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4 ex-cops indicted on federal civil rights charges in Floyd death

Politico -


MINNEAPOLIS — A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death, accusing them of willfully violating the Black man’s constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air.

A three-count indictment unsealed Friday names Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao.

Specifically, Chauvin is charged with violating Floyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Thao and Kueng are also charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure, alleging they did not intervene to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd's neck. All four officers are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care.

Floyd’s May 25 arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked protests nationwide and widespread calls for an end to police brutality and racial inequities.

Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, stemming from the arrest and neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

Lane, Thao and Kueng made their initial court appearances Friday via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Chauvin was not part of the court appearance.

Chauvin was convicted last month on state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is in Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison as he awaits sentencing. The other three former officers face a state trial in August, and they are free on bond. They were allowed to remain free after Friday's federal court appearance.

Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Kueng and Lane also helped restrain Floyd — state prosecutors have said Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down Floyd’s legs. State prosecutors say Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his murder trial that Chauvin acted reasonably in the situation and that Floyd died because of underlying health issues and drug use. He has filed a request for a new trial, citing many issues including the judge’s refusal to move the trial due to publicity.

Nelson had no comment on the federal charges Friday. Messages left with attorneys for two of the other officers were not immediately returned, and an attorney for the fourth officer was getting in an elevator and disconnected when reached by The Associated Press.

To bring federal charges in deaths involving police, prosecutors must believe that an officer acted under the “color of law,” or government authority, and willfully deprived someone of their constitutional rights, including the right to be free from unreasonable seizures or the use of unreasonable force. That’s a high legal standard; an accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer’s part isn’t enough to support federal charges.

Roy Austin, who prosecuted such cases as a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said prosecutors have to prove that the officers knew what they were doing was wrong in that moment but did it anyway.

Conviction on a federal civil rights charge is punishable by up to life in prison or even the death penalty, but those stiff sentences are extremely rare and federal sentencing guidelines rely on complicated formulas that indicate the officers would get much less if convicted.

In Chauvin’s case, if the federal court uses second-degree murder as his underlying offense, he could face anywhere from 14 years to slightly more than 24 years, depending on whether he takes responsibility, said Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Osler said the guidelines clearly state that any federal sentence would be served at the same time as a state sentence — the sentences wouldn’t stack. Chauvin is due to be sentenced on the state charges June 25.

The first indictment says Thao and Kueng were aware Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck, even after Floyd became unresponsive, and "willfully failed to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin's use of unreasonable force."

All four officers are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of liberty without due process — for their alleged deliberate indifference to Floyd’s medical needs.

The second indictment, against Chauvin only, alleges he deprived a 14-year-old of his right to be free of unreasonable force when he held the teen by the throat, hit him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy’s neck and upper back while he was prone, handcuffed and unresisting.

According to a police report from that 2017 encounter, Chauvin wrote that the teen resisted arrest and that after the teen, who he described as 6-foot-2 and about 240 pounds, was handcuffed, Chauvin “used body weight to pin” the boy to the floor. The boy was bleeding from the ear and needed two stitches.

President Joe Biden's administration has made policing reform a major issue. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said he was refocusing the department around civil rights and does not believe there is equal justice under the law.

In late April, the Justice Department indicted three men on federal hate crime charges in the February 2020 death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was running in a Georgia neighborhood when he was chased down and shot. At the time, it was the most significant civil rights prosecution undertaken by Biden’s Justice Department.

The Justice Department also recently announced it was opening a sweeping investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. The investigation will examine whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing at the department, and it could result in major changes.

Garland announced a similar probe into policing in Louisville, Kentucky, over the March 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police during a raid at her home.

Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Experts say he will likely face no more than 30 years in prison when he is sentenced in June. The other officers face charges alleging they aided and abetted second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired.

U.S. added just 266,000 jobs in April as hiring slows

Politico -


America’s employers added just 266,000 jobs last month, sharply lower than in March and a sign that some businesses are struggling to find enough workers as the economic recovery strengthens.

With viral cases declining and states and localities easing restrictions, businesses have added jobs for four straight months, the Labor Department said Friday. Still, the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.1% from 6% in March.

At the same time, optimism about the economic recovery is growing. Many Americans are flush with cash after having received $1,400 federal relief checks, along with savings they have built up after cutting back on travel, entertainment and dining out over the past year. Millions of consumers have begun spending their extra cash on restaurant meals, airline tickets, road trips and new cars and homes.

Most economists expect job growth to strengthen as more vaccinations are administered and trillions in government aid spreads through the economy. Even if another uptick in COVID-19 cases were to occur, analysts don’t expect most states and cities to reimpose tough business restrictions. Oxford Economics, a consulting firm, predicts that a total of 8 million jobs will be added this year, reducing the unemployment rate to a low 4.3% by year’s end.

Still, the economic rebound has been so fast that many businesses, particularly in the hard-hit hospitality sector — which includes restaurants, bars and hotels — have been caught flat-footed and unable to fill all their job openings. Some unemployed people have also been reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus.

Others have entered new occupations rather than return to their old jobs. And many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.

Most of the hiring so far represents a bounce-back after tens of millions of positions were lost when the pandemic flattened the economy 14 months ago. The economy remains more than 8 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.

The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion rescue package, approved in early March, has helped maintain Americans’ incomes and purchasing power, much more so than in previous recessions. The economy expanded at a vigorous 6.4% annual rate in the first three months of the year. That pace could accelerate to as high as 13% in the April-June quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

One government report last week showed that wages and benefits rose at a solid pace in the first quarter, suggesting that some companies are having to pay more to attract and keep employees. In fact, the number of open jobs is now significantly above pre-pandemic levels, though the size of the labor force — the number of Americans either working or looking for work — is still smaller by about 4 million people.

In addition, the recovery remains sharply uneven: Most college-educated and white collar employees have been able to work from home over the past year. Many have not only built up savings but have also expanded their wealth as a result of rising home values and a record-setting stock market.

By contrast, job cuts have fallen heavily on low-wage workers, racial minorities and people without college educations. In addition, many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.

Biden’s relief package also added $300 to weekly unemployment benefits. Meyer calculated that for people who earned under $32,000 a year at their previous job, current unemployment aid pays more than their former job did — a reality that could keep up to 1 million people out of the workforce. In addition, higher stock prices and home values might have led up to 1.2 million older Americans to retire earlier than they otherwise would have.

Still, some economists say employers will have to offer higher pay to draw more people back into the job market.

Joe Biden, Economy Killer

Real Clear Politics -

Along with a working vaccine, Joe Biden inherited a V-shaped economic recovery, but he is now planting the seeds of its destruction. Inflation, federal deficits, high taxes, incentives for workers to stay home, and incentives to avoid investment - they're all coming back. Together, these elements create the perfect brew for a Lyndon Johnson-style stagflation. If Biden and the Democrats so quickly wreck the good economic path they were given, it will be one of the worst examples of government malpractice in U.S. economic history.

Pfizer seeks full FDA approval of its Covid-19 vaccine

Politico -


Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have asked the Food and Drug Administration for full approval of their coronavirus vaccine for people ages 16 and over.

The vaccine and two others are currently available in the United States under an emergency authorization from FDA. Pfizer and BioNTech are the first Covid-19 vaccine makers to seek full approval from U.S. regulators, which would allow the companies to market the shot directly to consumers. It could also make it easier for schools, employers and the military to require vaccination against Covid-19.

Pfizer and BioNTech also asked the regulatory agency to allow an expansion of emergency use of the vaccine to people ages 12 to 15.

The U.S. has purchased 400 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine, enough for 200 million people — making it a pillar of the country's vaccination push. The shot is currently available for people ages 16 and older, and Pfizer and BioNTech are now studying the vaccine in children as young as 6 months. The companies have said they expect more results from the child study by September.

FDA authorized the vaccine in December 2020 after reviewing data from a clinical trial that enrolled more than 37,000 people 16 and older in the U.S., Europe, South Africa and South America. Now that Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for full approval in adults, the agency will more closely evaluate the shot's overall safety and efficacy, a higher bar than emergency use authorization — which FDA grants when there is evidence that a vaccine may confer a benefit.

Pfizer has shared data with FDA about its vaccine's long-term efficacy, as well as potential changes in handling requirements, such as evidence that the vaccine can be refrigerated for longer periods, rather than requiring ultra-cold storage temperatures.

While FDA approval reviews typically take six months or more, the agency could act quickly on the vaccine since it had already received authorization. There is precedent: FDA approved Gilead's coronavirus treatment Veklury — also known as remdesivir — roughly two months after Gilead filed.

“We look forward to working with the FDA to complete this rolling submission and support their review, with the goal of securing full regulatory approval of the vaccine in the coming months," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

David Lim contributed to this report.

The Black correspondents at the White House

Politico -




White House reporters have access to the highest seat in the country — and they’re a small group. An even smaller group within that? Reporters of color.

On this episode of Playbook Deep Dive, Eugene Daniels is in conversation with fellow Black White House correspondents April Ryan (The Grio) and Ayesha Rascoe (NPR) about everything from microaggressions to death threats — to Ryan's fiery encounters with former President Donald Trump. “Covering the White House from Bill Clinton to now, race touches everything,” says Ryan. “Everything.”

Kicking off the episode, former journalist Carol McCabe Booker takes us back to the 1950s, when Alice Dunnigan was the first and only Black woman sitting in the White House briefing room. The longest President Dwight D. Eisenhower went without answering her questions? About two years. Listen to the full story on Friday’s episode of Playbook Deep Dive.

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"Something, April, that I'm always thinking about is how people that look like you and I built this building." — Eugene Daniels

"Sean Spicer telling me as a grown woman, “Stop shaking your head.” And then the president tells me to sit down. I kept popping up because you're not going to tell me, a Black woman, to sit down. Nope. So I stood up.” — April Ryan



“I think I looked at myself like, you know, [White House reporting] is a trajectory for certain people and that's just not my trajectory. And so I think you can hold yourself back because sometimes we lack the vision, right, to see where you can be because of all these other things that we often put on ourselves.” — Ayesha Rascoe

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