Biden administration considers appeal against end of federal mask mandateThe Biden administration is awaiting the guidance of public health officials on whether or not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling to overturn the national mask mandate for travel.
The Associated Press is reporting that the justice department said it would appeal Monday’s ruling by US district hudge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined the mandate was needed to protect public health.
“If CDC concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public’s health after that assessment, the department of justice will appeal the district court’s decision,” the justice department said in a statement.
Before Monday’s ruling that overturned the mandate requiring mask coverings on planes, trains and other public transportation, the mandate was due to expire on 3 May.
“We will continue to assess the need for a mask requirement in those settings, based on several factors, including the US Covid-19 community levels, risk of circulating and novel variants, and trends in cases and disease severity,” a CDC spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday.
The CDC reiterated its recommendation that people wear masks on public transportation while indoors. The court’s order had caught the administration by surprise and left it struggling to grasp its impact both on the requirement’s end and on CDC’s authorities going forward.
24 hours ago, a federal judge vacated @CDCgov mask mandate on airplanes
This was deeply disappointing
CDC scientists had asked for 15 days to make a more data-driven durable decision
We should have given it to them
But I’ll continue to follow CDC guidance & mask up on planes
— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@AshishKJha46) April 19, 2022
Our live coverage of US politics continues in Thursday’s blog:
Today so far
The US has imposed more Russia-related sanctions.
Republicans in Tennessee have booted a Donald Trump-endorsed candidate from a congressional primary.
Congressman Jamie Raskin said that Donald Trump attempted a coup on 6 January 2021, and that will be a central focus of forthcoming public hearings of the special House panel investigating events surrounding the insurrection at the US Capitol.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed treasury secretary Janet Yellen and her walkout of a G20 meeting in protest of Russia and the country’s presence at the meeting:
“The president and secretary Yellen have both said we can’t have business as usual at the G20 or at a lot of these international forums as it relates to Russia,” Psaki said. “She and the treasury team have made clear that she was planning to participate in some and not other meetings, which is something we support. The president has conveyed that he doesn’t believe that Russia should be part of the G20.”
Psaki said Joe Biden supports Yellen’s walkout, which involved a number of other finance leaders from other countries. “It’s an indication that President Putin in Russia has become a pariah on the international stage,” Psaki said.
The Biden administration is still preparing for the end of Title 42 enforcement on 23 May, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“The president agrees that immigration in our country is broken – it’s a system that’s broken,” Psaki said. “There are a range of ideas out there in Congress – Democrats, Republicans, others – some who support a delay of Title 42 implementation, some who strongly oppose it, and there are a range of other ideas for reforming our immigration system. This would all require congressional action. We’re happy to have that conversation with them.”
Joe Biden is processing the images coming out of Ukraine “with horror, with sadness, with fear for the people of Ukraine, for the families, the children, the innocent civilians are risk,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“Obviously this conflict is consuming a great deal of his time,” Psaki said. “He is consuming (these images) as many people are, as I am, as you are, as Americans out there watching all of your networks are: it’s emotional. Watching these images is really raw for people, including the president, because you’re watching people suffering at the hands of a dictator who is brutally targeting civilians.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US is “working around the clock to provide security assistance to Ukraine”.
Five flights with military assistance have arrived in the region over the last few days, Psaki said, with more than half a dozen flights from the US scheduled to arrive shortly with even more equipment.
“We made a strategic decision given we’ve seen Russia reposition their troops and their military to the eastern part of Ukraine to fight a different kind of war on the ground, which will be more shooting back and forth through long range,” Psaki said. “We have been working with Ukrainians and the Ukrainian military to determine exactly the kind of security assistance they need for this stage of the war. That has included an increase in artillery and ammunition.”
Right off the bat, White House press secretary Jen Psaki received a question at today’s press briefing about the federal mask mandate for travel – specifically, on the answer that Joe Biden gave when asked when asked if Americans should continue to wear masks on planes: “That’s up to them.”
“Right now, we’re not implementing the mask mandate because of the court order, which we disagree with,” Psaki said. “While [Biden] is still abiding with CDC guidance and we recommend that Americans do that across the country – they’re still recommending that people wear masks on airplanes, and on Air Force One, which is a federally owned, not a private plane, we all wore masks when we traveled to New Hampshire yesterday – people are not legally bound to wear masks. It is a point in time when it is their choice, in that regard.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki kicked off today’s press briefing by talking about changes that the Department of Education has made regarding student loan repayment.
These changes will “move more than 3.6m borrowers closer to student debt forgiveness, make 40,000 borrowers eligible for the immediate discharge of their loans under the public service loan forgiveness program and provide immediate relief to thousands of borrowers in income-driven repayment plans,” Psaki said.
The changes will fix a system for tracking payments that Psaki said has been broken “for too long”. “There were significant flaws that suggested borrowers who were entitled to forgiveness were missing out on their progress toward debt forgiveness,” she said.
“These steps include making sure that any months in which borrowers made payments will count toward IDR forgiveness regardless of their repayment plan and that any borrowers who have made the required number of payments for IDR forgiveness based on this payment count revision will receive loan cancellation automatically,” she said.
Reuters has more details on treasury secretary Janet Yellen and other US officials walking out of a G20 meeting of the world’s 20 largest economies this morning when Russian officials began to speak.
It appears that Yellen was joined by top finance officials from Britain and Canada, according to Rishi Sunak, the finance minister for the United Kingdom. Ukraine officials in attendance also walked out of the meeting, a source told Reuters.
Earlier my representatives, along with US & Canadian counterparts left today’s G20 meeting in Washington as Russian delegates spoke.
We are united in our condemnation of Russia’s war against Ukraine and will push for stronger international coordination to punish Russia. https://t.co/XxmscvRrRt
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) April 20, 2022
“Earlier my representatives, along with US and Canadian counterparts left today’s G20 meeting in Washington as Russian delegates spoke,” Sunak said on Twitter. “We are united in our condemnation of Russia’s war against Ukraine and will push for stronger international coordination to punish Russia.”
Russian deputy finance minister Timur Maksimov attended the meeting in person, while Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov and Russia’s central bank governor joined virtually, a second source told Reuters.
Yellen reportedly told attendees she strongly disapproved of a senior Russian official’s presence at the meeting, saying there could be “no business-as-usual” for Russia in the global economy. She plans to boycott two G20 sessions on the international financial architecture and sustainable finance, one of the source said, though treasury officials said she would join a discussion of the Ukraine war’s impact on the global economy.
Yellen was joined in her walkout by Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey and Canadian finance minister Chrystia Freeland, among others.
This week’s meetings in Washington are about supporting the world economy – and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is a grave threat to the global economy. Russia should not be participating or included in these meetings. #G20 #IMFMeetings
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) April 20, 2022
The world’s democracies will not stand idly by in the face of continued Russian aggression and war crimes. Today Canada and a number of our democratic partners walked out of the G20 plenary when Russia sought to intervene. pic.twitter.com/J67gU810sO
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) April 20, 2022
US imposes more Russia-related sanctionsReuters is reporting that in its continued economic onslaught on Russia, the US has imposed sanctions on a Russian commercial bank, an oligarch and dozens of individuals.
This new round of sanctions include Russia-based units of virtual currency mining firm Bitriver.
A curious turn of events in Florida, where agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat and a candidate for the party’s nomination to challenge Republican governor Ron DeSantis in November, is suing the Biden administration.
It’s a spat over pot, specifically a federal rule that prohibits users of medical marijuana from buying guns or obtaining a concealed weapons permit.
Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture. Photograph: Pedro Portal/APFried, whose office issues the permits, is also a supporter of the legalization of marijuana, and doesn’t see a problem with those prescribed marijuana for medical purposes having one.
“Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal. This is all about people’s rights. And I don’t care who I have to sue to fight for their freedom,” Fried said in a statement to NBC News, which obtained a draft copy of the lawsuit.
At issue is the federal form that asks applicants if they unlawfully use drugs, and which points out marijuana is illegal under federal law in all forms.
Users of medical marijuana have two choices: tick yes and be rejected, or tick no and face a prison sentence of up to five years for lying.
The NBC report notes the lawsuit has ramifications beyond Florida: at least 37 states have legalized medical marijuana, and recreational use is legal in 18 states, as well as Guam and Washington DC.
The bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives (ATF), which is named as a defendant alongside the justice department and US attorney general Merrick Garland, said it could not comment on pending legal action.
Fried has timed the lawsuit for today, 20 April, with 420 having a storied history as a reference for the drug.
I’m suing the Biden Administration because people’s rights are being limited. Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal.
This is about people’s rights and their freedoms to responsibly have both.
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) April 20, 2022
Republicans in Tennessee have booted a Donald Trump-endorsed candidate from a congressional primary, ruling that Morgan Ortagus did not meet strict new residency rules.
The Associated Press reports that Ortagus, a former state department spokesperson in the Trump administration, was one of three hopefuls removed from the August ballot for Nashville’s 5th congressional district.
Leaders of the Tennessee Republican party were concerned that the Florida-born Ortagus, 39, had only just moved to the state and did not know the region or its voters.
The state recently passed a new law imposing residency requirements on congressional candidates, but it was not restropective, leaving the state party’s executive committee to make a final decision.
Ortagus, who was removed as a candidate alongside fellow candidates Baxter Lee and Robby Starbuck, said she was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
Donald Trump attempted a coup on 6 January 2021 as he tried to salvage his doomed presidency, and that will be a central focus of forthcoming public hearings of the special House panel investigating events surrounding the insurrection at the US Capitol, the congressman Jamie Raskin has said.
Jamie Raskin. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/ReutersRaskin is a prominent Democrat on the committee and also led the House efforts when Trump was impeached for a historic second time, in 2021, accused of inciting the storming of the US Capitol by his extremist supporters who were trying to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
“This was a coup organized by the president against the vice-president and against the Congress in order to overturn the 2020 presidential election,” Raskin said in an interview with the Guardian, Reuters news agency and the Climate One radio program.
Public hearings by the bipartisan special committee investigating January 6 and related actions by Trump and his White House team and other allies, chaired by the Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, are expected next month.
“We’re going to tell the whole story of everything that happened. There was a violent insurrection and an attempted coup and we were saved by Mike Pence’s refusal to go along with that plan,” said Raskin.
He was referring to Trump’s vice-president, who went ahead in his role of overseeing the certification of Biden’s win, which was delayed until the early hours of the following day after Pence and other lawmakers, staff and journalists ended up running for their lives as rioters stormed the building, shortly after Trump held a rally near the White House exhorting his supporters to “fight like hell”.
Read the full story:
Today so far
The Biden administration is awaiting the guidance of public health officials on whether or not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling to overturn the national mask mandate for travel.
Two polls have come out showing that despite the noise, the majority of Americans are in favor of the federal mask mandate and think it’s too soon in the pandemic to lift it.
Joe Biden today will meet with defense secretary Lloyd Austin, deputy defense secretary Kathleen Hicks, the joint chiefs of staff and the combatant commanders at the White House
Biden and first lady Jill Biden will attend the White House correspondents dinner, the first president and first lady to do so since 2016.
Defense secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his counterpart in China, general Wei Fenghe, for the first time since Austin became Pentagon chief more than a year ago.
Biden is considering delaying the repeal of Title 42.
In a pointed statement, treasury secretary Janet Yellen and other US officials walked out of a G20 meeting this morning when Russian officials began to speak.
NEWS: Ukrainian, U.S. officials including Janet Yellen walked out of the G-20 meeting this morning when Russian officials began to speak, per people familiar. Story TK
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) April 20, 2022
Multiple other international finance ministers and central bank governors also walked out at the same time
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) April 20, 2022
Source : The Guardian