• Donald Trump Has a New Website But It’s Bad

    donald trump

    The Right View/ZUMA Wire

    When then-President Donald Trump permanently lost his tweeting privileges in January, he entered uncertain territory: How would the second president ever to have a Twitter account communicate to the world without a Twitter account? As the weeks went by, Trump talked about creating a new social media platform for himself and his supporters—a place to engage in public discussions and weigh in on the issues of the day, free of the Big Tech censors and oppressive wokeness. What would this new shitposting arcadia look like?

    Apparently, it would look a lot like a blog.

    On Tuesday, in a story that sounds weirdly like someone trying to describe the internet in 1992, Fox News reported that Trump had “launched a communications platform, which will eventually give him the ability to communicate directly with his followers.” The story continued:

    The platform, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” appears on www.DonaldJTrump.com/desk. The space will allow Trump to post comments, images, and videos. 

    Donald J. Trump dot com backslash desk. Donald J. Trump dot com backslash desk. Donald J. Trump dot com backslash desk. Donald J. Trump dot com backslash desk. This is a website! You’re describing a blog, on a website! Why does this description sound like Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric in that old Today Show video?

    This is old technology, man. Anyone can set one of these up! Clicking on the website—again, that’s Donald J. Trump dot com backslash desk—takes you to a landing page that looks sort of like a Twitter homepage, but which consists entirely of little farts of enlightenment from Trump, which up until now he had been sending to reporters using something called “email.” Finally, a place to communicate one’s thoughts, on the internet. It’s not exactly reinventing the spinning wheel—or is it:

    The technology appears to be powered by Campaign Nucleus— the ‘digital ecosystem made for efficiently managing political campaigns and organizations,’ created by his former campaign manager, Brad Parscale.

    Okay, I take it back: it is not just a blog; it is probably a very expensive blog.

     

  • The Pushback Worked. Biden Will Raise the Refugee Cap to What He Originally Promised.

    HAMDAYET, SUDAN - DECEMBER 7: Refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia board buses to a Um Rakuba refugee camp after spending days to weeks at a UNHCR reception center located in the east Sudanese border village of Hamdayet.Byron Smith/Getty Images

    President Joe Biden will officially lift the historically low cap set by the Trump administration and stick to his promise of admitting 62,500 refugees into the United States this fiscal year, he announced Monday. The change comes after weeks of backlash. After news in April that the administration planned to leave the number of refugees admitted at 15,000, Democratic allies, human rights activists, and refugee organizations worldwide pushed back and criticized Biden’s move. Their protests worked.

    The new cap opens up more spots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Central America, restoring some of the allocations to regions skipped over by the Trump administration. It is a move that “is justified by grave humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest,” Biden wrote.

    “The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year,” he said in a statement. “We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway.”

    Last February, the Biden administration laid out its plan to increase the cap on refugee resettlements in a report to Congress: “To respond to all of these unforeseen and urgent situations, a revised target of 62,500 is proposed and is justified by grave humanitarian concerns and is in the national interest.” But nothing changed for months. Advocates and international refugee organizations criticized the president’s lack of action on this issue, and were vocally against the April 16 announcement to keep the 15,000 cap

    As I wrote last week, the administration claimed in April that it apparently couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. The logic was that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of Health and Human Services, handles both the country’s refugee program and sheltering and placing unaccompanied migrant minors. Biden had said that they “couldn’t do two things at once.” But anyone who knows how ORR operates refuted that claim. 

    I spoke more about this with Eskinder Negash, the president and CEO for the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Negash ran ORR under President Obama from 2009 to 2015. He told me that the United States has “the experience and the expertise to process 125,000 refugees per year, easily.” 

    Biden says the budget he submitted to Congress “reflects my commitment to the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions” for the 2022 fiscal year which starts in October. However, the White House is already warning that this goal will “be hard to hit.”

    Biden wrote: “We might not make it the first year. But we are going to use every tool available to help these fully-vetted refugees fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries. This will reassert American leadership and American values when it comes to refugee admissions.”

  • Why Body Cameras Can Still Fail to Hold Police Accountable

    Gerry Broome/AP

    On April 21, while attempting to serve a warrant, North Carolina police shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old Black man in Elizabeth City. The entire incident was recorded, since the officers involved were wearing body cameras. But actually seeing the footage of the shooting has been a challenge for Brown’s family, lawyers, and the wider public.

    Body-worn cameras are intended to provide transparency into policing. But they stop being a tool to protect the public from police brutality when the only people who end up with protection appear to be the cops who did the shooting, as seems to be the case with the officers who killed Brown. Body camera laws vary by state, but in North Carolina, local courts have authority over releasing footage. After the shooting, a North Carolina state judge ruled that Brown’s family could see the entire tape within 10 days, but there would be no release to the general public. In fact, Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster ordered the department to blur the faces and name tags of the police officers involved. “The release at this time would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial and orderly administration of justice,” he said in his ruling

    Brown joins an ever-growing list of high-profile deaths caught on police cameras. But, in many cases, instead of providing accountability, the cameras have mostly served as the conduit for a seemingly endless and traumatizing stream of police violence. In the short clip that the victim’s family was allowed to see, they say that Brown had his hands on the steering wheel as police fired bullets into his car. They called it not just a police shooting but “an execution.” 

    I started writing about police shootings and body cameras back in 2015 when the devices were heralded as one neat trick to fix policing. Six years later, the parallels are striking. Back then, after a string of high-profile shootings including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, the federal government provided local police departments with millions of dollars to outfit their law enforcement officers with bodycams. “The impact of body-worn cameras touches on a range of outcomes that build upon efforts to mend the fabric of trust, respect, and common purpose that all communities need to thrive,” then–Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

    But it quickly became clear that cameras wouldn’t transform policing in the ways the Obama administration had intended. In 2016, after Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers shot and killed Alton Sterling, both cops who were on the scene said their body cameras “fell off.” That same year, a Washington, DC, police officer simply didn’t turn on his camera until after he shot Terrence Sterling. In other instances, police departments have delayed releasing the tape altogether, which leaves the public and the victim’s loved ones to speculate on what happened. 

    It sometimes seems as if the mere presence of body footage becomes so threatening that it can inspire an excessive police response. When police departments and local officials agree to release videos of police killings, they often use it as a weapon. This week in Elizabeth City, a mostly Black town of approximately 17,000 people, a number of demonstrators demanded to see the video that depicted Brown’s final moments. In response, the mayor declared a state of emergency, set a curfew for 8 p.m. each night, and the police appeared at the peaceful protests wearing full riot gear.

    Body cams did not create police accountability for the same reason that many previous attempts of reform have failed: The rank and file in the departments resist change. As my colleague Laura Thompson reported earlier this month, cops frequently ignore new reforms, such as restrictions on neck restrains and no-knock warrants. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death a year ago in May, there have been many calls and proposals for reforming the police, including a comprehensive bill introduced by the Democrats. The use of bodycams holds a prominent place in all these proposals. But it turns out, they’re only as useful as police allow them to be.

  • People Are Pulling Some Real Weird-Ass Shit Out of Rivers These Days

    Happy Sunday. I’m pleased to inform you that people have been pulling some really weird things out of rivers.

    In late April, the Fish and Wildlife Service caught—and swiftly released—a 240-pound, 6-foot-10-inch fish in the Detroit River. The female sturgeon is estimated to be more than a century old. “She likely hatched in the Detroit River around 1920 when Detroit became the 4th largest city in America,” the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office wrote in a Facebook post about the catch.

    Around the same time in Florida (why is it always Florida?), two scuba-diving amateur paleontologists discovered a 50-pound mammoth bone in the Peace River. They donated the bone to a local middle school, Fox News reports

    In related news, anthropology students and their professor at the University of Tennesee at Chattanooga recently found bits of what they believe could be the USS Chattanooga, a Civil War-era boat, in the Tennessee River. “It’s a stark reminder of a period that is not unlike one that we are going through now, and that we are bitterly divided,” UTC anthropology professor Morgan Smith told the local news. “And there are a lot of lessons in that.”

  • New Polls: It Turns Out Americans Like a Normal, Boring President

    Drew Angerer/Getty

    Americans largely approve of Joe Biden’s performance as president so far, two new polls indicate. 

    The first, released Sunday by ABC and Ipsos, surveyed 513 adults and showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans are optimistic about the next year—the most optimistic we’ve been as a country in more than a decade. (Seriously, the last time we felt this good about where the US was headed was 2006, ABC reports.)

    The second poll, released by Yahoo News and YouGov on Friday, looked specifically at Biden’s first 1oo days in office. Out of the 1,558 adults surveyed, 57 percent said they approved of Biden’s handling of the pandemic. When asked if Biden’s performance has been better, worse, or the about same as what they expected, most people, 39 percent, said better, while 28 percent said worse and 24 percent said about the same.

    Overall, Biden’s approval rating is 54 percent, according to Yahoo News. (By contrast, Donald Trump’s approval rating peaked at 48 percent, five days into office.)

    Yahoo News/YouGov

    It wasn’t all good news for Biden. For one, more Americans (28 percent) think the country has become more divided than united (23 percent) since Biden took office, according to the ABC/Ipsos poll. And a closer look at the numbers reveals even deeper divisions: For the group that thought the country is more united, an overwhelming majority credited Biden. For the group that thought the country has become more divided, a smaller, but solid majority also blamed Biden.

    Looking ahead, the polls also suggest that a majority of the country—including both Democrats and Republicans—favor bipartisanship, and that Republican leaders aren’t doing enough to compromise. A little more than half say Biden is making the “right amount” of effort to compromise with Republican leaders, while 39 percent say he is doing too little.

    Ipsos
  • A Trump-Era Rule Is Still Turning Away Migrants at the Border. El Paso Activists are Marching to Demand Biden End It.

    Andrea Guzman/Mother Jones

    On Friday in El Paso, Texas, activists carrying plush toys and signs saying “free them” walked from the Paso Del Norte Bridge to Fort Bliss, a military base retrofitted to house unaccompanied minors arriving at the border of the United States and Mexico. Before starting the walk, protesters gathered for a prayer: “Let us hold in our hearts the children and parents expelled to Juárez, lingering in dashed hopes of security and freedom.” 

    The rally was held just after President Joe Biden’s 100th day in office to protest the administration’s continuation of a pandemic rule that has been called one of the “most anti-immigrant policies” of the Trump era.

    In March of last year, the Trump administration utilized Title 42 of the Public Health Safety Act to stop noncitizen migration in the “interest of public health.” (Vice President Mike Pence pushed it through, despite concerns from scientists at the Center for Disease Control.) Title 42 has been used to turn away asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors for over a year. A backlog has in part fueled a misleading conversation about a “crisis” at the border. It’s also left migrant families vulnerable to danger in Mexico border towns. One activist group graded Biden’s actions on immigration so far, saying he’s failed to act on the “deadly and traumatizing” expulsions. A human rights report published in April discovered just under 500 attacks or kidnappings of asylum seekers expelled under the policy since Biden took office.

    It has specifically been tied to the problem of minors entering the United States alone. A court order found Title 42 did not apply to minors, allowing them to cross but without their families—forcing them to live in facilities like Fort Bliss. The El Paso base can hold up to 5,000 children and opened last month during an influx of unaccompanied minors at the border through a partnership with the Department of Defense. (The partnership also provided 350 beds at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland.)

    “Title 42 is really the root of many of the evils happening at the border,” said Tom Cartwright who formed the advocacy group Witness at the Border and helped organize the rally. “The parents were faced with an unimaginable decision, giving up hope that they can come across, they’re sending their children across to unite with family here.” 

    He hopes the walk shines a light on the children expelled to Mexico as well as those in facilities like Fort Bliss Military Base for long periods. “For us, walking [six miles] from the bridge to Fort Bliss is symbolic of that connection,” Cartwright said.  

    Ismael Ruiz-Millan, a pastor with the United Methodist Church in North Carolina, traveled to El Paso to attend the walk. “We’re walking…to ask for justice for the children who are detained,” Ruiz-Millan said. “As a father, I cannot imagine the pain and suffering that occurs.” 

    Francisco Chavez, an asylum seeker from Guatemala who spent the past year in Mexico and was just recently granted entry to the US, walked alongside Ruiz-Millan. Noting that many of the children are also from Central America, Chavez said he hoped that the demonstration would let the children know that they’re not alone.

    Joshua Rubin, founder of Witness at the Border, said he thinks the left has given Biden a pass for too long on border issues. 

    “We have to let [Biden] know that the left can give him grief, too. He’s shown that he’s the kind of guy who does, in fact, respond to pressure,” said Rubin. 

  • Joe Biden Rolls Out the Sleepy New Deal

    Jim Watson/Pool/AFP

    In his Wednesday night address to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden made a quiet but sustained case for a different sort of American economy. He called on lawmakers to pass major pro-union legislation and recast the fight against climate change as a matter of more jobs for Americans. Going by his prepared remarks, Biden said the word “jobs” 43 times in all. 

    “Wall Street didn’t build the country,” Biden said. “The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class.”

    As with all things Biden, the speech seemed intended to evoke a nostalgia for the New Deal; and as with all things Biden, it did so tamely—even, yep, sleepily. The middle section of the speech was a recitation of familiar policy proposals that, taken together, amounted to a radical rethinking of the role of the government in people’s lives. It was revolutionary stuff, presented as dully as possible—the New Deal on Ambien.

    Biden advocated for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would make it more difficult for employers to discourage unionizing. He called for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help ensure gender equality in wages. He called for climate change solutions that amounted to, as he said, “jobs, jobs, jobs.” He also called for increasing the minimum wage to $15, Democrats having failed in their efforts to do so via the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package passed last month.

    The American Jobs Plan, his proposed economic recovery act, would seek to employ Americans building green infrastructure to fight climate change. “There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing,” Biden said. 

    The era of big government is far from over, he seemed to be saying between the lines. Pushing his potentially groundbreaking progressive agenda in a style so dry and uninflected that it seemed to put Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to sleep, Biden was proposing a new common sense, and he made a point of taking a shot at the old one.

    “Trickle-down economics has never worked,” he said, jabbing at Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump’s tax cuts, “and it is time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out.”

  • NRA Chief LaPierre Hunted Elephants in Botswana, Video Shows

    NRA head Wayne LaPierre at CPAC 2021Paul Hennessy/SOPA/Zuma

    In 2013, National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre and his wife traveled to Botswana’s Okavango Delta to hunt the now-endangered African bush elephant, which is the largest—and, after humans, perhaps most intelligent—land mammal in the world .

    Video unearthed by The New Yorker and The Trace shows LaPierre shooting at an elephant three times, but failing to kill the animal. Later, his wife, Susan, kills an elephant with one shot, then, aided by a guide, cuts off the elephant’s tail and raises it in the air, proclaiming, “Victory!”

    The couple were in Botswana to film “Under Wild Skies,” an NRA-sponsored TV show targeted toward hunters. The episode never aired, but footage of LaPierre’s adviser killing an elephant during a different expedition prompted outrage in 2013.

    The video may upset you, but you can watch it—and read about all the gory details—here.

  • Republicans Still Don’t Really Know What to Say About Joe Biden

    Joe Biden

    Andrew Harrer/CNP/Zuma

    With the 100-day mark of Joe Biden’s presidency approaching, a number of national news organizations commissioned polls on how he’s doing, and they all found basically the same thing: The president is popular. Biden’s approval rating is at 58 percent according to CBS News, 53 percent according to NBC News, 52 percent according to ABC News, and 54 percent according to Fox News. This is a bit lower than where Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush were at the same point in time, but given the circumstances in which he took office—a refusal by Biden’s predecessor to concede that culminated in an actual rebellion—it’s a pretty good number.

    Republicans seem to have taken notice. Last weekend, the Hill interviewed a number of GOP senators who fretted about how Biden’s amiable personality had insulated him from political blowback—they were having a hard time defining him as the enemy.

    South Dakota Sen. John Thune typified these laments, telling the paper, “His tone is moderate and he’s an affable person, he’s a likeable individual and a lot of us know him, have relationships with him and it’s probably harder to attack somebody who is relatable and likeable.”

    Of course, Obama was also, to use Thune’s words, relatable and likeable, and that never stopped conservatives from finding grievances to latch onto. As Adam Serwer noted in the Atlantic last year, one of the defining themes of Biden’s 2020 race was how badly Republicans struggled to adapt their playbook for a campaign against an old white man, after years of deploying racist and sexist tropes to stir up opposition to Obama and Hillary Clinton. They could try to label Biden as “radical,” but “the notion of a Biden presidency simply does not provoke the visceral rage that Clinton and Obama did—not in Trump, and not in his supporters,” Serwer wrote. Case in point: While Republicans have tried to portray Biden as a big-spending liberal, the most common criticisms of Biden in NBC News’ poll were just that he was old.

    It’s hard to say whether so much of conservatives’ anger and criticism has been focused on cultural politics like Dr. Seuss because they can’t get anything to stick to Biden, or if they can’t get any of their attacks on Biden to stick because they’re too focused on Dr. Seuss. But for now, with one $2 trillion stimulus already on the books and a major infrastructure bill currently in process, either scenario works out just fine for the president.

  • After Years of Lording Over an Uncontrolled Spigot of Bad Tweets, Trump Now Claims Twitter Is “Really Boring”

    The Right View/ZUMA

    Remember the Twitter-obsessed former president Donald Trump? The one who, after years of tormenting the American public with his uncontrolled spigot of erratic, racist, lying tweets, was finally kicked off the platform following the January 6 Capitol insurrection? Well, he’s changed. Now he wants you to believe that he finds Twitter “very, very boring.” Speaking to his favorite media megaphone Sean Hannity Friday on Fox News, Trump instead lavished praise on the various press releases he’s been forced to issue as an alternative, referring to them as a “much more elegant” form of communication.

    What’s more, the former president touted himself as some kind of a trailblazer, falsely claiming that droves have been fleeing the social media platform since his unceremonious exit. While it’s true that other sites, such as Parler, have gained popularity, there isn’t any evidence to support Trump’s assertion. From Mr. Sophistication himself:

    “Every time I do a release, it’s all over the place. It’s better than Twitter, much more elegant than Twitter. And Twitter now is very boring. A lot of people are leaving Twitter. Twitter has become very, very boring. When I started with Twitter years ago, it was like a failed thing, concept, media platform, fail. It was failed. And it became exciting. And I think I had a lot to do with it, to be honest with you, it became exciting. And now it’s boring. It’s no good anymore. The people are telling me.”

    The remarks come as Facebook is about to decide whether to lift its ban on Trump following his incitement of January’s insurrection. My colleague Pema Levy reported on the major decision earlier this month:

    In the coming weeks, Facebook’s new Oversight Board will decide whether to restore Trump to the platform. But Facebook has also asked the board to advise it on a possibly thornier issue: What should it do about other political leaders? Should their posting privileges continue even if they lie, stoke violence, or push other harms? By tasking the board with this question, Trump has been set up as a test case that will establish a precedent the company could apply across the globe.

    Whatever happens, you can expect more whining and extravagant self-justification from our former president.

  • Escorts, Medical Weed, and Corruption: Gaetz Probe Reportedly Scrutinizing 2018 Bahamas Trip

    Tom Williams/ZUMA

    Several weeks after an explosive New York Times report into a Justice Department investigation examing whether Rep. Matt Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that potentially broke sex trafficking laws, the scandals surrounding the Florida Republican congressman continue to mount. 

    CNN reports that the federal probe is also looking into a 2018 trip to the Bahamas Gaetz took with medical marijuana entrepreneur Jason Pirozzolo, during which Gaetz may have accepted gifts, including paid escorts, in exchange for political support for the medical marijuana industry. If true, that would appear to be a pretty big violation of public corruption rules. This comes after Politico reported on the same trip last week, and the critical role it plays in the Justice Department’s probe:

    Also among those on the trip: the former minor who is key to the investigation, whose presence on the trip was previously unreported. According to one of the women in the group who spoke on condition of anonymity, everyone on the trip was over the age of 18—including the woman in question, who had turned 18 years old months before the trip, she said…But questions surrounding the ages of some of the women surfaced immediately upon their return—three of them looked so young when they returned on Beshears’ private plane that US Customs briefly stopped and questioned him, according to sources familiar with the trip, including a woman on the flight.

    In his two terms, Gaetz has been one of a few Republicans to express support for marijuana legalization, arguing that the GOP was in danger of “overwhelmingly losing with the American people” over its stubborn opposition to popular reform bills aimed at decriminalizing weed. During a career in which he has achieved very little legislative success for someone with such a high profile, Gaetz also sponsored a 2018 bill called the Medical Cannabis Research Act to create new registration processes for medical weed manufacturers.

    Throughout the probes, Gaetz has repeatedly denied any criminal wrongdoing, including in his response to CNN’s report. He has also previously denied having sex with an underage girl—though while speaking to Tucker Carlson in a bizarre interview last month, Gaetz notably did refer to a 17-year-old as a “woman”—and ever paying for sex.

  • Hey, Have You Seen This Clip of Bill de Blasio Talking to a Compost Bin?

    Jemal Countess/Getty

    Hey, happy Friday. Many of you probably do not live in New York City. So, I assume you were not watching Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Earth Day press conference. And, even for my de Blasio heads out there, I doubt you stayed on for more than about 14 minutes.

    So, I wanted to check: Did you see when Bill de Blasio did a joke where he pretended to talk to a compost bin?

    Here it is:

    I just wanted to double-check you saw that.

     

  • “Somebody’s Baby Is Still Not Coming Home”: MoJo Readers Process the Chauvin Verdict

    Brandon Bell/Getty

    Of the many ways readers responded to Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict—with cautious relief, strength, pain, and recognition of the vast work still ahead—one comment got straight to the heart and humanity of George Floyd’s family loss: “Somebody’s baby is still not coming home.”

    It’s the underlying fact of the moment, but it’s also accompanied by something else you shared in messages: measured hope. “Thrilled and hopeful that cops everywhere [might] recognize this as a truth going forward, that every human must be treated fairly,” another reader wrote. But “without structural policing reform I don’t expect any lasting change.”

    We heard how distant that day is; how low the bar is set in this country for “celebrating” news that a cop who murders can be held accountable: “We have a looong way to go when we as a nation celebrate when justice is finally served.”

    And many of you drew a hard line between accountability and justice: “One guilty verdict is not justice.” “I’m no fool. I know this isn’t justice. It’s just a tiny step forward on the long arc of the moral universe.”

    There was relief, too: “I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I saw the verdict and started crying.” “After the verdict, I took a deep breath.”

    Relief was a constant:

    “Relief that there is accountability.”

    “Relief, guarded optimism, and looking forward.”

    “Relief at first and then hope that real change could actually happen.”

    “Relief but an overwhelming sense that there is so much more work to do.”

    “Relieved and happy he will face punishment for his crimes.”

    “I’m happy and relieved.”

    “So relieved that Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges.”

    “I am relieved but cautiously optimistic.”

    We also heard desensitization and defeat: “Strangely numb.” “It means nothing. Your country is so far gone off the rails. There is no hope for the USA.”

    And credit where it’s due: “This never would have happened if there hadn’t been extreme public outrage.”

    We heard realism, too: “A tiny speck of justice in a vast ocean of police criminality, a criminality too blatant to be forgotten (I hope).”

    And solidarity across countries as a strategy for survival: “I was so heartened to see so many people around the world of so many colors come together to protest what happened to George Floyd.”

    We heard a prescription for the future of policing: “This could be a turning point only if broad pressure is brought to demilitarize police: equipment, procedures, behavior changed.”

    Above all, we heard comments that cycled through several feelings: “I first felt glad when the verdict was read, then great relief, then sadness. Sad that this ever happened and knowing this is only a start.”

    Continue to share your reactions below, and let us know how you see what’s next:

     

  • House Passes a Bill to Make DC a State

    J. Scott Applewhite/AP

    For the second time ever, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that would make Washington, DC, the 51st state. The bill, HR 51, which would finally give the more than 700,000 DC residents full voting representation in Congress, passed in a straight party-line vote of 216–208.

    Democrats’ latest move in Congress puts DC statehood closer to reality than it has ever been. Even after the bill passed in the last Congress, the Republican-controlled Senate ensured it didn’t get anywhere near the Senate floor, not even for a committee hearing. But with Democrats holding a slim majority in the Senate, DC statehood advocates are hopeful that the bill might at least get a fair hearing in the Senate this time around, even if moderate Democrats in the chamber stick with rules that would allow Republicans to filibuster it from becoming reality. Though most Democrats, including President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, support statehood, overall support for it isn’t as enthusiastic, according to some of the latest polls.

    HR 51 was introduced at the beginning of the year by DC’s longtime nonvoting House member, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has championed statehood for the entirety of her three decades in Congress. Since then, the bill has entertained vigorous debate in House committees. Statehood has long been a racial justice issue, as the district is a historically Black city and its federal designation has long disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Black residents from having a vote in Congress. House Democrats have argued that HR 51 is a way to correct this disenfranchisement. But House Republicans have rebutted this argument, coming up with all kinds of different objections to statehood—sometimes wild and nonsensical—in an attempt to shy away from the fact that giving DC residents representation is, at its core, a voting rights issue. “Congress has both the moral obligation and the constitutional authority to pass H.R. 51.,” Norton said in her comments to the House before the full vote.

    Now that DC statehood has overcome its first hurdle in the House, it’s heading to the Senate. While it’s more likely to come up for some level of discussion than the last time the House passed a similar measure, it’s unclear if it’ll make it to Senate floor this year for a vote, as Democrats are prioritizing plenty of other bills in the air at the moment, including Biden’s infrastructure plan. And the bill still needs to find support from some moderate Democrats in the Senate who’ve been coy about their support for DC statehood, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), if it has any chance of a floor vote.

  • Jury Deliberation Begins in Derek Chauvin’s Trial

    People gather on April 18, 2021 at the site of George Floyd's death.Matthew Hatcher/SOPA/Zuma

    After hearing three weeks of testimony, the jury in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial has begun deliberating.

    The prosecution and the defense concluded their closing arguments this afternoon. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher, referring to the infamous video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, urged the jury, “Use your common sense. Believe your eyes.” 

    He also attempted to refute the defense’s argument that Floyd possessed “superhuman” strength—a notion, as my colleague Nathalie Baptiste has reported, that dates back to slavery. This argument, Nathalie notes, seems to refute the defense’s suggestion that Floyd’s drug use significantly contributed to his death. “So which is it?” Nathalie writes. “Was Floyd a superhuman Black man incapable of feeling pain or was he one normal interaction away from death?”

    “This wasn’t policing,” Schleicher concluded. “This was murder.”

    The defense, on the other hand, attempted to sow reasonable doubt among the jurors as to the cause of George Floyd’s death. Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Chauvin was a “reasonable officer” acting on his training during an event more complicated than what the video showed.

    The jury could take hours, days, or weeks to come to a verdict. Minneapolis is already preparing for potential protests in the case of an acquittal. Not only are businesses boarding up, but Minneapolis public schools are switching from in-person to remote learning during the latter part of the week. But until the verdict is announced, there’s not much to do but wait.

  • Today Is Bicycle Day, Which Isn’t Quite What You Think

    Aaron Chown/PA Wire/Zuma

    Today is Bicycle Day, and the lieutenant governor of New York wants you to celebrate by going for a spin on the newly completed Empire State Trail, which honestly looks idyllic.

    But Bicycle Day is about more than honoring everyone’s favorite two-wheeled form of transportation. On this day 78 years ago, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann ingested 250 micrograms of lysergic acid diethylamide, the substance he had first synthesized five years prior. During the bicycle ride from his laboratory to his home in Basel, the story goes, Hofmann experienced dramatic changes in sensory perception—the first acid trip.

    Psychedelics enthusiasts celebrate the discovery annually by turning on, tuning in, and dropping out on April 19, Bicycle Day. Biking under the influence is not recommended, although it could be quite interesting.

  • More Than 3 Million People Have Died From COVID-19 Worldwide

    A man stands above the National Covid Memorial Wall outside St Thomas' Hospital IN London, UK on April 13, 2021.Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images via ZUMA

    The global death count from the coronavirus surpassed 3 million on Saturday, a solemn milestone as the pandemic continues to rage around the world and vaccine distribution efforts stumble in many countries. 

    The United States leads the world in total deaths with over 566,000, according to tracking done by the Johns Hopkins University. Brazil, where a variant of the virus coupled with the government’s poor response has pushed the country’s medical system to its breaking point, has the second highest number of casualties and one of the highest per capita death rates in the world. It accounts for roughly a quarter of the lives lost around the world in the last month. A recent surge in cases in India has left some morgues “overflowing,” the New York Times reports.

    In the United States, a promising vaccine rollout is bringing hope of a return to some normalcy this summer. But cases numbers here are still higher than they were for much of last year, until the winter surge, and in recent days have been growing.

    In many countries, vaccination campaigns will take much longer, producing global vaccine inequities. Countries with higher incomes are vaccinating 25 times faster than those with lower incomes, according to Bloomberg. They also own, and can distribute, far more doses of the vaccines. Geographic rifts are emerging too. Less than 2 percent of the COVID-19 vaccines administered have been administered across the entire continent of Africa. Pauses in administering the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines in the US and Europe are slowing the vaccination process. And of course, the longer the pandemic continues, the more possibility there are that vaccine-resistant variants will take hold and spread, threatening progress.

    More than a year after COVID-19 began spreading around the world, scientists have made extraordinary leaps in combatting it and bringing hope of the pandemic’s end—but for now, the death toll keeps rising. 

  • Justice Department Goes After Roger Stone, Again. This Time for $2 Million in Unpaid Taxes.

    Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty

    On Friday, the Justice Department hit Roger Stone again, this time for failing to pay nearly $2 million in taxes, penalties, and interest. It was less than four months ago that Donald Trump pardoned his longtime advisor.

    According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Florida, Stone and his wife, Nydia Stone, failed to fully pay their taxes from 2007 to 2011. In 2018, Stone filed separately but again failed to pay his full tax bill. The complaint also alleges that the Stones used a corporation, Drake Ventures, to shield their money from the IRS in recent years. “The Stones’ use of Drake Ventures to hold their funds allowed them to shield their personal income from enforced collection and fund a lavish lifestyle despite owing nearly $2 million,” the complaint states. The Stones were well aware of their debt to the United States and in 2017 entered into an agreement to pay nearly $20,000 per month to the IRS.

    In January 2019, Stone was indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 election. Shortly thereafter, the couple created a new trust, bought a new home in the name of the trust, and stopped paying the IRS. “The Stones intended to defraud the United States by maintaining their assets in Drake Ventures’ accounts, which they completely controlled, and using these assets to purchase the Stone Residence in the name of the Bertran Trust,” the complaint reads. 

    In November 2019, a jury convicted Stone of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering and sentenced him to 40 months in prison. After his pardon last December, Stone still failed to stay out of trouble. He has recently come under scrutiny for his association with members of the Oath Keepers, an extremist group. Six members who acted as bodyguards for Stone participated in the January 6 Capitol attack.

    Stone told the Associated Press that the government’s tax case against him is “politically motivated” and that its last case against him left him broke. “The American people will learn, in court, that I am on the verge of bankruptcy and that there are no assets for the government to take,” he said.

  • Chauvin’s Lawyer Uses the “Everything But the Knee” Defense

    Court TV Pool/AP

    On Wednesday, in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis police officer accused of murder, a defense witness introduced a brand new theory of what killed George Floyd last May. After dozens of witnesses testified that Floyd died because Chauvin kneeled on his neck for approximately nine minutes, Dr. David Fowler, who has been involved in other high-profile police cases as Maryland’s former chief medical examiner, countered that a slew of contributing factors likely led to Floyd’s death—including the carbon monoxide from a police car’s exhaust pipe. This new assertion only served one purpose: To muddy the waters for the jury that will decide Chauvin’s fate.

    Bystander video of Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck as he struggled to breathe went viral and sparked nationwide protests, but throughout the trial the defense was intent on creating reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. Not only could Floyd have suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning, but what about his heart condition? And didn’t he really suffer from a drug overdose? In other words, everything but Derek Chauvin’s knee killed George Floyd.

    The Hennepin County medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was homicide, and several of the state’s witnesses testified that Floyd died because he couldn’t breathe due to the police restraint. Dr. Fowler, however, said that Floyd’s death was more consistent with sudden cardiac arrest. He told the court that he couldn’t be certain of the victim’s cause of death due to the multiple factors that likely contributed to it. “I would fall back to undetermined in this particular case,” he said.

    We’ve heard about heart conditions and drugs before, but Dr. Fowler’s theory of poisoning by carbon monoxide from a police car’s exhaust when Floyd was handcuffed and laying on the ground brought a new level of creativity to the trial. Not that Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, and Dr. Fowler were suggesting that the main cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, but rather that it could have been a contributing factor. “Now, again, you’re not suggesting to the jury that Mr. Floyd died of carbon monoxide poisoning?” Nelson asked the doctor. “No, not exclusively,” he answered.

    But here’s where something interesting happened: Dr. Fowler mentioned carbon monoxide so frequently that when he was being cross-examined by the prosecution, Jerry Blackwell, the state’s lawyer grilled Fowler about it. “Do you agree with me that there was no finding of carbon monoxide poisoning from Dr. Baker’s autopsy review?” Blackwell asked. Dr. Fowler agreed. Still, the whole idea of carbon monoxide as a remote and unlikely factor nonetheless somehow became normalized. Then, on Thursday morning, the state sought to include new evidence showing Floyd’s body had a normal range of carbon monoxide in it, but Judge Peter Cahill wouldn’t allow it. 

    Dr. Fowler’s testimony serves the purpose of confusing the jurors, who will be sequestered in order to deliberate after closing arguments that begin on Monday. He essentially offered the proposition that despite all the other testimony, despite the video evidence to the contrary, no one can definitely know what killed Floyd last May. And if the jury can’t definitively say that it was Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck until he could no longer breathe, as several witnesses testified, then they can’t issue a guilty verdict. By arguing that it was a drug overdose, a cardiac event, and maybe even car exhaust fumes, the defense renders Chauvin in his capacity as a law enforcement officer, if not powerless, then limited in his capacity to inflict deadly harm. It wasn’t a white police officer that killed Floyd. It was Floyd’s own body, and by extension, his own fault.

  • Jim Jordan Started Ranting About “Lost Liberty” in the Pandemic. Dr. Fauci Wasn’t Having It.

    Susan Walsh/Pool/CNP/Zuma

    At a House coronavirus hearing on Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) began berating Dr. Anthony Fauci about the liberties he believes have been restricted thanks to mask mandates and social distancing guidelines during the pandemic. Fauci was not amused.

    “Dr. Fauci, over the last year, Americans’ First Amendment rights have been completely attacked,” Jordan said, his mask slipping under his nose. “Your right to go to church, your right to assemble, your right to petition your government, freedom of the press, freedom of speech have all been assaulted.”

    As an example of a limit on freedom of assembly, Jordan referenced a curfew in Ohio meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus—but he didn’t mention the curfews enacted in many cities last spring in response to protests against police violence. To Jordan, limiting the capacities of places of worship and restricting constituents’ access to their state houses constitute egregious violations of the rights to worship and to petition the government.

    “I don’t look at this as a liberty thing, Congressman Jordan,” Fauci said. “I look at this as a public health thing.”