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.”

Why?

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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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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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.

Map

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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Joe Biden’s low point: can the president revive his sinking popularity?

Even for a White House familiar with roadblocks and frustration, Thursday’s setbacks on vaccine mandates and voting rights came as hammer blows.

Aside from the immediate derailing of two key policy tenets of Joe Biden’s administration, the vaccine ruling by the supreme court, which quickly followed Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema’s public assassination of his voting reform efforts, prompted a new round of questions over whether his presidency was doomed.

Crucially, serious agonizing is now going on about what Biden’s woes might mean for the Democratic party’s fortunes in midterm elections later this year, when Republicans are tipped to seize back control of both chambers of Congress.

With Biden’s public popularity sinking – in one poll this week to a new low of 33% – and with another centrist Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, having already capsized the president’s flagship $1.75tn Build Back Better domestic spending plan, some analysts say time is running short to impress voters ahead of the November polls.

“The whole first year is gone. And in the end, nothing,” said Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia’ Center for Politics, referring to the lengthy but fruitless discussions with Manchin over the make-up of the plan. “Manchin led him down the rosy patch then threw him into the briar patch. ‘Would you change that? You changed that, well, I don’t like this thing over here. Oh, you changed that, well, there’s these two things …’”

Sabato added: “But the voting rights debacle is the worst of all because why was Biden elected other than that people wanted to get rid of Trump? It was because he was seen as experienced and competent. What’s the experience gotten us exactly? I just don’t understand how we got here.”

Several of Biden’s misfortunes, Sabato said, are not directly of his own making. He has made repeated efforts to change the minds of both Manchin and Sinema, most recently in seemingly unsuccessful late-night talks at the White House on Thursday in an attempt to salvage his agenda.

Kyrsten Sinema blocks filibuster reform as Biden continues ‘fight’ for voting rights – video
Kyrsten Sinema blocks filibuster reform as Biden continues ‘fight’ for voting rights – video

But Sabato also believes that the president’s handling of various situations, and poor direction from advisers, particularly over the Covid-19 pandemic, runaway inflation, and last year’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, have combined to leave Biden exposed.

About inflation, Sabato says: “Biden’s team simply missed it badly, they got it very, very wrong, and they’re continuing probably to get it wrong. They’re downplaying it and they’re going to tame it by mid-year. Maybe, but I’ll be surprised.”

On Afghanistan, Sabato said, Biden “threw it away again”.

“It could have been a big plus had it been handled correctly because just about everybody – Democrat, Republican – was more than willing to get out of Afghanistan. It was a very bad performance by his team. They couldn’t know what was gonna happen? He’s responsible for his advisers, so he can be blamed for it.”

On Friday, the White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that the president would hold a rare, formal press conference next Wednesday to mark his first year in office. As well as answering difficult questions about the administration’s failures, Biden will talk up its successes, namely the $1tn infrastructure bill he signed in November, and the $1.9tn Covid relief plan from last spring.

Having appeared fatigued by Thursday’s rejections, a more buoyant Biden followed up with his own briefing on Friday afternoon, accompanied by Mitch Landrieu, the former New Orleans mayor he appointed to oversee the implementation of the infrastructure act.

“There’s a lot of talk about disappointments and things we haven’t gotten done. We’re going to get a lot of them done, I might add,” Biden said. “But this [infrastructure] is something we did get done, and it’s of enormous consequence to the country.”

Some analysts suggest the touting of past glories displays a lack of confidence in what can still be achieved in the almost 10 months until the midterms, something Biden seemed to acknowledge on Thursday when he said: “I don’t know whether we can get this done,” after a Capitol Hill meeting with Democrats over voting rights.

Biden hails ‘monumental step forward’ as Democrats pass infrastructure bill – video
Biden hails ‘monumental step forward’ as Democrats pass infrastructure bill – video

The obstacles ahead of Biden are certainly substantial. They range from Democrats’ internal divisions between progressives and moderates, stonewalling by Republicans in Congress and the Donald Trump-created conservative super-majority on the supreme court that has already delivered several blows, and appears poised this summer to overturn five decades of abortion rights.

Yet Biden is committed to trying to salvage what he can from what promises to be a testing few months. “Like every other major civil rights bill that came along, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try it a second time,” he told reporters about voting rights efforts.

Similarly, he is also likely to attempt to get through Congress individual elements of the Build Back Better plan that are acceptable to Senate moderates, including universal pre-kindergarten education, subsidized child care and a number of climate provisions.

“They may try to get pieces of Build Back Better, or build back something as we now call it, but everyone’s going to describe it as crumbs from the table,” Sabato said.

“If they’d started with that, people would say, ‘Wow, that’s incredible, pre-K for everybody’, or whatever piece they decided to pick, it didn’t really matter which one. But now it will appear to people as this tiny piece of what the president started out with, [and] tremendous disappointment in Democratic ranks. By the end of the story you won’t even know what passed.”

In November last year, Biden, who will be 81 at the time of the 2024 presidential election, announced his intention to run for a second term.

Publicly at least, he retains the support of his party, but the Washington Post reported in December rumblings of discontent in Democratic circles about his leadership. An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this week, citing the unpopularity of both Biden and Vice-president Kamala Harris, even floated the idea of a comeback for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee beaten by Trump in 2016, to fill what its authors called a “leadership vacuum”.

In the wake of this week’s disappointments, the possibility of an alternative Democratic ticket for 2024 emerged again, the Washington Post columnist and political analyst Perry Bacon Jr suggesting there were “plenty of strong candidates” if Biden or Harris do not run.

“Biden hasn’t cracked some magic political code. Despite his white maleness and appeals to unity, Washington is gridlocked, Republican voters hate the president and his party is poised to do poorly in the midterms,” Bacon wrote on Friday. “It seems entirely possible that Biden runs in 2024 and loses to a Republican challenger. Democrats simply might be better off with someone new.”

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Joe Biden to hold first cabinet meeting as he pitches $2tn infrastructure plan – live

Yesterday in Minneapolis, another prosecution witness, Charles MacMillian, told the court that he spoke directly to George Floyd as he lay in the street under Derek Chauvin’s knee.

“Get up and get in the (police) car. You can’t win man,” he said to Floyd.

Floyd responds that he cannot get up.

MacMillian, in highly emotional testimony, said he appealed to Floyd to cooperate with the police because he was worried about his condition as he was pleading that he could not breathe. “I was trying to help him,” he said.

MacMillian broke down and wept in court as he was shown video of his interaction with Floyd.

Chris McGreal reports:

The cashier who served George Floyd in a Minneapolis store immediately before his arrest and death last May told a court on Wednesday of the ‘disbelief and guilt’ he felt for allowing Floyd to pay with a suspected fake $20 bill when he later saw the police kneeling on him.

Testimony on the third day of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial continued in an atmosphere of tense emotions and harrowing evidence about Floyd’s death.

The cashier, Christopher Martin, 19, said Floyd appeared to be high on drugs but was not threatening and was ‘very approachable, talkative’.

https://t.co/mIpXTnLBwA

April 1, 2021

“The filibuster stands in the way of a lot of legislation and whether or not it can be either reformed and amended or eliminated is what we will find out in next weeks,” Clinton told Palmieri.

She added, “It certainly should be lifted for constitutional matters, and I would put election law matters at the top of that list.”

Many Democrats have called on Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer to eliminate the filibuster, thus allowing bills to pass the upper chamber with 51 votes, rather than the 60 required with the filibuster in place.

But currently, Schumer does not have the votes to eliminate the filibuster, as at least two of his caucus members — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have signaled opposition to the idea.

@SecretaryPete tells @SRuhle he’s not giving up on earning GOP support for @POTUS’s newly-unveiled $2 trillion infrastructure package.

“Bottom line is, we’ve got to get this done.”@MSNBC pic.twitter.com/1aL4tIH7tv

April 1, 2021

The former Democratic presidential candidate said he has had many meetings with lawmakers of both parties, and he noted Joe Biden has encouraged Republicans to offer ideas on the proposal.

But Buttigieg was tight-lipped when pressed on which specific members of Congress he has been talking to about the infrastructure package.

“Bottom line is, we’ve got to get this done,” Buttigieg said. “The American people can’t wait for good infrastructure.”

The transportation secretary will be attending Biden’s cabinet meeting at the White House later today.

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US Navy: for first time in history four women of color command war ships

Four US Navy officers have made history this week – and breaking new ground in a traditionally white and male-dominated field.

For the first time in US Navy history, four women of color are now commanding war ships at the same time, NBC News has reported.

The four officers, Kimberly Jones, LaDonna Simpson, Kristel O’Cañas, and Kathryn Wijnaldum, recently said that there have been dramatic changes for women serving in the Navy over the years.

The Navy “looks different in the fact that as an ensign, I looked around and at that time, there were not many senior female officers that I could necessarily go to for gender-specific questions,” Jones, who joined the Navy more than two decades ago, remarked in an interview clip obtained by People magazine.

“I may not have felt comfortable asking my male boss,” Jones also said. “Now, to their credit, they were phenomenal leaders. However, when it came time [for] some of those more intimate conversations on how to plan your career with a family, as a mom, that did not exist.”

She added: “And I was overseas, so the population was slightly smaller. And now walking this waterfront, there are leaders, there are role models, at every rank…That is something that I hope ensigns, young sailors, gravitate towards and take advantage of.”

These four women are all based at Norfolk Naval Station, in Virginia. They are all “Nuclear Surface Warfare Officers” – a qualification which is “extremely competitive” to obtain, according to the US Navy.

All four women “have spent a considerable amount of their time serving aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and in nuclear-related shore duty billets,” the Navy noted.

Simpson said that while she was never discouraged from going after her career goals, she did not have many female role models.

“The Navy has been very supportive of my journey and my professional training. There weren’t any voices in the Navy that said that I could not achieve this goal,” Simpson said. “The only limitation was the fact that women as a whole hadn’t been on board combatant vessels until, I believe, it was 1994.”

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Biden announces ‘once-in-a generation’ $2tn infrastructure investment plan – video

Joe Biden unveiled what he called a ‘once-in-a-generation’ investment in American infrastructure, promising the nation his $2tn plan would create the ‘strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world’. Biden’s proposal to the nation still struggling to overcome the coronavirus pandemic would rebuild 20,000 miles of roads and highways and repair the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country. Biden added other projects would confront the climate crisis, curb wealth inequality and strengthen US competitiveness

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Biden to propose infrastructure plan to create jobs and combat climate change – live

The infrastructure plan that Joe Biden will announce on Wednesday is set to crystalize the US president’s vision of how to combat the climate crisis – hefty government intervention to retool America’s creaking systems, festooned with plenty of green, preferably union, jobs.

Biden opened his White House term with a cavalcade of executive actions to begin the gargantuan task of shifting the US to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the new $2tn package, known as the American jobs plan, is the first indication of the scale of spending that will be required to reshape day-to-day life in order to avert disastrous climate change.

As well as huge investments in crumbling roads and bridges, the Biden plan takes aim at the emissions created by transport, currently the country’s largest source of planet-heating gases. There’s $80bn for Amtrak and freight rail, $85bn for public transit, $174bn to promote electric vehicles through various incentives, the electrification of school buses and 500,000 new plug-in recharging stations within the next decade. The federal government’s vehicle fleet will also be electrified.

“There’s a lot to like in this plan, it’s excellent in almost every way,” said Julio Friedmann, who was a climate and energy adviser in Barack Obama’s administration and is now an energy researcher at Columbia University.

“This is a generational commitment and it can only be applauded. The $2tn is half the price tag of World War Two, it exceeds the scale of the New Deal, it’s wildly larger than the Marshall Plan – and appropriately so. This is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. People generally don’t understand how much construction and reduction is required.”

But even the administration’s allies concede further, longer-term spurs to remodel the economy and alter behavior will be required on top of this plan.

pic.twitter.com/luBzi2Wh7N

March 31, 2021

The president boarded Air Force One in the pouring rain moments ago, and he offered a salute at the top of the steps to the plane.

Biden is traveling to Pittsburgh with several senior advisers, including national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The Wisconsin state supreme court has struck down governor Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate designed to curb the spread of coronavirus.

More than a year into the pandemic, the US has not once managed to get the virus officially under control and, with variants and vaccines in a perilous “race”, Joe Biden is urging the public to remain vigilant and his public health experts are warning of the “impending doom” of another surge of infections if restrictions are relaxed.

Nevertheless, Republican leaders at state level are rushing to lift restrictions, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee among them and now Wisconsin, over the efforts of the Democratic governor.

The Associated Press reports:

The Wisconsin supreme court on has struck down governor Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate, ruling that the Democrat exceeded his authority by unilaterally extending the mandate for months through multiple emergency orders.

The 4-3 ruling from the conservative-controlled court is the latest legal blow to attempts by Evers to control the coronavirus. It comes after Republicans in the Legislature voted to repeal the mask mandate in February, only to see Evers quickly re-issue it.

The court last May struck down Evers’ “safer at home” order, saying that his health secretary did not have the authority for such an order.

Evers’ attempts to limit capacity in bars, restaurants and other indoor places were also blocked by a state appeals court in October.

In the latest case, the court ruled that any public health emergency issued by Evers is valid for just 60 days and can’t be extended without legislative approval.

“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote for the majority.

Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, a member of the court’s three-justice minority, lamented in a dissent that the ruling hampers the ability of governors in Wisconsin to protect lives.

“This is no run-of-the-mill case,” she wrote. “We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of over a half million people in this country. And with the stakes so high, the majority not only arrives at erroneous conclusions, but it also obscures the consequence of its decision.

“Unfortunately, the ultimate consequence of the majority’s decision is that it places yet another roadblock to an effective governmental response to Covid-19.”

Here is a map from yesterday, that NBC created:

NBC News Graphics (@NBCNewsGraphics)

Several states, including Arizona, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, Wyoming, and now Arkansas have dropped their mask mandates.

We’re keeping track of statewide orders: https://t.co/P5MiVG5cq0 pic.twitter.com/NdbX0oDqi6

March 31, 2021

Donald Trump just put out a statement criticizing Joe Biden’s forthcoming bold legislative plan for infrastructure redevelopment.

Not known for his subtlety or accuracy, 45’s statement continues (from previous post):

This legislation would be among the largest self-inflicted economic wounds in history.

If this monstrosity is allowed to pass, the result will be more Americans out of work, more families shattered, more factories abandoned, more industries wrecked, and more Main Streets boarded up and closed down—just like it was before I took over the presidency 4 years ago.

I then set record low unemployment, with 160 million people working.

This tax hike is a classic globalist betrayal by Joe Biden and his friends: the lobbyists will win, the special interests will win, China will win, the Washington politicians and government bureaucrats will win—but hardworking American families will lose.

Joe Biden’s cruel and heartless attack on the American Dream must never be allowed to become Federal law. Just like our southern border went from best to worst, and is now in shambles, our economy will be destroyed!

Yes, the former president finished with an exclamation point!

In yet another break with presidential tradition, and before Joe Biden has even formally presented his infrastructure plan this afternoon, the immediate past president has weighed in.

Donald Trump has put out a statement. Here is the first section of it:

Joe Biden’s radical plan to implement the largest tax hike in American history is a massive giveaway to China, and many other countries, that will send thousands of factories, millions of jobs, and trillions of dollars to these competitive Nations.

The Biden plan will crush American workers and decimate U.S. manufacturing, while giving special tax privileges to outsourcers, foreign and giant multinational corporations.

Biden promised to “build back better”—but the country he is building up, in particular, is China and other large segments of the world. Under the Biden Administration, America is once again losing the economic war with China—and Biden’s ludicrous multi-trillion dollar tax hike is a strategy for total economic surrender.

Sacrificing good paying American jobs is the last thing our citizens need as our country recovers from the effects of the Global Pandemic.

Biden’s policy would break the back of the American Worker with among the highest business tax rates in the developed world. Under Biden’s plan, if you create jobs in America, and hire American workers, you will pay MORE in taxes—but if you close down your factories in Ohio and Michigan, fire U.S. workers, and move all your production to Beijing and Shanghai, you will pay LESS. It is the exact OPPOSITE of putting America First—it is putting America LAST!

Companies that send American jobs to China should not be rewarded by Joe Biden’s Tax Bill, they should be punished so that they keep those jobs right here in America, where they belong.

The cashier who served George Floyd immediately before his arrest last May has described him as appearing to be “high” on drugs in testimony on the third day of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.

Christopher Martin, 19, said he noticed Floyd because “he was a big man” and that they had a long conversation about sport. He said that the 46 year-old Black man’s speech was laboured.

“It would appear that he was high,” he said.

Martin worked at Cup Foods in south Minneapolis, where Floyd is alleged to have tried to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, which led to his detention by Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer at the time.

Floyd’s official autopsy showed that he had opioids and methamphetamine in his system when he died.

Chauvin’s defence contends that the officer’s use of force was reasonable because Floyd was under the influence of drugs at the time of his detention. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, has also told the trial that the drugs contributed to Floyd’s death.

The prosecution acknowledges the use of drugs but has said that it neither justified Chauvin continuing to press his knee into Floyd’s neck as the prone man repeatedly said he cannot breathe nor was a cause of his death.

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