Posts tagged with "George Floyd"

Behind the scenes: How Biden chose Harris

August 13, 2020

When former Vice President Joe Biden began thinking about potential running mates this spring, one of the first people to come to mind, insiders told The Hill this week, was Senator Kamala Harris (D-California). 

Harris, a first-generation American who is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica—and who previously had served as the district attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, as well as the very first female, Black attorney general of her home state—was both an historical and logical choice for VP.

According to The Hill, “She was a friend to [Biden’s] late son Beau Biden, a former top prosecutor for the state of California and the kind of fighter needed in a campaign against President [Donald] Trump. On top of all that, she already had been through the slugfest of a presidential primary campaign, which included several direct confrontations with Biden, himself.

And she is the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where she currently is serving her first term.

Over the weekend, upon making his final decision, Biden finished where he began.

“She was always in the narrative from the beginning,” one source who is close to Biden told The Hill. “And even after that, it was always Kamala and this person and Kamala and that person. She was never ever out of the picture. She was always in the mix.”

Another confidant characterized Biden’s final decision as “classic Joe.”

“He did what he always does,” the source said. “Whenever there’s a discussion about policy or the issues of the day, he would come in with what he thought; but he will and does entertain everyone’s opinions.”

“At certain points, it seems like he may change his mind, but typically he ends up where he starts,” the confidant added.

After pledging to pick a woman as his running mate, Biden brought in various Democrats, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, former national security adviser Susan Rice, and Representatives Karen Bass (California) and Val Demings (Florida).

“I think he wanted to consider every qualified woman out there,” the confidant said. “Whitmer definitely was having a moment with COVID, Keisha Lance Bottoms also caught his attention, Val Demings also looked good for a while there; he liked Elizabeth Warren’s ideas. He basically wanted to try all of that on for size and see how it added up.”

“But I think he felt like [Harris] was not only the best person for the campaign, but the best partner to govern the country,” the confidant added.

Biden talked at length about nominating someone he is close with—a partner that he said would be “simpatico” with him personally and professionally. He also wanted assurance that Harris, who had been adversarial during the debates, would “have his back”—both during the campaign and, if they won, in the White House.

But in the end, it was the emotional tug of his son Beau Biden that may have tipped the scales, The Hill contends. Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. Biden was devastated by his son’s death and declined to run for president in 2016 as he mourned.

Now, as the presumptive Democratic nominee, Biden cast his selection of Harris in part as a tribute to his late son, remembering how Beau introduced him to her. At the time, Harris was attorney general of California and Beau was attorney general of Delaware.

“[Beau] had enormous respect for her and her work,” Biden said. “I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign.”

There were, of course, political considerations for Biden as well.

Democrats say it was imperative he choose a woman of color following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd that provoked a national conversation about race.

During the selection process, a group of influential Black women pressed Biden to choose a Black running mate. A source close to the campaign said Biden’s conversations with renowned Democratic advisers Minyon Moore, Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry and Karen Finney “stuck with the VP” during an important moment in the country’s history.

A white vice presidential pick, many Democrats said, would have risked low turnout among Black voters on Election Day, one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

 “Had he not picked a person of color, it would have been a slap in the face to the entire community on top of just being a terrible political move,” one Democrat who has raised money for Biden advised The Hill.

Still, those who know Harris well say the senator grew increasingly nervous about her standing in the final weeks of the process, particularly as Bass started to make headlines for receiving key endorsements.

“I think in some respects, she thought, ‘I’m a national figure. I’ve run a national campaign, I’ve been vetted.’ And here she is, a senator from California in a race against a congresswoman from California,” said one Harris ally.

Throughout the process, Harris was also seen as the “safe” pick among those on Biden’s shortlist.

“Internal polling showed she was risk-averse,” said one Biden ally. “She was the least polarizing choice. Of course she has baggage, but who doesn’t?”

Indeed, while Harris has some clear drawbacks—she said she believed women who accused Biden of unwanted touching, has been criticized on the left for prosecuting racial minorities for low-level drug offenses; and embraced single-payer healthcare during the primaries — Biden insiders view those as manageable.

And Biden World seems content with Harris.

“He’s running a campaign of low risk, and she was the best choice,” said one Biden ally. “And the fact of the matter is, she’s the best complement to him of all the contenders. So that’s how she won the race.”

Research contact: @thehill

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

Senate panel votes to require Pentagon to assign new names to bases dubbed for Confederates

June 12, 2020

The Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would require the Pentagon to rename bases and other assets that are named after Confederate military leaders, a source confirmed to The Hill.

The move comes as Americans have hit the streets for 16 nights straight to protest the murder in Minnesota of George Floyd on May 25—and to assert that Black Lives Matter.

The amendment, offered by committee member Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), was approved by voice vote on Wednesday, June 10, during the committee’s closed-door markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the source familiar with the situation told The Hill.

The amendment would give the Pentagon three years to remove the Confederate names.

The news, which was first reported by Roll Call, comes after President Donald Trump said he would “not even consider” renaming the Army bases, insisting on his Twitter feed:

It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.

Just two days before Trump’s tweets, an Army spokesperson said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper were “open” to renaming the 10 bases that are named after Confederate military officers.

Specifically, the bases, which are in Southern states, are Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beauregard.

During a briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also said Trump would veto the NDAA if the massive policy bill mandated changing the names of the bases.

The inclusion of the amendment to force the Pentagon to change the base names, coupled with McEnany’s veto threat, potentially puts the White House on a collision course with Congress over what’s generally considered a must-pass bill. Republicans disinclined to confront the president still have opportunities to strip the amendment if they want, such as when the bill hits the Senate floor as soon as next week.

Research contact: @thehill

Trump intended to fire Esper over troops dispute

June 11, 2020

Only “yes men” get tenure in the Trump White House. President Donald Trump last week was on the verge of firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper—who has held his position officially for less than one year—over their differing views about domestic use of active-duty military. However, advisers and allies on Capitol Hill talked him out of it, according to several officials who talked exclusively to The Wall Street Journal.

The officials said that Trump was furious with Esper for not supporting his intent to use active-duty troops to quell protests in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and elsewhere following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

The discord surfaced, the Journal said, when Esper said on June 3 that he didn’t think using federal troops in American streets was warranted at that time. The comments, made in an opening statement at a news conference at the Pentagon, echoed his remarks the night before in an NBC interview. The news conference comments weren’t vetted beforehand by the White House, and the statement caught officials there off guard, two officials said.

“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort,” the defense secretary said at that time. “And only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.”

The disagreement between the two reflected the extent of differences on the issue of active-duty troops between the president and the Pentagon, where military and defense leaders were adamantly opposed to deploying federal forces to contain protesters as fundamentally at odds with military values.

A decision to fire the Pentagon chief that day also would have meant a major shake-up in the administration amid one of the biggest security crises of Trump’s presidency, the Journal noted.

The president asked several advisers for their opinion of the disagreement, with the objective that day of removing Esper, his fourth defense secretary, according to the officials. After talks with the advisers, who cautioned against the move, Trump set aside the plans to immediately fire Esper, the Journal reports.

At the same time, however, Esper, who was well aware of  the president’s feelings, was making his own preparations to resign—partly in frustration over the differences regarding the role of the military, the officials said. He had begun to prepare a letter of resignation before he was persuaded not to do so by aides and other advisers, according to some of the officials.

As advisers scrambled to avert the upheaval, Trump’s June 1 threat to send military forces into American cities emerged as a flashpoint, provoking national debate and drawing condemnation from onetime Trump aides.

Approximately 1,600 federal troops brought to the Washington, D.C., area were at that time poised for possible deployment in what was widely seen as a crossroads for the United States.

The officials said that President Trump and White House officials also were perturbed by Mr. Esper’s public comments indicating he didn’t know that a June 1 walk by. Trump and an entourage of officials that included Esper was set up for the purpose of taking photographs by a church near the White House that had been damaged in violence. Security forces including the National Guard forcibly removed protesters to allow for the photo session.

Advisers consulted by Mr. Trump that day included White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; longtime Trump friend and outside adviser David Urban; and Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), the officials said.

Research contact: @wsjournal

Romney is first Republican in Senate to break ranks, march with DC protesters

June 9, 2020

Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah marched with demonstrators toward the White House on Sunday, June 7—the first Republican senator to join the thousands across the country protesting the death of George Floyd while in police custody, The New York Times reported.

Romney, who marched with a group of Christians, told a Washington Post reporter that he had joined the protest to show that “… we need to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.”

In joining the protest, Mr. Romney again found himself at odds with President Donald Trump, who has pushed for a military response to the unrest. He also has  distanced himself from most of his party, as when he became the sole Republican senator to vote to remove Trump from office, the Times notes.

But not the only U.S. legislator: Last week, Representative Will Hurd of Texas, the lone black Republican in the House, joined a peaceful protest, marching alongside Floyd’s family.

Democrats, by contrast, have made a point of supporting and participating in the rallies. Representative Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) was hit by pepper spray during a demonstration in her state late last month, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) made a trip last week to briefly speak to protesters gathered outside the Capitol.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) was seen on Saturday handing out water bottles to protesters marching through Washington, while Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) attended a protest and handed out masks to people walking by.

The visibility of politicians at the protests “does matter to a degree,” Vania Brown, a protester from Maryland who had come to join the marches in Washington on Sunday, told the Times. “But right now, I’m skeptical of any political party.”

The civil unrest around the country, coupled with renewed calls to address police brutality against people of color, has amplified pressure on lawmakers—particularly Republicans—to address not only police officers’ use of force; but also racial discrimination, and the economic and social disparities that the coronavirus pandemic has further exposed.

According to the Times report, Democrats were expected on Monday to unveil sweeping legislation that would make it easier to prosecute police misconduct and recover damages from officers found to have violated civil rights.

In the coming weeks, the Senate and the House both plan to hold hearings on proposals to improve policing and counter racial discrimination.

Compared with previous instances in which black men have died after police officers have used excessive force, Republicans have been almost uniformly outraged at the case of Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The administration’s move to crack down on demonstrators prompted a rare break with President Trump, the Times said, as some Republicans moved to distance themselves from the president’s threats to send the military to confront protesters. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) went so far as to endorse scathing criticism from Jim Mattis, the former defense secretary, of Trump’s handling of the protests.

Among Republicans, Romney in particular has been vocal in condemning the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death, saying last month that “the George Floyd murder is abhorrent.”

He has also reflected on how his father, George Romney, participated in a civil rights march in the 1960s as governor of Michigan, quoting him on Twitter and sharing a photo of him at the protest in the 1960s in Detroit.

“Force alone will not eliminate riots,” Senator Romney quoted his father saying. “We must eliminate the problems from which they stem.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Former Defense Secretary Mattis says Trump’s ‘bizarre’ photo-op mimics Nazi tactics

June 5, 2020

In a story picked up by NBC News, on June 3, former Defense Secretary James Mattis slammed President Donald Trump’s response to the protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police—saying the POTUS “tries to divide us” while calling his “bizarre photo op” in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church “an abuse of executive authority.”

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic.

“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.”‘ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics,” Mattis wrote.

In the stunning rebuke of his former boss, Mattis, a retired general, said he’d promised to defend the Constitution when he was sworn into the Marine Corps “some 50 years ago,” NBC News reported.

“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside,” Mattis wrote, referring to Monday night’s federal show of force to clear protesters from the front of the White House.

After they were cleared, Trump walked across Lafayette Square with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others to pose for a picture with a Bible in front of the church, which had been damaged in a riot Sunday night. The photo opportunity came minutes after Trump announced that he was prepared to call in the military to handle unruly protesters around the country.

“We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution,” Mattis wrote in The Atlantic.

“We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose,” wrote Mattis, whom Trump would often refer to as “Mad Dog,” a nickname Mattis didn’t like.

Trump, he said, is a divider, and the country is “witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.”

“We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens,” he wrote.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden to address nation—reviling Trump’s actions against protesters, vowing to heal racial wounds

June 3, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he would speak to the nation on Tuesday, June 2—seeking to console Americans nationwide who are horrified by yet another death of a black man at the hands of police, as well as by subsequent nights of protest and violence.

Biden is expected to bluntly criticize President Donald Trump’s decision on the evening of June 1 to clear protesters from a Washington, D.C., street so that he could pose with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, The Washington Post reported.

“When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the President from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee plans to say, according to the excerpts released by his campaign.

“More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care,” he plans to add. “For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us.”

The remarks will be delivered at Philadelphia’s City Hall. Philadelphia also was where Barack Obama delivered a heralded speech on race relations more than 12 years ago, entitled “A More Perfect Union.”

Part of the Biden speech will speak to the nation’s concerns over police brutality, with plans to use the words of George Floyd — “I can’t breathe”— as a mantra. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after a police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis.

“George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation,” Biden plans to say.

“They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk. They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment — with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in the black and minority

“It’s a wake-up call for our nation,” he adds. “For all of us.”

Biden’s speech will take on Trump directly, criticizing him for both rhetoric and actions.

“Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won’t either,” he says in the excerpts. “But I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain.”

It is unclear whether Biden will outline new policies in the address, the Post says, but he will allude to the challenges ahead if he is elected president.

“I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation,” he says in the excerpts. “But to build it better than it was.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Trump retreats into White House bunker as protests rage

June 2, 2020

Unlike ill-fated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy—who in 1968 famously took to the Detroit streets to calm mobs after the assassination of Martin Luther King—(or even current Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who took to the streets of Delaware over the weekend); President Donald Trump has retreated from public appearances as “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” protesters fill the streets of Washington, D.C., and other cities nationwide.

Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night, May 29, as hundreds of protesters of all creeds and colors gathered outside the executive mansion—some of them throwing rocks and heaving police barricades, The Washington Post reports.

Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies such as terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who spoke with the news outlet on the condition of anonymity. The account was confirmed by an administration official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

According to the Post, “The abrupt decision by the agents underscored the rattled mood inside the White House—where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend; and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds.”

Friday’s protests were triggered by the alleged murder of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was pinned at the neck by white Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

The demonstrations in Washington turned violent and appeared to catch officers by surprise. Indeed, the news outlet reports, they sparked one of the highest alerts on the White House complex since the September. 11 attacks in 2001.

Ultimately, 50 Secret Service agents were rumored to have been injured during the protests at the White House.

“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. The Secret Service said it does not discuss the means and methods of its protective operations. The president’s move to the bunker was first reported by The New York Times.

The president and his family have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds, according to the Republican. It was not immediately clear if first lady Melania Trump and the couple’s 14-year-old son, Barron, joined the president in the bunker. Secret Service protocol would have called for all those under the agency’s protection to be in the underground shelter.

Trump did not appear in public on Sunday. Instead, a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the plans ahead of time said Trump was expected in the coming days to speak to the American public.

Research contact: @washingtonpost