Maryland becomes first state to repeal police Bill of Rights, overriding Hogan veto


Maryland’s Democrat-controlled legislature on Saturday moved to pass a sweeping police reform package that repealed the state’s police Bill of Rights, becoming the first state in the nation to do so and overriding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes in the process.

The state’s police Bill of Rights covered due process for officers accused of misconduct. Advocates for repeal have called it “one of the most extreme in the nation.” The new law will also give more oversight power to civilians.

Another one of the bills Hogan vetoed will require “certain” no-knock warrants to be approved by both a supervisor and the State’s Attorney and be between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., barring “exigent circumstances.”

One of the new laws will also require officers to use force only if it is “necessary and proportional.”

The move, a win for police reform advocates, comes amid a national reckoning with policing after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last year. Many states have considered police reform in wake of Floyd’s death.

“Maryland is leading the country in transforming our broken policing system,” Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat, wrote in a tweet Saturday. “Now, for the first time in our nation’s history, the rights of officers will not be held above the rights of individuals, and policing in Maryland will be transparent and citizen-centered.”

Maryland first instituted its Bill of Rights in 1974 and about 20 states have since adopted similar measures. Hogan said he had to veto the bills to “keep Marylanders safe.”

“These bills would undermine the goal that I believe we share of building transparent, accountable, and effective law enforcement institutions and instead further erode police morale, community relationships, and public confidence,” Hogan said in a statement. “They will result in great damage to police recruitment and retention, posing significant risks to public safety throughout our state.”

State Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Democrat, hit back at Hogan in a tweet Friday, saying he “doesn’t stand with Black & Brown people in the state.”

“He is telling Black Marylanders that systemic racism in policing doesn’t exist here. SHAME ON HIM,” Atterbeary said. “He is telling my children & all other Black children in the state he does NOT care about their futures. SHAME ON HIM. SHAME ON HIM.”

Medical examiner blames police pressure for Floyd’s death


The chief medical examiner who ruled George Floyd’s death a homicide testified Friday that the way police held him down and compressed his neck “was just more than Mr. Floyd could take,” given the condition of his heart.

Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner, took the stand at the murder trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin for pressing his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what prosecutors said was as much as 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old Black man lay pinned to the pavement last May.

Asked about his finding that police “subdual, restraint and neck compression” led to Floyd’s death, Baker said that Floyd had severe underlying heart disease and an enlarged heart that needed more oxygen than normal to function, as well as narrowing of two heart arteries.

Baker said being involved in a scuffle raises adrenaline, which asks the heart to beat even faster and supply more oxygen.

“And in my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of that, those heart conditions,” the medical examiner said.

Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death May 25. Floyd was arrested outside a neighborhood market after being accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

Bystander video of Floyd crying that he couldn’t breathe as onlookers yelled at the white officer to get off him sparked protests and scattered violence around the U.S.

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson has argued that the now-fired white officer did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s illegal drug use and underlying health conditions, not Chauvin’s knee, killed him. And autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system.

Under cross-examination, Baker agreed with Nelson’s statement that Floyd’s heart disease, narrowed arteries and drug use “played a role” in Floyd’s death, though he testified that those things did not cause the death.

As he put it under questioning from the prosecution: “Mr. Floyd’s use of fentanyl did not cause the subdual or neck restraint. His heart disease did not cause the the subdual or the neck restraint.”

A medical expert who testified Thursday said a healthy person subjected to what Floyd endured would have died.

Baker testified that his examination of Floyd’s heart found no “visible or microscopic previous damage” to the heart muscle. Baker also said he noticed no injury to Floyd’s brain from either trauma or oxygen deprivation. And he said he did not notice any pills or pill fragments in Floyd’s stomach.

Baker also said he did not watch the harrowing video of the arrest before examining Floyd so that he would not be influenced by what he saw.

“I was aware that at least one video had gone viral on the internet, but I intentionally chose not to look at that until I had examined Mr. Floyd,” he said. “I did not want to bias my exam by going in with any preconceived notions that might lead me down one pathway or another.”

Other medical experts called as prosecution witnesses have likewise blamed Floyd’s death on the way he was pinned down on the ground.

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist who retired in 2017 from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office and did not work on Floyd’s case, testified earlier Friday that she agreed with Baker’s findings, but was even more explicit, saying the “primary mechanism of death” was asphyxia, or insufficient oxygen.

She said she reached that conclusion mostly from video that showed Floyd struggling to breathe.

“This is a death where both the heart and lungs stopped working. The point is, it’s due to law enforcement subdual, restraint and compression,” Thomas said.

During cross-examination, Nelson asked Thomas about what could cause a heart to suddenly stop beating, noting that Floyd’s bigger heart needed more blood and was working hard in a moment of stress and adrenaline, and that one of his arteries had a 90% blockage.

Thomas said any blockage over 70% to 75% could be used to explain death, in the absence of another cause. But she also said some people can live just fine with an artery that is fully blocked.

The defense attorney pressed Thomas by posing a hypothetical question.

“Let’s assume you found Mr. Floyd dead in his residence. No police involvement, no drugs, right?. The only thing you found would be these facts about his heart. What would you conclude to be the cause of death?” Nelson asked.

“In that very narrow set of circumstances, I would probably conclude that the cause of death was his heart disease,” Thomas replied.

In response to another hypothetical posed by Nelson, she agreed that she would certify Floyd’s death as an overdose if there were no other explanations.

But during re-questioning, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell ridiculed the defense attorney’s hypotheticals and quickly got Thomas to repeat that the cause of Floyd’s death was the restraint by police.

“Aren’t those questions a lot like asking, ’Mrs. Lincoln, if we take John Wilkes Booth out of this …” Blackwell began, before Nelson objected.

For the first time, a seat designated for Chauvin’s family was occupied Friday, by a woman. She wasn’t immediately identified. Chauvin’s marriage ended in divorce in the months after Floyd’s death.

Also on Friday, Judge Peter Cahill called in a juror and questioned her about whether she had been subject to any outside influences. She replied that she briefly saw TV coverage with the sound off and said that her mother-in-law had texted her, “Looks like it was a bad day” but that she didn’t reply.

The judge allowed her to remain on the jury.

Kentucky limits no-knock warrants after Breonna Taylor death


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed a partial ban on no-knock warrants Friday after months of demonstrations set off by the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in her home during a botched police raid last year.

The law signed by the Democratic governor is not the total ban many demonstrators and some Democratic lawmakers had sought, but it also doesn’t prevent individual cities and towns from banning the warrants completely. The measure drew bipartisan support in the legislature, where Republicans hold veto-proof supermajorities in the House and Senate. The law only permits no-knock warrants if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the crime being investigated “would qualify a person, if convicted, as a violent offender.”

Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical technician studying to become a nurse, was shot multiple times in March 2020 after being roused from her bed by police. No drugs were found, and the warrant was later found to be flawed.

“This is meaningful change,” Beshear said. “It will save lives, and it will move us in the right direction. I know more needs to be done. I know the fight is not over.”

Members of the Taylor family stood behind the governor during the bill signing, at Louisville’s Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, shed tears as she accepted the pen the governor used to sign the measure.

“While it’s not the full legislation that they wanted in terms of a complete ban on no-knock warrants, they are satisfied that this is a start and a win in a deeply divided General Assembly,” said the family’s attorney, Lonita Baker.

Baker added that the family looks forward to working with lawmakers on future legislation to further restrict the warrants and increase police accountability.

Under the new law, no-knock warrants must be executed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and officers are required to take additional steps to obtain warrants. Judges are also required to sign legibly when approving them and an EMT must now be nearby during execution of the warrant.

In the Taylor case, a no-knock warrant was approved as part of a Louisville Metro Police Department narcotics investigation. Nonetheless, officers said they did knock and announce their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment, though some witnesses have disputed that claim.

In September, a grand jury indicted one of the officers on wanton endangerment charges for shooting into a neighbor’s apartment, but none was charged in connection with Taylor’s death. That was based in part on the presentation of Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who recommended no charges against the officers who shot into Taylor’s apartment.

One of those officers, Myles Cosgrove, was fired. Federal ballistics experts said they believe the shot that killed Taylor came from Cosgrove. The police department also fired officer Joshua Jaynes, who secured the warrant.

Virginia passed a ban on all no-knock warrants last year. The warrants are also not permitted in Florida and Oregon.

'It's thrilling, exciting and terrifying': NASA prepares for first helicopter flight on Mars


A helicopter is expected to lift off on Mars on Sunday night, making history as the first powered flight off Earth.

But because the Ingenuity helicopter is 150 million miles away, the communications lag means engineers who have spent decades working toward this flight won’t find out if it landed safely on the surface — or crashed — until hours later on Monday morning.

“There are moments where it feels like a week of your life is going by waiting to see if something is happening that you spent seven years engineering,” Robert Hogg, the deputy surface mission manager for the Mars 2020 program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, told POLITICO. “It’s thrilling, exciting and terrifying. This is why we do what we do.”

Ingenuity hitched a ride to Mars nestled under the belly of the Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet in February. The helicopter, which will only work for 31 days and can fly for 90 seconds max, is intended to demonstrate that flight is possible on another planet, which could open the door for uncrewed aircraft to see parts of the planet rovers can’t access or act as scouts for astronauts on future missions.

Ingenuity will be flying in an atmosphere that’s just one percent as dense as Earth’s atmosphere. That means that while the helicopter will be just 10 feet off the ground, it’s as if it was flying at 100,000 feet on Earth. For comparison, most commercial planes fly between 30,000 and 40,000 feet.

“It turns out, if you take a small dual-rotor counter rotating helicopter that weighs about four pounds and you make those carbon fiber blades fatter and spin them five-times faster than an Earth helicopter, you can get enough lift” to fly on Mars, Hogg said.

Hogg, who has worked at NASA since 1997, spoke about how his team is preparing for the historic flight and how the idea for a flying drone on another planet dates back to the 1990s.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s your role in the Perseverance mission?

I’ve been working on the Mars 2020 project since 2012. Today I’m the deputy surface mission manager for Mars 2020.

We plan what the rover is doing the following Martian sol [a day on Mars.] I’m the deputy running that team, so … we are running the mission. … It takes an army of people to pull that off in a way that it’s safe so we don’t lose our billion dollar asset but also in a productive way to get all the science done.

How is the team prepping for Ingenuity’s first flight?

On Saturday, we successfully completed a whole series of steps to deploy Ingenuity to the Martian surface. We spent 10 days on Mars doing that, which may seem like a long time, but a lot of important things need to happen.

After it’s been packaged up and safely attached to the bottom of the rover, it’s 150 million miles away. It made it all the way to Mars, survived launch, entry, descent and landing. We don’t want to fumble at the 99-yard line.

Over the last week or so … we finished assessing the flight zone with the rover’s cameras, we dropped off the debris shield outside the flight zone, then we drove to one end of the flight zone to begin deployment of Ingenuity to the surface. We went through several steps to do that. We lowered it on an arm with a little motor, powered it to vertical position, and finished deploying the legs. … Then we spent an extra day or two making sure there was enough clearance for the rover to drive away. … We needed to get the rover off and away so sunlight could hit Ingenuity’s solar cells within a day. It was critical to make that happen so Ingenuity could charge up its batteries and have enough energy to survive the Martian night.

Is there a camera on Ingenuity to get aerial shots of Mars?

Yes. There are two. One is a black and white lower resolution navigation camera that captures imagery at a high rate and uses computer vision to figure out where the helicopter is. The second color camera is like what you’d have on your phone for getting some color images as well.

Where did this idea come from?

What kicked off this whole thing is the fact that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab landed the first rover on Mars in the 1990s. … We landed this microwave-sized rover and it was the first time we roved on another planet. … There was discussion in various corners of JPL about what about a flying machine? … In 2013, they had a flying machine research lab. Our then-director at JPL Charles Elachi had gone to a conference and came back to JPL wondering if we could do a flying machine. He toured the drone lab at JPL and said let’s put together a proposal for Mars 2020. The deadline was only 2 months away. Bob Balaram [the chief Ingenuity engineer] and his team burned the midnight oil and got a proposal in.

What makes flight so difficult on Mars?

It’s flying in such a thin atmosphere. But also, if you take a step back, we’re doing something on another planet that has a one way light time of 15 minutes. That means if I bought a remote control car and got it to the Martian surface alive and well, and hit go on the joystick, it would be 15 minutes before it started moving and another 15 minutes before I knew it was moving. … So you need an autonomous capability.

This is the next level of achievement I’m describing, being able to fly something in 1 percent of Earth’s atmosphere on the surface of another planet that’s 150 million miles away. These are mind boggling engineering achievements we’re dealing with here. … It turns out, if you take a small dual-rotor counter rotating helicopter that weighs about four pounds and you make those carbon fiber blades fatter and spin them five times faster than an Earth helicopter, you can get enough lift to lift a very lightweight package.

So with the lag, it will fly and land before you even know it?

The flights are approximately 90 seconds on average. We send instructions for the day to the rover. The rover passes on instructions for the helicopter to a base station … over a radio connection after Ingenuity wakes up and gets in communication with the rover. … So sometime on Mars, … it will carry out those instructions for its first flight.

The results of that flight get sent during the flight to the base station, then relayed to the rover. Then the rover waits for a Mars orbiter to pass overhead and minutes or hours later, it relays everything that happened to the deep space network here on Earth [which takes 15 minutes.] Then we get the story of what happened on Mars and we unpack it all. Hopefully we will be celebrating.

All those steps happen with humans just waiting on Earth to see how it all plays out.

I can’t imagine how stressful that is.

I’m remembering Saturday afternoon. … We determined that the helicopter had dropped and it had turned on for the first time, so we knew it was alive. Then we allowed the rover to drive away. We were waiting for an hour and a half to see how the drive went and if we successfully uncovered helo to beat the 25-hour deadline [after which Ingenuity would not have enough battery charge to survive a night on Mars.] … There are moments where it feels like a week of your life is going by waiting to see if something is happening that you spent seven years engineering. It’s thrilling, exciting and terrifying. This is why we do what we do.

Biden’s Quiet ‘Breakthrough’ In Talking About Race


For decades, a political calculation has quietly undergirded the sales pitch many Democratic political leaders have made for their economic agenda: If you want to win majority support, don’t bring up race. But if the opening months of the Biden administration are any indication, the math seems to have shifted.

In a recent speech in Pittsburgh where he debuted his infrastructure plan, President Joe Biden invoked any number of universal goals — road spending, “creating good-paying jobs” — while also stressing the need to invest in “communities that have historically been left out of these investments: Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American.” In selling its stimulus plan, the White House identified “advancing racial equity” as one of five cornerstones, giving it equal importance as such overarching goals as “investing in America” and “building back better.”

“Calling out that … racism is holding the entire country back is groundbreaking for a U.S. president,” says Heather McGhee, the former head of the progressive think tank Demos and author of the new book The Sum of Us, which argues that the decline of investment in the “public good” was fueled by racism, and has damaged the American middle class across racial lines. “The president was saying that this is a core story of America that is different from and at odds with many of our more celebrated narratives about equality and liberty and opportunity. That was a breakthrough.”

Since at least the mid-1980s, the pursuit of the archetypal “Reagan Democrat” suburban swing voter has been a lodestar guiding Democratic messaging. The strategy was straightforward: These socially moderate-to-conservative suburban white Americans largely were simpatico with Democrats on economic issues, but voted for the GOP in part because they believed Democrats were interested in pursuing racial justice at the expense of issues they viewed as more relevant to their own lives.

The result of that thinking was a “color-blind” approach to talking about economic policies and programs — emphasizing a “rising tide lifts all boats” message that glossed over or ignored racial disparities. But for reasons both ideological and strategic, that “color-blind” posture is no longer effective for Democrats — and, McGhee says, can actually backfire.

“Since the Obama era, the racial sorting of voters has included white voters moving to the Democratic Party because of their progressive views on race,” she says. “What holds together the progressive coalition is, yes, obviously, a sense that government can — and needs to — be a force for good and address our big crises. But also the coalition … thinks we have to talk about race, and doesn’t want to see politicians without the courage to address these obvious inequalities head-on.”

In this way, while the Biden administration’s massive investments in middle-class economic growth have been likened by some to the liberal heyday of Franklin D. Roosevelt, that comparison misses an important difference. The New Deal era was defined by policies that were “either explicitly, as in the housing subsidies, or implicitly, because of segregation in education and housing under the GI Bill, for whites only,” says McGhee. By contrast, she sees the Biden era as “a massive refilling of the pool of public goods for everyone.”

What explains that change? What shifted in American politics that prodded Democratic leadership to directly address the racial components of economic issues? And what’s the hidden history that led to the disinvestment in public goods just as Black Americans began to be included in what America saw as the “public”? To sort through it all, POLITICO Magazine spoke with McGhee. A condensed transcript of that conversation follows, edited for length and clarity.

Let’s talk about swimming pools. It’s a vivid metaphor you use in your book, and a history I was unfamiliar with. Can you explain the significance of public swimming pools?

Heather McGhee: In the 1930s and ’40s, the country went on a building boom of public amenities — public libraries, parks, schools and swimming pools. But these weren’t normal swimming pools. These were grand, resort-style pools that could, in many instances, hold thousands of swimmers.

In many ways, it was emblematic of a larger ethos at that time: that it was a government’s job to ensure a higher and higher standard of living for its people. You saw that in the New Deal-era social contract, which included massive subsidies for housing, high labor standards, wage floors, the GI Bill — which put a generation of men into homeownership and into college and the professional ranks. And all of that was either explicitly, as in the housing subsidies, or implicitly, because of segregation in education and housing under the GI Bill, for whites only. These massive public investments created the great American middle class on pretty much a whites-only basis.

Public swimming pools were also often segregated. And in the late 1950s and early ’60s, when Black families began to successfully advocate [for integration], saying that their tax dollars had paid for these public pools and they wanted their children to be able to swim in them, too, many cities across the country opted to drain their public swimming pools rather than integrate them.

That meant that white families lost out on a public good they had cherished. It meant that the entire community lost out on a public space and a commons that could foster social cohesion. It meant that white families with enough money started to build their own backyard swimming pools — that’s when we really began to see that phenomenon in the suburbs — and these membership-only, private swim clubs popped up all across the country. Black families often had to go without — and so did the white families who couldn’t afford it when what was once a public good became a private luxury.

The drained swimming pool is a metaphor for what has happened throughout our economy, as what was once a public commitment to a high standard of life was traded away, and there was a withdrawal of public support for the kinds of economic investments that would create a diverse middle class. In many ways, because of racism, the majority of white Americans turned their backs on the formula that created the middle class.

Part of your idea is that, historically, as people of color became included in the idea of the “public,” that “public goods” became less popular among white Americans and certainly easier to attack as a political issue. Do you think that’s what’s happening right now, with the wave of voting restrictions that seem aimed at ensuring fewer Black people are able to vote?

Yeah. I open up the book saying, “Why is it that Americans can’t seem to have nice things?” And, to a large extent, racism is the answer. My “nice things” isn’t, you know, laundry that can do itself; it’s health care and childcare and well-funded, reliable modern infrastructure, high-speed rail, universal broadband — the list goes on. A guaranteed right to vote and a functioning representative democracy are on that list, too.

The Founders left holes in the bedrock of our democracy to leave room for slavery. From its founding, there was a tension in this country between the revolutionary ideals of self-governance and the compromises and limitations a white elite forced on our democracy. Elites have attacked the foundations of our democracy time and again in ways that always hit their target, often with surgical precision aimed at erecting hurdles to Black political power. But they’re blunt instruments, and often impact young voters, working- and middle-class white voters, senior voters — anyone who doesn’t have endless time and resources to devote to the act of voting.

On the issue of photo ID requirements: Yes, Black and brown people are twice as likely as white people not to have photo IDs, but among certain parts of the white population, it’s neck and neck. Young adults who are white, white adults making less than $25,000 a year have much higher rates of not having photo IDs [than more affluent white people]. It’s not just about the money and time [needed to get a photo ID]; it’s also about often needing to find birth certificates. There are Kafkaesque stories about how challenging and often impossible it can be for people who have voted all their lives to find the proper documentation to get the kind of ID that politicians find acceptable [in order to vote]. Millions of Americans are not protected when a party elite that is worried about their competitive chances in a real election turns to rigging the rules to make sure that fewer eligible citizens can vote.

In my book, I write about the story of Colfax, Louisiana — one of the largest racist massacres in American history, when a white mob attacked a courthouse where election results were being certified and Black neighbors had stood to try to protect [the vote certification]. More than 100 [Black Americans] were slaughtered, and this white mob burned the courthouse to the ground. In refusing to submit to a multiracial democracy, they were willing to burn the edifice of their own government to the ground.

That is the story of January 6. It is the expected result of lies about election fraud that diminish the legitimacy of Black and brown people voting, and that are based on a sense that both whoever wins the majority of the white vote is the legitimate president, and that Black and brown people are so inveterately criminal that they must be breaking the law by exercising their democratic rights.

On the center-left, there’s long been an idea that “color-blind” messaging is more effective — that progressives have more political success if they can forge a coalition that includes white voters who might otherwise be turned off by a message that more explicitly addresses racism. You think that’s wrong, not just ideologically, but strategically. Why?

We conducted a massive research project that, in its early years, was housed at Demos, called the Race-Class Narrative Project, which tested this proposition: Can a Trumpist, racially scapegoating message beat an early [Bernie] Sanders-style, color-blind economic populist message? And the answer was “no” — and that was often true with surprising segments of the population, like union members. But when you took the color-blind economic populist message and wove in a race-forward calling out of racial scapegoating — [and did so] in a way that explained how racism was a tool of the elites who were making life harder for everyone by breaking the rules — that won far more durable support, well into independents and many base Republicans. And it had the added advantage of being true.

Do you see a change in the willingness of white political leaders in the “establishment left” — for lack of a better term — to publicly address race and the racial component of issues head-on?

Absolutely. In his first speech on race as president, President Biden explicitly called out the “zero-sum” [narrative]. I’m looking at it right now. He said, “For too long, we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester. We’ve bought the view that America is a zero-sum game in many cases: ‘If you succeed, I fail.’ ‘If you get ahead, I fall behind.’ ‘If you get the job, I lose mine.’ Maybe worst of all, ‘If I hold you down, I lift myself up.’”

Calling out that we are all on the same team and that racism is holding the entire country back is groundbreaking for a U.S. president. The president was saying that this is a core story of America that is different from and at odds with many of our more celebrated narratives about equality and liberty and opportunity. That was a breakthrough.

Why do you think that “breakthrough” is happening now?

I think it’s happening now because we are seven years into the largest social movement in American history: Black Lives Matter. Just this past summer, you had 26-plus million people taking action. I think it’s happening because cross-racial movements like the Fight for $15 [a campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour] are changing the conversation around our economy.

And I think it’s happening because the future of this country is a broad, multiracial, anti-racist majority, and Democratic politicians see that, since the Obama era, the racial sorting of voters has included white voters moving to the Democratic Party because of their progressive views on race. And therefore, what holds together the progressive coalition is, yes, obviously, a sense that government can — and needs to — be a force for good and address our big crises. But also the coalition that elects Democrats is one that thinks we have to talk about race and doesn’t want to see politicians without the courage to address these obvious inequalities head-on.

Speaking of political coalitions, how do you make sense of Trump’s gains with Latino men and with Black men in the 2020 election?

I think it’s important to unpack that, and I also think it’s a little bit overstated, in the sense that white people are still the only people for whom a majority voted for Trump.

In an economy that is as brutally hierarchical as the American economy — where, when you’re at the bottom of that economic ladder, a broken carburetor can lead you to getting evicted, which can lead you to losing your children — a political message that offers you a higher rung on that ladder, even if it’s psychological and not material, can be appealing. That psychological offer of being placed higher up on a status hierarchy — higher than immigrants, higher than women, higher than a certain kind of Black person, higher than a certain kind of Latino — can be appealing.

After four years of a man who styled himself as “the winner” in all things and [offered] for people to be “winners” like him — in a society where being a “loser” means possibly losing everything — it’s not surprising that appeal could be effective with not just white Americans who’ve had generations of that story, but also some, particularly male, Black and brown folks who want to see themselves elevated.

Politics is about storytelling. Everything individuals and groups believe comes from the stories we’ve been told. That’s the relationship between belief and politics: It travels through story. Politicians can be some of the most powerful storytellers in our society, and they tell a story about us — who we are, who belongs, who’s against me, who’s with me.

We’re in a moment where a substantial majority of the public seems to support major governmental spending — which is quite different from the “small-government” era that has long defined U.S. politics. What changed?

We are 50 years into an era of rising inequality and economic insecurity for most families. Even before the pandemic, the richest 1 percent owned as much wealth as the middle class, and 40 percent of adult workers were paid too little to meet their basic needs. The answer that the right wing has — trusting the market to solve our problems, which really means trusting rich, powerful players in the market to solve our problems — seems pretty bankrupt now to most Americans.

The [Biden administration’s] American Rescue Plan had supermajority support among the public, and breaks from a multigenerational neoliberal consensus that we should cut taxes, restrain spending in service of low inflation and leave economic security up to the vicissitudes of the marketplace. I consider [it] to be a massive refilling of the pool of public goods for everyone. It will cut child poverty in half — which reminds us that poverty was a choice. It expresses an ethos that we need to invest in ourselves again.

It has something for every American, and yet you saw Republicans respond with a zero-sum political story.

You’ve mentioned that “zero-sum” narrative a few times. Can you explain what you mean by it?

The “zero-sum” narrative is that progress for people of color comes at the expense of white people, and that white voters should resent aid to immigrants and people of color, and resent any collective benefits or action that puts [white people] on the same team as people of color and immigrants.

You see it in the rush to the U.S.-Mexico border and the theatrics around an immigration crisis. You had Republicans who explicitly said, “I’m not voting for this [American Rescue Plan] bill because Joe Biden is opening the border and not opening our schools. How is that taking care of our children?” That was basically their response to a desperately needed, overwhelmingly popular bill to take care of America’s needs.

You [see it in] Fox News leading with false claims that Democrats are “canceling” Dr. Seuss for being too racist — which seemed to many political commentators to be a silly distraction, and yet they’re missing how that is communicating to the Fox News audience that Democrats are on the “other” side of a zero-sum racial struggle and will cancel you, your culture and the things you love in favor of some undeserving minority.

In your book, you write that “white people are the most segregated people in America.” That’s an inversion of the way that we often think about segregation — which is that people of color are the ones being segregated, not white people. Why was that distinction important to you?

The project of The Sum of Us is to expand the aperture of how we think about the costs of racism. Often, when we consider the costs of policies to deal with the mess that racism has made in many aspects of American life, we think about the costs of the change — not what we’re paying in the status quo.

Taking as a norm that we should just measure the costs of integration feels like a massively incomplete way to do a cost-benefit analysis. You should think about the costs of segregation to us now — to all of us. Because otherwise, we’re just reaffirming the zero-sum: We’re saying white people benefit from the system that they currently have, where they are most likely to live in 75 percent white neighborhoods, and anything we do to change that is going to be a cost to white people and a benefit to people of color. Not only is that a bad political message; it’s also not true.

You note that if you poll white Americans about the housing market, most will say they want to live in racially integrated communities. And yet, they don’t. What explains that gap?

This is based on some great research from Maria Krysan at the University of Illinois that showed a video of totally identical neighborhoods to white and Black prospective homebuyers. Then they changed the actors who were walking on the street [in the video]. And it became clear that the presence of Black people — with no other change to the neighborhood — made white homebuyers rate the neighborhoods lower on the desirability scale. What explains that? Massive anti-Black stereotypes.

Most white Americans don’t know the story of redlining, don’t know the story of the interstate highway system razing flourishing Black communities, don’t know the story of strategic disinvestment and urban renewal. They don’t know any of those stories, so they naturalize the disparities they see.

You see “color-blindness” as well-intentioned, but as something that, in retrospect, perpetuated problems by encouraging people to ignore racial disparities. Do you see any prevailing anti-racist postures today that could, while similarly well-intentioned, create unintended long-term problems?

White Americans’ racial literacy has been so low for so long that I welcome most, if not all, discourse that un-blinkers white Americans from the facts of the racism in this country. I’m encouraged by the increasing audience for books and documentaries and even leaders explaining the very recent history to people who should have it — it’s all of our birthrights as Americans. We should know own our history, and I think it’s been stolen from us in a way. By no means am I kicking anybody out of the anti-racist garden party. [Laughs]

You’ve expressed an unease about the way “trust Black women” has become fashionable thing to say among folks on the left. Tell me about that.

Well, my initial unease was that by suggesting there’s some sort of innate “magic” within us, it suggests a biological basis for race, which is inaccurate. You should never trust anybody who wants to create a biological explanation for certain traits — even if they’re positive — because the negative one can follow soon after. [Laughs] You know? “We’re so ‘magical’ that we shouldn’t be allowed to compete in sports,” or whatever.

I am wary of essentializing any traits. But I do believe that people whose social condition puts them at the bottom of a hierarchy are in the best position to see the whole system and see who is harmed by it and how it should be fixed. It’s not about biology; it’s about what living at the intersections of racism, sexism and greed have shown women of color.

Over the past year especially, there’s been a boom in books about anti-racism. Do find it emotionally draining to have to talk and think about racism so much?

Not yet. [Pause] We have a lot of work to do. I want this country to live up to its potential. I want us to refill the pool of public goods for everyone. I want the light of the American dream to be turned back on for everyone. And I don’t want to go back to a whites-only middle class; I want to see the incredible human capacity within each and every person invested in. And you can’t get there without realizing the way that racism has held the pen as we’ve written so many laws in this country.

Racism in our politics is holding us back from the smart public investments that we need. People have joked that if we had to build the Hoover Dam or put a man on the moon today, we never would. “Public goods” were popular among white Americans as long as “the public” was seen as “good.” And today we have this false worship of all things private, which has stymied what we’ve known in this country for over a century to be the formula for widely shared prosperity and innovation: sound public investments and investing in your people, who are your greatest asset.

Racism in our politics and policymaking has created inequalities and under-investments in a more diverse public. That has a cost for almost everyone. “The People” in “We the People” is meant to include all of us.

Cuomo’s Albany dominance takes backseat to political survival


ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s once iron grip on Albany is slipping as he tries to fight off calls for his resignation and contend with multiple investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct.

The state budget is five days late and counting — an Albany tradition of tardiness that Cuomo, a three-term Democrat, had long boasted of ending. And as details of the roughly $200 billion spending plan begin to emerge this week, the expanded influence of legislative leaders and rank-and-file progressives is hard to miss.

Cuomo, facing the threat of impeachment, agreed over the weekend to raise taxes by about $4.3 billion on corporations and the state’s wealthiest residents — an idea he long opposed. Cuomo appears to be abandoning his previous rejection of a school funding approach sought by progressives. And lawmakers are also close to persuading the governor to approve a multi-billion-dollar fund to provide retroactive stimulus benefits to undocumented immigrants and former prison inmates, a potential major victory for the left.

The governor who once muscled his biggest priorities through the Capitol annually, rarely failing to come out on top, is now taking a decidedly lighter tread in negotiations with Senate Majority Leaders Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, according to half a dozen people familiar with the budget talks. Both Democratic leaders have taken a hard line against Cuomo over the past month, with Stewart-Cousins being among the first to call for his resignation and Heastie authorizing an impeachment investigation that commenced late last month.

Nearly a month after he vowed to not let his then-burgeoning sexual harassment scandal deter him from doing his job, Cuomo is now spending his days trying to reframe the now-tarnished narrative of his tenure as he faces the single greatest threat to his decades-long political career. He appears to be putting political survival ahead of his own policy priorities, playing nice with lawmakers as he zips around the state to tout progress on vaccines and announce steps to open up the state’s economy.

On Monday, Cuomo appeared deferential to legislators as he called the budget “the most complicated, the most ambitious and the hardest budget that we have done,” and applauded both chambers for working through pandemic restrictions.

“They’ve been working very hard, under very difficult circumstances,” Cuomo said. “So it’s been a complicated process on top of a complicated product. … But this budget will set the trajectory for the state for the next 10 years.”

He went on to tout the recent legalization of marijuana in New York and local police reform plans that are nearly in place across the state, neither of which were initiated through the budget. He made no mention of the deals he had cut to sign off on progressive priorities, including the agreement to temporarily raise taxes on those making more than $1 million a year, a move that will give New York City’s top earners the highest combined city and state tax rate in the country.

Cuomo‘s January budget proposal did include a similar tax hike on high earners that was worth about $1.5 billion, but he called it his “worst-case-scenario” budget. His administration backed away from the concept after the most recent federal relief package authorized about $12.5 billion in aid for New York.

The state Senate and Assembly both proposed raising more than $6.5 billion through tax increases even after they saw the federal dollars coming in, in part due to pushes from progressive members and advocates warning that a one-time influx of federal stimulus wouldn’t be enough to fix existing imbalances in the state’s financial planning.

Cuomo on Monday also made no mention of an influx of more than $4 billion in school funding that the final deal is expected to phase-in over three years through a system that progressives have long sought. Cuomo has resisted their demands, calling them political and labeling a years-old lawsuit over the issue “ghosts of the past and distractions from the present.”

Legislative leaders have said publicly that Cuomo’s scandals — both over his sexual harassment allegations and his administration’s attempt to hide the number of Covid-19 deaths tied to nursing homes — has had little effect on the budget process, which is largely driven by staff and their constitutional duty to pass a spending plan on time. But legislative sources and former Cuomo aides say it’s clear Democratic lawmakers are steering the budget negotiations this year, in contrast to the past.

“With that federal revenue and with state revenues shoring up pretty nicely, you have a budget that should not have been so hard to get done on time,“ said a former Cuomo aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to so as not to anger the governor. “So it seems pretty clear to me the lawmakers are saying, ‘we’re going to do it this way.’”

In years past, Cuomo has been able to wield considerable power in the Legislature by reaching out to rank-and-file members and their political power brokers. But that’s harder than ever with huge portions of Democrats in both chambers calling for his resignation last month.

Typically what you’d be doing is in order to get to the lawmakers you’d be working their constituency groups and their advocacy groups and that would influence the lawmakers,” the former official said. “But the progressive groups, every single one of them, wants to see them gone.”

But some say the governor — or his office at least — has been pushing hard in certain areas, such as enhanced spending authority for federal funds and stricter checks on how unemployment might be distributed to undocumented immigrants.

“I know a lot of people speculated as to whether he would be weaker this time around, but I haven’t seen any sign of that,” said Assembly Health Chair Richard Gottfried, the chamber’s longest-serving member.

Still, Cuomo has in past weeks fled to friendlier waters when he shows his face in public, fully engaged in the craft of narrative revision. Earlier Monday, he was in his native Queens to announce public service campaign to encourage vaccinations, part of a downstate tour visiting pop-up vaccination sites in communities of color he had promised months ago to prioritize in the state’s distribution program. Those events, more often than not closed to reporters, have given him the ability to solicit public praise — specifically from his supporters in the Black community who have thanked him for his follow-through.

On Monday, he received compliments from Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who last month said Cuomo should resign if it was shown he couldn’t effectively lead the state. And Queens Assemblymember Vivian Cook, who worked on Cuomo’s father’s campaigns and has known the governor since he was young, told the borough and state to “thank this son of Queens for making sure that we are taken care of.”

“We are proud and we are proud of him. So, no matter what you say or what you do, we’re going to stick by this man — he’s staying with us,” she said.

Cuomo’s mood during these kinds of public appearances have been almost buoyant, with bits like challenging former Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia to arm wrestle during a jovial event to announce the Yankees and Mets could start their seasons with fans.

And when his chief counsel and budget czar joined a recent question-and-answer session by web cam, he teased them publicly for appearing glum.

“He’s looking very stern faced because he’s coming down to it — he only has a few days left to work on the budget,” Cuomo said of budget director Robert Mujica, who neither smiled nor responded. “You can see the stress on his face.“

“Business as usual” is an ancient ploy that has occasionally worked for embattled politicians patient enough to see a news cycle through.

“I think what you see the governor doing is trying to focus on the things that he knows the public likes and trying to ignore, to the extent possible, all the things that he doesn’t like,” said Steve Greenberg, the spokesperson for Siena College Research Institute.

Though the most recent polling from Siena found dips in his overall favorability and reelection prospects, 60 percent of voters still approved of his handling of the pandemic and a 48 percent plurality say he should continue to do his job despite the allegations.

But as the budget process wraps up in Albany, it’s likely eyes will again turn to the investigations into sexual harassment allegations, Cuomo’s handling of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and new reports that Cuomo recruited several members of his staff to produce his book about leadership during the pandemic.

The lawmakers and attorneys heading up the Assembly Judiciary’s impeachment probe have said it could take “months, rather than weeks” to compile any findings that would initiate the next steps. There is no timeline for the state Attorney General Tish James’ report, though Cuomo has asked the public to wait for its completion before drawing any conclusions about his behavior.

“I think the goal here is to run out the clock to the extent possible and hope that the Tish James report comes out in the middle of the summer when everyone is vaccinated and there’s all this stimulus money coming in,” said another former Cuomo aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He has in his back pocket [the] I’m-not-going-to-run-for-a-fourth-term card, and the closer we get to June [2022] primary, the more effective that is,” the official said. “But I would not underestimate his desire and intention for running for a fourth term.”

Trump relaunches his fundraising machine after months of quiet


The screaming, all-caps texts and emails are returning. The red “Make America Great Again” hats are back in stock.

Former President Donald Trump is reigniting his small-dollar fundraising operation for the first time since leaving the White House, part of his political ramp-up to stake out an outsize role in the 2022 midterm elections and expand his financial network ahead of a potential 2024 comeback bid.

Trump on Wednesday reopened his online merchandise store, which was shuttered following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, when Shopify, the e-commerce company that had been hosting the site, closed it down. The former president’s political operation also sent out text messages to supporters directing them to the store, which is promoting new items like “Don’t Blame Me I Voted for Trump” emblazoned bumper stickers, doormats and yard signs.

Trump’s email and text messaging machine — which blasted out thousands of fundraising appeals during the 2020 election — has been largely dormant since he left the White House. For weeks, the former president’s top political advisers, including Gary Coby and Brad Parscale, have been working behind the scenes to stand up his financial apparatus.

The effort illustrates how Trump is trying to capitalize on his considerable small-dollar base to establish a massive war chest, bolster like-minded candidates and grow his database of supporters.

“I expect former President Trump to remain a force in small-dollar fundraising. He maintains a pretty potent online fundraising base, which he can use for his political committees,” said Tim Cameron, a Republican digital strategist.

The proceeds are filling the coffers of Trump’s political action committee, Save America, which he can use for an array of political activities, such as holding campaign events and dishing out cash to favored candidates. Save America PAC currently has around $85 million in the bank, according to a Trump adviser, a substantial sum that is likely to dwarf what other conservative committees have on hand at such an early point in the 2022 election cycle.

Trump has long used merchandise to raise cash, most prominently through the red “Make America Great Again” hats that became ubiquitous at his 2016 events. During the 2020 election, his team expanded the effort, selling items that appealed to the grievances of his conservative supporters. The store included items like Trump-labeled plastic straws, an alternative to the paper straws that some environmental groups had proposed, and “Pencil-Neck Adam Schiff” T-shirts lampooning the Democratic congressman, a Trump antagonist.

The items fueled donations and gave the reelection campaign valuable contact information on buyers, allowing the president’s team to follow up with them repeatedly over the course of the election and appeal for cash.

But all that came to an end after Jan. 6, when Shopify announced that it was shutting down the store over Trump’s role in the Capitol riot, saying it “prohibits promotion or support of organizations, platforms or people that threaten or condone violence to further a cause.”

In the weeks to come, Trump advisers worked to reestablish the merchandising operation. Parscale, a former Trump campaign manager who directed his 2016 digital effort, said during a February meeting with Trump and fellow advisers at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida that he would be focused on helping to rebuild Trump’s online operation.

The team decided to host the new store on WinRed, the Republican Party’s primary small-dollar fundraising platform. They also chose to develop a new email system housed by Parscale’s newly launched Campaign Nucleus, which describes itself as an “automated digital ecosystem made for efficiently managing political campaigns and organizations.”

The Trump team sent out text messages to supporters Wednesday telling them he was giving them “PRIORITY-ACCESS” to the new store, which they described as the “ONLY place to get your OFFICIAL Trump Merchandise.” They are also expected to send out emails promoting the shop.

“President Trump received almost 75 million votes only a few short months ago and leads the greatest political movement we’ve ever seen. His new fundraising effort for Save America will help keep this community intact and engaged, which will be crucial to Republicans winning back the House and Senate in 2022,” said Jason Miller, a Trump adviser.

Trump has been taking steps to develop his broader financial machine and maintain his connections with the party’s major givers. The former president has tapped former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to oversee a super PAC. And later this week, Trump is slated to speak at a pair of donor retreats at Mar-a-Lago.

He has moved to lock down the party’s cash machine by imploring supporters to donate to Save America, which he has described as the “only” way to give to Trump-aligned candidates. Trump’s legal team last month sent cease-and-desist letters to GOP campaign committees asking them to stop using the former president’s name in fundraising appeals, a request that has been ignored.

Trump aides say the decision to migrate to conservative outfits like WinRed and Campaign Nucleus reflects a desire to end their reliance on big technology companies that shunned Trump following the Capitol riot. After being kicked off Twitter, Trump has been using a daily stream of Campaign Nucleus-sent press releases to communicate with the media and supporters.

Trump’s fundraising operation has come under scrutiny in recent days following a New York Times report that the reelection effort had misled unsuspecting online givers by defaulting them into giving recurrent donations up until the election. Trump, in response, has insisted his fundraising was done “legally.”

It is unclear whether Trump’s forthcoming online appeals will adopt the same tactics to push supporters toward recurring donations, or if the formatting of the messages will allow them to more easily opt-out and ensure they are only giving a one-time contribution.

Trump is widely seen as the most formidable fundraiser in the Republican Party, But as he embarks on his post-presidency some in the party question whether he can maintain his past performance.

“His supporter lists and ability to drive fundraising to his endorsed candidates is going to be very powerful,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist.

But, Wilson added, “It’s going to be difficult for Trump to command the kind of attention he was used to when in the White House, especially given the limits platforms have placed on him.”

What a photo of Trump’s new office reveals about how he wants to be remembered


Americans got a glimpse of Donald Trump’s post-presidential office for the first time on Monday, when former White House aide Stephen Miller tweeted out a picture of himself with Trump.

The photo comes out as Trump tries to remain the kingmaker of the Republican party and has been meeting politicians down at Mar-a-Lago seeking his endorsement or hosting fundraisers at the resort. The office is above the ballroom at the exclusive Palm Beach club, according to someone who’s been in it.

The image, showing a smiling Trump and Miller with palm beach trees in the background outside, rocketed around social media, with amatuer online sleuths analyzing everything from the collection of tsotchkes populating the room to the bottle hiding behind Trump’s phone.

POLITICO decided to do its own deep dive into Trump’s office, with the help of four former White House officials. Here’s our best reported effort to figure out which mementos the 45th president chose to keep around him in his new Florida life — and what it says about how he views his legacy.

What are the photos on his wall?

Photo of Air Force One over Washington: The West Wing in the White House has long featured a number of blown-up “jumbo” photos and this is one of Air Force One flying over Washington near the Ellipse and the White House in the backdrop on July 4th, 2020 as part of the “Salute to America.” Trump paid close attention to his presidential airplane, adding more television screens and ordering up a new color scheme to replace the jet’s iconic baby blue.

Photo of Marine One at Mount Rushmore: Trump held a July 4 event last year at Mount Rushmore, and this photo of his presidential helicopter flying in front of Mount Rushmore memorializes the event. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem gave Trump a $1,100 replica of the monument featuring Trump’s own face among the ex-presidents, but he appears to be missing here.

Anything interesting on his desk?

Newspaper: Before the picture was taken, Trump seems to have been leafing through the Wall Street Journal, a paper whose editorial board has criticized him for promoting false claims on voter fraud. Trump also issued a statement last month blasting the editors, saying: “The Wall Street Journal editorial page continues, knowingly, to fight for globalist policies such as bad trade deals, open borders, and endless wars that favor other countries and sell out our great American workers, and they fight for RINOS that have so badly hurt the Republican Party. That’s where they are and that’s where they will always be. Fortunately, nobody cares much about The Wall Street Journal editorial anymore.”

Desk: While Trump couldn’t take the 141-year old Resolute Desk from the Oval Office, he now has a similar-looking desk that appears to be the Telluride Wood Executive Desk from “Hooker Furniture.” The desk currently retails for $3,600 but is currently out of stock until late next month.

Chair: Trump used the same chair in the Oval Office, which he brought down from New York, according to a former White House official.

The infamous Sharpie: Trump also has at least one big black Sharpie — the fat, marker-like pen that he has wielded for years to write and autograph items for friends and allies, and occasionally to mark up critical articles he didn’t like and send it to the offending journalist.

Reading glasses: Trump is famously image-conscious and didn’t like to be seen wearing his reading glasses while in office, and few news photographers snapped pictures of him wearing them. The New York Times reported in 2019 that Trump often didn’t tweet when other people were around because he didn’t want to have to wear glasses to see his phone screen. Dan Scavino, his longtime social media expert, often printed out suggested tweets in large fonts so Trump could sign off on them.

Bottle of Coke: Trump, a long-time Diet Coke fanatic, appears to have a half-drunk glass bottle of Coke next to his phone even though he urged Americans to boycott Coca Cola, based in Georgia, for criticizing Georgia’s new law that restricts voting. In a statement last Saturday, Trump said: “Boycott Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Citigroup, Cisco, UPS, and Merck. Don’t go back to their products until they relent. We can play the game better than them.”

Plaque commemorating the border wall: The former president has a piece of the U.S.-Mexico border wall that was one of his main 2016 campaign promises. While Trump had promised a “big beautiful wall,” only 80 miles of new wall were built during his time in office out of a total of 452 miles of the wall built on his watch. The U.S. Border Patrol plaque praises Trump for “defending America’s borders.”

iPhone: Trump loved his iPhone, which he most famously used to tweet at all hours of the day to call up his friends that were part of his kitchen cabinet. Such calls often annoyed his aides, who fretted about what he was saying to his confidants.

Wooden box: The box features Trump’s signature and a presidential seal on the top of it. While it’s unclear what he uses the box for, the former official said it might be where Trump keeps his trademark Sharpies.

What about those tables in the back?

Challenge coins rack: Challenge coins are coins often given to a recipient by a part or branch of the military, and they represent that division of the military. As president, Trump, who frequently extolled his buildup of the military, received numerous challenge coins. Trump also displayed these same challenge coins in the Oval Office.

Mug: Trump has kept a white mug with the presidential seal.

A statue of himself: No sources knew the provenance of this mini-bust of Trump, and a Trump spokesperson didn’t share any details about it when asked about it. A former senior White House official said it was “most likely a gift that was sent in. We’d get tons of those — paintings, statues, etc.”

Family photos: The photos are mostly photos that were also on the desk behind him in the Oval Office. Clockwise: his late father Fred Trump; Trump in a tuxedo; his children Eric, Ivanka, and Don Jr. in the back of Winfield House (the official residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K.) when Trump went to the U.K. in June 2019; wife Melania Trump; Trump’s late mother Mary Anne MacLeod Trump; Trump and an unidentified other person walking in the West Wing Colonnade and an unidentified other photo. In the very middle of the desk is Trump with son Barron in New York, likely at Trump Tower. Trump only kept a few photos behind his desk for the first few years of his term, but then in the last 18 months, a number of more photos were added, according to a former White House official.

Lamps: The former White House official said the lamps are likely Mar-a-Lago lamps based on the decor of the resort.

California aims to 'fully reopen' economy by June 15


California will fully reopen its economy June 15 as long as vaccinations remain widely available and hospitalization continues to be stable, the governor and public health officials said Tuesday.

“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic.”

What this means: The eight-week march towards reopening gives businesses and individuals who want to get vaccinated time to get the vaccine, Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said at a Tuesday briefing.

California on April 15 opens vaccinations to everyone over the age of 16.

If the hospitalization and vaccination measure are met, everyday activities will be allowed and businesses can open with common-sense risk reduction measures, he said. The state will monitor hospitalization rates, vaccine access and vaccine efficacy against variants, with the option to revisit the June 15 date if needed.

“We are really signaling that the blueprint, as it’s devised now, will no longer be in effect after June 15,” Ghaly said.

What restrictions remain: The state’s mask mandate will continue to stay in place. No date for lifting that order has been announced.

Events at stadiums and other large venues will be permitted, Ghaly said, but conventions with more than 5,000 people will be prohibited without some requirement for vaccines or testing until Oct 1. Ghaly said the state is working on that guidance with convention operators as well as operators of large multiday events with both indoor and outdoor activities. Those events, such as music festivals, aren’t yet allowed to resume.

Background: The state in late August unveiled the current reopening blueprint, the four-tiered framework that was designed to give the state more control to slow the pace of reopening as the state recovered from a summer surge. But then the state experienced a much larger surge in the winter months that created stress on the health care system and frustration among business owners. California since earlier this year has steadily recovered, and is now reporting among the lowest positivity rates in the country.

The equity metric: California on Tuesday hit its target of administering 4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in the state’s most most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, a goal that allows more counties to reopen businesses and expand capacity in public spaces under Newsom’s reopening structure.

The governor early last month unveiled a new strategy to increase vaccine administration in the state’s hardest hit communities. The approach relied on devoting 40 percent of the state’s vaccine supply to ZIP codes in the lowest quartile of the state’s Healthy Places Index. Once the state reached certain goals, it would allow counties to progress more quickly through the state’s color-coded, four-tiered reopening blueprint.

The state in mid-March reached its first goal of 2 million doses, which loosened the daily case rate criteria that allowed counties to exit the most restrictive tier by raising it from seven cases per 100,000 residents to 10 cases per 100,000. That made it easier for counties to exit the purple tier and reopen the businesses and activities allowed in the less restrictive levels.

Tuesday’s goal of 4 million doses triggers the case rates in the less restrictive tiers, loosening the daily case rate in the second-least restrictive or orange tier from four cases per 100,000 residents to six cases per 100,000. This means counties in the red tiers will be able to move more quickly into the lower tiers.

State Department considering joint boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics


The State Department said Tuesday that it was considering a possible joint boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, as calls have grown for the U.S. to back out of the event due to human rights violations in China.

“It is something that we certainly wish to discuss,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, adding that “a coordinated approach will be not only in our interests but also in the interests of our allies and partners.”

Price emphasized the importance of working closely with other countries, so that any step the U.S. takes would have more influence on Beijing. He said that the State Department is currently weighing different approaches to respond to the Chinese government, pointing to sanctions that the U.S. recently enacted with the U.K., Canada and the European Union over the human rights abuses.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We’re talking about 2022, and we are still in April of 2021, so these Games remain some time away,” Price said. “I wouldn’t want to put a time frame on it, but these discussions are underway.”

In a tweet after the briefing, Price said that the State Department didn’t have an announcement regarding the Olympics, but would “continue to consult closely with allies and partners to define our common concerns and establish our shared approach to the PRC.”

The Beijing Winter Games begin on February 4 next year.

Hawkish Republicans in the last month have called on the Biden administration to punish the Chinese government over its human rights abuses, but even within the GOP, there has been disagreement over how far to push with the Olympics. Some have called for boycotts, while others have suggested moving the Games to a different host country.

Earlier Tuesday, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said President Joe Biden should request the relocation of the 2022 Olympics to the United States. Scott, who has been advocating for a potential move since 2019, said it was hypocritical for Biden to support last week’s efforts to move Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game out of Georgia over its newly passed voting law, but not take a stand on the Olympics.

“It is now time for President Biden to lead America and the world and make clear that the United States will never tolerate the oppression and genocide occurring in Communist China,” Scott said.

Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.