What Now?! – 4/9/21

President Joe Biden unveiled the first executive actions his administration will take to address gun violence on Thursday, including new rules that tackle “ghost guns” and modified pistols, and model “red flag” legislation that states could use as a template. He also pressured Congress to take broader actions on gun control, like strengthening background checks and banning assault weapons.

Biden spoke from the White House Rose Garden with Vice-President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland by his side, emphasizing that the government must act with urgency in the wake of recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado.

President Biden is also expected to nominate David Chipman, a former federal agent and adviser at the gun control group Giffords, to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the AP reports.

“Investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, acting on a grand jury subpoena, took possession of financial records Thursday morning from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of a top Trump Organization officer,” the Washington Post reports.

“Jennifer Weisselberg was married to Barry Weisselberg — the son of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg — from 2004 to 2018. She has previously said that she had seven boxes of financial records from both her ex-husband and his father, some of which were obtained through divorce litigation.”

Wall Street Journal: “The Trump Organization has hired Ronald Fischetti, an experienced New York criminal-defense attorney, to represent it in Manhattan prosecutors’ investigation into the business dealings of the former president and his company.”

The legal peril Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is facing appeared to increase sharply after a court hearing indicated that a one of his close friends, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, is likely cooperating with federal prosecutors, Politico reports.

The New York Times reports Greenberg, who faces an array of federal charges, including a sex trafficking count, is expected to plead guilty in the coming weeks.

“I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.” — Attorney Fritz Scheller, who is representing Joel Greenberg, quoted by CNN on how Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) might be feeling ahead of Greenberg’s likely plea deal.

“Federal investigators are looking into a Bahamas trip Matt Gaetz allegedly took in late 2018 or early 2019 as part of an inquiry into whether the Florida representative violated sex trafficking laws,” CBS News reports.

“Gaetz was on that trip with a marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon named Jason Pirozzolo, who allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations, and female escorts.”

Virginia has become the first Southern state to legalize marijuana, with the approval of a measure allowing adults to possess and cultivate small amounts starting in July, the AP reports.

Politico: “What do you get when weed-loving rapper Snoop Dogg, right-wing billionaire Charles Koch and criminal justice reform advocate Weldon Angelos walk into a Zoom room?” “The Cannabis Freedom Alliance, a new coalition launching Tuesday that could change the dynamics of the marijuana legalization debate.”

Israeli public health experts say about 56% of the country’s 9.2 million citizens are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and another 15% have recovered from the disease, Israel21c reports.

“Britain will pass the threshold for herd immunity on Monday, according to dynamic modelling by University College London, placing more pressure on the government to move faster in releasing restrictions,” the Telegraph reports.

“The number of people who have protection against the virus either through vaccination or previous infection will hit 73.4% on April 12 – enough to tip the country into herd immunity.”

Ezra Klein: “Most discussions of the renewed ambitions of the Democratic Party focus on ideological trends on the left. The real starting point, however, is the institutional collapse of the right. Before Biden, Democratic presidents designed policy with one eye on attracting Republican votes, or at least mollifying Republican critics. That’s why a third of the 2009 stimulus was made up of tax cuts, why the Affordable Care Act was built atop the Romneycare framework, why President Bill Clinton’s first budget included sharp spending cuts. Both as a senator and a vice president, Biden backed this approach. He always thought a bipartisan deal could be made and usually believed he was the guy who could make it.”

“But over the past decade, congressional Republicans slowly but completely disabused Democrats of these hopes… The result is that Obama, Biden, the key political strategists who advise Biden and almost the entire Democratic congressional caucus simply stopped believing Republicans would ever vote for major Democratic bills.”

“Without coming right out and saying it, President Joe Biden seems ready to let lapse a May 1 deadline for completing a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Orderly withdrawals take time, and Biden is running out of it,” the AP reports.

“Biden has inched so close to the deadline that his indecision amounts almost to a decision to put off, at least for a number of months, a pullout of the remaining 2,500 troops and continue supporting the Afghan military at the risk of a Taliban backlash. Removing all of the troops and their equipment in the next three weeks — along with coalition partners that cannot get out on their own — would be difficult logistically, as Biden himself suggested in late March.”

The Soviet Union had troops in Afghanistan for almost 10 years. The United States is now nearing 20 years.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), writing at MSNBC:  “You may be surprised to know that most of the right-wing House members who spend endless hours on Fox News smearing Democrats actually want to be back-slapping buddies with us when the cameras are off. Some have defamed me on national television or by tweet and then, within a day, approached me in a hallway or on the House floor, smiling and wanting to chat me up. They seem surprised when I don’t want to share pleasantries; to them, they’re just ‘playing the game.’”

“Last week one representative told me we were due to grab dinner again, as we had before the insurrection. I was stunned. This guy tweets about me and slams me on Fox News at every opportunity.”

New York Times: “What has unfolded instead has been something of an uneasy détente on Capitol Hill, as Democrats reckon with what they experienced that day and struggle to determine whether they can salvage their relationships with Republicans — some of whom continue to cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Biden’s victory — and whether they even want to try.”

Said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) about working with Republicans: “I don’t want to permanently close that door. But I can’t walk through it right now.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) writes in the Washington Post: “The filibuster is a critical tool to protecting that input and our democratic form of government. That is why I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt: There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”

“A highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in Britain has become the most common source of new infections in the United States,” the New York Times reports.

“The worrisome development comes as officials and scientists warn of a possible fourth surge of infections.”

“A new survey of educators by the nation’s second-largest teachers union shows as of April 1 at least 81% of educators had been vaccinated for COVID-19 or were scheduled to get their shots,” CBS News reports.

Associated Press: “New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey together reported 44% of the nation’s new COVID-19 infections, or nearly 197,500 new cases, in the latest available seven-day period… Total U.S. infections during the same week numbered more than 452,000.”

“The heavy concentration of new cases in states that account for 22% of the U.S. population has prompted some experts and elected officials to call for President Joe Biden’s administration to ship additional vaccine doses to those places. So far, the White House has shown no signs of shifting from its policy of dividing vaccine doses among states based on population.”

North Korea continues to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organization, the AP reports. LOL, sure, Jan.

New York Times: “U.S. intelligence officials warned in a report issued on Thursday about the potential fragmentation of society and the global order, holding out the possibility of a world where international trade is disrupted, groups of countries create online enclaves and civic cohesion is undermined.”

The report also warns that the pandemic helped fuel these trends: “Efforts to contain and manage the virus have reinforced nationalist trends globally, as some states turned inward to protect their citizens and sometimes cast blame on marginalized groups.”

“Some GOP-led states that previously declined to expand Medicaid are reconsidering that decision now that the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief package has made billions of dollars available to enlarge the program,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“With millions of U.S. homeowners behind on their mortgages after the coronavirus pandemic slammed the economy, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proposing banning foreclosures until next year,” CBS News reports.

New York Times: “When the political scientist Robert Pape began studying the issues that motivated the 380 or so people arrested in connection with the attack against the Capitol on Jan. 6, he expected to find that the rioters were driven to violence by the lingering effects of the 2008 Great Recession.”

“But instead he found something very different: Most of the people who took part in the assault came from places, his polling and demographic data showed, that were awash in fears that the rights of minorities and immigrants were crowding out the rights of white people in American politics and culture.”

No shit.

Wall Street Journal: “Lawmakers in Texas and at least 19 other states that let bars and restaurants sell to-go cocktails during the pandemic are moving to make those allowances permanent. Many states that made it easier for healthcare providers to work across state lines are considering bills to indefinitely ease interstate licensing rules. Lawmakers in Washington are pushing for Medicare to extend its policy of reimbursing for certain telehealth visits. States also are trying to lock in pandemic rules that spawned new online services, from document notarization to marijuana sales.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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