Saturday, June 12

More security for lawmakers; immigration action coming


Savannah Behrmann

Nicholas Wu
 
| USA TODAY

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Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., requested Friday to move her office away from her Republican colleague Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as Democrats continue to condemn the Georgia Republican for controversial remarks she’s made on social media.

“A maskless Marjorie Taylor Greene & her staff berated me in a hallway. She targeted me & others on social media. I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety,” Bush shared in a tweet Friday.

An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the change was “by the direct order of the Speaker upon request.”

Greene responded to Bush on Twitter, saying Bush was “lying” and that it was Bush who berated her, before adding that she had recorded their interaction.

The video in the tweet shows a mask-less Greene walking down a hall when someone off camera shouts at her to “put on a mask.”

“Don’t yell at people. You know what? You shouldn’t bring COVID positive members in here, spreading COVID everywhere. Stop being a hypocrite,” Greene said after complying and putting on her mask.

– Sarah Elbeshbishi and Nicholas Wu

White House officials: vaccination pace is ahead of schedule

The Biden administration is running ahead of its initial vaccination goal but hasn’t reached the higher pace that President Joe Biden said might be possible, officials announced Friday.

An average 1.2 million shots a day were administered over the past seven days, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters at one of the pandemic briefings the administration has pledged to hold three times a week.

Biden has promised to deliver 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration. Questioned about whether that goal is ambitious enough, Biden said Monday that he hopes the pace will accelerate to 1.5 million a day.

Slavitt told reporters that he wasn’t announcing a new target, “other than to tell you that, every day, when the number comes out, all of us that are breathlessly awaiting the number and looking for as high a number as possible.”

Slavitt praised seven states that have vaccinated 10% of their population: Alaska, West Virginia, New Mexico, Connecticut, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

He also outlined steps the administration is taking to ramp up vaccinations, through increasing the vaccine supply and speeding up distribution. Those include extending more funding, supplies and logistical support from the Federal Emergency Management Association for vaccination sites. The federal government is also allowing recently retired doctors and nurses who are still licensed to administer COVID-19 vaccines. He encouraged qualified individuals to volunteer through their state and local health departments.

The administration is also stepping up activation of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service.

“So, I think what we’re saying collectively is: Let’s not be quite such polite hosts to this virus,” Slavitt said. “Let’s turn the tide and do like other countries who will do everything possible to shut out the growth of this virus, and make sure it’s not welcome.”

– Maureen Groppe

Security increased for lawmakers at airports and train stations amid heightened threats

Extra security is being provided by the United States Capitol Police at Washington, D.C.-area airports and train stations on days with heavy travel by members of Congress amid lawmakers’ fears about security threats, according to an email notice sent to lawmakers obtained by USA TODAY.

The Capitol Police would “not be available for personal escorts” for lawmakers but would be stationed to help monitor security at the airports and train stations, according to the email. Lawmakers were also encouraged to “establish relationships and coordinate” with law enforcement at their local airports and coordinate with the TSA, the notice said.

An online portal was also set up for lawmakers to submit their travel details to the House Sergeant at Arms in order for them to better coordinate with law enforcement.

USA TODAY is declining to publish the full contents of the notice, given its sensitive security details. Several members of the House of Representatives and Senate have been harassed at airports and on airplanes over the past month, prompting calls for increased security from some lawmakers. Other lawmakers have asked whether their official congressional expense accounts can be used on equipment like body armor or on hiring security back in their districts.

The notice explained that members they were allowed to hire security personnel for official events in their districts like town halls, for the “performance of their official duties,” or for heir district offices during business hours.

– Nicholas Wu

Biden to announce task force on family separation next week

President Joe Biden will announce a task force focused on reunifying families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

There are still at least 628 parents who were separated from their children at the border that are still missing as of December.

The task force, and additional executive orders surrounding immigration, were expected to be introduced and signed Friday. However, Psaki said that one reason for the delay of the task force has been because Ali Mayorkas, who will lead the taskforce, has yet to be confirmed as secretary of Homeland Security.

– Rebecca Morin

White House names Robert Malley as special envoy for Iran

The Biden administration has named Robert Malley as its special envoy for Iran, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced on Friday.

Malley, a longtime diplomat with extensive experience in Middle East issues, would be tasked with helping revive the 2015 nuclear deal forged between Tehran and major world powers. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from that accord in 2018; Biden has said the U.S. will rejoin the pact if Iran comes back into compliance.

In a statement, the State Department said Malley would lead the Biden administration’s efforts to restart talks with Iran.

“Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken is building a dedicated team, drawing from clear-eyed experts with a diversity of views,” the agency said. “Leading that team as our Special Envoy for Iran will be Rob Malley, who brings to the position a track record of success negotiating constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.”

Malley was a top adviser in the Obama administration on countering the Islamic State terrorist group, one of several top national security posts he has held overseeing US policy in the Middle East. He also participated in the talks with Iran that led to the nuclear agreement, which limited the country’s nuclear program and mandated international inspections in exchange for sanctions relief.

But Malley has come under fire in recent days as rumors circulated about his appointment as special envoy for Iran.

“Malley has a long track record of sympathy for the Iranian regime & animus towards Israel,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted when reports first emerged that Malley was being considered for the special envoy position. “The ayatollahs wouldn’t believe their luck if he is selected.”

The attack from Cotton and others sparked an outpouring of support for Malley from foreign policy experts around the country. Dozens of individuals and organizations signed an open letter of support for Malley, published Tuesday and spearheaded by Foreign Policy for America, a left-leaning foreign policy advocacy group.

“Malley is among the most respected foreign policy experts in the United States,” the letter reads. “An astute analyst and accomplished diplomat, he previously served as chief White House negotiator in the talks that led to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, a robust multilateral agreement that significantly curbed Iran’s nuclear program. Additionally, Malley was critical to the safe return of American hostages held by the Iranian government – a role he played during his time with the Obama administration, as well as afterwards.”

The group suggested that attacks on Malley were not about him but instead an attempt to undercut Biden’s effort to revive diplomatic talks with Iran.

Deirdre Shesgreen

Biden to travel to Walter Reed Friday to visit wounded service members

President Joe Biden will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday afternoon to visit with wounded service members, the White House said.

This will be Biden’s first visit to Walter Reed as president. 

It is customary for presidents to often visit service members at Walter Reed. Former presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama both did during their tenures, as did Biden when he served as Vice President.

Walter Reed is the medical facility where Biden, then a Senator, underwent a microsurgical craniotomy for an aneurysm lying below the base of his brain.

It is also where Trump was treated for coronavirus a few months ago. 

–Savannah Behrmann



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