That’s it from me tonight. Here’s what we covered:
- After Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for killing George Floyd, Minnesota governor emphasized that the work is not done.
- Three other officers who were involved in Floyd’s death still await trial.
- Former President Trump reportedly considered invoking the Insurrection Act last summer, to deploy troops on protesters.
- After the much-anticipated UFO report dropped with few conclusions many are demanding more information. Intelligence officials claim they just don’t know the answers yet.
Hope you all have a fabulous night and weekend! Thanks for reading along.
Yes, the truth is, indeed, still out there
It was an afternoon of much anticipation and excitement — followed by the saddest trombone sound echoing across the Internet.
The long-awaited report from US intelligence officials on unidentified flying objects dropped this afternoon, marking one of the first times the US government officially weighed in on strange sightings in the sky. Their big reveal, however, was seen by many as more of a shrug.
“We were able to identify one reported UAP with high confidence,” the report says. “In that case, we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained.”
As the Guardian’s Julian Borger noted today, aliens weren’t the only explanation being examined. Officials were also considering whether the aircraft belonged to earthly adversaries — an equally scary security situation — and the report was inconclusive on that front as well.
“If there are objects flying over military installations that could pose a security threat … [it] needs to be declassified and revealed to American public,” the Democratic chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, Mark Warner, told Fox 8 television. “If there’s something out there, let’s seek it out, and it is probably a foreign power.”
Some don’t seem to be worried.
Oreo used the report as an opportunity to advertise (do they still need to?) with a giant Oreo-shaped crop circle and an offering of cookies and milk.
The report, which was commissioned by Congress last year, is still considered by others to be an important step even without strong conclusions.
Investigators listed five possible explanations, including naturally-occurring events, but the Department of Defense is now going to dig deeper and improve tracking systems to collect better intel.
“The Defense Department and Intelligence Community have a lot of work to do before we can actually understand whether these aerial threats present a serious national security concern,” Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a statement.
Trump reportedly wanted to deploy troops in Washington during George Floyd protests
The New York Times is reporting that former president Donald Trump considered deploying active-duty troops in Washington last summer to repress protests that followed the killing of George Floyd.
Two unnamed senior Trump Administration officials reportedly told the Times that aids drafted a proclamation to invoke the Insurrection Act on 1 June 2020 as the administration argued over how to respond to the growing unrest.
From the NYT:
Mr. Trump, enraged by the demonstrations, had told the attorney general, William P. Barr, the defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, that he wanted thousands of active-duty troops on the streets of the nation’s capital, one of the officials said.
Mr. Trump was talked out of the plan by the three officials. But a separate group of White House staff members wanted to leave open the option for Mr. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to call in the military to patrol the streets of the capital.
They decided it would be prudent to have the necessary document vetted and ready in case the unrest in Washington worsened or the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, declined to take measures such as a citywide curfew, which she ultimately put in place.
Trump has denied that he ever considered deploying troops or that he had knowledge of the document, telling the Times, “it’s absolutely not true and if it was true, I would have done it.”
Three other former-officers who were on the scene and involved in George Floyd’s death still await trial.
Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane stand accused on Minnesota state charges of aiding and abetting Chauvin, which is punishable by up to 40 years in prison. The three were also indicted by a federal grand jury on civil rights charges.
Their trial for charges brought by the state is set to begin next March and arraignment for the federal charges will be in September. The three are currently free on bail.
Lane and Kueng were the first officers on the scene the day that Floyd was killed. The two aided Chauvin in detaining Floyd, and both used their body weight to hold him down, with Kueng on his back and Lane on his legs. Kueng checked for a pulse after Floyd became unresponsive, but even after announcing he couldn’t find one, the officers remained in their positions holding Floyd down.
At one point, Lane asked, “Should we roll him on his side?” Chauvin responded: “No, staying put where we got him.” Lane then said, “I am worried about excited delirium or whatever,” to which Chauvin said, “That’s why we have him on his stomach.”
Meanwhile, Thao stopped onlookers from intervening as Floyd died. When one person stepped forward to try to convince Chauvin to get off Floyd, Thao “put his hands on the citizen to keep him back”, according to the complaint filed against him.
Gabrielle Canon here, taking over from the west coast for the evening.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has tweeted his reaction to the Chavin sentence as “historic” but agreeing with others that more needs to be done.
“This is a positive step toward justice, but our work is not done. We’ve known all along that accountability in the courtroom is not enough,” he said.
“The statements today from George Floyd’s family and members of the community were painful but powerful,” he continues. “Now, as Derek Chauvin faces years behind bars, we must come together around our common humanity and continue on towards justice for all.”
The statement echoed the statement the governor issued on 20 April, when Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, when he said that systemic change was needed to prevent this from happening again.
Here is more from his statement in April:
Too many Black people have lost – and continue to lose – their lives at the hands of law enforcement in our state.Our communities of color cannot go on like this. Our police officers cannot go on like this. Our state simply cannot go on like this. And the only way it will change is through systemic reform.We must rebuild, restore, and reimagine the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. We must tackle racial inequities in every corner of society – from health to homeownership to education. We must come together around our common humanity.
Let us continue on this march towards justice.
That’s it for me. Here’s a recap of what happened today:
- Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the death of George Floyd.
- Here’s Joe Biden responding to the ruling.
- The UFO report is out.
- Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida addressed the building collapse and efforts by rescue workers there.
- The Manhattan district attorney informed attorneys for Donald Trump that criminal charges could be filed against the family business.
Here’s Al Sharpton reacting to the ruling. Like Ellison, he said the ruling was not enough.
Sharpton noted that the ruling is “longest sentence they’ve ever given but it is not justice. Justice is George Floyd would be alive.”
Some reaction from various corners of Twitter to the Chauvin ruling:
My colleague Adam Gabbatt had a long dispatch about the UFO report:
The mystery of UFOs seen in American skies is likely to continue following the release of the US government’s highly anticipated UFO report.
The report released Friday afternoon made clear that while American intelligence officials do not believe aliens are behind the UFOs – or what scientists prefer to call unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) – that were observed by Navy pilots, they cannot explain what the flying objects are.
The report confirms that the observed phenomena are not part of any US military operations.
The Pentagon studied over 140 incidents reported by Navy pilots of UFOs seen over the last two decades for the report, many of which were seen during the summer of 2014 into the spring of 2015.
The release of the report caps a six-month wait, since a group of elected officials succeeded in including the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021 in a $2.3tn coronavirus relief bill signed by Donald Trump last December.
The act ordered government agencies to provide a declassified “detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence” and “a detailed description of an interagency process” for reporting UFOs.
The discussion of UFOs – at government level or outside it – has been stigmatized for decades. While some have used the UAP materials as fodder for theories on alien life, officials have pointed to the possible threat of the UAPs being from an adversary using technology unknown to the US.
The much-awaited (at least to me) Director of National Intelligence report on UFOs is here. Read it.
Joe Biden was asked about his reaction to the Chauvin ruling. Here’s the pool report:
Question: Do you have a reaction to Derek Chauvin being sentenced to 22.5 years in prison?
Biden: “I don’t know all the circumstances that were considered but it seems to me, under the guidelines, that seems to be appropriate.”
Thanks to the AP’s Darlene Superville for lending a good recording of the quote.
More quotes coming.
Just before sentencing Derek Chauvin to 22 and a half years, judge Cahill, known as a forthright and relatively brusque jurist, stated he had written a lengthy, 26 page sentencing memo to explain his thinking on the sentence, which is 10 years above the state guidance for second degree murder.
“What the sentence is not based on is emotion or sympathy, but at the same time I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain families are feeling, especially the Floyd family,” Cahill told the court.
The document itself is filled with a lot legal reasoning, but the conclusion is worth reporting here as it’s a neat summary of Cahill’s thinking.
“Part of the mission of the Minneapolis police department is to give citizens ‘voice and respect’. Here, Mr Chauvin, rather than pursuing the MPD mission, treated Mr Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings and which he certainly would have extended to a friend or neighbor. In the court’s view, 270 months, which amounts to an additional 10 years over the presumptive 150 month sentence, is the appropriate sentence.”
Here is the sentencing order on the Chauvin ruling in the Floyd case.
Attorney Ben Crump has also responded to the ruling.
Ellison continues: “My hope for Derek Chauvin is that he uses his long sentence to reflect on the choices he made ... my hope is that he takes the time to learn something about the man whose life he took.”
Ellison is going on to say the sentencing “is not enough”.
Ellison is now speaking.
“The sentence that the court just imposed on Derek Chauvin ... is one of the longest a former police officer has ever received for an unlawful use of deadly force,” Ellison said. “Today’s sentencing is not justice but it’s another moment of real accountability on the road to justice.”
Attorney General Keith Ellison of Minnesota is about to speak about the ruling and Derek Chauvin’s sentencing.
Bridgett Floyd, George Floyd’s sister, released a statement:
“The sentence handed down today to the Minneapolis police officer who killed my brother George Floyd shows that matters of police brutality are finally being taken seriously. However, we have a long way to go and many changes to make before Black and Brown people finally feel like they are being treated fairly and humanely by law enforcement in this country.
Our focus at the George Floyd Memorial Foundation will now move to building support to ensure that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act becomes law and brings with it the hope for the substantive change that we need so desperately in this country.
We will keep George’s memory alive by ensuring high school students and law school students have every opportunity to succeed by providing much-needed scholarships and other financial assistance. We will honor George’s commitment to those less fortunate by providing acts of service and support in communities around the country.
These efforts will take resources, however, so we will continue to work to secure financial commitments from many of the corporate entities who were so vocal about providing support for racial diversity and equality following my brother’s death.
Our work at the George Floyd Memorial Foundation has only just begun because the fight for justice is far from over.”
The court is now adjourned. The room is silent as Chauvin is escorted out.
Chauvin given 22 and a half years for George Floyd murder
Cahill has found Chauvin guilty of count one. Counts two and three will “remain adjudicated” as they are lesser offenses.
Chauvin is sentenced based on the count to 270 months in prison.
Judge Peter Cahill right now is explaining that this case is based on the law and not “emotion and sympathy” but Cahill went on to acknowledge the deep pain all families involved are feeling “especially the Floyd family.”
“It has been painful throughout Hennepin County, throughout the state of Minnesota, and throughout the country. But most importantly we need to recognize the pain of the Floyd family,” Cahill said.
Cahill added that he is not basing his sentencing on public opinion or to “send any messages.”
The court is now back in session.
CNN’s Omar Jimenez caught an important aspect of Carolyn Pawlenty’s statement:
While the trial is in recess turn to Florida where governor Ron DeSantis addressed the public about the state’s efforts to respond to a building collapse in Miami.
The Miami Herald reports the number of missing in the Surfside building collapse has risen to 159. Here’s the Herald’s report:
The grim task of recovering the bodies of victims at the site of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside began overnight and continued into a somber Friday in an unfolding tragedy that is feared to be the worst building failure in Florida history.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday morning that the number of people who are unaccounted for in Thursday’s building collapse increased to 159 — dramatically higher than the 99 reported earlier. The official death toll rose to four, as three more people were found in the rubble.
On Friday afternoon, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s office identified the first of the deceased victims as Stacie Fang, 54, who died at Aventura Hospital. The cause was blunt-force injuries. Her son was rescued by firefighters on Thursday morning.
Derek Chauvin himself is now addressing the court. He began his remarks by saying “I want to give my condolences to the Floyd family.”
Chauvin’s remarks were brief. The trial is now in recess.
Derek Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, is currently addressing the court.
“I know this has been an incredibly difficult case for the Floyd family to have to endure,” Nelson said. “This is a case that has changed the world to some degree. And I hope it’s positive. But it’s my hope that the court follows sentencing guidelines, applies the law in a reasonable manner, and imposes a just sentence.
Carolyn Pawlenty, fighting back tears, continued to address her son.
“One final thought I want you to remember, remember you are my favorite son. Thank you for your time.”
Carolyn Pawlenty is continuing: “I believe a lengthy sentence will not serve Derek will. When you sentence my son you will also be sentencing me.”
Shortly after she turned to address Derek Chauvin: “My happiest moment is when I gave birth to you” Pawlenty said. Pawlenty went on to say “Derek I want you to know I have always believed in your innocence and I will never waiver from that.”
Carolyn Pawlenty, Derek Chauvin’s mother, is now addressing the court. She is arguing that Chauvin’s identity has been unfairly portrayed by the media and the public.
“I can tell you that is far from the truth. My son’s identity has also been reduced to that as of a racist. I want this court to know that none of these things are true and that my son is a good man. Derek always dedicated his life and time to the police department, even on his days off he would call to see if they needed help.
“Derek is a quiet, thoughtful, honorable and selfless man. He has a big heart and he has always put others before his own.”
Another dispatch from the Guardian’s Laughland:
Philonise Floyd, another of George Floyd’s brothers, who also testified during Chauvin’s trial, was the fourth and final member of the family to offer a victim impact statement. Like others, he asked Judge Cahill to sentence Chauvin to the maximum number of years in prison.
“Every day I have begged for justice to be served, reliving the execution of George, while others begged, they pleaded for officer Chauvin to simply just allow George to take a breath. I haven’t had a real night’s sleep because of the nightmares I constantly have hearing my brother beg and plead for his life over and over again,” he said.
Prosecutors are now running through the aggravating factors in the case that they argue means Chauvin should be sentenced to 30 years.
The Guardian’s Oliver Laughland passes along these quotes from Floyd’s daughter earlier during this hearing:
Gianna Floyd, Floyd’s seven year-old daughter, appeared in court via a recorded video message. She was asked by an off-screen interviewer a number of questions.
“What do you want to when you see him again?” She was asked.
“I want to play with him,” she responded.
“If you could say anything to your daddy today, what would it be?” She was asked.
“It would be I miss you and I love him.”
Philonise Floyd is now speaking. He too is fighting tears as he asks for Chauvin to be given the maximum sentence “possible.”
“My family has been given the maximum life sentence. We will never be able to get George back,” Floyd said. He went on to say “Chauvin had no regards for human life, George’s life.”
Terrence Floyd continued to say that he and his family are seeking the maximum punishment for Chauvin.
“On behalf of me and my family we seek the maximum penalty. We don’t want to see no more slaps on the wrist. We’ve been through that already,” Floyd said. “If the roles was reversed it wouldn’t be no case [sic]. It would’ve been opened and shut. We woulda been under that jail for the murder of Derek Chauvin.”
Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd is currently trying to give a statement in this hearing but he is struggling to fight back tears.
“I wanted to know from the man himself: why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck?” Floyd said.
The sentencing in the Chauvin trial has begun.
We’re just a few minutes away from the scheduled sentencing of Derek Chauvin in the trial over George Floyd’s death.
Floyd’s family will speak at the sentencing, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Unsurprisingly, the Republican response to the DoJ’s lawsuit over the Georgia voting law is not positive. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a potential 2024 Republican presidential nominee, released this statement:
“President Biden packed the Department of Justice with left-wing ideologues like Merrick Garland, Vanita Gupta, and Kristen Clarke. Now they’re suing to block Georgia from making it easy to vote but hard to cheat. This baseless lawsuit is a reminder that bad things happen when Democrats use our institutions to push their radical agenda.”
Speaking just now to reporters alongside Homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, vice-president Kamala Harris pushed back on criticism that even though she is visiting Texas she’s not visiting one of the hardest hit parts of the Southern border.
“What is happening here in El Paso really is in many ways highlights many of the facets here on immigration. It is here in El Paso that the previous administrations child separation policy was unveiled,” Harris said, adding “here in El Paso we’ve also seen great work happening through the department of homeland security under the leadership of Secretary Mayorkas....”
Supporters of a white nationalist hate group defaced brand-new memorials to George Floyd in New York and New Jersey this week, as the nation awaited sentencing for Floyd’s murderer, Derek Chauvin.
Vandals painted the statues’ faces black and used white markings to reference Patriot Front, a hate group that sprang from a neo-Nazi organization after the lethal “Unite the Right” Charlottesville rally, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“It’s at the epitome of not only anti-Blackness and racism, but it is also about the lack of even basic human decency about the life of George Floyd,” Imani Henry, a lead organizer with Equality for Flatbush, told the New York Times.
“For someone to desecrate an innocent person’s tribute is just beyond the pale.”
Here’s what’s been going on so far today:
- The Manhattan District attorney’s office has reportedly told Donald Trump’s lawyers it is weighing criminal charges against the Trump Organization.
- Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania compared Democrats to Nazis.
- The Department of Justice sued Georgia over a restrictive voting law. The Guardian’s Sam Levine has more.
- The governor of Georgia slammed the lawsuit.
- Vice-president Kamala Harris visited El Paso and the southern border.
Health secretary ordered to investigate Fort Bliss migrant children complaints
As Kamala Harris visited the southern border on Friday, US health secretary Xavier Becerra was ordered to conduct a “thorough investigation” into complaints at Fort Bliss, which houses 1,500 migrant children, according to a spokeswoman for the vice-president, Symone Sanders.
The camp of at least 12 tents is home to hundreds of children at a time. In court documents filed in the US district court for the central district of California on Monday, many children told stories of crowded, unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
One young girl from Honduras wrote she had been at Fort Bliss for two months in a tent that at one point held more than a thousand girls. The unnamed girl said she had been on a suicide watch list with 28 other girls but was recently removed, and obligated to go to counseling sessions. The girl was one of many who complained about food quality, calling the rice hard, chicken bloody and salad soggy.
“I remember that during one meal, my friend was given chicken that still had feathers in it, and she had to pull out the feathers,” she wrote.
The girl is waiting to be released to an uncle in New Mexico, who she said has submitted all required paperwork and gone through background checks. She lamented only being able to use the phone twice a week, and being told calls would be recorded.
“I really want to leave,” she said.
According to Department of Health and Human Services data, 14,000 unaccompanied minors are now in its care.
Charges possible in Trump Organization investigation – report
Big news from the New York Times, which says the Manhattan district attorney has informed lawyers for Donald Trump that criminal charges against the Trump Organization are possible.
The possible charges are related to “fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive”, the Times reported, citing “several people with knowledge of the matter” who said such charges against Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, and the company, could be unveiled as soon as next week.
As the Times has it: “While the prosecutors had been building a case for months against Mr Weisselberg as part of an effort to pressure him to cooperate with the inquiry, it was not previously known that the company also might face charges.”
Trump’s legal problems have mounted since he left the White House and thereby lost the protections of office. In the words of Victoria Bekiempis for the Guardian: “He’s Teflon Don no more, at least when it comes to court.”
As the Times put it, “an indictment of Mr Trump’s company could deal a significant blow to the former president just as he has flirted with a return to politics”.
Trump maintains control over the Republican party and dominates polls of potential nominees for president in 2024. He is due to return to the campaign stage – even if there isn’t strictly a campaign going on at the moment, although as Sidney Blumenthal put it many moons ago, in the US the campaign is permanent – with a rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Saturday.
The Times also reports that though Trump has derided the New York DA’s investigation as “a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’, he unsuccessfully tried to fight a subpoena from [Cyrus] Vance [Jr]’s office seeking eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, a fight that twice reached the United States supreme court.
“The indictment of the company and Mr Weisselberg could increase pressure on him to cooperate with the investigation. Mr Weisselberg could seek to cut a deal with prosecutors to testify against Mr Trump in exchange for leniency.”
Spokesmen for all parties concerned did not comment, the Times said in conclusion.
…and here’s Donald Trump, with his own statement on the Department of Justice lawsuit against Georgia’s restrictive voting rights law:
Biden’s Department of Justice just announced that they are suing the great state of Georgia over its Election Integrity Act – actually it should be the other way around. The people of Georgia should sue the state and their elected officials for running a corrupt and rigged 2020 presidential election – and for trying to suppress the vote of the American people in Georgia.
If we don’t address these issues in the 2020 election head on and we allow the radical left Democrats to continue to politicise the DoJ and law enforcement, we will lose our country. Save America!
Even some Republicans might observe that it’s a bit rich for Trump to accuse Democrats of “politicising the DoJ and law enforcement”, in light of recent stories of DoJ surveillance of Trump’s enemies while he was in power and also in light of stories about his attitude to law enforcement like, well, this:
Republican congressman compares Democrats to Nazis
A Republican congressman from Pennsylvania compared Democrats to Nazis and told supporters: “Go fight them.”
Scott Perry, a member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, made the remarks earlier this month in a speech to state conservatives – as reported by Vice News.
“They are not the loyal opposition,” the former soldier said. “They are the opposition to everything you love and believe in. Go fight them.”
He also said: “We can acknowledge that maybe not every one of them is that way, but that doesn’t matter. We’ve seen this throughout history, right? Not every not every citizen in Germany in the 1930s and 40s was in the Nazi party. They weren’t. But what happened across Germany? That’s what’s important. What were the policies? What was the leadership? That’s what we have to focus on.”
Another Republican in Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, recently compared public health measures to combat the coronavirus to Nazi repression of Jewish people. She ended up outside the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, saying she had learned a lot on a visit.
Perry told his audience corporations which oppose restrictive voting laws introduced by Republicans also mirror the rise of Nazism.
“It wasn’t a government in Germany that took the people’s rights away immediately,” he said. “It was fascism. Fascism took it away, because the government put the heavy hand on the companies and the companies did the government’s work. Well look around, ladies and gentlemen.
“… We support big business, but not if it’s anti-America, not if it’s anti-American, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say it.”
Perry, who backed Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn his election defeat, also accused Democrats of trying to destroy the economy via inflation and oil scarcity.
He said: “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a plan. They’ll tell you they’re patriots. But the patriots like the patriots in this room must acknowledge that things are different now. They want to destroy the country that you grew up in. They want to destroy the country that the founders made. That is their plan. That is their goal. That’s why they’re doing these things.”
Vice said it attempted to question Perry about his remarks as he ducked into an elevator on Capitol Hill. He answered: “I reject the premise of the question … I’m not interested. Thank you.”
The website also said “Missouri Republican Billy Long, a former auctioneer who had also boarded the elevator, broke into an auctioneering chant to intentionally drown out any possible follow-up questions”.
More reaction from Republican officials in Georgia to the announcement of the US Department of Justice suit over their restrictive voting rights law.
Brad Raffensperger is the Georgia secretary of state who famously stood up to Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn his defeat in the state. But in a statement on Friday, Raffensperger slammed the DoJ lawsuit:
The Biden administration continues to do the bidding of Stacey Abrams and spreads more lies about Georgia’s election law … it is no surprise that they would operationalise their lies with the full force of the federal government. I look forward to meeting them and beating them in court.
Here’s an interview with Raffensperger, by Sam Levine:
DoJ sues over Georgia voting rights measure – full report
The US justice department is filing a major federal lawsuit challenging a new sweeping voting measure in Georgia that is widely seen as a blatant effort to make it harder for minorities to vote in the state.
The challenge is the first major voting rights case filed under the Biden administration, one of a handful of the department has filed in recent years challenging voting laws on a statewide basis.
The lawsuit, filed under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, alleges Georgia Republicans intend to deny people access to the ballot box based on their race.
“Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia’s election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” attorney general Merrick Garland said during a Friday press conference.
Georgia governor slams DoJ voting rights lawsuit
Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, is out with a statement regarding the Department of Justice lawsuit over his state’s restrictive voting law.
“This lawsuit is born out of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia’s Election Integrity Act from the start. Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams, and their allies tried to force an unconstitutional elections power grab through Congress – and failed.”
Abrams is a former member of the Georgia state House who ran against Kemp for governor in 2018 – and narrowly lost an election Kemp ran, as secretary of state – and then parlayed her newfound fame into prodigious work for voting rights nationwide.
Now, they are weaponizing the US Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy.
“As secretary of state, I fought the Obama justice department twice to protect the security of our elections – and won. I look forward to going three for three to ensure it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia.
Here’s more, from Joan E Greve, usually the blogger here:
A motion for a new trial in the trial of Derek Chauvin was denied. Per this CNN report:
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s post-verdict motion for a new trial has been denied.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill ruled Thursday night that Chauvin “failed to demonstrate ... the Court abused its discretion or committed error such that Defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to a fair trial.
Cahill also ruled that Chauvin failed to demonstrate prosecutorial or juror misconduct.
Prosecutors have requested a 30-year prison sentence.
More below on Chauvin.
The timing and importance of this DoJ lawsuit is significant.
More from Attorney General Merrick Garland in announcing this lawsuit. He says “we are seeing a dramatic increase in menacing and violent threats ranging from the highest administrators to volunteer poll workers.”
Garland said the deputy attorney general would issue a directive to officials which would “highlight” the threats and launch a task force to investigate the threats.
“We will promptly prosecute any violations of federal law,” Garland said.
Justice Department sues Georgia over voting law
It’s official. The Justice Department is suing Georgia over its restrictive voting rights law. Politico reports:
The Justice Department is suing the state of Georgia over its controversial voting rights bill, a person familiar with the department’s plans confirmed.
Republican state legislators around the country have pushed a host of provisions that would make it more challenging for people to vote — moves that have targeted Democratic-leaning voters and disproportionately affect people of color.
Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, which was passed on a party-line vote and signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in late March, contained a slew of changes to election laws in the state. Perhaps most notably, it stripped Georgia’s secretary of state of power on the state elections board, making the board majority-appointed by the state legislature.
Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state, clashed repeatedly with former President Donald Trump following the 2020 election. Trump tried to pressure Raffensperger into trying to overturn the results in the state, but Raffensperger pushed back privately and publicly, insisting the election was a free and fair one.
The state elections board is also now able to remove local election administrators from their posts.
The new law also changed how voters can cast their votes. It replaced the state’s signature verification system for absentee ballots with an ID-based system and tightens the window that those ballots can be requested. It codified the use of dropboxes in state law, while severely restricting their use in and around the Democrat stronghold of Atlanta, compared to the emergency authorization during the 2020 election.
The law also drastically shortened the runoff period in Georgia, after Republicans lost a pair of high-profile Senate races earlier this year. The law does expand in-person early voting in many smaller counties in the state, while maintaining the status quo in larger counties that already had more expansive options.
Meanwhile down in El Paso, the vice president is visiting a Customs and Border Patrol processing center.
It’s part of the planned schedule for Harris today.
Soon today attorney general Merrick Garland and the Justice Department will announce that it is suing Georgia over a new voting law there.
Here’s more from Berman’s reporting:
In its first major action to combat GOP voter suppression laws, the Biden Justice Department will announce on Friday that it is suing the state of Georgia over its new voting restrictions, a source familiar with the litigation told Mother Jones.
Gov. Brian Kemp has said “there is nothing Jim Crow” about the Georgia law, enacted in March, but it includes 16 different provisions that make it harder to vote and that target metro Atlanta counties with large Black populations.
The lawsuit is being overseen by Kristen Clarke, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Vanita Gupta, the associate attorney general—two longtime civil rights lawyers with extensive records litigating against new restrictions on voting.
The Georgia law appears to have been part of a coordinated national effort by conservative activists to make it harder to vote in states across the country. The dark money group Heritage Action for America bragged in a leaked video to donors in April, first reported by Mother Jones, that the Georgia law had “eight key provisions that Heritage recommended.” Those included policies restricting mail ballot drop boxes, preventing election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms to voters, making it easier for partisan workers to monitor the polls, and restricting the ability of counties to accept donations from nonprofit groups seeking to aid in election administration.
This is a continuation of a shift in priorities for the Department of Justice. In recent weeks the Justice Department has been bulking up its resources for protecting Americans’ voting rights. The Washington Post reported recently that Garland plans to double the size of the DoJ’s voting rights team.
We’re awaiting word from the Supreme Court on a voting rights case this morning but in the meantime the high court has also weighed in on a smaller case. According to Reuters:
(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday narrowed the scope of a class action lawsuit against TransUnion in which thousands of people sought damages after the credit reporting company flagged their names as matching those on a government list of suspected terrorists and drug traffickers.
TransUnion had appealed a lower court ruling that had upheld a jury verdict against the Chicago-based company in the lawsuit and had ordered it to pay $40 million in damages. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, stopped short of tossing out the jury verdict, but found there was insufficient evidence to show that all of the plaintiffs had been harmed by TransUnion’s conduct, meaning the amount of damages will be reduced.
Credit reporting companies provide information on an individual’s borrowing and bill-paying history to lenders and other businesses.
TransUnion argued that the lawsuit, which focused on a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act that requires consumer reporting agencies to provide correct information, should never have been certified as a class action.
Vice-president Kamala Harris is visiting the Southern border today amid ongoing criticism from Republicans about Harris’s absence from traveling there yet.
The El Paso Times published an explainer on the vice-president’s trip:
Vice President Kamala Harris will be in El Paso on Friday, where she will tour a Customs and Border Protection processing facility, meeting with advocates and NGOs. She will also be delivering remarks on her visit.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who has been helping with negotiations on immigration legislation on Capitol Hill, and Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, will be accompanying Harris and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the trip.
Harris was tasked with dealing with the root causes of migration from Central America. Over the past several months, she has been criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for not visiting the border.
Harris has said that she was tasked with dealing with the root causes of migration, rather than the situation at the border, which she said Mayorkas was tasked with.
Excerpts from a new book about Donald Trump’s presidency includes details about the 45th president’s increasingly violent language in the oval office.
...the book reveals new details about how Trump’s language became increasingly violent during Oval Office meetings as protests in Seattle and Portland began to receive attention from cable new outlets. The President would highlight videos that showed law enforcement getting physical with protesters and tell his administration he wanted to see more of that behavior, the excerpts show.
“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Bender. “Crack their skulls!”
Trump also told his team that he wanted the military to go in and “beat the f--k out” of the civil rights protesters, Bender writes.
“Just shoot them,” Trump said on multiple occasions inside the Oval Office, according to the excerpts.
When Milley and then-Attorney General William Barr would push back, Trump toned it down, but only slightly, Bender adds.
“Well, shoot them in the leg—or maybe the foot,” Trump said. “But be hard on them!”
The new details about how Milley and a handful of other senior officials were forced to confront Trump’s increasingly volatile behavior during the final months of his presidency only add to an already detailed portrait of dysfunction inside the White House at that time.It also underscores the level of tension between Trump and top Pentagon officials leading up to the presidential election last November.
CNN has reached out to Trump about the claims in Bender’s book. A spokesperson for Milley declined to comment.
At times, Milley also clashed with top White House officials who sought to encourage the then-President’s behavior.
During one Oval Office debate, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller chimed in, equating the scenes unfolding on his television to those in a third-world country and claiming major American cities had been turned into war zones.
“These cities are burning,” Miller warned, according to the excerpts.The comment infuriated Milley, who viewed Miller as not only wrong but out of his lane, Bender writes, noting the Army general who had commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan spun around in his seat and pointed a finger directly at Miller.”Shut the f--k up, Stephen,” Milley snapped, according to the excerpts.
In most forceful comments yet, Pence rebukes Trump on certification
Good morning and welcome to Friday’s politics live blog. Former vice-president Mike Pence, in his most direct comments yet, sought to separate himself from former president Donald Trump on certifying the 2020 election results.
During a speech in California on Thursday night Pence, a potential 2024 presidential nominee, said “I will always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfilled our duty under the constitution and the laws of the United States.”
He continued: “The truth is, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
Those comments are in stark contrast to the view Trump held – and still holds – that Pence, as vice-president, could have blocked certification of the election results in 2020 when Joe Biden won the presidential election.
But Pence, in the speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, also likened Trump to Ronald Reagan, saying: “He challenged the establishment. He invigorated our movement and set a bold new course for America.”
To an extent, Pence’s comments in his speech underscore the high-wire act he has to follow as possible presidential candidate in the election. He can’t separate himself too far from his former boss and the last Republican president but he also needs to differentiate himself.
Other would-be presidential candidates are doing so as well. In a speech in Iowa, Nikki Haley, another heavyweight potential Republican presidential candidate also praised Trump saying “Thank goodness for Donald Trump, or we never would have gotten Kamala Harris to the border.”
Haley has said if Trump decides to run for president in 2024, she would not.