Biden Delivers First Presidential Address to Congress

By Terrance Turner

April 28, 2021

Tonight, President Joe Biden addressed Congress in his first speech to them as president. The speech covered a wide range of topics, reflecting the plethora of pressing issues facing Americans: COVID-19, immigration, LGBTQ equality, race and policing. Tonight, in succinct, sweeping prose, Biden outlined what he aims to do on these and other topics. Some highlights are detailed below.

Biden began his speech by greeting Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then noting the historic nature of having two women seated behind him. “Madam speaker, madam vice president,” Biden said. “No president has ever said those words from this podium. And it’s about time.”

AFP via Getty Images

 “One hundred days since I took the oath of office and lifted my hand off our family bible and inherited a nation — we all did — that was in crisis,” Biden said. “The worst pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again.”

Biden boasted about the economic record of his tenure so far, making the dubious claim that his administration has created, “more jobs than the first 100 days than any president on record.”Biden also discussed the economic benefits of his $1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief bill. “And, maybe most importantly, thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we are on track to cut child poverty in America in half this year.”

President Biden also addressed climate change. According to ABC News, he chose to emphasize what he felt was a long-neglected buzzword. “For too long, we failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: jobs. Jobs. Jobs,” Biden said to a round of applause. Both are a centerpiece of his mammoth infrastructure plan, which he is trying to get passed through Congress.

But Biden also addressed American health. He grew emotional as he talked about the need to fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. He mentioned former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who once proposed naming cancer legislation after Biden’s late son Beau. (Veteran Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.) “I know of nothing that is more bipartisan, so let’s end cancer as we know it,” Biden said. “It is within our power. It’s within our power to do it.” He also urged Congress to help lower prescription drug prices and deductibles for the Affordable Care Act.

Also on the agenda: establishing a $15 minimum wage. “No one, no one working 40 hours a week, no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line,” Biden declared. “We know how to do this. The last president had that as an objective,” he said.

He also spoke about bipartisanship. “I like to meet with those who have ideas that are different, that they think are better,” Biden said. “I welcome those ideas. But the rest of the world is not waiting for us. I just want to be clear, from my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.”

Which is exactly what he feels Congress has done on immigration. Biden lamented that politicians have been talking about immigration for decades without doing anything about it. He urged Congress to provide bipartisan support for an immigration bill. “If you believe that we need to secure the border, pass it, because it has a lot of money for high-tech border security. If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass it,” he said. Biden also spoke of the need for legislation to protect DREAMers, those brought to America as children who now face deportation. (The Supreme Court upheld DACA, an Obama-era program to protect Dreamers, in a landmark case last year.)

“Look, if you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for dreamers.The [ones] who have only known America as their home, and permanent protection for immigrants who are here on temporary protective status who came from countries beset by manmade and natural made violence and disasters. As well as a pathway to citizenship for farm workers that put food on our tables.

Look, immigrants have done so much for America during this pandemic and throughout our history. The country supports immigration reform. We should act. Let’s argue over it. Let’s debate it. But let’s act.”

The president thanked the Senate for passing an anti-Asian hate crimes act that passed almost universally. “I want to thank the Senate for voting 94-1 to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, to protect Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders,” he said, to applause. But he also asked Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. “For all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know your President has your back,” the president said.

Another legislative item is the Violence Against Women Act, which Biden himself wrote in the 1990s. “The act that has to be authorized now will close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. The court order said: this is an abuser, you can’t own a gun. It’s to close that loophole that existed,” Biden explained. “You know, it’s estimated that 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month in America. 50 a month. Let’s pass it and save some lives.”

While on the topic of shootings, Biden turned to gun violence. “I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence has become an epidemic in America. A flag at the White House was still flying at half mast for the eight victims of the mass shooting in Georgia, when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado. And in the week in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America. 250, shot dead.”

“I know how hard it is to make progress on this issue. In the 90s we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that could be fired off in seconds. We beat the NRA. Mass shootings and gun violence declined. Check out the report, over 10 years.

But in the early 2000s, the law expired. We’ve seen daily bloodshed since,” Biden said.”I’m not saying if the law continued, we wouldn’t see bloodshed,” he admitted. But, he cautioned, there are a number of things that must be done. “One of them is banning so-called ‘ghost guns.’ These are homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions on how to finish the firearm.

The parts have no serial numbers, so they show up at crime scenes and they can’t be traced. The buyers of these ‘ghost gun’ kits aren’t required to pass any background check. Anyone, from a criminal or a terrorist, could buy this kit, and within 30 minutes have a weapon that’s lethal.”

“But no more,” Biden vowed. “I’ll do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence, but it’s time for Congress to act as well.”

President Biden also addressed race and policing — specifically the case of George Floyd. “My fellow Americans, look, we have to come together to heal the soul of this nation. It was nearly a year ago, before her father’s funeral, when I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter. She’s a little tyke, so I was kneeling down to talk to her so I could look her in the eye. She looked at me, she said, ‘My daddy changed the world.’

“Well, after the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer, we can see how right she was, if — if we have the courage to act as a Congress. We’ve all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans. Now is our opportunity to make some real progress. The vast majority of men and women wearing a uniform and a badge serve our communities and they serve them honorably. I know them. I know they want–“

Biden was interrupted by applause. Even Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) stood to applaud.

“As I stand here tonight before you in a new and vital hour of life and democracy for our nation,” Biden concluded, “I can say with absolute confidence, I have never been more confident or optimistic about America — not because I am President, because what’s happening with the American people.

We’ve stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and we the people did not flinch. At the very moment our adversaries were certain we’d pull apart and fail, we came together, we united. With light and hope, we summoned a new strength, new resolve to position us to win the competition of the 21st century.

On our way to a union more perfect, more prosperous and more just, as one people, one nation and one America.”

Pandemic Pandemonium: FDA Approves Vaccine As Cases, Deaths Soar

Photo courtesy of Agence France-Presse.

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 11, 2020 (UPDATED: Dec. 17)

Tonight, the COVID-19 pandemic hit new, disturbing highs. The New York Times reports: “The nation set single-day records on Wednesday for reported deaths, with more than 3,600, and for newly reported cases, more than 245,000.” The Times added: “Three times as many more people in the United States are dying each day now than three months ago, and the number of new cases is six times what it was then.” ABC News confirmed this disturbing case count, adding that the U.S. has broken hospitalization records each day for the past 11 days.

The Times also revealed: “In the past week, just over 30 percent of the nation’s coronavirus-related deaths were reported in the South, and nearly 30 percent in the Midwest.” The pandemic’s toll is also ravaging the West. California, the nation’s most populous state, is facing a deluge of cases. NPR states: “California reported 52,281 new daily confirmed coronavirus cases and 379 new virus-related deaths, according to state data. This brings the state’s total number of cases to more than 1.7 million, with 21,860 deaths since the pandemic began.”

Worse yet, the number of hospitalizations in California has broken records every day for 18 consecutive days. The impact on hospitals is particularly grave in Southern California: there are 0 ICU beds available, per ABC News. NPR confirms that no intensive care unit beds are available

BREAKING (Dec. 11, 8:26 pm): The FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use. An initial shipment of about 2.9 million doses will be sent around the United States over the next week, according to the New York Times. The first week’s batch will be delivered to health care workers and nursing home residents as quickly as possible, all while keeping the vaccine at ultracold temperatures.

This news comes after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, to consider looking for his next job if he didn’t get the emergency approval done Friday, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to discuss the matter. Dr. Hahn ordered vaccine regulators at the agency to do it by the end of the day.

This rapid turnaround comes after the New York Times reported the White House turned down an offer of vaccine doses months ago. Pfizer sold the U.S. government 100 million doses, purchased by the Health and Human Services Dept. In July, the government was given the option to request 100 million to 500 million additional doses. But despite repeated warnings from Pfizer officials that demand could vastly outstrip supply and urges to pre-order more doses, the Trump administration turned down the offer. The Washington Post cited an official who cited pending FDA approval as the reason for the rejection. But by the time FDA approval was granted and federal officials reached back out, Pfizer had committed doses to other countries, the Post says.

The United States reported 107,248 hospitalizations of COVID-19 yesterday — a new record high. According to CNN, Dec. 10 is the ninth consecutive day that the U.S. has had more than 100,000 hospitalizations. The death toll topped 3,000 yesterday for the first time, according to Johns Hopkins University. (CNN’s Anderson Cooper said tonight that an additional 2,700 deaths were reported nationwide today.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasts up to 362,000 deaths in the U.S. by Jan. 2. That’s almost the entire population of Cleveland.

At this point, the United States has recorded 291,754 deaths from COVID-19 — more than the number of Americans killed during World War II. That was the bloodiest war in human history, according to Business Insider. (Interestingly, this week marked the 79th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, which caused the U.S. to enter the war. Much like Dec. 7, 1941, Dec. 10, 2020 is a day that may well “live in infamy”.)

But the vaccine’s approval today (Dec. 11) marks a historic development. The FDA announced the news in a press release tonight that explained how the vaccine works. “The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine contains messenger RNA (mRNA), which is genetic material. The vaccine contains a small piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s mRNA that instructs cells in the body to make the virus’s distinctive “spike” protein. When a person receives this vaccine, their body produces copies of the spike protein, which does not cause disease, but triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against SARS-CoV-2.”  

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration voted 17-4 in favor of an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The dissidents were concerned about the effects of the vaccine on 16- and 17-year-olds, according to NBC News. They also have concerns about the impact on pregnant women. Still, the majority of the FDA commission voted yes.

The vaccine “measures reducing symptomatic illness”, thus keeping patients from becoming gravely ill, according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. But she added that it is not clear yet whether the vaccine prevents one from contracting the virus. She told Anderson Cooper that people should still be vigilant: “They should still be wearing a mask. They should still be social distancing.”

While the virus continues to rage, the president of the United States is working overtime to win an election he lost (when he’s not hosting holiday parties). Today, the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit filed by Texas’ attorney general that sought to invalidate some 20 million votes. The Houston Chronicle reports: “In a one-page ruling, the justices said Texas lacked standing to bring the case and therefore they would not consider it. The suit, brought by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, targeted Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and alleged that changes made to election policies without state legislature approval were unconstitutional and allowed voter fraud to occur, though he did not offer evidence of that.”

“The State of Texas’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution,” the Court said. The Supreme Court — stacked with three justices personally appointed by President Trump — rejected his bid to undo the election. And so ends a monthlong effort, involving some 30 lawsuits, to overrule the will of the people.

Mark Meadows Tests Positive for COVID-19

By Terrance Turner

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has tested positive for coronavirus. The news was announced by CNN roughly half an hour ago, just minutes after Joe Biden delivered a speech ahead of his almost-certain victory in the presidential race. CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins noted that Meadows was at an election night party at the White House on Tuesday — with no mask. Notably, he was also in attendance at a Wednesday morning speech by the president:

Also worth noting: Meadows was involved in a combative exchange with reporters regarding that very issue, just weeks ago. Meadows was asked by reporters to keep the mask on. Meadows claimed he was distanced “ten feet away” and refused to do so. “I’m not going to talk through a mask,” Meadows said, before turning and walking away.

Bloomberg, which broke the story, added that Meadows told a close circle of associates about his diagnosis. Bloomberg added: “A Trump campaign aide, Nick Trainer, is also infected, according to two people familiar with the matter. He and campaign spokespeople declined to comment.”

Significantly, today was the worst day for coronavirus since the pandemic began. There were more than 125,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 today. Reuters reports that there were at least 129,606 news cases on Friday. Reuters reporter Anurag Mann added that Friday is the third straight day that at least 100,000 cases have been reported. Twenty of the 50 U.S. states reported record increases on Friday, the same as Thursday when the national daily total crossed 120,000 for the first time.

Speaking of states, Texas (which accounts for over 10% of U.S. cases) reported about 9,000 infections and is on the verge of becoming the first state to exceed 1 million cumulative COVID-19 cases. Governor Greg Abbott said the U.S. Department of Defense has deployed three U.S. Air Force Medical Specialty Teams to El Paso. KHOU reports that those 20 military medical providers will support three El Paso hospitals. Significantly, hospitalizations have risen in this country for the 12th consecutive day.

The President and First Lady Have Coronavirus.

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 1, 2020 (UPDATED Oct. 2)

The President of the United States has tested positive for COVID-19. He announced just before midnight that both he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive:

This development poses a risk not only to the president’s reelection campaign, but also to his health. He is a 74-year-old-man of considerable girth; older Americans are more likely to face complications from COVID-19. Houston affiliate ABC 13 cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in writing that “people in the 65-74 age range face a five times greater risk of hospitalization and a 90 times greater risk of death from Covid-19 compared to young adults between the ages of 18-29.”

Excess weight is also likely to cause complications from the virus; CNN reported in June that Trump weighed 244 pounds and is 6 feet 3 inches tall. “That gives him a body mass index of 30.5, making him technically, if mildly, obese,” ABC 13 added. Obesity triples the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19, according to the CDC. These factors would appear to place the president in particular peril.

Accordingly, his schedule has been adjusted. According to the New York Times, “The White House did not say how long Mr. Trump would have to remain isolated, but it canceled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday telephone call ‘on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors’.” If the president remains in quarantine for the recommended 14 days, he would have to miss a second debate with Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15.

Hope Hicks — one of the president’s closest advisers — tested positive for COVID-19 last night. Hicks flew with the President on Air Force One, both to and from the debate on Tuesday night. Then she flew to Minnesota with him on Wednesday for a rally (!). Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs delivered the news last night:

According to the Associated Press, Hicks began having symptoms while on the plane ride home on Wednesday. “Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was quarantined away from others on the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday,” wrote Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin in their AP column.

The president and first lady entered quarantine within hours. Trump tweeted last night that he and First Lady Melania Trump were awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. “In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process,” he wrote on Twitter. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” Trump said during a call-in interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night. “I just went for a test, and we’ll see what happens.”

Now we know what happened. The President has tested positive.

It is a stunning reversal for a man who routinely downplayed the severity of the pandemic. Jokingly referring to it as the “Kung Flu”, Trump blamed China for the virus. He mocked people for wearing masks (he did that just yesterday, the New York Times says). And he once claimed that it would disappear, “like a miracle”, from our shores.

The question now is how the president (and first lady) became infected. If the president’s exposure to COVID-19 was days ago, a positive test is still possible in the future. “If it was even five days ago, and he tests negative now, he still may end up testing positive tomorrow,” said Dr. Leana Wen. “And so this is why that quarantine period is so important,” she explained on “CNN Tonight” last night. The program aired footage of Hope Hicks and other advisers boarding the plane Marine One

During the broadcast, host Don Lemon pointed out that no one in the group was six feet apart OR wearing masks. Hicks was reportedly maskless during her flights with the president. White House spokesman Judd Deere stated that the White House will “incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for COVID-19 “to the greatest extent possible”. But nobody on Marine One was wearing masks.

Interestingly, both Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence have tested negative, per CNBC. “As has been routine for months, Vice President Pence is tested for COVID-19 every day,” said Devin O’Malley, the vice president’s press secretary, in a tweet. “Vice President Pence remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery,” he said.

UPDATE: Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, have both tested negative for the coronavirus. ABC News announced the news in a “Breaking News” update roughly an hour ago; the news has been confirmed by MSNBC.

UPDATE (5:10 pm, Oct. 2): The president is now being flown to Walter Reed Medical Center. He will be flown there aboard his Marine One helicopter, which is standard procedure (according to CNN). “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. 

The New York Times quoted two sources who said the president has been experiencing a low-grade fever, nasal congestion, and a cough. His doctor issued a memo, cited by the Times, that said Mr. Trump remains “fatigued but in good spirits”. The memo also revealed that Trump is receiving an experimental drug — an antibody cocktail developed by the biotech company Regeneron.

The president just boarded Marine One, according to NBC News.

UPDATE (10/5/2020): The President has left the hospital and returned to the White House. According to the Associated Press, “Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” After putting the mask in his pocket, Trump “gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.” Just yesterday, Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s doctor, said that he was still contagious and not “fully out of the woods” yet. But here he is, back at the White House.

This is a developing story. Please watch this space for further updates.

Joe Biden Chooses Kamala Harris As Running Mate

By Terrance Turner

August 11, 2020 (updated Aug. 12)

Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden has chosen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate. Biden announced his VP pick on Twitter. In an email to supporters, he wrote:  “I need someone working alongside me who is smart, tough, and ready to lead. Kamala is that person.” Harris is the first Black woman AND first Indian-American on a Democratic presidential ticket. (Or any major-party ticket, for that matter.)

It is the latest of many firsts for Harris, 55. The daughter of an Indian scientist mother and a Jamaican economist father, she is the first person in her family born in the United States, according to ABC News reporter Terry Moran. Harris was the first woman to be elected as district attorney for San Francisco in 2003. She later became the first Black person and first woman to serve as California Attorney General in 2010. (Harris won re-election in 2014 with 57% of the vote.)

When she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, Harris was only the second African-American* woman to serve in that house. As a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committees, Harris earned attention for her tough, probing style of questioning, underscoring her record as a prosecutor. Those skills were on special display during the contentious confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Though she is the fourth woman on a presidential ticket (Clinton, Palin, Ferraro), Harris is the first non-white woman, according to The Sunday Times. Now, Kamala Harris could become the first Black woman (and first South Asian) to serve as Vice President of the United States of America.

Moran said today that Biden and Harris will appear together tomorrow in Wilmington (in Biden’s home state of Delaware). It is the first step in what once appeared to be an unlikely partnership. At a Democratic debate last year (in Miami), Harris went after Biden for waxing poetic about working with segregationist senators. “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” she said.

But Harris also went after Biden for his stance opposing federal funding for desegregated busing. Under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the federal government could withhold funding from districts that refused to integrate blacks and whites — integration including school busing. Biden opposed that approach, arguing that it would lead to racial unrest. He teamed up with segregationist Sen. Jesse Helms for a failed anti-busing amendment in 1975. The next year, Biden moved to bar the Justice Department from pursuing busing-related cases. The New York Times revealed that between 1975 and 1982, Biden introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at limiting courts and the feds from mandating busing.

Harris took Biden to task for that — and for working with senators like Helms. “And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she said, growing emotional. “And that little girl was me.”

Biden, apparently blindsided by the comment, argued Harris had mischaracterized his position. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, was also hurt, saying that Harris’ attack was a “punch to the gut”. But Harris endorsed Biden in March. And just two weeks ago, at a speech in Wilmington, Biden offered a telling clue. As he approached the podium, Biden’s handwritten notes were snapped by an Associated Press photographer. Sen. Kamala Harris’ name was scrawled across the top. Right under her name, Biden had written: “Do not hold grudges.”

Biden’s notes were captured by an AP photographer at a speech in Wilmington on July 28. (Photo via AP.)

Today (Aug. 12), the two made their first joint appearance as running mates in Delaware; both shed some light on what brought them together.

One key factor in Biden choosing Harris was her friendship with his son Beau Biden (who died of brain cancer in 2015). Harris and Beau Biden were attorneys general during the same time period. “They took on the same big fights together. Kamala in California. Beau here in Delaware — big fights that helped change the entire country,” Joe Biden said today. “I know how much Beau respected Kamala and her work, and that mattered a lot to me, to be honest with you, as I made this decision.”

“Beau and I spoke on the phone practically every day — sometimes multiple times a day,” Harris said in her remarks this afternoon. “Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves. He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, ‘Where’d you get that? Where did this come from?’ He’d always talk about his dad. And I will tell you, the love that they shared was incredible to watch.” 

Beyond their heart-tugging memories of Beau, the two bonded over mutual goals and mutual admiration. Biden praised Harris as smart, tough, and experienced. “She knows how to govern,” Biden said, “and she’s ready to do the job on day one.” Harris in turn praised Biden as warm and compassionate. “His empathy, his compassion, his sense of duty to care for others is why I am so proud to be on this ticket,” Harris said.

But they both also saw this election in dramatic, game-changing terms. Biden reiterated that the 2020 election is “a battle for the soul of the nation”. Harris was similarly sweeping: “This is a moment of real consequence for America,” she said. “Everything we care about — our economy, our health, our children, the kind of country we live in — it’s all on the line.”

And, of course, they both took aim at Donald Trump. Biden called out Trump for his low-blow attacks on Harris (he called her “nasty”, “phony”, and “disrespectful” yesterday). “Is anyone surprised that Donald Trump has a problem with strong women?” Biden said. He added some jabs at the president’s work with the economy, too: “Trump is on track to leave office with the worst jobs record of any American president in modern history.”

Harris, too, lacerated Trump’s economic record. “The President’s mismanagement of the pandemic has plunging us into the worst economic crisis since the great depression,” Harris said. “He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.”

“This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up for the job,” Harris said. “Our country ends in tatters and so does our reputation around the world.”

Of course, they both discussed the topic of race. Harris said that “we are experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country.” Biden noted that today is the third anniversary of the Charlottesville rally, which featured Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists marching down streets of Virginia. The event led to racially charged violence: a group of white nationalists beat up a black University of Virginia student and then sued him for assault. (Trump famously defended the white supremacists as “very fine people”.) That moment, which spurred Biden to enter the race, came into sharp relief today.

But Biden cited Harris’ presence as a racial balm. He painted her momentous VP nod as an opportunity for Black women. “And this morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and Brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities, but today — today, just maybe — they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way, as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents,” Biden said. 

“As a child of immigrants, [Harris] knows personally how immigrant families enrich our country, as well as the challenges of what it means to grow up Black and Indian-American in the United States of America,” said Biden. “Her story is America’s story.”  

Born in Oakland, California in 1964, Harris was the daughter of immigrants. Her mother was a breast cancer scientist; her father was an economics professor. What brought them together, Harris said today, was the civil rights movement. “And that’s how they met, as students in the streets of Oakland,” she said today, “marching and shouting for this thing called justice, in a struggle that continues today. And I was part of it.”

Harris grew up in Berkeley. She was in kindergarten when the second year of integrated busing began there in 1969. Berkeley undertook its busing program voluntarily, requiring both white and black families to travel into unfamiliar neighborhoods, per the Los Angeles Times.

Harris entered more unfamiliar territory when her family moved to Montreal in the seventies. She graduated from high school in Westmount High School, near the Canadian city. Her Westmount high school classmate Hugh Kwok remembered:  “She was a sweet, kind person. Very happy, very social.” Indeed, a survey of her Westmount colleagues in the Toronto Star revealed warm memories. “They remember the California senator, now 54, as an assured, cheery teenager who thrived both in school and on the dance floor,” wrote Washington bureau chief Daniel Dale in 2018. He wrote that Harris maintained popularity across a diverse student body, in spite of her presence in a brand-new country.

She entered new territory again by going to Howard University in Washington, D.C. She double-majored in political science and economics there. Before graduating from the historically black college, Harris was on the debate team and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She was even elected to the liberal arts student council. “Running a campaign at Howard was tough!” NBC News quotes her as saying. “I remember walking up to strangers, asking them to vote for me.”

Harris earned her juris doctorate from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Then she launched her career as a deputy district attorney (part of a D.A.’s team of prosecutors). It was just the start of what would be a star-making career. Now, she has a chance to not only advance her career but alter the course of history

*Carol Moseley-Braun was the first, in 1992.

Shooting Outside White House Interrupts Press Briefing

Police vehicles at the site of today’s shooting. Photo from Patrick Semansky (AP).

By Terrance Turner

August 10, 2020

There’s been a shooting outside the White House.

The AP quoted two sources as saying that the shooting took place near 17th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue — just blocks from the White House. (Google Maps states that this area is a four-minute drive from the White House.) The shooting interrupted a press briefing that was just beginning; reporters were placed on lockdown, per Senior White House Correspondent Jonathan Datoc.

The D.C. fire department was dispatched outside the White House at 5:55 p.m. ET after the Secret Service called to report that they had shot a person in his upper body, D.C. fire spokesman Doug Buchanan said. The Washington Post cited Buchanan, adding that a Secret Service checkpoint is near the site of the shooting. The Secret Service later confirmed the events.

The President was in the middle of a news briefing when he was abruptly ushered out by officials. According to CNN, he was midsentence when security came in and asked him to leave. “We’re going to have to step outside,” the agent said.

“Excuse me?” Trump asked.

“Step outside,” the agent told him. (Trump complied.) The President had been “briefing for all of maybe two or three minutes”, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason told Anderson Cooper tonight. He added that the Secret Service locked the doors, keeping all of the press inside.

When he returned, Trump told reporters that law enforcement had shot a suspect. The incident appeared to have been an active shooter situation. ABC News has learned that the suspect opened fire on a civilian, and a Secret Service officer returned fire. The suspect was shot. That adult male suspect was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound, their source told ABC News.

UPDATE: The Secret Service confirmed at around 7 pm CST (8:07 ET) that both the suspect and a Secret Service agent were taken to a local hospital. The Secret Service stated that the White House complex was never breached. At no time was the president in danger, according to the USSS.

That sentiment was reflected in the president’s comments upon his return. “I feel very safe with the Secret Service. They’re fantastic people. They’re the best of the best,” Trump told reporters. “They’re highly trained.”

Supreme Court Upholds DACA in 5-4 Verdict

By Terrance Turner

The Supreme Court today blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end DACA, a program that protects immigrants brought to the United States as children. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court found that the administration’s attempt to end DACA in 2017 was “arbitrary and capricious”.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created in 2012 under then-President Barack Obama. Under the program, immigrants brought to the U.S. as children could stay in the States temporarily. They could apply and file for a two-year “forbearance” that would shield them from deportation. They have to be within 15 and 30 years of age, with no felony convictions. They must also pass a background check. According to NPR, DACA recipients must also be currently in school, a high school graduate, or honorably discharged from the military. The fee to renew and apply is $495.

Obama was moved to create the program after activists staged sit-ins in congressional offices and protested outside the White House. It was launched after the DREAM Act, which had similar protections, failed to pass Congress. (It was blocked in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator John Cornyn.) The current president moved to end the program in 2017, after winning office on an anti-immigrant platform. But the Supreme Court today handed Trump his second defeat of the week, ruling that his administration acted capriciously in trying to dismantle the program.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion. He was joined by the Court’s left-leaning justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Clarence Thomas wrote the majority dissent, joined by Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh. (According to the AP, the latter two wrote dissents of their own.)

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed.”

The agency in question is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the text of the Court’s decision, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked then-acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke to rescind the policy. “The next day, Duke acted on that advice. Taking into consideration the Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court rulings and the Attorney General’s letter, Duke decided to terminate the program. She explained that DHS would no longer accept new applications, but that existing DACA recipients whose benefits were set to expire within six months could apply for a two-year renewal. For all other DACA recipients, previously issued grants of relief would expire on their own terms, with no prospect for renewal.”

The result was a number of lawsuits by those who argued that the administration had violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. One of those plaintiffs was the NAACP, which said that the administration unlawfully reneged on a promise to protect young, undocumented immigrants of color. “NAACP, whose membership includes DACA registrants across the United States, is filing this lawsuit to protect the hundreds of thousands of Mexican, Caribbean and African immigrants,” NAACP General Counsel Janette M. Louard said. (NAACP’s website says that while over 80% of DACA recipients are Mexican, 36,000 Africans are also eligible for the program.)

The text of the Court’s decision (DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ET AL. v. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA ET AL.) says the NAACP suit was in D.C.’s District Court. The District Court granted partial summary judgment to the NAACP; today’s verdict upheld that ruling. NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the decision “a tremendous victory for America”.

“Today’s decision is completely monumental,” said Krissia Rivera, a 27-year-old DACA recipient and fourth-year medical school student at Brown University. “This decision means that I will be able to apply to residency programs and hopefully achieve my dream of becoming a surgeon,” Rivera told ABC. The decision is a major victory for thousands of immigrants: an estimated 800,000 people have enrolled in the program. DACA shielded them from deportation while they graduated, started businesses, became doctors or nurses, bought homes, even married and had children.

Some of them are working for major companies. According to ABC News, 200 major corporations filed briefs in the Supreme Court supporting the DACA recipients. Among them Microsoft, which was a plaintiff in one of the cases that made it to the Supreme Court, and Microsoft President Brad Smith. “There are more than 30,000 DACA registrants working in the health space alone. We’ve never needed these people more than we do today,” he said. “Every time I meet with them, I have the same reaction. We are lucky as a country to have them.”

Former vice president Joe Biden praised the ruling, writing: “The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory made possible by the courage and resilience of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients…As President, I will immediately work to make it permanent.”

Calls Mount for End to White House Briefings After Trump’s Tantrum

By Terrance Turner

The President of the United States held a press briefing on Thursday to update the public on the coronavirus. During the briefing, he touted the drug hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria and arthritis, as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Preliminary tests had shown promise for the drug. Trump called it a “game-changer” that could help thousands. He added that the drug would be made available “almost immediately” with a prescription. Trump even said people would have access to the drug “literally within a few days.” But the Food and Drug Administration begged to differ. That same day, the FDA released a statement saying that “there are no FDA-approved therapeutics or drugs to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19”.

The next day, at another briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci (the head of the White House coronavirus task force) was asked if hydroxychloroquine could be used as a “prophylaxis” against the virus. “The answer is no,” Fauci said plainly. “The evidence you’re talking about, John, is anecdotal evidence,” he continued, addressing the reporter by name. “But the information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled, clinical trial.”

Trump stepped to the mic, conceding that “what the doctor said is 100% correct.” He added. “We’ll see. We’re going to know soon.”

NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander pointed out that the president’s own words had painted a different picture. “Yesterday, Mr. President, you said that they were for, quote, ‘immediate delivery’.”

“Yes, we have millions of units ordered,” the president responded. “I am a man that comes from a very positive school when it comes to — in particular — one of these drugs. And we’ll see how it works out, Peter. I’m not saying it will, but I think people may be surprised. By the way, that would be a game-changer.”

“Dr. Fauci said that there’s no magic drug for coronavirus right now, which you would agree—”

“Well, I think we only disagree a little bit”, the president interrupted. (Crosstalk ensued.) “I disagree,” he said. Maybe, and maybe not. Maybe there is; maybe there isn’t. We’ll have to see.”

“Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” Alexander asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Trump answered. “Such a lovely question,” he said sarcastically. “Look — it may work, and it may not work. And I agree with the doctor, what he said. . .. I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling. I’m, you know, a smart guy.”

Alexander’s next question set off a powder keg. “What do you say to the people who are scared, though? Nearly 200 dead. 14,000 who are sick [in the U.S.]. Millions, as you’ve witnessed, who are scared right now? What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”

“I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say,” Trump fumed. “I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Comcast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it ‘Concast.’” He wasn’t done: “That’s really bad reporting, you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows? I’ve been right a lot.”

Watch the full exchange below:

This morning, the White House held another briefing. While Trump was talking about unity in our “beautiful, big American family”, his campaign was sending emails to supporters that further attacked Alexander. The Hill reported earlier today on the email’s contents: “President Trump was in the middle of delivering a positive, uplifting message to Americans who may be afraid, and Peter Alexander was triggered by it,” the email claims. “Perhaps if Alexander hadn’t been so determined to undermine the President’s message, he would have heard it.”

As for the briefing itself? This time, things unfolded rather smoothly, with the president deferring to experts and generally behaving himself. But the damage was already done. After yesterday’s exchange, many called for networks to end live coverage of Trump’s briefings. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explicitly called for the practice to end last night on The Rachel Maddow Show.

She has been joined by a chorus of voices who say that the president lies so frequently that it does a disservice to viewers: