Minneapolis Public Schools are halting in-person instruction for the first half of next week in anticipation of the conclusion of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial. Closing arguments are expected to conclude on Monday. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the 25 May death of George Floyd.
Tensions in the state are extremely high as Chauvin’s trial winds down. And local and state law enforcement has been dealing with re-energized protests and civil unrest following the shooting death of 20 year-old Daunte Wright at the hands of a Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officers on 11 April.
Read the full report on the MPS closures on KARE Minneapolis’ NBC affiliate.
A member of the Oath Keepers a far-right militia group is the first person to plead guilty to federal charges in connection to the 6 January insurrection, according to the Associated Press.
Jon Ryan Schaffer, 53, of Columbus, Indiana, was accused of storming the Capitol and spraying officers with bear spray and is being charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, and entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous or deadly weapon. Schaffer acknowledged that he was a “founding lifetime member” of the extremist group. He was also an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, voiced numerous conspiracy theories and referred to the federal government as a “criminal enterprise,” the FBI told the AP.
Schaffer turned himself into the FBI a few weeks after the capitol riot and has now agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as they continue to investigate other right-wing, white supremacist, and extremist groups.
More than 370 people are facing federal charges in the deadly insurrection.
Last year, the FBI interviewed the 19 year-old who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility before fatally shooting himself on Thursday, according to a new report from the Associated Press.
Agents went to the home of the shooter, who has been identified as Brandon Scott Hole, at the behest of his mother who worried that her son might commit “suicide by cop.” Paul Keenan, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, told the AP that agents seized a gun but didn’t find any criminal evidence in Hole’s bedroom. Keenan would not elaborate on any items that were found.
Read the AP’s full story here.
During his press conference with the Japanese Prime Minister, Joe Biden re-emphasized his support of universal background checks and a new assault weapons ban after being asked about where gun violence prevention falls on his priority list.
Biden touted his decades-long dedication to gun control and called the nation’s steady stream of gun violence a “national embarrassment.” He also called on Republicans in Congress to pass the gun control legislation that remains at a constant stalemate.
“It’s not just the mass shootings. Every single day there are mass shootings in the United States if you count those who are killed in our cities and rural areas,” Biden said.
Hello, this is Abené Clayton reporting from the west coast. I’ll be taking over the blog for the next few hours.
Joe Biden is holding a press conference alongside Yoshihide Suga, Prime Minister of Japan, to announce a new alliance between the two countries to help countries in the Indo-Pacific region recovery from the pandemic.
Suga is the first head of state to visit the White House under Biden.
Watch the press conference live here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/
- The White House announced plans to lift a Trump-era cap on refugees after Democrats and activists forcefully denounced a decision to keep admissions at the same level. Biden had previously committed to significantly raising the cap. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House would release a “final, increased” number next month.
- Biden held his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader, Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga, underscoring Biden’s determination to counter China’s growing assertiveness. The leaders are expected to hold a joint press conference shortly.
- A founding member of the Oath Keepers has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with federal officials as part of their sprawling investigation into the 6 January attack.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki is pushing back on criticism of Biden’s presidential determination that keeps the number of refugee admissions at the historically low level set by Trump, asserting that the directive has been the “subject of some confusion”.
In a new statement issued after blowback from Democrats and refugees advocates, Psaki announced that the White House would set a “final, increased” cap in mid-May.
The President’s directive today has been the subject of some confusion. Last week, he sent to Congress his budget for the fiscal year starting in October 2021, which honors his commitment. For the past few weeks, he has been consulting with his advisors to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and October 1. Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely.
While finalizing that determination, the President was urged to take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days; today’s order did that. With that done, we expect the President to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.
A government watchdog has reportedly determined that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated federal ethics rules when he and his wife asked state department employees to carry out scores of personal tasks for the couple.
According to Politico, which obtained a copy of the report compiled by the state department’s inspector general’s office, government investigators uncovered more than 100 instances in which Mike or Susan Pompeo “asked State Department staffers to handle tasks of a personal nature, from booking salon appointments and private dinner reservations to picking up their dog and arranging tours for the Pompeos’ political allies. Employees told investigators that they viewed the requests from Susan Pompeo, who was not on the federal payroll, as being backed by the secretary.”
Mike Pompeo reportedly defended the actions in an interview with investigators as the “types of things friends do for friends”. His lawyer, William Burck, assailed the report as a politically biased “compilation of picayune complaints cherry-picked by the drafters.”
The inspector general’s office, however, defended the investigation, noting that many of the rules governing such interactions are clear, do not make exceptions for small tasks, and that the Pompeos’ requests ultimately added up to use a significant amount of the time of employees paid by taxpayers.
Among the tasks the Pompeos asked staffers to carry out:
- buying a T-shirt for a friend
- arranging for flowers to be sent to friends recovering from sickness
- helping Susan Pompeo book hair salon appointments when she was in New York during the UN General Assembly
- and, in one instance, asking a senior adviser to the secretary and a senior Foreign Service officer to come in on a weekend “to envelope, address, and mail personal Christmas cards for the Pompeos,” the report states.
As we await the joint press conference between Biden and Suga, here are some fun facts about the Japanese prime minister, courtesy of Takaaki Abe, deputy bureau chief of Nippon Television.
- According to a very vivid and thorough pool report, the 72-year-old prime minister is a paragon of health and wellness who was born in 1948 to a family of strawberry farmers in rural Akita Prefecture, in the northern part of Japan.
- Mr Suga has a black belt in Karate.
- He likes sweets, and doesn’t drink. Speaking of his eating habit, he lost about 30 pounds by going on a morning soup curry diet almost 10 years ago.
- Mr Suga was the chief cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for almost 8 years from Dec 2012-Sep 2020, and became the longest-serving chief cabinet secretary in the country.
- He had a famous morning routine, waking up at 5am, doing 100 sit-ups, and going for a 40 min walk.
- His favorite book is “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership” by Colin Powell and Tony Koltz which has become a bestseller in Japan after Mr Suga mentioned that he drew inspiration and guidance from it during his time as chief cabinet secretary.
- Mr Suga became Japan’s 99th Prime Minister on September 16th, 2020, succeeding Mr Shinzo Abe, who was the longest-serving prime minister in the country.
- Prime Minister Suga continues his morning walk routine.
Democrats continue to slam Biden’s reversal on his pledge to raise the refugee admissions cap.
“This Biden Administration refugee admissions target is unacceptable,” Senator Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber. “These refugees can wait years for their chance and go through extensive vetting. Thirty-five thousand are ready. Facing the greatest refugee crisis in our time there is no reason to limit the number to 15,000. Say it ain’t so, President Joe.”
Though the decision has drawn sharp criticism from Democrats, Stephen Miller, Trump’s former White House senior advisor and anti-immigrant crusader, suggested the move validated the Trump administration’s hardline approach as he gloated that it was a “significant promise broken for Biden.”
A few minutes ago, Biden welcomed Prime Minister Suga in the State Dining Room. In their brief remarks, Biden noted that he was the “first foreign leader to visit me in my presidency.”
“We are two important democracies in the Pacific region,” he added.
Suga said he appreciated being the first foreign leader to meet with Biden, and offered his “condolences for the loss of the mass shooting in Indianapolis.”
“The US-Japan relationship is a cornerstone for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and the world, and its importance is higher than ever,” he added.
The explicitly nativist appeal by members of Congress to establish a caucus based on respect for “Anglo Saxon” culture has rightly been condemned as racist and dangerous.
But it’s also made some wonder what exactly the group’s founders envisioned when they called for a restoration of “Anglo Saxon” style architecture.
In all seriousness, the adoption of Trump’s “America First” slogan for their caucus name is an acknowledgement that a not insignificant part of the former president’s support was rooted in whiteness.
As an aside, Trump was also fixated on architecture. He even signed an executive order stating that the “preferred architecture” style for new buildings should be classical, not brutalist.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has rescinded a Trump-era memo that curtailed the use of consent decrees, tools used by federal prosecutors in investigations of police departments.
Garland issued a new memorandum to all U.S. attorneys and other Justice Department leaders spelling out the new policies on civil agreements and consent decrees with state and local governments.
The memo comes as the Justice Department shifts its priorities to focus more on civil rights issues, criminal justice overhauls and policing policies in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
In easing restrictions placed on the use of consent decrees, the Justice Department is making it easier for its prosecutors to use the tool to force changes at police departments and other government agencies with widespread abuse and misconduct.
The memo in particular rescinds a previous memo issued by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions shortly before he resigned in November 2018.
Democrats have long argued the ability of the Justice Department’s civil rights division to conduct sweeping probes of police departments had been curtailed under President Donald Trump. The so-called pattern or practice investigations examine whether systemic deficiencies contribute to misconduct or enable it to persist.
“This memorandum makes clear that the Department will use all appropriate legal authorities to safeguard civil rights and protect the environment, consistent with longstanding Departmental practice and informed by the expertise of the Department’s career workforce,” Garland said.
Donald Trump, his family and supporters hoped their attacks on Hunter Biden would distract Joe Biden rather than convince people not to vote for him, the president’s son said in an interview on Friday, “whether it ended up in some horrible death, or whatever was their intention”.
The author of the memoir Beautiful Things was speaking to the New Abnormal, a Daily Beast podcast. He discussed his struggles with addiction and attempts to find dirt to use against his father which resulted in Donald Trump’s first impeachment.
Host Molly Jong-Fast asked: “Do you think they did it because they wanted you to kill yourself?”
Biden said: “There literally is nothing more important to my dad than his family, and if they could, whether it ended up in some horrible death or whatever was their intention, I think they thought they would be able to distract my dad enough that he wouldn’t be able to focus on the campaign. And they had the exact opposite effect.”
Rounding up some reaction and analysis to Biden’s action today on refugee resettlement.
The Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim notes that Biden’s pledge to raise the cap to 62,500 was already prorated for the 2021 fiscal year, which ends on 30 September.
“An apples-to-apples comparison is that Biden pledged 125,000 refugees and decided to stick with 15,000,” she writes.
The administration’s determination has angered Democrats, who were particularly appalled by the Trump administration’s treatment of refugees to the United States.
New Jersey senator Bob Menendez assailed the decision.
“The White House has not only stymied the number of refugees permitted entrance into the United States,” he said, “but also it has prevented the Department of State from admitting vetted refugees currently waiting in the system who do not fit into the unprecedentedly narrow refugee categories designated by the Trump administration.”
New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the decision “completely and utterly unacceptable”.
The Washington representative Pramila Jayapal went for “simply unacceptable and unconscionable” and said Biden had chosen not to immediately repeal Trump’s “harmful, xenophobic, and racist refugee cap”.
“President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity,” she added. “We cannot turn our back on refugees around the world, including hundreds of refugees who have already been cleared for resettlement, have sold their belongings, and are ready to board flights.”