Wake Up To Politics - April 21, 2021
Good morning! It’s Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 566 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,294 days away.
Chauvin found guilty in rare police conviction
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty by a jury on Tuesday in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose neck he knelt on for more than nine minutes.
Chauvin was convicted on all three counts sought by state prosecutors: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
The conviction came almost a year after the video of Chauvin and Floyd went viral, sparking mass protests and a nationwide reckoning over race in American society. In the video, which was recorded by a 17-year-old, Chauvin can be seen pressing on Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleaded for his life and said “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times.
“Today, we are able to breathe again,” one of George Floyd’s brothers, Philonise, said in a news conference after the highly anticipated verdict was released. “Justice for George means freedom for all.”
President Joe Biden spoke with Floyd’s family on the phone shortly after the announcement. “At least, God, now there is some justice,” Biden told them, according to a video posted by family attorney Ben Crump.
In his conversation with Floyd’s family, and in a subsequent address to the nation, Biden promised to pursue police reform legislation in light of the conviction. “Nothing can ever bring their brother and father back,” he said, “but this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”
However, according to Axios, the verdict may have the opposite impact on the chances of a police reform bill. Senior congressional aides told Axios that an acquittal likely would have fueled momentum for the issue on Capitol, but “the convictions have lessened pressure for change.”
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the author of the Democrats’ George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the author of the Republicans’ JUSTICE Act, have been engaged in months-long negotiations in search of a bipartisan compromise. The sticking point appears to be “qualified immunity,” the legal principle in the United States that shields government employees from being sued unless the plaintiff can show that “clearly established” rights were violated.
Democrats refuse to sign on to a bill that continues qualified immunity for police officers, while Republicans refuse to support legislation that ends it.
Because of the high bar for police lawsuits set by the qualified immunity doctrine, few police officers are indicted for murder or manslaughter and even fewer are convicted. Chauvin was only the eighth U.S. police officer convicted of murder since 2005, out of 139 police indictments and thousands of fatal police shootings in that timeframe.
Chauvin is facing up to 40 years in prison; Judge Peter Cahill is expected to hand down his sentence in about eight weeks.
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By Miles Hession
Russia is continuing to grow its military presence on the Ukranian-Russian border while mass domestic protests are planned in response to the worsening health of Alexei Navalny. As Russia ramped up the largest ever troop build-up on its border with Ukraine, top E.U. diplomats warned that it would only take a “spark” to set off a confrontation between the two nations. Pressure from western governments has grown as the U.S. slammed a planned Russian operation in the Black Sea and the expulsion of American diplomats.
Domestically, Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing growing discontent as mass protests have been planned in response to the health condition of Alexei Navalny, a prominent Putin critic. Navalny had been moved to a different prison hospital to get further treatment as health ailments had been exacerbated by a hunger strike. Putin has maintained a policy of stone-walling diplomatic attempts by western governments while preparing for his yearly “State of the Nation” address on Wednesday, which many expect will be a source of clashes between protestors and the police.
Raúl Castro stepped down as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba last week, handing control of the nation into non-Castro hands for the first time in 60 years. The change in leadership of the highest political position in the country has been planed since 2016, when his hand-picked successor was declared to be now-president Miguel Díaz-Canel. Castro emphasized in his farewell the need for a new generation of Cuban leaders to take the helm, and Díaz-Canel is widely seen as a staunch Castro loyalist who won’t veer too far from Castro’s vision.
With Cuba’s economy experiencing a sharp contraction from the pandemic, both Castro and Díaz-Canel spoke of seeking a stronger relationship with the U.S. in the hopes to reduce the financial burden imposed on the island nation. Biden administration officials have made clear that changes to its policy regarding Cuba is not at the top of their foreign policy agenda.
President Idriss Déby of Chad was killed in a conflict with a rebel group on Tuesday, leaving a power vacuum in the region. Déby rose to power in an armed rebellion in 1990 and died a day after winning his 6th term in office, making him one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. Throughout his time as president, he battled insurrectionists and jihadist groups like Boko Haram, and died, according to the government, on the battlefield during an offensive launched by rebels in northern Chad.
Déby was widely seen as a key ally of western nations in battling jihadist groups, and so his death will likely open a power vacuum for other leaders of the region to fill. The military council led by Déby’s son will govern in the interim while the country adjusts to the sudden change.
More global headlines, via Miles:
- The U.S. and China have agreed to cooperate on combating climate change ahead of a global climate summit.
- Germany’s Green Party has selected a candidate for chancellor as their poll numbers rise amidst a divisive leadership row among the conservatives.
- A new law expanding the power of the police has been passed in France despite widespread opposition by civil rights groups.
- The U.S. has unveiled new visa restrictions against those that undermined a recent election in Uganda.
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Later, at 1:15 p.m., he will deliver remarks on the COVID-19 response and the state of vaccinations.
— First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico. At 4:30 p.m., she will visit a community health care center with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM).
— Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Burlington, Vermont. At 11 a.m., he will visit a community health center with Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and convene a listening session on delivering vaccines to underserved populations.
— White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12:15 p.m.
The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the nomination of Vanita Gupta to be Associate Attorney General. The Senate will hold a cloture vote to advance Gupta’s nomination at around 11:30 a.m. and a confirmation vote on Gupta’s nomination at around 2:15 p.m.
Other votes are possible later in the day.
— Senate Republican leaders will hold their weekly press conference.
— The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Leglsiatve Branch will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. with Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson, and Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton. The hearing is on those agencies’ 2022 budget requests, but the January 6 attack at the Capitol will likely be a leading topic of questioning.
— The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights will hold a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on “examining competition in app stores.” Officials from Apple, Google, and Spotify will testify.
— The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation will hold a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on “America’s safe return to air travel.”
The House will convene at 12 p.m. and will for 15 one-minute speeches from each party. The chamber will hold one hour of debate on H.R. 1333, the NO BAN Act, and then vote on the bill, which would prohibit future presidents from enacting orders similar to former President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban.”
The House will then hold an hour of debate and then vote on H.R. 1573, the Access to Counsel Act, which would ensure migrants at risk of deportation are offered attorneys. The chamber will also vote on H.R. 2630, the Extending Temporary Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues Act, and H.R. 1392, the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act.
— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. to discuss H.R. 51, a statehood bill for Washington, D.C., that is slated to receive a vote in the House on Thursday.
— House Democratic leaders will hold a “celebration of life” at 10:30 a.m. for the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), who died earlier this month, in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. The leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus and members of the Florida congressional delegation will also participate.
— The House Administration Committee will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. on “preparations for and response to the attack of January 6.” U.S. Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton will testify.
The Supreme Court will hear virtual oral arguments in two cases. At 10 a.m., the court will hear City of San Antonio v. Hotels.com. “The Supreme Court will consider a complicated question this morning: whether district courts have discretion over ‘whether, when, to what extent, or to which party to award costs’ from litigation,” Wake Up To Politics legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “The case arose after San Antonio, Texas and several other cities sued Hotels.com for failing to pay enough taxes.”
At 11 a.m., the court will hear Minerva Surgical, Inc. v. Hologic, Inc. “For 100 years, federal law has barred inventors who sold their patent rights from later challenging the patent’s validity in federal court,” Anna writes. “Minerva Surgical— a company that sells products for abnormal uterine bleeding — is now asking the Supreme Court to get rid of this rule.”
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