Posts tagged with "NBC News"

Schumer urges Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to oust Trump from office

January 8, 2021

After Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill on January 6 in an insurrection that was openly incited by the president in hopes of overturning the November 3 election results, federal legislators began calling for his immediate removal, MSN reports.

“This president must not hold office one day longer,” tweeted presumptive Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), adding, “The quickest and most effective way—it can be done today—to remove this president from office would be for the Vice President to immediately invoke the 25th amendment. If the Vice President and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress must reconvene to impeach President Trump.”

Indeed, the events Wednesday “stunned the nation and the world,” MSN said, noting, “People watched in disbelief as a swarm of Trump supporters overran police, breached the Capitol building. and ransacked it.” Four people died during the assault, which followed a speech by Trump at a DC-based rally.

During the rally, Trump repeated his false claims that the presidential election—which he lost to Joe Biden by 7 million votes—was “stolen” from him. He spoke to the crowd, encouraging them to march to the building and saying, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness; you have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

But can he be removed from office immediately? Under a provision of the 25th Amendment, the vice president can, with the support of the majority of the president’s cabinet, invoke the the measure and declare Trump unfit for office, which could lead to his early removal.

Under such a scenario, NBC News reports, the vice president would immediately take over as acting president.

Earlier Thursday, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois), called for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, becoming the first Republican to do so.

In an interview with MSNBC, Kinzinger, slammed Trump as “unmoored, not just from his duty, or even his oath, but from reality itself” and said Pence, and the rest of Trump’s cabinet, needed to invoke the measure “to end this nightmare.”

“The president is unfit and the president is unwell. And the president must now relinquish control of the executive branch voluntarily or involuntary,” he said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Representatives David Cicilline, of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu, of California and Jamie Raskin, of Maryland, circulated articles of impeachment against Trump on Thursday.

The legislation accuses Trump of “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States” and having “gravely endangered the security of the United States,” which they added, “demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

Research contact: @MSN

In hourlong phone call, Trump entreats, bullies Georgia secretary of state to overturn election results

January 5, 2021

He lost the general election last November 3, but he refuses to accept the well-documented results. Indeed, on Sunday, January 3, President Donald Trump begged Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the election results during an astounding hourlong phone call.

NBC News reports that the network has obtained a tape of the unprecedented phone conversation, during which the president offered a smorgasbord of false claims about voter fraud and repeatedly berated state officials.

“So look,” Trump told Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Excerpts of the call, which took place Saturday, were first published Sunday by The Washington Post.

The conversation is revealing in that it not only documents Trump’s threats against Raffensperger, but hints at what may have been said in talks between the president and other state and political officials nationwide since the POTUS lost the election to President-elect Biden by a decisive 7 million votes.

The phone call featured Trump, days before he is set to leave office, pleading with Raffensperger to alter the vote total and launching into a barrage of discredited conspiracy theories about the election. Trump even suggested that Raffensperger might face criminal consequences should he refuse to intervene in accordance with Trump’s wishes.

Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, pushed back against Trump’s claims and said President-elect Joe Biden’s victory of about 12,000 votes in the State of Georgia was accurate.

“The people of Georgia are angry. The people in the country are angry,” Trump said in the call. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.

“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Raffensperger responded, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.”

“We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,” Biden Senior Adviser Bob Bauer said in a statement. “It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.

At an event in Savannah, Georgia, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris referred to the call as “a bald, bald face, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States.”

Georgia has conducted multiple recounts and audits of the vote since November. Recently, an audit of signature matches in Cobb County found “no fraudulent absentee ballots,” Raffensperger’s office announced.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Moderna’s vaccine is highly effective, FDA says, clearing way for second vaccine

December 16, 2020

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is 94% effective at preventing symptomatic illness—and appears to prevent the spread of the virus, as well—according to an FDA briefing document released on Tuesday, December 15, NBC News reports. .

The findings set the Moderna vaccine up for emergency use authorization by the FDA—which would double the number of COVID-19 vaccines available, after the first shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine were given to healthcare workers nationwide in the USA on Monday.

The high efficacy of the Moderna vaccine was achieved after two doses given 28 days apart. This is about the same level of effectiveness as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.E

But there is also evidence that just one dose of Moderna’s may stop the virus’s spread. A second document published on the FDA website shows asymptomatic infection was reduced by 63% after the first shot.

Still, it is expected that regulators will require two doses of the vaccine for maximum protection, NBC News notes.

A committee independent of the FDA, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, will meet Thursday to decide whether to recommend that the agency greenlight the Moderna vaccine. The meeting will largely mirror the one from last Thursday, when the panel of experts ultimately recommended that the FDA authorize Pfizer’s vaccine.

The vaccines from both drugmakers use similar technology.

It is widely anticipated that the Moderna vaccine’s path to approval will be similar to Pfizer’s. Indeed, NBC reports, an authorization could come as soon as Friday. And officials with Operation Warp Speed are already planning for widespread distribution of the Moderna vaccine.

Research contact: @NBCNews

On Safe Harbor Day, America’s presidential votes are locked in by states and guaranteed by Congress

December 9, 2020

Tuesday, December 8, is Safe Harbor Day—the day when all 50 states are expected to lock in their electoral votes—both by finishing up certification of the results and by resolving any state court legal challenges.

According to a report by The Chicago Tribune, by the end of the day, every state, with the exception of Wisconsin, is expected to have made its election results official.

The purpose of the safe harbor deadline is to serve as a guarantee of the election results by Congress. NBC News notes that, “If, for example, a state legislature decided to send in its own slate, the law says the electors chosen by popular vote and certified by the governor must be counted by Congress from states that met the safe harbor deadline.”

Other than Wisconsin, where a hearing is scheduled later this week, every state appears to have met a deadline in federal law that essentially means Congress has to accept the electoral votes that will be cast next week and sent to the Capitol for counting on January 6.

“What federal law requires is that if a state has completed its post-election certification by December 8, Congress is required to accept those results,” Rebecca Green, an election law professor at the William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia, told the Tribune.

The Electoral College is a creation of the Constitution, but Congress sets the date for federal elections and, in the case of the presidency, determines when presidential electors gather in state capitals to vote.

The attention paid to the normally obscure safe harbor provision is a function of Trump’s unrelenting efforts to challenge the legitimacy of the election. He has refused to concede, made unsupported claims of fraud and called on Republican lawmakers in key states to appoint electors who would vote for him even after those states have certified a Biden win.

But Trump’s arguments have gone nowhere in court in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Most of his campaign’s lawsuits in state courts challenging those Biden victories have been dismissed, with the exception of Wisconsin.

Like the others, the lawsuit does not appear to have much chance of succeeding, but because it was filed in accordance with state law procedures for challenging election results, “it’s looking to me like Wisconsin is going to miss the safe harbor deadline because of that,” said Edward Foley, a professor of election law at Ohio State University’s Moritz School of Law.

Judge Stephen Simanek, appointed to hear the case, has acknowledged that the case would push the state outside the electoral vote safe harbor.

Missing the deadline won’t deprive Wisconsin of its 10 electoral votes. Biden electors still will meet in Madison on Monday to cast their votes and there’s no reason to expect that Congress won’t accept them. In any case, Biden would still have more than the 270 votes he needs even without Wisconsin’s.

But lawmakers in Washington could theoretically second-guess the slate of electors from any state that misses the December 8 deadline, Foley said.

Already, the Tribune notes, one member of the House of Representatives, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), has said he will mount a last-ditch effort for Trump—challenging electoral votes for Biden on January 6. Brooks would need to object in writing and be joined by at least one senator. If that were to happen, both chambers would debate the objections and vote on whether to sustain them.

But unless both houses agreed to the objections, they would fail.

The unwillingness of Trump and his supporters to concede is “dangerous because in an electoral competition, one side wins, one side loses and it’s essential that the losing side accepts the winner’s victory. What is really being challenged right now is our capacity to play by those rules,” Foley said.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

If pigs could fly: DOT bans animals other than service dogs from airline cabins

December 4, 2020\

Don’t expect to see a miniature horse or a parrot in the passenger seat next to you on your next flight on a U.S. air carrier. The era of emotional support pigs and peacocks on airplanes is about to end, following a December 2 ruling by the Transportation Department that bans animals other than dogs that are trained as service animals from accompanying their owners aboard, NBC News reports.

The regulation tightens the reins after a years-long battle between airlines and passengers who have requested permission to carry a menagerie of “emotional support” animals in the cabin.

According to the Transportation Department, a service animal is defined as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.

“The department received more than 15,000 comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking,” the agency said Wednesday. “The final rule announced today addresses concerns raised by individuals with disabilities, airlines, flight attendants, airports, other aviation transportation stakeholders, and other members of the public, regarding service animals on aircraft.”

Emotional support animals are no longer considered service animals, but the ruling still requires airlines to allow dogs that are psychiatric service animals.

Wednesday’s official ruling allows airlines to require passengers to provide forms attesting to their service animals’ training and behavior up to 48 hours before their flights. Airlines also will retain the right to refuse animals that display aggressive behavior.

Research contact: @NBCNews

As Trump vows to ‘never concede,’ his administration officially authorizes Biden transition

November 25, 2020

After weeks of delay, the head of the General Services Administration informed President-elect Joe Biden on Monday, November 23, that the official governmental transition process has been approved, NBC News reports.

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter that Biden, whom she referred to as “the apparent president-elect,” is now able to get access to millions of dollars in federal funds and other resources to begin his transition to power. In her letter, Murphy also denied that she had been under pressure from the White House to delay the process.

“I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right,” she said. “Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official—including those who work at the White House or GSA—with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”

Trump vowed to continue his legal fight to contest the election results in a pair of tweets but said, “I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Hours later, the president tweeted that he would “never concede to fake ballots and ‘Dominion,’” referring to a conspiracy theory that baselessly alleges a company that makes voting machines deleted millions of Trump votes.

The transition process had been stalled for weeks as Trump’s team waged a sputtering legal battle across the country to contest the results, leaving Biden out of the loop on the COVID-19 vaccine and other key issues, NBC News notes.

However, Trump and the GSA faced increasing pressure as a growing number of Republican lawmakers began to publicly call for Biden to be granted access, citing national security concerns. Democratic lawmakers had also begun calling for Murphy to testify before Congress.

Biden, on the other hand, began filling out his Cabinet and announcing personnel for other senior roles during the delay. He also held briefings with former top government officials and formed his own COVID-19 task force.

In a statement, Biden transition adviser Yohannes Abraham called the news “a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”

“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies,” he said. “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”

In a statement later Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called the GSA letter “probably the closest thing to a concession that President Trump could issue.”

“Let us all now — Democrats and Republicans, the Trump Administration and the incoming Biden Administration—unite together for a smooth and peaceful transition that will benefit America,” he said. “The nation faces multiple crises that demand an orderly transition, and I look forward to working with President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to get things done to help the American people.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden annoints John Kerry as climate czar, Alejandro Mayorkas for DHS

November 24, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden made official his picks for a number of high-level administration and Cabinet positions on Monday, November 23—including tapping former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his special presidential envoy for climate and seasoned diplomat and confidant Antony Blinken as secretary of state, NBC News reports.

Biden also announced his intention to nominate:

Jake Sullivan, a former Clinton State Department official, will serve as national security adviser.

Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant picked to head Homeland Security and Kerry’s position marks the first time that the National Security Council will include an official dedicated to climate change.

“We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy,” Biden said in a statement. “I need a team ready on Day One to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face, and advance our security, prosperity, and values. This is the crux of that team.”

Indeed, only 58 days remain until Inauguration Day. Biden is slated to deliver remarks about his leadership picks on Tuesday afternoon. A Biden transition official told NBC News that all Cabinet nominees will join Biden at the announcement in Wilmington, Delaware. The official stressed that the event will follow coronavirus safety protocols, including social distancing.

In a separate statement, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said the individuals “represent the best of America.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Big deal: BuzzFeed acquires HuffPost

November 23, 2020

Digital culture and news company BuzzFeed has agreed to buy HuffPost from Verizon Media, the companies announced on November 19—a move that combines two of the internet’s largest consumer media properties, NBC News reports.

Verizon also will make an investment to become a minority shareholder in BuzzFeed—and the deal will see the two companies partner on shopping experiences for consumers, content syndication across each other’s platforms, and ad products.

BuzzFeed paid for HuffPost with company shares, the value of which was not disclosed. Verizon Media acquired HuffPost when it bought AOL for a reported $4.4 billion in 2015. NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, is an investor in BuzzFeed.

The merged company will be run by Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s co-founder and CEO, who is also one of the co-founders of the original HuffPost site, originally called The Huffington Post. An editor-in-chief will be brought on to head HuffPost, which will be run as its own brand and separate site.

I still vividly remember the night we launched HuffPost and the excitement of growing it into a major news outlet during those early years,” Peretti said in an internal email to BuzzFeed staff, obtained by NBC News. “But we aren’t buying HuffPost because of its illustrious past or my personal connection; we pursued this opportunity because we are excited about the future of HuffPost and all the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come.”

On Thursday, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington tweeted that she was “so happy” to see the company joining forces with BuzzFeed 15 years after Peretti helped found it. “Such exciting news and looking forward to all that’s to come,” she said.

The deal combines two of the most successful digital media companies from different eras. HuffPost emerged as one of the first successful digital media outlets of the 2000s. BuzzFeed, launched in 2006, became the dominant digital media operation years later, from a surge of readers who came primarily through social media platforms, especially Facebook.

While each was able to amass a sizable audience and attract millions of dollars in private investment, both struggled to turn a profit. Facebook and Google have remained the primary destination for digital advertising spending, with most digital media websites facing similar challenges as BuzzFeed and HuffPost.

Peretti said that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital and benefited digital-first companies and that BuzzFeed hopes this deal will enable it to “be the formidable leader in our space.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Gut instincts: TikTok users fight traditional beauty standards by showing off their bellies

November 5, 2020

At the end of August, Brooklynne Webb, 16, posted a video to TikTok of herself pulling down the waistband of her leggings to show off her relaxed belly alongside three others doing the same.

Then the trolls began to comment: “She needs to drop some calories,” a user named Peepings wrote.

Initially, the comments hurt Brooklynne’s feelings, and she worried that the remarks could affect her followers who struggled with their own body images.

“I was thinking … ‘how are the other people who are watching my videos and seeing these comments feeling about their bodies?’ Brooklynne, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, told NBC News in an interview.

Instead of taking the video down, Brooklynne decided she’d post another TikTok. In her next video, she held a red Slurpee beneath a screen grab of the comment about her weight. Then, the video cut to Brooklynne, again showing off her belly, dancing and grinning widely.

For every trolling comment made about her body, Brooklynne posted another video  of herself, joyfully dancing with her belly out beneath the hateful message. Since the end of August, the videos of Brooklynne dancing with her bare midriff have been viewed about 200 million times.

“The best way that I could think about approaching it was to stand there and smile and say, ‘This is who I am.’ It doesn’t matter what size I am. I’m perfect just the way I am,” she said.

The “ body out” movement could mark a shift in how TikTok affects some users’ body images.

Teens have reported that TikTok has warped their perceptions of their bodies. However, more recently, users like Brooklynne have started movements to normalize all body types and shapes to dispel harmful beauty standards. Women and girls joyfully showing off their relaxed, unaltered stomachs has become a sweeping trend on the platform in recent weeks. Experts said the trend could help young people re-evaluate beauty standards and adjust expectations of what their bodies should look like.

“They’re showing what a normal body looks like, and none of us are really used to seeing that in the media. … When we see these sorts of videos online, social media, they’re kind of breaking the illusion that everyone is perfect except us,” said Charlotte Markey, a professor of Psychology and Health Sciences at Rutgers University and author of The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless.

Those who spoke to NBC News said they feel images on social media platforms like Instagram can perpetuate unrealistic body standards and may even be altered to perpetuate unattainable beauty standards. But because TikTok is video-based, showing an unaltered body in motion on it feels more true to life, participants said, and it lets them show their bodies more honestly.

“It makes me feel super, super genuinely happy,” Brooklynne said of seeing the movement grow on TikTok. “It makes me feel like social media and this social construct of bodies is starting to change to be overall more positive and loving and accepting.”

Traditionally, Markey said, social media presented an opportunity for users to show perfected and sometimes manipulated images of themselves, perpetuating a potentially harmful beauty standard, but she said Generation Z has begun to set more realistic standards.

“I do think that Gen Z has really started to push back against that, and we see a different, more empowered moment on social media where young people are saying, like: ‘I’m not going to spend all this time trying to make myself look perfect for you. Here’s my belly. … I don’t really care,'” Markey said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Trump adviser Stephen Miller reveals aggressive second-term immigration agenda

November 2, 2020

He’d like to make America a private club: President Donald Trump’s Senior Adviser Stephen Miller has fleshed out plans to rev up Trump’s restrictive immigration agenda if the POTUS wins re-election next week—offering a stark contrast to the platform of Democratic nominee Joe Biden, NBC News reports.

In a 30-minute phone interview on October 29 with NBC News, Miller—as the unofficial “bouncer” for the current Administration—outlined four major priorities: limiting asylum grants, punishing and outlawing so-called sanctuary cities, expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants, and slapping new limits on work visas.

The objective, he said, is “raising and enhancing the standard for entry” to the United States.

Some of the plans would require legislation. Others could be achieved through executive action, which the Trump administration has relied on heavily in the absence of a major immigration bill.

“In many cases, fixing these problems and restoring some semblance of sanity to our immigration programs does involve regulatory reform,” Miller said. “Congress has delegated a lot of authority.”

What he will not commit to fix: In the near term, Miller would not obligate the Administration to lifting the freeze on new green cards and visas that’s set to expire at the end of the year—saying it would be “entirely contingent” on governmental analysis of factors in the state of the job market.

Asked whether he would support reinstating the controversial “zero tolerance” policy that led to families’ being separated, Miller said the Trump administration is “100 percent committed to a policy of family unity,” but he described the policy as one that would keep families together in immigration detention by changing what is known as the Flores settlement agreement.

Over the past year, the administration has sought to amend the Flores agreement, which says that children can’t be held over 20 days in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. If it succeeds, immigrant families could be detained indefinitely as they await their day in immigration court.

In addition, the Administration wants to maintain its limitations on asylum. On Trump’s watch, asylum grants have plummeted. Miller wants to keep it that way. He said a second-term Trump administration would seek to expand “burden-sharing” deals with Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that cut off pathways to the U.S. for asylum-seekers.

“The president would like to expand that to include the rest of the world,” Miller said. “And so if you create safe third partners in other continents and other countries and regions, then you have the ability to share the burden of asylum-seekers on a global basis.”

In line with that goal there will be continued crackdowns on sanctuary cities. Miller noted in his interview with NBC that the Administration has withheld some grants to sanctuary cities.

That includes enhanced screening methods and more information-sharing among agencies to vet applicants seeking admission into the country. The U.S. already looks for ties to terrorism and extremist groups. Miller wants to go further by vetting the “ideological sympathies or leanings” of visa applicants to gauge their potential for recruitment by radicals.

That may include changing the interview process—adding interviews or talking to people close to applicants about their beliefs.

“That’s going to be a major priority,” he said. “It’s going to require a whole government effort. It’s going to require building a very elaborate and very complex screening mechanism.”

Finally, Miller told NBC, a second-term Trump administration would finalize efforts to curtail use of guest-worker programs like H-1B visas—including by eliminating the lottery system used in the process when applications exceed the annual quota and by giving priority to those being offered the highest wages.

He said Trump would pursue a “points-based entry system” for American visa grants aimed at admitting only those who “can contribute the most to job creation and economic opportunity” while preventing “displacement of U.S. workers.”

By contrast, the Biden campaign seeks to stop the xenophobia that Miller is spreading on behalf of the Administration.

Biden campaign Director of Latino Media Jen Molina said that, if elected, Biden would restore DACA, unveil legislation in his first 100 days with a path to citizenship for undocumented people, protect borders in a humane way and end “shameful practices like family separation” that have left children stranded.

“We are going to win this election so that people like Stephen Miller don’t get the chance to write more xenophobic policies that dishonor our American values,” Molina said. “Unlike Trump, Vice President Biden knows that immigrants make America stronger and helped build this country.”

Research contact: @NBCNews