Posts tagged with "ABC News"

Biden under pressure from G7 leaders to extend Afghanistan withdrawal deadline

August 25, 2021

Amid criticism from U.S. allies over the chaotic withdrawal in Afghanistan and pressure to extend his August 31 deadline, President Joe Biden met virtually with G7 partners on Tuesday with just a week left to evacuate thousands of civilians and to pull out thousands of U.S. troop, ABC News reports.

At a press conference on Monday, August 23, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said leaders are meeting “to ensure the world’s leading democracies are aligned and united on the way forward,” adding, “We are working with partners to address the acute humanitarian needs of the Afghan people and we will remain persistently vigilant against the terrorism threat in Afghanistan and in multiple other theaters.”

According to ABC, as the deadline to evacuate looms, approximately 58,700 people have been evacuated from Kabul since August 14, when the Taliban took control of the government. Since the end of July, the U.S. has relocated approximately 63,900 people.

Officials have been vague when asked how many Americans still need to be evacuated, only saying that there are “thousands”—and blaming it on citizens not registering with the U.S. Embassy when they arrive or deregistering when they leave.

Adding to the scramble to evacuate, U.S. officials are also concerned about a possible attack from ISIS-K at the airport, looking to exploit the situation of the packed crowds outside trying to gain entrance.

The U.S. has been working at a lightning pace to speed up evacuations as Taliban leaders have said that August 31 is a “red line” for troops to leave and doubled-down during a Tuesday, August 24, morning press conference, saying they will reject any U.S. military presence or evacuations past the end of the month.

President Biden has said that U.S. troops will stay until every American and Afghan SIV applicant has been evacuated, which is directly at odds with the Taliban’s position.

Their firm stance on that deadline comes after CIA Director William Burns met with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News—the highest level in-person meeting between a Biden administration official and the Taliban since the militant group took over Kabul.

“We are in talks with the Taliban on a daily basis through both political and security channels,” Sullivan said Monday before the Burns meeting was reported.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Biden defended the withdrawal and said he didn’t think it could have been handled any better.

“I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look—but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happens,” he said.

The president also has conceded that the speed of which the Taliban took over the country was faster than expected.

The president has also spoken separately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Spanish President Pedro Sánchez, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, among the G7 allies. He also has held calls with Amir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed.

Research contact: @abcnews

Third grader wins White House Historical Association’s National Student Art Competition

August 16, 2021

A pair of shackled African American hands cradles the White House against a backdrop of the American flag in a winning piece of art that is now on display in the White House, Good Morning America reports.

Gabrielle Faisal’s “Enslaved African Americans Built the White House” took home the top prize in the White House Historical Association‘s national student art competition for her creative interpretation of this year’s theme, “The White House: An American Story.”v

The nine-year-old from Detroit said her artwork represents history lessons that she has learned and read about.

“The White House is a symbol of America that was built by enslaved African Americans. The red stripes symbolize our struggle for freedom. The white stripes symbolize the purity of our struggle. Blue is the symbol of justice for all people no matter what color,” Faisal told ABC News Detroit affiliate WXYZ. “The stars represent the unity of all people coming together. The shackled hands are the hands of enslaved Africans who built the White House.”

The competition, now in its 60th year, received submissions from more than 500 students nationwide, GMA reports.

Gabrielle’s piece will be displayed until September 22. The display will also include the runners-up in Gabrielle’s age bracket, as well as art from the top three winners in the 4 to 8, and 9 to 12 grade level categories.

Research contact: @GMA

Senate passes $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill in big win for Democrats

August 11, 2021

After weeks of wrangling, on Tuesday, August 10, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill with Republican support—in a big win for Democrats and President Joe Biden, ABC News reports.

The measure passed by a vote of 69-30, with 19 Republicans joining all Senate Democrats to advance the bill out of the Senate chamber. In a sign of its political significance, Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the final vote.

Eighteen Republicans—Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins, Deb Fischer, Lindsey Graham, Rob Portman, Thom Tillis, Chuck Grassley, Mitt Romney, Dan Sullivan, Mike Crapo, Lisa Murkowski, James Risch, Bill Cassidy, Kevin Cramer, Roger Wicker, John Hoeven—as weel as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined Democrats in voting yes.

The package, with $550 billion in new spending, will address core infrastructure needs. Among the funding it includes:

  • $110 billion in new funds for roads and bridges,
  • $66 billion for rail,
  • $7.5 billion to build out electric vehicle charging stations,
  • $17 billion for ports,
  • $25 billion for airports,
  • $55 billion for clean drinking water, and
  • $65 billion investment in high-speed Internet.

According to ABC News, passage represents a major victory for senators from both parties who said they were committed to showing Congress could work in a bipartisan way, as well as for Biden, who campaigned on a promise to work across the aisle.

The package took months to forge, with bipartisan negotiators Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), and Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican, leading a group of ten colleagues in discussions that led to the final package.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the package in remarks just before the final vote, saying, “We have persisted and now we have arrived. There were many logs in our path, detours along the way, but the American people will now see the most robust injection of funds into infrastructure in decades.”

“When the Senate is run with an open hand rather than a closed fist senators can accomplish big things,” he added.

The bill now heads to the House, where it faces a precarious path to Biden’s desk.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who leads a razor-thin majority of Democrats in the House, has made clear she has no intention of bringing the bipartisan bill to a vote until the Senate sends over a second, larger budget bill containing the rest of President Biden’s “American Families Plan” priorities.

The debate of the budget will be far different from the bipartisanship in the debate over infrastructure.

Democrats unveiled their $3.5 trillion budget that includes universal pre-K, free 2-year community college, paid family leave, climate initiatives and a smattering of other social priorities, on Monday morning.

With the bipartisan bill off their plate, Senate Democrats are turning their attention immediately to passing the budget bill, and they’re expected to try to force the massive package through the Senate as early as tomorrow, without a single GOP vote. Budget bills are not subject to the regular 60-vote threshold generally necessary to move legislation forward.

Republicans have vowed to fight the budget resolution at every step, including through what is expected to be a marathon of votes this week on partisan amendments designed to score political points and make centrist Democrats squirm.

McConnell conceded Tuesday morning there will be little Republicans can do to stop the budget from advancing if Democrats keep a united front, but he promised a fight on the Senate floor.

“Republicans do not currently have the vote to spare American families this nightmare,” McConnell said of the $3.5 trillion bill. “But we will debate and we will vote and we will stand up and we will be counted and the people of this country will know exactly which senators fought for them.”

Senate action on the budget this week is just the first in a series of steps before the bill comes to a final vote in the Senate and moves to the House, likely in the fall.

Pelosi said only then, after the full budget process is completed, will she bring both the budget bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill up for a final vote in the House.

Research contact: @ABCNews

Key takeaways from the review of Capitol Hill security after January 6 insurrection

March 10, 2021

A report commissioned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) in the wake of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol calls for increased staffing and intelligence for the Capitol Police, a permanent “quick reaction” force, and “mobile” fencing.

On Monday, House members were briefed on the final draft of the report by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré. NBC News reported that the network was provided a copy by a senior Democratic aide.

According to NBC, the report says the force currently is ill-equipped to deal with the “volume and nature” of the threats facing the Capitol complex, many of which are coming from “domestic elements.”

“The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) were understaffed, insufficiently equipped, and inadequately trained to secure the Capitol and Members when violently attacked by a large mob,” the report says, and is still vulnerable over two months later.

“The USCP is not postured to track, assess, plan against, or respond to this plethora of threats due to significant capacity shortfalls, inadequate training, immature processes, and an operating culture that is not intelligence-driven,” the report says.

The House is expected to incorporate Honore’s findings into a new funding bill to boost security around the campus and pay for some of the expenses incurred after January 6 — such as the National Guard deployments and the cleanup and repair costs.

Among the takeaways from the report are the following, according to ABC News:

  • More Capitol Police officers. The report found that Capitol Police were “understaffed, insufficiently equipped, and inadequately trained” to secure the Capitol and suggested filling all existing vacancies on the force—about 233 officers—and adding another 854 officers in various roles, including as intelligence specialists, civil disturbance units, and dignitary protection agents. If enacted, the additions would make the Capitol Police force, which already has more than 2,000 officers, among the largest departments in the entire country.

Additionally, the report recommended adding more K9 units to help Capitol Police scan for explosive devices on the Capitol complex, due to the number of vacant units and “aging” dogs. It also suggested reestablishing the department’s mounted unit—which was disbanded in 2005—to serve as a “force multiplier” in high-trafficked areas to help control crowds.

Honore’s team recommended the use of body cameras “to improve police accountability and protect officers from false accusations of misconduct,” and more intelligence support for the department.

  • New rapid response team. The report called for the creation of a permanent Quick Reaction Force—comprising federal law enforcement officers or a military police battalion under the command of the D.C. National Guard—to help Capitol Police with future emergencies.

The report also recommended the creation of Civil Defense Units within the Capitol Police, to be kept on standby when Congress is in session; as well as for all officers to be given civil disturbance training and their own riot gear to use in emergency situations.

  • More barriers around the Capitol. The report recommended a “mobile fencing option,” which in the future can be assembled and taken down quickly,; in place of the temporary fencing currently surrounding the Capitol, which requires a “significant” number of personnel to patrol.

A retractable fencing system and more integrated system of cameras, sensors and alarms could “enable an open campus while giving security forces better options to protect the complex and its Members should a threat develop,” the review team wrote in the report.

  • Tweaking the chain of command. The report found that the Capitol Police Board’s decision-making process “proved too slow and cumbersome” to effectively respond on January 6, when National Guard troops took hours to arrive on the Capitol grounds to help police clear the halls of Congress. It recommended allowing the Capitol Police chief to request the help of federal law enforcement and the National Guard in emergencies, without first needing the sign-off of the board—an opaque, four-person body that includes the chief, the architect of the Capitol, and the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, who are appointed by congressional leaders.

In addition, the report recommended an “independent review” of the efficacy of the Capitol Police Board’s “authority” over the department.

  • Background checks, harder access points, and tougher member security, Honore’s team recommended revamping the screening procedures used on campus for legislative staff and congressional employees.

“Requiring background checks for identification card holders and employing card readers more widely throughout the complex would decrease insider threat risks and enhance the safety of all Members, staff, and legislative employees,” according to the report.

The report also suggested repairing and securing the doors and windows around the Capitol that were used by rioters to break into the building, and erecting screening portals for staff and visitors around the complex to make it easier for Capitol Police to monitor visitors seeking to enter the building.

Pointing to the increasing number of threats to members of Congress, the report recommended expanding the Dignitary Protection Division’s ranks to better protect lawmakers at home and in Washington. Currently, only members of leadership have full-time security details.

The report also recommended the creation of a new office to “centrally manage” lawmakers’ travel from their districts to the Capitol, in coordination with state and local law enforcement partners.

According to ABC News, ahead of the report’s release, Republicans have criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s appointment of Honore to conduct the review— pointing to his increasingly partisan tone on Twitter and attacks against Republicans.

“While there may be some worthy recommendations forthcoming, General Honore’s notorious partisan bias calls into question the rationality of appointing him to lead this important security review,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-California) said in a statement Sunday. “It also raises the unacceptable possibility that the Speaker desired a certain result: turning the Capitol into a fortress.”

Research contact: @abcnews

Capitol Police say they are stepping up security based on intel on March 4 plot to breach Capitol

March 4, 2021

QAnon followers believe that former President Donald Trump will return to power on Thursday, March 4and U.S. Capitol Police officials said Wednesday that they have “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on [on that date],” ABC News reports.

The intelligence is being taken “seriously,” the officials said in a statement posted on Twitter. But are they ready?

“We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers, the statement said, adding, “Our Department is working with our local, state, and federal partners to stop any threats to the Capitol. We are taking the intelligence seriously. Due to the sensitive nature of this information, we cannot provide additional details at this time.”

The statement issued Wednesday morning follows another Tuesday night in which officials said they had beefed up security, ABC News notes.

“The Department is aware of concerning information and intelligence pertaining to March 4th and continues to work with all of our law enforcement partners,” the federal law enforcement agency said in that statement. “Based on the intelligence that we have, the Department has taken immediate steps to enhance our security posture and staffing for a number of days, to include March 4th. The Department has communicated our enhanced posture as well as the available intelligence for the entire workforce.”

The threats appear to stem from QAnon, the umbrella term for a set of disproven and discredited internet conspiracy theories that allege the world is run by a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles. Followers of the fringe movement believe that the 2020 U.S. presidential election was stolen from Trump, who has pushed baseless claims of voter fraud along with his allies.

QAnon followers also believed that Trump would not actually leave office on Inauguration Day—but rather would declare martial law, announce mass arrests of Democrats, and stop Joe Biden from becoming president. When that didn’t happen, the date was moved from January 20 to March 4—the original inauguration day for all U.S. presidents prior to 1933.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation first labeled QAnon and its fluid online community of supporters as a “dangerous extremist group” in August 2019. A number of individuals believed to be QAnon followers have been charged for their alleged involvement in the deadly insurrection on January 6, when pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis issued a confidential assessment to law enforcement agencies, which was obtained by ABC News, saying that the threat of domestic violent extremism in 2020—largely driven by “violent anti-government or anti-authority narratives, periods of prolonged civil unrest and conspiracy theories”—is a trend that will likely continue in 2021 and “could escalate to include targeting of critical infrastructure.”

Research contact: @abcnews

 

56% of Americans say Trump should be convicted, barred from holding federal office

February 9, 2021

With his impeachment trial set to begin on February 9, a majority of Americans—56%—say they want the Senate to convict former President Donald Trump and to bar him from holding federal office ever again, according to findings of a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday.

The new poll was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News, using Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel.

Compared to public attitudes during the early days of the former president’s first impeachment trial, support for the Senate conviction is higher now. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll published in late January 2020—when the first trial was ongoing, but before senators had voted—47% of Americans said the Senate should vote to remove Trump from office and 49% said he should not be removed.

On January 13, Trump became the first president ever to be impeached by the House of Representatives twice, when a majority of the body’s members voted in favor of charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

A key difference between this trial and the first is that Trump is no longer president and therefore cannot be removed from office. All but five Republican senators have gone on the record saying they think the trial is unconstitutional because of this fact. Still, Democrats have argued that failing to hold Trump accountable would signal to future presidents that they can evade punishment for their actions, as long as they come at the end of their term in office.

It would take 67 senators to vote to convict Trump—meaning 17 Republicans would need to be on board, assuming every member of the Democratic caucus votes to convict, ABC notes. If enough senators vote to convict, the chamber could hold a second vote on whether to bar him from holding federal office again. That would only take a simple majority.

A few Republican senators have said, or have reportedly said, that they think Trump committed an impeachable offense. Yet, none has said definitively that he or she will vote to convict the ex-president. But unlike the first impeachment, when no Republicans voted to impeach Trump in the House, 10 Republicans joined Democrats this time, including the chair of the House Republican Conference, Liz Cheney.

Among Democrats, support for Trump’s conviction is nearly universal in the ABC News/Ipsos poll, with 92% in favor. Independents mirror the full population, with 54% in support of the Senate convicting Trump and prohibiting him from holding office, and 45% against.

Research contact: @abcnews

American freedom is not just celebrated on July 4: Here’s what you need to know about Juneteenth

June 19, 2020

It’s a day that celebrates and commemorates the true meaning of America—freedom, equality, and justice for all—and it will be observed with jubilation this year, as U.S. citizens nationwide continue to hit the streets to insist that Black Lives Matter.

It’s called Juneteenth and, over 150 years later, it will be observed by more Americans than ever before on Friday, June 19, ABC News reports.

American history lessons generally teach that when President Abraham Lincoln went public with the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862—three days after Union troops halted the advance of Confederate forces led by General Robert E. Lee near Sharpsburg, Maryland in the Battle of Antietam—it ended the Civil War and slavery.

But it took another 30 months and 19 days for the order to be carried out in Galveston, Texas—the last municipality in the United States where African Americans were still enslaved.

Texas was one of the seven Confederate States of America, and even when Lincoln’s executive order was enacted on January 1, 1863, “they weren’t going to recognize that anyway,” Dwayne Jones, executive director of the Galveston Historical Foundation, recently told ABC News.

“In fact, there were slave owners who moved from parts of the South, from slave states, to continue the practice of slavery in Texas because they knew they could practice there for a longer time without interruption,” Kelly E. Navies, a museum specialist and oral historian with the National Museum of African American History and Culture confirmed to the network in an interview.

Jones said that when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, with a force of 2,000 Union troops dressed in red to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, it was “very significant.”

During the church-oriented event, a hog was roasted as songs filled the air in between readings of the proclamation.

A combination of the month and date of Granger’s arrival in Galveston transformed the holiday into the name it’s been known as for over 100 years: Juneteenth.

“The celebration of Juneteenth gives people a chance to pause and think about the history behind what we are going through right now,” said Navies. “It gives people the opportunity to ask themselves what are the root causes to the racial conflicts we are experiencing.”

Observances of Juneteenth have generally become more secular, but the tradition remains as celebrations have expanded to cities including BuffaloKansas City,  and Chicagoand this year, will also be seen in New York State and others nationwide due to the success of the Black Lives Matter movement.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many traditional in-person Juneteenth gatherings have been scheduled to take place through livestreaming services like Facebook Live and Zoom, ABC News reports.

The police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 and the protests that followed have generated an increased interest in the history of Juneteenth.

“We thought for the 150th anniversary five years ago, we would have gotten more attention, but it really took, unfortunately, other events in order to bring attention to it,” said Jones.

Research contact: @ABC

Going viral: Bride and groom pose for photos in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters

June 10, 2020

In the midst of the ongoing anti-racism protests around the world, one couple’s empowering wedding photos—taken at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Philadelphia—have gone viral, The Huffington Post reports.

Bride Kerry Anne and groom Michael Gordon tied the knot in an intimate ceremony at the Logan Hotel on Saturday, June 6. Hotel staff had informed the couple days earlier that a protest was set for their wedding date, but they decided to go ahead with their plans.

As the couple was preparing to do their “first look” outside the hotel, demonstrators gathered to cheer them on, which made for a truly powerful moment. Photographer Linda McQueen captured the couple raising their fists in the heart of the downtown Philadelphia protest.

“I come running around the corner and I see Kerry standing with a circle of people around her just cheering, and she’s literally standing there looking like a Black princess. That’s all I see,” the groom told Vogue, which also is carrying the story. “These peaceful protesters, positive energy, cheering, yelling, people with their phones out taking pictures and videos.”

“And Kerry’s just standing there looking beautiful as can be,” Michael continued. “And I walked up to her and took her hand, and she was shaking. The energy and passion and moment, everything that was going on, was just blowing through her.”

Celebrating this milestone in their relationship during such a pivotal moment in history, was “empowering,” the bride—an OB-GYN who’s originally from Jamaica — told ABC News.

Not only are we feeling the movement of the people … but I’m meeting my husband, on our wedding day, as a strong Black man and a good representative of who we are as people, what our men are like, what our culture is like,” Kerry Anne Gordon said. “It was just a very, very empowering moment for us considering all of this is happening at one moment in one time.”

Initially, the couple had planned to get married in May, but had to postpone due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to their small, socially distanced ceremony this weekend, they plan to do a larger celebration with extended family and friends in 2021.

Face masks and hand sanitizer were provided to guests, who were encouraged to wear white.  To see more photos of the couple’s memorable wedding day, head over to Vogue.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Study: Initiating COVID-19 restrictions just one week earlier could have saved 36K U.S. lives

May 22, 2020

Researchers at Columbia University announced on May 20 that an estimated 36,000 lives in the United States would not have been lost to COVID-19 had social distancing and other restrictions been put in place just a single week earlier in March.

In response, ABC News reports, the White House on pointed a finger at China.

“What would have saved lives is if China had been transparent and the World Health Organization had fulfilled its mission,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. He echoed President Donald Trump’s frequent accusations that China and the W.H.O. failed to adequately inform the world about the burgeoning outbreak of COVID-19 in China’s Wuhan Province.

Disease modelers at Columbia University said in a study released Wednesday that 61.6% of deaths and 55% of infections nationwide could have been avoided if preventative measures in place on March 15 had been enacted a week earlier. That equates to about 35,927 deaths and 703,975 cases.

The study has not yet undergone the typical scientific peer review process, and all models are merely estimates, subject to change with new information.

Nevertheless, the Columbia researchers determined that if the measures had begun two weeks earlier, then 82.7% of deaths and 84% of infections — or about 53,990 deaths and 960,937 cases — could have been prevented nationwide, they found.

To try to deflect criticism, the president has frequently cited his decision in late January to block most travelers who had recently spent time in China from entering the United States—although his administration did not enact similar restrictions on travel from Europe until March 14, or recommend widespread social distancing in the United States until March 16.

“What did save American lives is the bold leadership of President Trump, including the early travel restrictions when we had no idea the true level of asymptotic spread,” Deere said. He pointed to the private sector’s work on delivering “critical supplies to states in need and ramp up testing across the country that has placed us on a responsible path to reopen our country.”

While the federal government was slow to recommend social distancing measures, it was governors and local officials who called the shots and who, in many cases, acted more quickly, according to ABC News.

A White House official said the “success” of responding to COVID-19 “has been built on the federal-state partnership, not a federal government coming in and telling governors and mayors what decisions to make for their communities when a bureaucrat in Washington has [no] idea what is best for them.”

While Trump has repeatedly said he prefers governors take the lead on testing and rolling back restrictions, he has also frequently attacked Democratic state leaders—often in political battleground states key to his reelection later this year—for moving too slowly.

Research contact @abcnews

Twitter will allow employees to work from home ‘forever’

May 14, 2020

For those of its workers who are flourishing while conducting meetings on Zoom with a child on their laps and a cat next to the keyboard, social media giant Twitter announced on May 12 that it plans to let anyone who wishes to work from home to do so for the foreseeable future—even after its offices reopen in a post-pandemic world, ABC News reports.

“Twitter was one of the first companies to go to a WFH [work from home] model in the face of COVID-19, but we don’t anticipate being one of the first to return to offices,” the company said in a statement.

The past few months of having staff almost entirely remote “have proven we can make it work,” the statement continued. “So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”

Twitter said its offices will not likely open before September, and when reopening does occur, it will be a gradual and cautious process, ABC notes. No in-person company events for the rest of 2020 are scheduled.

“We’re proud of the early action we took to protect the health of our employees and our communities,” Twitter said. “That will remain our top priority as we work through the unknowns of the coming months.”

Research contact: @ABC