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, has said he does not expect to do so. However, that statement prompted reports of disagreement on the panel and also came before Cheney, the vice-chair, revealed possible attempts to intimidate witnesses.

On Wednesday, CNN asked a committee member, Pete Aguilar of California, if he believed witness tampering had occurred.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “I think that that’s something that should be looked at by our committee and potentially by the Department of Justice.”

Asked if a referral had been made, Aguilar said: “I’m not going to talk about the investigative steps we have taken. But what I will say is I think that those statements speak for themselves [as evidence of] … dangerous behavior.”

One of the witness statements which Cheney read on Tuesday was reportedly made by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former close aide to Trump and Meadows who testified for two dramatic hours.

Could the DoJ charge Trump?

The committee has turned up extensive evidence that suggests a case could be made.

Hutchinson appeared to draw Trump closer to strong links with extremist groups which attacked the Capitol, saying she recalled “hearing the word ‘Oath Keeper’ and hearing the word ‘Proud Boys’ closer to the planning of the January 6 rally, when Mr Giuliani would be around” the White House.

Rudy Giuliani was Trump’s personal attorney. Among more than 870 people charged over the Capitol attack, members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

But to many, one passage in Hutchinson’s testimony seemed to draw Trump the closest yet to demonstrable criminal conduct.

Hutchinson said Trump knew the crowd for his speech near the White House on 6 January 2021 contained armed individuals, some with AR-15 rifles and handguns, but still told his audience to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” to stop certification of election results. Trump told the crowd he would march with them and, according to Secret Service witnesses, was furious to be denied.

Trump tried to grab car’s steering wheel to go to Capitol Hill, former aide testifies – video

David French, senior editor at the Dispatch and the author of Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation, wrote: “Hutchinson’s sworn testimony closes a gap in the criminal case against Trump, and Trump is closer to a credible prosecution than ever before.”


As French described, Trump’s actions on and around January 6 appear to meet standards for prosecution set in a 1969 supreme court case, Brandenburg v Ohio, which involved a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Then, the court “overturned Brandenburg’s conviction, holding that even speech that threatened violence or disorder was protected by the first amendment unless ‘such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action’”.

French wrote: “Note the elements of intentionality, likelihood and imminence. The imminence element is easiest to satisfy. The mob was right there. It marched to the Capitol right away, even as Trump was speaking. But what about intentionality and likelihood?”

In French’s view, Trump demonstrably summoned the mob, knew it was armed and dangerous, told it to “fight like hell” and tried to march with it. He then inflamed it further with a tweet in which he derided Mike Pence, his vice-president, for not supporting his scheme.

Is the DoJ investigating Trump?

Yes. This week, the New York Times profiled Thomas Windom, “an aggressive if little-known federal prosecutor” who is “pulling together [the] disparate strands” of DoJ Trump investigations.

According to the Times, Windom, 44, is “working under the close supervision of Attorney General Merrick B Garland’s top aides [and] executing the department’s time-tested, if slow-moving, strategy of working from the periphery of the events inward”.

As examples of such work, the paper mentioned a raid on a former DoJ employee’s house and the seizure of a phone belonging to John Eastman, the law professor who cooked up Trump’s scheme to reject electoral college results.

Hutchinson’s testimony also increased the heat on Trump’s closest aides. Punchbowl News noted that though the DoJ declined to charge Meadows for defying the January 6 committee, “following more damning testimony on Meadows’ role in everything leading to the insurrection”, the DoJ could rethink that position.

The DoJ does appear to be closing the net on Trump. Whether it chooses to haul in such a big fish is a very big question indeed.

So will Trump be indicted?

As French wrote, “Criminal charges require both evidence and political will.

“The evidence against Trump continues to mount, both in Washington DC and in Georgia, where there is substantial evidence supporting both federal and state charges for his effort to threaten and intimidate Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to ‘find 12,000 votes’.”

‘The numbers don’t lie’: Georgia officials debunk Donald Trump’s election fraud claim – video

Raffensperger has appeared with other Republican state officials before the January 6 committee, providing damning testimony of his own.

Most observers agree that for the DoJ to indict a former president, and at that a potential presidential candidate in 2024, would set a dangerous precedent, particularly given Trump’s strong and demonstrably violent following on the far right.

But, French wrote, “there is another precedent that is perhaps more grave and more dangerous – deciding that presidents are held to lower standards of criminal behavior than virtually any other American citizen.”

What does Liz Cheney think the DoJ should do?

The Wyoming Republican’s anti-Trump stance seems set to cost her a seat in Congress. Regardless, on Wednesday she tweeted French’s words to the world.

The same day, Cheney went to the Republican holy of holies: the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Describing “a domestic threat that we have never faced before”, the daughter of Dick Cheney, George W Bush’s vice-president, told her party: “To argue that the threat posed by Trump can be ignored is to cast aside the responsibility that every citizen – every one of us – bears to perpetuate the republic.

“We must not do that, and we cannot do that.”


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Abortion banned in multiple US states just hours after Roe v Wade overturned

Abortion was already illegal in multiple US states on Saturday, with bans introduced within hours of Roe v Wade being overturned, as cities erupted in protest at the landmark ruling.

It came after the US supreme court on Friday abolished the constitutional right to abortion, more than 50 years after it was established, leaving individual states to decide. It is ultimately expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states.

According to a website affiliated with Planned Parenthood, the US sexual healthcare organisation, it remains legal to travel out of state to get an abortion.

Protests break out outside US supreme court after ruling overturns abortion rights – video

Among the first states to outlaw almost all abortions was Utah where, after the ruling, its abortion ban had already come into effect on Friday night.

Utah’s Republican state senator, Daniel McCay, who sponsored the state’s “trigger law”, said it would be wrong for Utah women to seek abortions in neighbouring states but he had no immediate plans to stop them from doing so.

Ohio’s ban on most abortions at the first detectable foetal heartbeat – known as the “heartbeat bill” – also came into effect. The 2019 law has been on hold for nearly three years, but after the supreme court’s announcement on Friday, a federal judge agreed to remove a federal court injunction blocking it hours later.

Alabama quickly stopped abortions as its 2019 state abortion ban took effect – making it a crime to perform an abortion at any state of pregnancy, including for rape and incest victims. The only exception is for the sake of the mother’s health.

Soon after the announcement, Arkansas’s health department told the state’s two abortion providers that abortions were now banned under a law banning all abortions except to protect the mother’s life in a medical emergency.

What state laws could go into effect
What state laws could go into effect?

Facilities were advised that performing an abortion is now a violation of the law, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

West Virginia’s only abortion clinic stopped performing abortions on Friday. The state has a law that criminalises providing abortions, carrying a three to 10 year prison sentence, but it is unclear how it will proceed on enforcement after the supreme court ruling.

“Roe has never been enough, but in states like West Virginia, it was the only thing protecting abortion access,” said Katie Quinonez, the executive director of Women’s Health Centre of West Virginia.

Now, she said, people from the state seeking abortions would be forced to travel hundreds, or even thousands, of miles to do so and marginalised communities would be worst affected.

In Missouri, the attorney general, Eric Schmitt, said he was acting immediately to enforce a state law banning abortion except in “cases of medical emergency”. It follows a 2019 law that included a trigger provision bringing it into effect after Roe v Wade was overturned.

In some states, including Arizona and Texas, abortion clinics temporarily stopped providing abortions while they assessed the legality of continuing.

Mississippi abortion clinic escort expects ‘suffering and death’ after Roe v Wade overturned – video

Meanwhile, multiple states vowed to protect the right to abortion. In Washington DC, the mayor, Muriel Bowser, responded by declaring it “a pro-choice city”, but warned that as a district, not a state, it was now vulnerable because Congress had oversight of it.

The Democratic governors of California, Washington and Oregon have all vowed to protect abortion rights and help women who travel to the west coast from other states for abortions.

Anticipating an influx of people seeking abortions, they issued a “multi-state commitment” and said they would collaborate to defend patients and medical professionals providing abortions and pledged to “protect against judicial and local law enforcement cooperation with out-of-state investigations, inquiries, and arrests” into abortions in their states.

The Massachusetts Republican governor, Charlie Baker, signed an executive order to protect access to reproductive healthcare.

In North Carolina, its Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, also vowed to protect abortion rights, despite the legislature being controlled by Republicans. In response to the ruling, he put out a fundraising appeal on Friday for assistance in preventing Republicans from getting veto-proof majorities in the state in November.

In New Mexico, where abortion is readily available, the top public prosecutor and Democratic nominee for attorney general, Raúl Torrez, urged politicians to take more action to protect women’s access to abortions, including for those from other states.


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January 6 hearing: five key takeaways from the first primetime Capitol attack inquiry

The first primetime hearing from the House select committee investigating January 6 presented gut-wrenching footage of the insurrection, and a range of testimony to build a case that the attack on the Capitol was a planned coup fomented by Donald Trump.

After a year and half investigation, the committee sought to emphasize the horror of the attack and hold the former president and his allies accountable.

Here are some key takeaways from the night:

Attack on January 6 was the ‘culmination of an attempted coup’

Presenting an overview of the hearing and the ones to come, the House select committee chair, Bennie Thompson, and vice-chair, Liz Cheney, presented their findings that the violent mob that descended on the Capitol was no spontaneous occurrence.

Video testimony from Donald Trump’s attorney general, his daughter and other allies make the case that the former president was working to undermine the 2020 election results and foment backlash. “Any legal jargon you hear about ‘seditious conspiracy’, ‘obstruction of an official proceeding’, ‘conspiracy to defraud the United States’ boils down to this,” Thompson said. “January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup. A brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6, to overthrow the government. Violence was no accident. It represented Trump’s last stand, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.”

Trump’s own team contested election lies

As Trump carried on his lies that victory was stolen from him, his own administration and allies agreed the election was legitimate.

Former attorney general William Barr testified that he expressed Trump’s claims of a stolen election were “bullshit”. A Trump campaign lawyer told Mark Meadows in November “there’s no there there” to support Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud. Even Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, said she was convinced by Barr that the election was legitimate.

‘Complete nonsense’: William Barr and Ivanka Trump reject Trump’s fraud claims – video

A gut-wrenching review of a violent day

Graphic footage and harrowing testimony came from Capitol officer Caroline Edwards, who on the first line of defense against the attacking mob, reiterated the terror of the insurrection.

Edwards compared the scene to a war zone, saying she was slipping on others’ blood as she fought off insurrectionists. “It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw,” she said. The officer sustained burns from a chemical spray deployed against her, and a concussion after a bike rack was heaved on top of her. Officers and lawmakers watching the hearings teared up as they relived the violence of that day.

Work of undermining election continued as violence ensued

As the attack was being carried out, and the mob was threatening Vice-president Mike Pence’s life, Trump and his team continued to work to undermine the election.

After Pence refused to block the election certification, Trump and his supporters turned against him. Trump instigated the riot through a series of tweets.

As the mob cried “Hang Mike Pence!” the committee presented evidence that Trump suggested that might not be a bad idea. “Mike Pence deserves it,” the president then said. As violence ensued, “the Trump legal team in the Willard Hotel war room”, continued attempts to subvert the election results, Cheney said.

Committee presents case that attack was premeditated

Footage and testimony from the film-maker Nick Quested, one of two witnesses at the hearing, suggested the Proud Boys had planned to attack.

On the morning of January 6, Quested testified that he was confused to see “a couple of hundred” Proud Boys walking away from Trump’s speech and toward the Capitol. The committee implied that this might have allowed them to scope out the defenses and weak spots at the Capitol.

‘I experienced it’: film-maker offers glimpse into US Capitol attack – video


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‘More could have been done’: Texas police under scrutiny over response to school shooting

Texas law enforcement agencies are facing escalating criticism over their response to the mass shooting at Robb elementary school in Uvalde, after it emerged that the gunman remained locked inside a classroom for up to an hour while large numbers of police officers were amassed outside the room without taking any action.

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Texas authorities confirmed that the shooter had been locked inside a classroom for an hour before he was confronted and killed. He committed all his 21 murders inside that room – including 19 children and two teachers.

“Numerous” police officers had assembled just outside the room, the authorities admitted, but did not make any attempt to break through the door during that hour. Instead, they decided to pull back and wait until a specialist tactical unit arrived, while evacuating other children and staff from the building.

Victor Escalon, the south Texas regional director of the state’s department of public safety, told the press conference that armed officers arrived at Robb elementary about four minutes after the shooter entered through an unlocked side door at about 11.40am on Tuesday. Yet it was “approximately an hour later” that a tactical team of US Border Patrol arrived at the school, burst into the classroom and killed the gunman.

Asked whether the police officers could have broken into the classroom earlier than an hour into the massacre, Escalon replied: “There are a lot of possibilities. There were numerous officers at that classroom. Once we interview all those officers we’ll have a better idea.”

Escalon appeared to admit that mistakes might have been made when he alluded to the small-town nature of Uvalde, a community of about 20,000 residents close to the Mexican border. “Could anyone have gone [into the classroom] sooner? You have to understand, this is a small town,” he said.

The law enforcement chief’s account of the timeline of the massacre came as the police faced growing pressure to explain how such a devastating gun rampage could have been allowed to unfold over such an exceptional length of time. Hours earlier, it emerged that parents of children trapped inside the school during the rampage had pleaded with officers to do more to stop the carnage even as it was happening.

The Associated Press reported that as the massacre was unfolding, several parents and other local people expressed distress at the apparent hesitation of law enforcement to storm the school. Juan Carranza, who lives beside the school, told the news agency he witnessed women shouting at officers: “Go in there! Go in there!”

‘Our kids are in there’: parents yell at police to enter Texas school – video

Javier Cazares, whose 10-year-old daughter Jacklyn was killed, told AP that police appeared unprepared.

“More could have been done,” he said.

He said he and other residents gathered outside the school started to plan their own rescue mission as the gunman remained locked inside.

“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said.

A video recorded by residents and posted on social media captured in real time the anger of parents at the spectacle of armed police standing outside the school and not going in. “They are all fucking parking outside, man – they need to go in there, they are all in there. The cops aren’t doing shit but standing outside,” shouted one father.

A distressed mother yelled: “I’m going to go. All these kids are in the school and they are just standing there. Our kids are there, my son is right there.”

As tension mounted, a police officer is filmed trying to push parents back from the side of the school. “You know that there are kids, right? There are little kids. They don’t know how to defend themselves from the shooter,” the father said.

It is not clear whether more prompt police action to break into the classroom and take out the shooter could have saved any of the 21 lives lost. Escalon told the press conference that most of the killing appeared to have occurred early on.

“The majority of the gunfire was in the beginning. Numerous, I’d say more than 25,” he said.

Further agonising details of the shooting emerged on Thursday. A 10-year-old boy in the next classroom described how he crouched with a friend under a desk. The boy said at one point the shooter entered his classroom and threatened him.

Uvalde was the 213th mass shooting in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent database. It defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed.

Robb elementary was the 27th US school to have experienced a shooting this year, Education Week reported.

The horror of so many children dying in a classroom has prompted renewed soul-searching at all levels of American public life. Joe Biden attempted on Wednesday to counter resistance from Republicans in Congress to basic gun regulations by saying that “the second amendment is not absolute”.

Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut, which saw the devastating Sandy Hook school shooting almost a decade ago in which 20 young children were killed, is leading attempts to enlist Republican support for gun control reform. He is known to have spoken with two Republican senators – Susan Collins from Maine and Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania.

The talks are focusing on FBI background checks for all firearms sales and a so-called “red flag law” to confiscate guns from individuals who might harm themselves or others.

At a rally in Washington held by Everytown For Gun Safety on Thursday, Murphy said he was engaged in bipartisan conversations to try to make the streets and schools safer. “I hope we will find that common ground, we are going to work our tails off to achieve that compromise,” he said.

The gun debate has been most intense in Texas as the state deals with yet another mass shooting. Some of the deadliest events in recent times have taken place in Texas, including the 2017 attack on a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs that killed 25 and the 2019 rampage in a Walmart in El Paso that left 23 dead.

The Republican-controlled state legislature continues to loosen already minimal gun regulations, in the name of what political leaders call second amendment “freedoms”. A year ago the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, signed a new provision that allows Texans to carry handguns in public without a license or training.

Abbott was confronted on Wednesday as he held a press conference over the Uvalde shooting by Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat running against him in November.

“This is on you until you choose to do something different,” O’Rourke interjected from the audience. “This will continue to happen, somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed.”

O’Rourke was escorted out of the room as the Republican mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, called him a “sick son of a bitch”.

‘This is on you’: Beto O’Rourke calls out Texas governor for inaction after school shooting – video

Ted Cruz, the Republican senator for Texas, was confronted by some hard facts by Sky News and ended up walking away from the camera complaining about “propaganda”. Asked for his response to the massacre, Cruz played an emotive card, saying in a shaking voice: “There are 19 sets of parents who are never going to get to kiss their child goodnight again.”

Pressed by the Sky News reporter on why the epidemic of mass shootings happens only in America, Cruz walked away from the interview, saying: “Stop being a propagandist.”

The ratio of firearms to population in the US far outstrips any other country in the world and is more than double the rate of the second country, Yemen, which is undergoing a brutal civil war. The US also has a dramatically higher rate of gun deaths than any other high-income country.

Further heated confrontations are expected on Friday when the National Rifle Association, the lobby group that has been the most vociferous opponent of gun safety laws, holds its annual meeting in Houston. Abbott will be among the speakers. So will Donald Trump.


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US reels after massacre in fourth-grade classroom leaves 21 dead

America is absorbing the shock of another bloody mass shooting, a day after an 18-year-old man wearing body armour and carrying assault rifles entered an elementary school in Texas and gunned to death at least 19 children and two adults.

The attack on Robb elementary school in Uvalde, 85 miles west of San Antonio, was the deadliest gun rampage in an American school in almost a decade. It prompted passionate calls for tougher gun controls led by Joe Biden but matched by equally stringent demands for more armed guards in schools from the gun lobby and Republicans.

The shooting began to unfold at 11.32am on Tuesday when the shooter, who is believed to have posted photographs of what he called “my guns” on Instagram four days previously, opened fire in a classroom of nine- and 10-year-olds. He carried an assault-style weapon and wore a tactical vest in which he is believed to have held large quantities of ammunition.


Chris Olivarez of the Texas department of public safety gave CNN chilling details of what happened. He said the shooter barricaded himself into a classroom where he opened fire on children and two teachers.

All the victims were reported to be from the same classroom, Olivarez said. A Swat team eventually broke into the room, shooting the gunman dead.

More than 200 rounds of ammunition were discovered with the shooter’s body, in 30-round magazines. It emerged on Wednesday that the gunman obtained his weapons legally over a three-day period this month, shortly after his 18th birthday.

He bought two semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles at a federally registered gun dealership on 17 and 20 May, and 375 rounds of ammunition on 18 May.

Earlier, the shooter shot his grandmother at her home in Uvalde. She was in critical condition. The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, said at a press conference on Wednesday that she had called the police before being shot.

Abbott said the shooter posted on Facebook three times before his attack. In the first, posted 30 minutes before going to the school, he said he would shoot his grandmother. The second said, “I shot my grandmother.” And the third, posted about 15 minutes before the attack, said: “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000, overwhelmingly Hispanic.

Among the confirmed victims were two adults: Eva Mireles, 44, a bilingual special education teacher who was reportedly killed as she tried to shield her pupils, and the co-teacher Irma Garcia, who had taught at the school for 23 years and had four children of her own. Among the children publicly identified, the youngest was eight. Several were 10.

They included eight-year-old Uziyah Garcia, described by his grandfather as “the sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known”; Xavier Lopez, 10, who his cousin said was “very bubbly, loved to dance”; and Amerie Jo Garza, who celebrated her 10th birthday two weeks ago.

The shooting left more people dead than any US school shooting since Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in December 2012. The impact was compounded by its timing, just 10 days after another 18-year-old gunman opened fire on grocery shoppers, most of them Black, in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10.

On Tuesday night, a visibly shaken Biden urged Americans to resist the powerful gun lobby, which he blamed for blocking tougher firearms laws. Flags will be flown at half-mast until sunset on Saturday.

Joe Biden speaks after mass shooting at Texas elementary school – video

“As a nation, we have to ask, ‘When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?’” Biden said. “When in God’s name are we going to do what has to be done? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” He was “sick and tired of it”, he said, adding: “We have to act.”

But Republican leaders – not least in Texas itself – were just as robust in their calls for more guns in schools. Ted Cruz, the US senator, said just a few hours after the attack the best way to keep kids safe was to have armed officers on campus.

Ken Paxton, Texas’s attorney general, told the rightwing news outlet Newsmax the way to save lives was to have “teachers and other administrators who have gone through training and who are armed”.

Their arguments were belied, however, by the facts of the Uvalde massacre. As the shooter entered the school, two local officers and a school guard opened fire but failed to stop him.

Texas has led the US with a steady stream of initiatives loosening restrictions on firearms ownership. Last year its Republican governor, Abbott, enacted a law that removed almost all restraints on carrying handguns in public – despite the fact Texas has been the scene of several of the most horrifying mass shootings in US history.

On Wednesday Abbott said other than the shooter posting on Facebook three times roughly 30 minutes before his attack, “there was no meaningful forewarning of this crime”. He said he asked the sheriff and mayor, “What is the problem here? And they were straightforward and emphatic. They said we have a mental we have a problem with mental health illness in this community.”

As Abbott’s press conference concluded, Beto O’Rourke approached the stage and told Abbott “you are doing nothing”. O’Rourke, the former presidential candidate who is running against Abbott in November for the gubernatorial seat, could be heard telling Abbott that the shooting was “predictable” because of his inaction and mentioned the 2019 shooting in El Paso where 23 people were killed in a Walmart store.

‘This is on you’: Beto O’Rourke calls out Texas governor for inaction after school shooting – video

“This is on you until you choose to do something,” O’Rourke said.

“Sir, you are out of line,” the mayor of Uvalde, Don McLaughlin, shouted at O’Rourke in an attempt to get him to leave the auditorium. Last year McLaughlin backed Abbott’s even more rightwing Republican opponent for governor.

Speaking on Wednesday, Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden would travel to Uvalde “in the coming days” to offer what comfort they can to “a community in shock and grief and trauma.

The president and other campaigners for greater gun control face the numbing reality that in the US there are more firearms in circulation than there are people. The pandemic has seen a dramatic uptick in gun sales, and with it a surge in gun deaths.

In the last decade there have been at least 3,500 mass shootings, defined as incidents killing or injuring four or more people, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The rate of deaths of children under 14 has also risen sharply since the pandemic.

There were heartbreaking scenes outside the Uvalde school. Hours after the attack, distraught families were still awaiting word on whether their children had survived, the silence broken repeatedly by screams and wailing.

“My heart is broken today,” said Hal Harrell, the school district superintendent. “We’re a small community, and we’re going to need your prayers to get through this.”

The school was preparing for its final day on Thursday. Themed days had been organised, with children asked to come on Tuesday dressed as “Footloose and Fancy”.

Adolfo Cruz, 69, said he drove to the school after receiving a terrifying call from his daughter. He was waiting for news of his 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Eliajha Cruz Torres, and it was the heaviest moment of his life, he said.

In strong international reactions to the shooting, Pope Francis said he was “heartbroken”, adding: “It is time to say ‘enough’ to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons.” Emmanuel Macron said the French people shared Americans’ shock and grief at the “cowardly” shooting.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he was “deeply saddened by the news of the murder of innocent children”.


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Rand Paul promises Covid review if Republicans retake Senate in midterms

The Kentucky senator Rand Paul promised on Saturday to wage a vigorous review into the origins of the coronavirus if Republicans retake the Senate and he lands a committee chairmanship.

Speaking to supporters at a campaign rally, the senator denounced what he sees as government overreach in response to Covid-19. He applauded a recent judge’s order that voided the federal mask mandate on planes and trains and in travel hubs.

“Last week I was on an airplane for the first time in two years and didn’t have to wear a mask,” he said, drawing cheers. “And you know what I saw in the airport? I saw at least 97% of the other free individuals not wearing masks.”

Paul has clashed repeatedly with Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, over government policies and the origins of the virus.

Paul, who is seeking a third term, said he was in line to assume a committee chairmanship if the GOP wins Senate control. The Senate has a 50-50 split, with the vice-president, Kamala Harris, the tie-breaking vote.

“When we take over in November, I will be chairman of a committee and I will have subpoena power,” Paul said. “And we will get to the bottom of where this virus came from.”

The senator, an ophthalmologist before politics, continued to offer his theory about the origins of the virus.

Fauci to Rand Paul: ‘You do not know what you are talking about’ – video

“If you look at the evidence, overwhelmingly, not 100%, but overwhelmingly the evidence points to this virus being a leak from a lab,” Paul said.

Many US conservatives have accused Chinese scientists of developing Covid-19 in a lab and allowing it to leak.

US intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the coronavirus but believe China did not know about the virus before the start of the global pandemic, according a Biden-ordered review released last summer.

The scientific consensus remains that the virus most likely migrated from animals. So-called “spillover events” occur in nature and there are at least two coronaviruses that evolved in bats and caused human epidemics, SARS1 and MERS.

At the Kentucky rally, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, the state’s senior senator, also pointed to Paul’s opportunity to lead a committee. If that occurs, he said, Paul would become chairman of “one of the most important committees in the Senate – in charge of health, education, labor and pensions”.

McConnell was upbeat about Republican prospects in November.

“I’ve never seen a better environment for us than this year,” said McConnell, who is in line to again become majority leader.

The rally featured other prominent Kentucky Republicans, including several considering running for governor in 2023, when Andy Beshear, a Democrat, will seek a second term.

In his speech, Paul railed against socialism, saying it would encroach on individual liberties. The senator was first elected to the Senate in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

‘Kindles the crazies’: Fauci tells Rand Paul his accusations incite death threats – video

“When President Trump said he wanted to ‘Make America Great Again’, I said, ‘Amen,’” Paul said. “But let’s understand what made America great in the first place, and that’s freedom, constitutionally guaranteed liberty.”

Charles Booker is by far the best known Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for Paul’s seat in the 17 May primary. Paul is being challenged by several little-known candidates. A general election campaign between Paul and Booker would be a battle between candidates with starkly different philosophies.

Booker, a Black former state lawmaker, narrowly lost a bid for the Democratic nomination in 2020. He is a progressive who touts Medicare for all, anti-poverty programs, a clean-energy agenda and criminal justice changes.

Paul, a former presidential candidate, has accumulated a massive fundraising advantage.

Kentucky has not elected a Democrat to the US Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.


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Three white men sentenced to life in prison for Ahmaud Arbery’s murder

A judge in Georgia sentenced Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan to life in prison on Friday for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was running through their mostly white neighborhood in February 2020 when they chased him down and killed him.

Under Georgia law, murder carries a mandatory life sentence unless prosecutors seek the death penalty. For the judge, Timothy Walmsley, the main decision was whether to grant father and son Greg McMichael, 66, and Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, Bryan, 52, a chance to earn parole.

Arbery’s family had made powerful statements, asking Walmsley to show no leniency.

Before sentencing, Walmsley said: “Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down and shot, and he was killed because individuals here in the courtroom took the law into their own hands.”

Walmsley said Arbery left his home for a jog and ended up running for his life for five minutes as the men chased him in pickup trucks then cornered him. The judge paused for a minute, to help drive home a sense of what that time must have been like for Arbery.

“When I thought about this,” he said, “I thought from a lot of different angles. I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores.”

The McMichaels will spend the rest of their lives in prison. Walmsley ruled that Bryan could seek parole after 30 years, the minimum sentence allowed.

'Devastated': family members pay tribute to Ahmaud Arbery at sentencing of killers – video
‘Devastated’: family members pay tribute to Ahmaud Arbery at sentencing of killers – video

Arbery’s mother said she suffered an intense loss made worse by a trial where the men’s defense was that Arbery made bad choices.

“This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact,” Wanda Cooper-Jones said.

“They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequently visited their community. And when they couldn’t sufficiently scare or intimidate him, they killed him.”

Cooper-Jones rebutted a point made by a defense lawyer that caused outrage. During the trial in November, Laura Hogue made a reference to Ahmaud Arbery’s appearance many found egregious and racist.

Hogue said: “Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts, with no socks, to cover his long dirty toenails.”

On Friday, Cooper-Jones said her son was sometimes messy.

“He sometimes refused to wear socks or take good care of his good clothing. I wish he would have cut and cleaned his toenails before he went out for that jog that day. I guess he would have if he knew he would be murdered.”

Marcus Arbery Sr, Ahmaud’s father, also addressed the court. He said: “When I close my eyes, I see his execution in my mind, over and over. I will see that for the rest of my life.

“Not only did they lynch my son in broad daylight, they killed him while he was doing what he loved more than anything: running. That’s when he felt most alive, most free, and they took all that from him.”

Arbery’s sister, Jasmine Arbery, described her brother as a positive thinker with a big personality. Weeping, she told the judge her brother had dark skin “that glistened in the sunlight” and “thick, curly hair and an athletic build”.

“These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and chase him with guns drawn,” she said. “To me, those qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved.”

Ahmaud Arbery's mother responds to defence lawyer remarks about 'long dirty toenails' – video
Ahmaud Arbery’s mother responds to defence lawyer remarks about ‘long dirty toenails’ – video

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the judge for life without parole for the McMichaels and the possibility of parole for Bryan. But she said all deserved that mandatory life sentence.

The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a truck to chase Arbery, 25, after spotting him running on 23 February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit and recorded video of Travis McMichael firing close-range shotgun blasts.

The killing went largely unnoticed until two months later, when video was leaked, touching off a national outcry. The Georgia bureau of investigation arrested all three men.

The attorney Robert Rubin argued that Travis McMichael deserved the possibility of parole as he fired only after “Mr Arbery came at him and grabbed the gun”.

“This was not a planned murder,” Rubin said. “This was a fight over a gun.”

Hogue, for Greg McMichael, said her client “did not view his son firing that shotgun with anything other than fear and sadness”.

Bryan’s lawyer said he showed remorse and cooperated with police.

Next month, the McMichaels and Bryan face a second trial on federal hate crime charges. Prosecutors will argue that the men targeted Arbery because he was Black.

On Friday, Ben Crump, a leading civil rights attorney, said: “These brutal crimes nearly went unpunished because of the deep corruption that pervades so many of our systems.”

He added: “The tragic murder of Ahmaud Arbery must not be in vain. America, we are showing progress. Now is not the time to retreat. We must continue to demand better from law enforcement, from our justice system and from our society as a whole.”


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How mercury sneaks into the most vulnerable communities in US and Canada

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