Derek Chauvin murder trial resumes in Minneapolis
The fourth day of Derek Chauvin’s trial is now underway in Minneapolis, where the former police officer faces murder charges over the killing of George Floyd.
Courteney Ross, the partner of Floyd, has now taken the witness stand. Ross started crying as she recounted the story of meeting Floyd in 2017.
Yesterday, the court heard from the cashier who served Floyd immediately before his death. The young man, Christopher Martin, expressed guilt over his role in Floyd’s arrest.
The Guardian’s Chris McGreal reports:
The cashier who served George Floyd in a Minneapolis store immediately before his arrest and death last May told a court on Wednesday of the ‘disbelief and guilt’ he felt for allowing Floyd to pay with a suspected fake $20 bill when he later saw the police kneeling on him.
Testimony on the third day of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial continued in an atmosphere of tense emotions and harrowing evidence about Floyd’s death.
The cashier, Christopher Martin, 19, said Floyd appeared to be high on drugs but was not threatening and was ‘very approachable, talkative’.
Hillary Clinton has joined the growing ranks of Democrats who have called for eliminating the Senate filibuster to advance voting rights legislation.
The former presidential nominee made her position known on a newly released episode of “Just Something About Her,” a podcast hosted by Jennifer Palmieri, who served as a senior adviser on Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
“The filibuster stands in the way of a lot of legislation and whether or not it can be either reformed and amended or eliminated is what we will find out in next weeks,” Clinton told Palmieri.
She added, “It certainly should be lifted for constitutional matters, and I would put election law matters at the top of that list.”
Many Democrats have called on Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer to eliminate the filibuster, thus allowing bills to pass the upper chamber with 51 votes, rather than the 60 required with the filibuster in place.
But currently, Schumer does not have the votes to eliminate the filibuster, as at least two of his caucus members — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have signaled opposition to the idea.
Democratic senator Tina Smith: ‘I’d vote to get rid of the filibuster hook, line and sinker’
The Guardian’s Daniel Strauss reports:
It’s rare a federal lawmaker makes a complete about-face on an issue with major legislative consequences.
But for Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota, the need to shift her position on one of the most crucial issues facing the Biden administration – reform of the filibuster rule – has become too strong to ignore.
She now believes that without reform, the filibuster – a rule by which the minority party in the Senate can block legislation – will do serious “damage” to American democracy, she told the Guardian.
Smith’s move is crucial. Behind the loud voices of the Senate Democratic caucus calling to either dramatically scale back or gut entirely a tool used to obstruct legislation, there’s a usually quieter set of senators, like Smith, who are finally speaking out.
In an interview with the Guardian, Smith argued that contrary to how the filibuster is portrayed by its advocates – as a tool to make the minority heard – it simply gives a minority of lawmakers outsized power.
“I often thought that it’s important that the minority view is heard in the Senate, and that there should be an opportunity for people to come together across lines of difference to get things done. But that wasn’t happening either,” Smith said.
“The filibuster wasn’t encouraging compromise. The filibuster was making it easy for any member of the Senate to say no. And the more I looked at that, the more I looked at the damage it was doing to our democracy.”
Smith said: “Well, I think that decisions about what we need to do, and how we need to change the rules – if we need to change the rules – are decisions that need to happen in their own way. But it happens in a particular place and time. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I would vote to get rid of the filibuster hook, line and sinker.”
Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg pledged that he would work diligently to gain bipartisan support for Joe Biden’s $2tn infrastructure package.
“I’m not going to give up on earning Republican support for this because we know that Republicans and Democrats across America believe that this is a good idea,” Buttigieg told MSNBC this morning.
The former Democratic presidential candidate said he has had many meetings with lawmakers of both parties, and he noted Joe Biden has encouraged Republicans to offer ideas on the proposal.
But Buttigieg was tight-lipped when pressed on which specific members of Congress he has been talking to about the infrastructure package.
“Bottom line is, we’ve got to get this done,” Buttigieg said. “The American people can’t wait for good infrastructure.”
The transportation secretary will be attending Biden’s cabinet meeting at the White House later today.
Rise in US coronavirus cases intensifies fears of a ‘fourth wave’
The fourth wave of coronavirus infections may have already arrived in the US, where case numbers are climbing in half of states.
On average, roughly 63,000 Americans per day were diagnosed with coronavirus infections over the past week. That’s a 17% increase from the week before, and echoes the rising caseloads of the pandemic’s second wave last summer. …
Because so many seniors have been vaccinated — 73% have gotten at least one dose — this fourth wave is likely to be a lot less deadly than the previous ones.
Many states have also prioritized vaccinating people with underlying health conditions, which will also help constrain the increase in severe illness and death.
Yes, but: More coronavirus is always a bad outcome, and this fourth wave is a foreseeable, preventable failure that risks dragging out the pandemic and leaving more people at risk in the process.
The news comes days after Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ominously warned that she had a sense of “impending doom” watching the numbers increase.
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now I’m scared.”
Joe Biden has expressed similar concerns and asked state and local leaders to maintain or reinstate mask mandates to limit the spread of the virus. But many governors have ignored those warnings, instead deciding to move forward with relaxing restrictions.
The Guardian’s Kari Paul reports:
Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure bill will prioritize broadband expansion as a top goal, earmarking $100bn to bring affordable internet to “all Americans” by 2029.
The plan, details of which the White House released in a fact sheet on Wednesday afternoon, seeks to reach “100% high-speed broadband coverage” across the US. It will do so while prioritizing broadband networks “owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and cooperatives” in a clear rejection of partnerships with big tech firms.
After Covid-19 forced many Americans to work and attend school from home, the disparities between Americans with and without reliable access to internet have become more visible, the Biden administration said, citing “a stark digital divide”.
“The last year made painfully clear the cost of these disparities, particularly for students who struggled to connect while learning remotely, compounding learning loss and social isolation for those students,” the administration wrote.
Biden’s $2tn plan addresses four major categories: transportation and utility grids, broadband systems, community care for seniors, and innovation research and development. The proposal would be paid for by permanently raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, according to sources cited by Politico.
The administration seeks to bring broadband to the 35% of rural Americans who lack access to internet at minimally acceptable speeds, calling it the “electricity of the 21st century” and comparing it to the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, which sought to bring electricity to every home in the US.
Biden to hold first cabinet meeting as part of infrastructure pitch
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
Joe Biden will hold his first full cabinet meeting at the White House today, a day after introducing his $2tn trillion infrastructure plan.
Delivering a speech on the plan yesterday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the president described his infrastructure proposal as “a once-in-a generation investment in America”.
“It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Biden said. “Is it big? Yes. Is it bold? Yes. And we can get it done.”
The White House has said the infrastructure plan will be a focus of today’s cabinet meeting, as Biden’s senior advisers prepare to pitch the proposal alongside him.
But it remains unclear whether the plan can get through Congress, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in the House and the Senate.
Biden said yesterday that he hoped to work with Republicans to get the legislation passed, but many of them have already expressed opposition to the idea of rolling back Trump-era tax cuts to help pay for the plan.
“The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future,” the president said in Pittsburgh. “We’ll have a good-faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to help get this done. But we have to get it done.”
The blog will have more updates and analysis of the cabinet meeting coming up, so stay tuned.