Evening summary

That’s it for me tonight. Here’s what we covered Monday afternoon:

  • Former Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, is changing his not guilty plea to guilty in a campaign finance case tied to contributions for Trump during the 2020 election, after accepting a deal with investigators.
  • People with felony convictions in North Carolina can vote in the state as long as they are no longer incarcerated, a state court said.
  • An audit report in Arizona — called for by Republicans who still question the results of the 2020 presidential election — was delayed when 3 of the 5-person team hired to complete it became “quite sick” with Covid.
  • A new report from the GAO found that construction and design issues with the Keystone Pipeline were responsible for several big oil spills.
  • The Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, will be on the hook for “huge amounts of money” for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic with the drug OxyContin.
  • Texas Democrats returned to the state enabling a controversial voting bill to move forward. The bill, which restricts access, bans drive-thru and 24-hour voting, and increases poll watchers’ ability to intervene is expected to pass and be signed into law.

Thanks for reading along! See you next time.

David Gilbert is granted clemency

As one of his final acts as New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo commuted the sentence of David Gilbert, who was serving a 75-years-to-life sentence for actions he took in the 1980’s as a member of the Weather Underground.

New: Gov Cuomo grants Clenency to:

David Gilbert
Greg Mingo
Robert Ehrenberg
Ulysses Boyd
Paul Clark
Lawrence Penn pic.twitter.com/YZsiCNgjCp

— Melissa DeRosa (@melissadderosa) August 23, 2021

Gilbert, who is father of San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin, will now be able to go before the parole board. He has served 40 years in prison for his role in the 1981 Brinks armed car robbery. Now 76, he is one of the oldest and longest-serving prisoners in the state. His wife, who also participated in the crime but who took a plea deal, was released from prison in 2003 and now works as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

With quorum restored, GOP-supported Texas voting bill is back on

The Texas House established a verified quorum on the floor today, after Democrats returned to the state after weeks away in an attempt to deny Republican lawmakers the ability to pass controversial new voting bill, SB1.

Despite sharp opposition, Texas Republicans made no changes to the bill that will crack down on mail voting and ban 24-hour and drive-thru voting, which were used in Harris County — which includes Houston and where 44% of the nearly 5 million residents are Latino and 20% are Black —to expand options for voters and also offered protections against the coronavirus.

Jeff Miller, policy specialist at Disability Rights Texas, says: "People with disabilities just want to vote. They don't want special rights; they just want to have the barriers torn down and the accomodations they need, so they can cast their ballot like everybody else." #SB1

— Taylor Goldenstein (@taygoldenstein) August 23, 2021

The bill is expected to pass the Republican-controlled legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott who supports the measure.

“Six weeks ago today, Texas House Democrats took bold action and left the state to deny Republicans the quorum they needed to push their anti-voter bills through the legislative process. Today, the Texas House established a verified quorum on the Floor” said House Democratic Caucus Chair, Chris Turner in a statement Monday.

Democrats who oppose the bill, along with the ACLU, and social justice advocacy organization, the Texas Freedom Network see the bill as an attempt by the GOP to suppress votes, especially in communities that don’t traditionally support them.

Austin student Josh Goldenberg: "Why should we regulate decisions that local governments deem best for their own communities? We can protect the integrity of our elections by encouraging and making it easier to vote."

— Taylor Goldenstein (@taygoldenstein) August 23, 2021

“Make no mistake — our work to protect the freedom to vote is not over,” he added. “As advocates for that right, it is our duty to go wherever the fight is. With a quorum established, the Texas House Floor is the frontline, and we will fight – alongside countless advocates and allies – with everything we have to stop Texas Republicans’ continued attempts to undermine our democracy.”

Republicans in favor of the legislation insist it will better protect elections. Fears stoked by false claims made by former President Trump about election fraud have spurred new restrictive voting laws in nearly every GOP-run state.

“The legislative intent of the bill is the application of this code and the conduct of elections be uniform and consistent throughout the state to reduce the likelihood of fraud in the conduct of elections, protect the secrecy of the ballot, promote voter access and ensure all legally cast ballots are counted, so Texans remain confident in a reliable elections system” Republican Rep. Andrew Murr, the author of the bill told the Associated Press. He also told the House committee Monday that the language was based on bipartisan input.

Here’s more on the bill:

The Sackler family – owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma – may be on the hook for “huge amounts of money” according to US bankruptcy judge Robert Drain who is overseeing the company’s case.

The family is believed to be at fault for fueling the opioid epidemic. Reuters reports that the judge’s comments during closing arguments in the trial indicate that he finds the deal, which includes $4.5bn in payments from the Sacklers in exchange for legal protections going forward, to be sufficient. A ruling is expected later this week.

Judge Drain saying clearly he's on board with outlines of this plan. Notes that the states of NY and MASS have come on board after initially being fierce critics. Drain says there's "a big risk" the settlement could blow up if parties try to pressure Sacklers for more $$. 38/

— Brian Mann (@BrianMannADK) August 23, 2021

From Reuters:

An attorney representing the states of Washington and Oregon, which oppose the plan, told Drain on Monday that approving the deal would be a “historic mistake.”

The judge also stated that appeals courts generally support the types of releases the Sacklers would receive if they meet certain standards.”

Updated

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its travel advisories list, bumping 6 areas to top Level 4 or “Very High” today. There are already dozens on the list.

The new heightened advisories were for:

  • Haiti
  • Kosovo
  • Lebanon
  • Morocco
  • Sint Maarten
  • the Bahamas

The CDC advises against any international travel for those who are not fully vaccinated but warns that even for those who have had their shots there are increased risks from for both getting and spreading the virus, especially with more transmittable variants.

There were several issues found with design and construction of the controversial Keystone pipeline according to a new report from the watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office.

Biden canceled the permit for the controversial pipeline that would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude from Canada to the US each day in January. In June, owners TC Energy Corp canceled the project and filed a claim seeking more than $15bn in damages from the federal government a month later, Reuters reports.

Democratic lawmakers requested the report from the GAO after the pipeline released more than 11,000 barrels of oil in spills in just 2 years. The government watchdogs concluded the largest spills were caused by “issues related to the original design, manufacturing of the pipe, or construction of the pipeline”.

Responding to the GAO report, the company issued a statement saying it’s had “zero high-impact incidents in 18 months,” and had worked to improve safety.

Updated

The Guardian’s Sam Levine has more details on that North Carolina voting rights case:

The rules for voting for people convicted of felonies vary from state to state. North Carolina is one of a handful that requires anyone convicted of a felony to complete their sentence entirely, including parole and probation, before they can vote again.

Other states allow people with felonies to vote once they are released from prison. Maine, Vermont, and the District of Columbia allow people convicted of felonies to vote while they are incarcerated.

Dennis Gaddy, the executive director of the Community Success Initiative, a group that works with people with felony convictions, said the North Carolina ruling immediately meant he could tell people with felonies they could vote again.

It would also lend clarity for people out of prison, who often have to navigate confusing rules about whether they can vote. There have been some instances of prosecutors bringing charges against people on probation who vote while they are ineligible, even when they say they don’t know the rules.

Daryl Atkinson, a lawyer from Forward Justice who represented the plaintiffs, said at least 20% of the 55,000 people disenfranchised were expected to vote. He said the ruling was the largest expansion of voting rights in the state since the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Corey Purdie, the executive director of Wash Away unemployment, who has a felony conviction but voted for the first time in 2008, said the ruling would lend new power to a group of people who had been voiceless.

“If we don’t say anything, no one can hear us,” he said. “We no longer are muted.”

The release of a report detailing the findings of a Republican-backed audit of Arizona’s election results was put on pause after officials announced today that three people preparing the final report had tested positive for Covid.

The full draft report was expected to be shared Monday but Arizona Senator Karen Fann issued a press release saying only a portion would be ready because the CEO of the private company Cyber Ninjas and two other members of his 5-person audit team were “quite sick”.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Statement from Senate President @FannKfann #AZSenate #Audit pic.twitter.com/H7xDHdRiK3

— AZSenateRepublicans (@AZSenateGOP) August 23, 2021

“In addition to the illnesses, it wasn’t until Thursday that the senate received the images of the ballot envelopes from Maricopa county and are hoping to have those analyzed as soon as possible to incorporate those results into the final report,” she said in the statement.

This is one of several delays in the release of the report since the review was started in late March. It was initially promised to the public within 60 days, the Washington Post reports.

From the Post:

The review – which included a hand recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County, the state’s largest jurisdiction – was commissioned by the Republican-led state Senate and conducted over the objections of GOP leaders in the county.

County leaders have castigated the procedures used by the contractors, which had no previous experience in administering or auditing elections, as sloppy and unsecure. To lead the project, the Senate chose Cyber Ninjas even though Logan had echoed baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. It was funded with $150,000 in taxpayer dollars – and nearly $5.7 million in private donations from allies of former president Donald Trump, who has expressed hope that the process will vindicate his wild allegations of fraud.

Updated

The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports on a consequential voting rights case in North Carolina:

People with felony convictions can vote in North Carolina as long as they are not physically incarcerated, a state court said on Monday, a consequential decision that could impact as many as 56,000 people in the state.

The ruling blunts a state statute that has racist origins. White lawmakers enacted the initial state statute disenfranchising those convicted of a felony in the second half of the 19th century amid fears African Americans were getting too much power in the state. An 1898 Democratic handbook openly talked about “protecting the white vote.”

The law continues to have a disproportionate effect on Black voters, challengers in the case noted. At the end of 2016, African Americans comprised 46% of those on parole or probation and 22% of registered voters in the state.

The ruling, which a 3-judge panel issued from the bench on Monday, is an extension of a preliminary injunction from the panel that came just before the 2020 election. The previous ruling said that people on parole and probation could not be blocked from voting if all that was holding up completion of their sentence was outstanding debt.

Republicans in the state legislature, who are defending the law, plan to appeal, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.

Giuliani associate changes plea to guilty in campaign finance case

Gabrielle Canon here, taking over from San Francisco through the afternoon.

Igor Fruman, who was once an associate of Rudy Giuliani, has changed his plea from not guilty to guilty in a campaign finance case, Reuters reports. His “change of plea” hearing is scheduled Wednesday.

Former Rudy Giuliani associate Igor Fruman is pleading guilty in the federal case that accuses him of being part of a scheme to evade campaign finance laws that prohibit contributions from foreign nationals. Previously: https://t.co/7qH8oE8q0s pic.twitter.com/HSE8v5vFF8

— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) August 23, 2021

Fruman, who was charged alongside Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas over a $325,000 campaign contribution to support former-president Donald Trump in 2020, pleaded not guilty last November.

The new plea is believed to be the result of a deal with investigators and is expected to increase pressure on Giuliani, who is being investigated by prosecutors over his role in Trump’s Ukraine controversy. Giuliani has not been charged and he has denied criminal wrongdoing.

Fruman and Parnas were indicted in 2019 on 4 counts, which included conspiracy charges to violate the ban on foreign donations to US elections.

Updated

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleagues will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The announcement makes the Pfizer vaccine the first coronavirus vaccine to receive full FDA approval, and the news is expected to spur more companies to issue vaccination requirements for their employees.
  • Joe Biden hailed the Pfizer approval as a “key milestone” in the country’s fight against coronavirus, urging more private employers to issue vaccinate mandates in response to the news. “If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that. Require it,” Biden said.
  • The Pentagon will soon establish a coronavirus vaccine requirement for all servicemembers, following the announcement from the FDA. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin had previously indicated he wanted to add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of troops’ required vaccinations, and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby confirmed Austin would soon move to do so.
  • Biden’s approval rating fellow below 50% for the first time in NBC News’ polling since he took office in January, amid the ongoing chaos in Kabul. The NBC poll showed that just a quarter of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan. According to the Pentagon, the US had helped evacuate 16,000 people from Kabul over the past 24 hours.
  • The British ambassador to Afghanistan warned against extending the 31 August deadline for Kabul evacuations, even as the British prime minister pushes for an extension. Speaking to lawmakers from Kabul, Sir Laurie Bristow said trying to hold Kabul’s airport past the end of the month would be fraught with risk. The Taliban has said it considers a deadline extension for the evacuation mission to be a “red line”.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

Joe Biden welcomed the players of the Seattle Storm to the White House to congratulate them on their 2020 WNBA championship.

During the event, Biden thanked the members of the Seattle team who helped the US women’s basketball team in “bringing the gold home” at the Tokyo Olympics.

The team then presented Biden with a Seattle Storm jersey that included his name and the number 46 (for him being the 46th president) printed on the back.

Joe Biden holds a jersey as he poses with Seattle Storm players during an event at the White House.
Joe Biden holds a jersey as he poses with Seattle Storm players during an event at the White House. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

During the White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back against a question from a Fox News reporter, who asked for Joe Biden’s response to criticism that he has left Americans “stranded” in Afghanistan.

“I think it’s irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not. We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home,” Psaki said.

.@PressSec: "I think it's irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not. We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home."

Watch the entire briefing here: https://t.co/KSka5tl268 pic.twitter.com/KqXyzTYivs

— CSPAN (@cspan) August 23, 2021

The president has promised that all Americans who want to return home from Afghanistan will have the opportunity to do so, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan echoed that message during today’s briefing.

“In the days remaining, we believe we have the wherewithal to get out the American citizens who want to leave Kabul,” Sullivan said.

British ambassador to Afghanistan warns against extending evacuation deadline

The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh and Julian Borger report:

Britain has begun a last-ditch scramble to get people out of Kabul amid warnings from the senior diplomat on the ground that staying past the 31 August deadline may not be realistic and risks provoking the Taliban.

Speaking to MPs from Kabul, Sir Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Afghanistan, said trying to hold Kabul’s airport any longer would be fraught with risk.

His remarks appear to put him at odds with Boris Johnson, who is due to lobby the US president, Joe Biden, at Tuesday’s G7 summit about the possibility of extending the evacuation beyond the end of the month.

But in a frank admission about the dire situation in the Afghan capital, Bristow made clear the Taliban would not tolerate western forces staying into September – a spokesman for the group said on Monday this would cross a “red line” and “provoke a reaction”.

He said: “The signalling that we’re seeing from the Taliban, including earlier today, is pretty uncompromising that they want the operation finished by the end of the month.

“So I think it follows from that, that if the US and its allies were to try to push beyond that, then there’s at least a risk there, of us doing so in a much more difficult and less compliant environment.”

The White House provided a readout of Joe Biden’s meeting with his national security team this morning, during which the president received an “operational update” on the situation in Afghanistan.

“They discussed the evolving security challenges in Afghanistan and counterterrorism efforts, including against ISIS-K. They discussed the efforts on the ground to facilitate American citizens and those who helped us in our two decades in Afghanistan entering the airport and evacuating,” a White House official told the press pool.

“The national security team discussed the ongoing and intensive diplomatic and military efforts to facilitate transit at third-country transit hubs, affirming the importance of the contributions that more than two dozen partner nations are making to this global effort.”

Secretary of state Antony Blinken, defense secretary Lloyd Austin and the chairman of the joints chiefs of staff, Mark Milley, were among those in attendance for the meeting.

Updated

One reporter asked national security adviser Jake Sullivan whether there had been any discussions about Joe Biden having direct talks with Taliban leaders regarding the evacuation mission in Kabul.

“With respect to whether or not President Biden is likely to speak with the leadership of the Taliban, that is not in contemplation at this time,” Sullivan said.

The national security adviser then left the briefing room, after having taken several questions from reporters about the situation in Afghanistan.

Plans for President Biden to have direct talks with the Taliban are "not in contemplation at this time," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says https://t.co/Nj065CIsxp pic.twitter.com/1gTnypGuDP

— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 23, 2021

National security adviser Jake Sullivan provided an update on the US military’s efforts to evacuate American citizens out of Afghanistan.

Sullivan noted that many people have “reasonably” asked why the Biden administration cannot provide a precise number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan.

The national security adviser said it was hard to calculate an exact number of Americans still in the country because many US citizens did not register (or deregister) with the embassy upon arriving in or departing Afghanistan.

“In the days remaining, we believe we have the wherewithal to get out the American citizens who want to leave Kabul,” Sullivan said.

The daily White House briefing is underway, and press secretary Jen Psaki is once again joined by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who provided an update on the situation in Afghanistan.

Asked about the Taliban’s warning that extending the 31 August deadline to withdraw all US troops represents a “red line” to them, Sullivan said US officials remain in close communication with the Taliban as Kabul evacuations continue.

“We are in talks with the Taliban on a daily basis through both political and security channels,” Sullivan said.

“I’m not going to get into the details of those discussions here to protect those discussions, which are covering a wide range of issues.”

Sullivan emphasized Joe Biden is also “consulting closely” with US allies about the ongoing evacuation mission, pointing to the president’s call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today.

“We are taking this day by day,” Sullivan said.

Updated

Joe Biden had a conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, as the US and its allies continue evacuations from Kabul.

“They discussed the ongoing efforts by our diplomatic and military personnel to evacuate their citizens, local staff, and other vulnerable Afghans,” the White House said in a readout of the call.

“They also discussed plans for the G7 virtual leaders’ meeting tomorrow, underscoring the importance of close coordination with allies and partners in managing the current situation and forging a common approach to Afghanistan policy.”

Biden calls on more companies to issue vaccine mandates after FDA's Pfizer approval

Joe Biden urged more private businesses to require coronavirus vaccinations for their employees, now that the Food and Drug Administration has granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.

“Today, I’m calling on more companies ... in the private sector to step up with vaccine requirements that will reach millions more people,” Biden said.

The president noted his administration has already set an example for other employers by requiring all federal government workers to get vaccinated or receive regular coronavirus tests.

“If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that. Require it,” Biden said.

After concluding his prepared remarks, the president left the podium without taking any of reporters’ shouted questions about the situation in Afghanistan.

Joe Biden thanked the acting FDA commissioner, Dr Janet Woodcock, for the tireless efforts of her team to vet and approve coronavirus vaccines over the past several months.

“She has ensured the team follow the science above all,” Biden said of Woodcock. “The FDA approval is the gold standard.”

The president added, “Those who have been waiting for full approval should go get your shot now. The vaccination is free, it’s easy, it’s safe, and it’s effective.”

'The moment you’ve been waiting for is here,' Biden says after Pfizer approval

Joe Biden is now delivering remarks on the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that it has granted full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

“Today, we’ve hit another milestone, a key milestone, in our fight against Covid,” Biden said.

Pres. Biden: "If you're one of the millions of Americans who've said that they will not get the shot until it has full and final approval of the FDA: it has now happened. The moment you've been waiting for is here. It is time for you to go get your vaccination. And get it today." pic.twitter.com/ElQimrkGNw

— ABC News (@ABC) August 23, 2021

The president spoke directly to Americans who have said they would wait to get vaccinated until one of the vaccines received full FDA approval.

“It has now happened,” Biden said. “The moment you’ve been waiting for is here. It’s time for you to go get your vaccination -- and get it today.”

Updated

Ahead of full US authorisation of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had a simple message for Americans contemplating using ivermectin, a medicine used to deworm livestock, instead of getting a Covid shot.

“You are not a horse,” it said. “You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”

As with other purported alternative treatments for Covid-19, misinformation about ivermectin has spread on social media and through rightwing media and politicians.

In July, Bret Weinstein, an evolutionary biologist, told Fox News host Tucker Carlson: “[If] ivermectin is what those of us who have looked at the evidence think it is … the debate about the vaccines would be over by definition.”

In a Senate hearing last December, doctors touted ivermectin alongside hydroxychloroquine, once championed by Donald Trump, and other alternatives.

In comments shared widely on social media, Dr Pierre Kory, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Aurora St Luke’s medical center in Milwaukee, called ivermectin a “wonder drug”.

Experts said then that test results suggesting ivermectin could inhibit replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus did not amount to official authorisation for use.

“It is a far cry from an in-vitro lab replication to helping humans,” Dr Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection prevention at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Hospital, told the Associated Press.

So far, more than 570 people have faced criminal charges relating to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 this year, following a rally near the White House where then-president Donald Trump egged them on to march on the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification by Congress of Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 presidential election.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., greeted U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell after the House select committee hearing earlier this summer on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 27 July 2021. He and other Capitol Police officers and Metropolitan Police gave testimony on trying to defend the Capitol from insurrectionists.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., greeted U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell after the House select committee hearing earlier this summer on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 27 July 2021. He and other Capitol Police officers and Metropolitan Police gave testimony on trying to defend the Capitol from insurrectionists. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/EPA

Trump was impeached for an historic second time, accused by the House of inciting the riot. He was acquitted in the Senate, although several Republicans voted to convict him.

Ashli Babbitt was shot dead on January 6 by a Capitol Police officer, who has not been identified, as she tried to get into the House chamber through a smashed window in a door leading from the Speaker’s chamber.

The Capitol Police has just issued its internal findings that the officer acted lawfully and will not face disciplinary action.

Babbitt, 35, was an Air Force veteran who embraced far-right conspiracy theories on social media, including Trump’s lies that he only lost the election because of widespread fraud across the US.

Officials at local, state and national level declared the 2020 election the “most secure” in US history and many dozens of lawsuits by the Trump campaign to try to overturn results in various states all failed, with some judges excoriating lawyers such as Rudi Giuliani and Sidney Powell who made the arguments in court and in press conferences that Trump was the winner.

Back in January, Lois Beckett and Vivian Ho reported for the Guardian that:

Babbitt’s Twitter account showed a woman deeply engaged for months with a conspiracy theory that painted Democratic lawmakers as evil pedophiles, and then persuaded, and infuriated, by Trump and his allies’ lies about election fraud.

For weeks before she joined the mob in Washington, Babbitt had been retweeting false claims from Trump himself, as well as the pro-Trump lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, alleging massive voter fraud and asserting that Trump had won the 2020 election.

Many of Babbitt’s tweets, according to extremism experts, also marked her as a believer in QAnon, a conspiracy theory that claims Donald Trump has been trying to save the world from a cabal of satanic pedophiles, including Democratic politicians like Biden and Hollywood celebrities, and that he will soon bring his enemies to justice.

Police finds shooting of 6 January protester inside Capitol 'was lawful'

The United States Capitol Police has issued the result of its internal investigation into the killing of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot as she tried to enter the chamber of the House of Representatives, through a smashed window in a door, during the https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/us-capitol-breachinsurrection by extremist supporters of then-president Donald Trump on January 6 this year.

Ashli Babbitt, a supporter of Donald Trump, walks through the US Capitol towards the House chamber on 6 January.
Ashli Babbitt, a supporter of Donald Trump, walks through the US Capitol towards the House chamber on 6 January. Photograph: US Senate/Reuters

Babbitt, 35, was shot as she and other rioters tried to break through a barricaded door leading from the Speaker’s lobby to the chamber, where Capitol police officers were armed on the other side and had shoved furniture up against the heavy door, as members of congress were still in the process of being evacuated during the riot. Babbitt was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound but later pronounced dead.

A statement from the Capitol Police that has just been issued says:

After interviewing multiple witnesses and reviewing all the available evidence, including video and radio calls, the United States Capitol Police has completed the internal investigation into the fatal shooting of Ms. Ashli Babbitt, which occurred in the Speaker’s Lobby on January 6.

USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) determined the officer’s conduct was lawful and within Department policy, which says an officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury.

The officer in this case, who is not being identified for the officer’s safety, will not be facing internal discipline.

The actions of the officer in this case potentially saved Members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters who forced their way into the U.S. Capitol and to the House Chamber where Members and staff were steps away.

USCP Officers had barricaded the Speaker’s Lobby with furniture before a rioter shattered the glass door. If the doors were breached, the rioters would have immediate access to the House Chambers. The officer’s actions were consistent with the officer’s training and USCP policies and procedures.

USCP Completes Internal Investigation into the January 6 Officer-Involved Shooting: https://t.co/3Aj8ktG1Oc pic.twitter.com/blrzG8xW3H

— U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice) August 23, 2021

On April 14, the US attorney’s office for the District of Columbia and the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice had already announced that they would not pursue criminal charges against the officer, who was understood to have killed Babbitt with a single shot, as other rioters tried to boost her through a small window smashed in the door to the chamber.

The statement from the Capitol Police today further noted about the unidentified officer in question that: “This officer and the officer’s family have been the subject of numerous credible and specific threats for actions that were taken as part of the job of all our officers: defending the Congress, Members, staff and the democratic process.”

Updated

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The announcement makes the Pfizer vaccine the first coronavirus vaccine to receive full FDA approval, and the news is expected to spur more companies to issue vaccination requirements for their employees.
  • The Pentagon will soon establish a coronavirus vaccine requirement for all servicemembers, following the announcement from the FDA. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin had previously indicated he wanted to add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of troops’ required vaccinations, and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby confirmed Austin would soon move to do so.
  • Joe Biden’s approval rating fellow below 50% for the first time in NBC News’ polling since he took office in January, amid the ongoing chaos in Kabul. The NBC poll showed that just a quarter of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan. According to the Pentagon, the US had helped evacuate 16,000 people from Kabul over the past 24 hours.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrated the news that the Food and Drug Administration has granted full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

“The FDA’s full approval of a coronavirus vaccine shows Americans can have full confidence in the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine that has been painstakingly studied and reviewed,” the Democratic speaker said in a statement.

“For those who have been reluctant to get vaccinated, this long-awaited approval reflects the extraordinary rigor and scrutiny that FDA has applied in reviewing millions of cases to ensure that this vaccine is safe.”

Pelosi also expressed hope that “the coronavirus vaccine will be fully authorized for children soon,” although FDA officials said today that they need to gather more data before allowing young children access to get vaccinated.

The defence department spokesman, John Kirby, has said the US military has in one case helicoptered US citizens into Kabul airport and has the capability to carry out further extraction operations of US nationals, by air and road.

The announcement followed criticism of defence secretary Lloyd Austin’s statement last week that the US military would not go beyond the airport perimeter, at a time when British special forces had gone out into the city to fetch UK nationals.

Kirby said the US was doing similar things but would not go into details for security reasons.

“We do have the ability to help when we can and where we can to help Americans move towards the gates, and we’re not going to talk about the details of each and every one of those, but we do have those capabilities,” Kirby said.

“You mentioned that the Brits who want to go out - we are doing it as well. We are going out as needed, and helping Americans get into the field.”

Pentagon plans to issue vaccine requirement following FDA's Pfizer approval

The Pentagon will soon establish a mandate for all servicemembers to get vaccinated against coronavirus, following the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that it was granting full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.

Defense secretary Lloyd Austin had previously indicated he would add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of troops’ required vaccinations, and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby provided an update on those plans at the press conference today.

“Now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved, the department is prepared to issue updated guidance requiring all service members to be vaccinated,” Kirby said.

Following FDA approval of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby says Defense Department will issue updated guidance requiring all service members to be vaccinated. https://t.co/GubAuizEFg pic.twitter.com/odBpnshp43

— ABC News (@ABC) August 23, 2021

The spokesperson said the required timeline for troops to get vaccinated would be “provided in the coming days,” and he emphasized that the health and safety of service members remains a “top priority” for the Pentagon.

“It’s important to remind everyone that these efforts ensure the safety of our servicemembers and promote the readiness of our force, not to mention the health and safety of the communities around the country in which we live,” Kirby said.

More vaccination mandates are expected to be announced in both the public and private sectors now that the FDA has issued its Pfizer approval.

On the question of the 31 August deadline for the evacuation, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the defence secretary is working to that deadline and has not asked the president for it to be extended, but he did not rule it out.

“The goal is to get as many people out as fast as possible. And while we’re glad to see the numbers that we got out yesterday, we’re not going to rest on any laurels,” Kirby said.

“The focus is on trying to do this as best we can by the end of the month. And as the secretary said, if he needs to have additional conversations with the commander in chief about that timeline, he’ll do that. But we’re just not at that point right now.”

Updated

The Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, has been talking about the effort to improve access to Kabul airport through discussions with the Taliban, who man the checkpoints on the surrounding roads.

So far, he said, it is going well, and the flow of people into the airport has improved in recent days.
“It does require constant coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban,” Kirby said.

“And what we have seen is that this coordination as well as deconfliction has worked well in terms of allowing access and flow to continue, as well as reducing the overall size of the crowds just outside the airport.”

At the Pentagon, Army Major General William “Hank” Taylor is giving an update on the situation at the Kabul airport.

Taylor said that over the past 24 hours, 16,000 people were flown out of Kabul on 89 planes, a combination of military transport and commercial charters.

The US military alone was responsible for flying out just under 11,000 people, as evacuation efforts continue in Afghanistan.

About 16,000 people have been flown out of Kabul in the past 24 hours, including nearly 11,000 transported by the U.S. military, Major General Hank Taylor says

"Our mission remained focused on entering a steady flow of evacuees out of Kabul" https://t.co/zWcgonfNFj pic.twitter.com/VKpDBSOkvE

— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 23, 2021

All New York public school employees must be vaccinated, de Blasio announces

All employees of New York public schools will now be required to get vaccinated against coronavirus, mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a press conference this afternoon.

De Blasio said the New York City department of health would soon be issuing an order requiring all public school employees -- including teachers, principals and janitorial staff -- to get at least one vaccine dose by September 27.

Today we’re announcing that ALL @NYCSchools faculty and staff must be vaccinated against #COVID19 this school year. Join me #onStatenIsland for more. https://t.co/zfSxXFII2v

— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 23, 2021

The mayor had previously said that all school employees would have to either get vaccinated or receive weekly coronavirus tests, but the latest update eliminates the testing option. It’s still unclear what the penalties will be for teachers who refuse to get vaccinated.

The new policy means that the nation’s largest school system will have a vaccination requirement in place for all employees as students look to return to the classroom this fall.

The mayor’s announcement comes on the same day that the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

Joe Biden will deliver remarks on his administration’s coronavirus vaccination efforts at 1:30 pm ET today, the White House has just announced in an update to the president’s schedule.

Biden will likely address the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that it has granted full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

The president’s senior advisers, including health and human services secretary Xavier Becerra, have used the announcement to once again encourage all eligible Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

If you have been waiting to get vaccinated, please wait no longer - go get vaccinated to protect yourselves and others from COVID-19. And thank you to the @US_FDA, the gold standard for drug and vaccine safety in the world, for their tireless work. https://t.co/UH0c4JE7Px

— Secretary Xavier Becerra (@SecBecerra) August 23, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is likely to trigger a wave of formal vaccination requirements from government departments, businesses, schools and other bodies.

Many observers hope formal approval will spur an increase in vaccine take-up among sections of the population, particularly in Republican-led states, so far resistant to government advice.

The US is struggling with a wave of cases, hospitalisations and deaths from the infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus. The overwhelming majority of hospitalisations and deaths are among unvaccinated people.

According to Johns Hopkins University, nearly 630,000 people have died in the US of Covid-19.

FDA grants full approval to Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration has granted full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, after “an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation” confirmed the treatment’s safety and effectiveness.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” the acting FDA commissioner, Dr Janet Woodcock, said in a statement.

Today, FDA approved the first COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of #COVID19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. https://t.co/iOqsxXV1fj

— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 23, 2021

Woodcock added, “While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.”

The FDA’s announcement notes that the vaccine has been fully approved for those 16 and older, while it remains available to those between the ages of 12 and 15 under the company’s original emergency use authorization.

Following its FDA approval, the Pfizer vaccine will now be marketed under the name Comirnaty.

The blog will have more details coming up, so stay tuned.

Taliban say deadline extension for foreign troops is ‘red line’

The Guardian’s Lucy Campbell reports:

The Taliban has said it will not agree to an extension of the 31 August deadline for the current evacuation mission.

The 31st was “a red line”, Suhail Shaheen, a member of the delegation in Doha, told Sky News.

He said the US president Joe Biden had said troops would be out by that date, and extending it meant “extending occupation”. He warned of “consequences” if that were to change.

He said:

It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.

If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations - the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.

It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.

Follow more of Lucy’s updates on the Guardian’s Afghanistan live blog:

The US has helped evacuate about 37,000 people from Afghanistan over the past week and a half, according to the latest numbers from the White House.

“From August 22 at 3:00 AM EDT to August 23 at 3:00 AM EDT, 28 U.S. military flights (25 C-17s and 3 C-130s) evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul. In addition, 61 coalition aircraft evacuated approximately 5,900 people,” a White House official told the press pool.

“Since August 14, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 37,000 people. Since the end of July, we have relocated approximately 42,000 people.”

Afghan guard killed in Kabul airport gun battle

The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont and Kate Connolly report:

A firefight between unidentified gunmen and US, German and Afghan guards at Kabul airport has left one Afghan guard dead and three wounded, underscoring the fragile security situation around the site.

The fight, which took place at just after 7am Kabul time at the north gate of the airfield, started when former Afghan security forces who are acting as guards exchanged fire with the gunmen. Then German and US forces became involved.

Heute Morgen um 04.13Uhr MESZ kam es am North Gate des Flughafens #Kabul zu einem Feuergefecht zwischen afghanischen Sicherheitskräften und unbekannten Angreifern. Eine afghanische Sicherheitskraft wurde dabei getötet, drei weitere verwundet. pic.twitter.com/4FLILE1NVA

— Bundeswehr im Einsatz (@Bw_Einsatz) August 23, 2021

Scant details of the incident were disclosed in tweets from the official account of the German Joint Forces Operations Command, Bundeswehr im Einsatz (German forces in action).

“This morning at 04:13 [central European summer time], a firefight broke out between Afghan security forces and unknown assailants at the North Gate of #Kabul airport. One Afghan security force member was killed and three others wounded.”

It added: “The Afghan security forces are members of the Afghan army. They are involved in securing the airport in Kabul as part of the multinational operation.”

Biden facing pressure on multiple fronts amid chaos in Kabul

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Joe Biden is facing one of the most difficult points of his presidency so far -- as he faces criticism over everything from Afghanistan to the coronavirus pandemic to infrastructure legislation.

An NBC News poll released yesterday showed Biden’s approval rating had fallen below 50% for the first time since he took office in January. Only 25% of Americans approve of his handling of the situation in Afghanistan.

Joe Biden makes remarks providing an update on the situation in Afghanistan and Hurricane Henri.
Joe Biden makes remarks providing an update on the situation in Afghanistan and Hurricane Henri. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, the House returns to session today, and the speaker Nancy Pelosi is reckoning with clashing demands from the moderate and progressive wings of her caucus.

While progressives want to prioritize Democrats’ $3.5tn spending package as the House resumes its work, several moderates are demanding an immediate vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate earlier this month.

A group of House moderates wrote a Washington Post op-ed over the issue, saying, “We can walk and chew gum, just as the Senate did. We can pass the infrastructure measure now, and then quickly consider reconciliation and the policies from climate to health care to universal pre-K that we believe are critical.”

So Biden has to simultaneously get more Americans out of Afghanistan and keep his own party together in Washington. He has quite the week ahead of him. Stay tuned.

Contributors

Joan E Greve in Washington and Gabrielle Canon in San Francisco

The GuardianTramp

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