Connect with us

Politics

Fact check: Breaking down Biden’s first month of claims

Published

on

By Daniel Dale, Holmes Lybrand and Tara Subramaniam, CNN
Updated 10:02 AM ET, Tue February 23, 2021

Washington (CNN) — President Joe Biden was more consistently factual in his first month in office than his predecessor ever was in office. But Biden was not perfect himself.

Biden was not remotely comparable to former President Donald Trump in either the quantity of his false claims or in the magnitude. He did, however, make some inaccurate comments, mostly when ad-libbing. For example, Biden made at least six false claims at a CNN town hall event last week. (CNN wrote about four of them in our initial fact check article.)
For this article, CNN looked into 40 of the claims Biden made from January 20 through February 19. Our fact checks are below — inaccurate claims first; then the claims that are disputed, complicated, or on which Biden could have been clearer if he had added some more context; then the claims that we can simply call accurate.
We invited the White House to comment on our findings. The White House offered comments only on the condition of anonymity. For fairness, we have included these anonymous comments in cases where they help explain where Biden was coming from.
    We won’t repeat the fact checks we have published before. You can click here for a fact check on the CNN town hall in which Biden was repeatedly inaccurate, here for a fact check of a quite accurate economic speech Biden made in January, and here for a fact check on Biden’s January exaggeration about early media coverage of his goal of having 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in 100 days.
    It’s worth noting that Biden was quieter than Trump not only qualitatively but quantitatively. Biden spoke far fewer public words than Trump did over the same period in 2017 — uttering about 34% fewer words than Trump did in his own first month, according to data provided to CNN by Factba.se, a website that tracks presidential remarks.
    Walter Reed visits
    Biden told reporters before his January 29 visit with wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center: “…as vice president, every single Christmas, we spent all of Christmas day at Walter Reed.” He told military personnel in a chat upon his arrival: “For eight years, as uh, vice president, I’d come here, we’d — the whole family would spend every Christmas day here, all day.”
    Facts First: There is public proof that Biden visited Walter Reed on five of his eight Christmases as vice president, but not on “every single Christmas” as vice president as he claimed. We could not find evidence he went to Walter Reed on Christmas in 2012, 2015 or 2016, and the White House did not provide any such evidence when we asked. (Biden’s son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer at Walter Reed in May 2015. Joe Biden visited the facility in 2015 while Beau Biden was being treated there.)
    Asked whether Joe Biden did visit Walter Reed on Christmas in 2012, 2015 and 2016, the White House official did not answer directly. The official responded by noting that in 2012, Biden hosted a Thanksgiving gathering at the vice presidential residence for wounded troops from Walter Reed.
    Vaccines to community health centers
    Responding to a question that asked generally about racial disparities in health care and specifically about the relatively low rates at which Black and Hispanic people were being vaccinated for Covid-19, Biden said at the CNN town hall that he met with the Congressional Black Caucus and agreed that “all of the community health centers now, which take care of the toughest of the toughest neighborhoods in terms of illness, they are going to get a million doses, you know, a week…”
    Facts First: Biden was right that his administration planned to send community health centers one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine — but wrong when he said it would one million doses “a week.” Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the administration’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, had explained that the plan was to send the million doses over the “initial phase” of their program.
    The White House has not explained how long the “initial phase” is supposed to last, but it is clear that it is longer than a week. (When we asked the White House how long the phase is supposed to last, the White House official referred us to an online “fact sheet” that didn’t contain an answer.)
    Biden’s travel with Xi Jinping
    Speaking about how well he knows Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden claimed twice that he has traveled 17,000 miles with Xi. For example, Biden said in a February 5 interview with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell, “I probably spent more time with Xi Jinping, I’m told, than any world leader has because I had 24, 25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president. Traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well.”
    Facts First: Biden has not traveled anywhere close to 17,000 miles “with” Xi, as Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler noted. While Biden could accurately say that he has spent many hours and many meetings with Xi — they spent time together in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 — Kessler noted that the two leaders often did not even travel parallel routes to their gatherings, let alone physically travel together. The only apparent way to get Biden’s mileage past 17,000, Kessler found, is to add the length of his flight journeys between Washington and Beijing, during which, obviously, Xi was not with him.
    The White House official told CNN that Biden was making “a reference to the total travel back and forth — both internally in the US and China, and as well as internationally — for meetings they held together. Some travel was in parallel, some was separately to joint destinations.” But that is very different than traveling “with” Xi, especially in the context a point about how familiar he is with Xi.
    The plan for pharmacies
    Biden said at the National Institutes of Health on February 11: “When I got to office, there was no federal plan — none — to ship vaccines directly to local pharmacies.”
    Facts First: This needs context. Specifically, it’s worth noting that Biden’s administration did not come up with the idea of shipping vaccines directly to local pharmacies; the Trump administration said in fall 2020 that this was its own intention. However, we aren’t calling Biden’s claim false or misleading because two sources in the pharmacy industry said the Trump administration never presented an actual plan to turn its concept into reality.
    “When we first started talking to the Biden team during the transition, it was unclear what the federal pharmacy partnership program was going to look like, and key details…were missing. Those details were critical for us, obviously, as we needed to be prepared to activate. What we’ve seen over the last several weeks is a clear national plan emerge,” said a source at one company participating in the partnership program.
    A White House official — a different official than the one who responded to our other queries — said that when the transition team approached major pharmacies to ask what the specifics of the federal partnership program were, “They were like, ‘We have no idea. We were going to ask you guys this question.'”
    Suicide and the pandemic
    Biden said in the February 5 economic speech: “A lot of folks reaching the breaking point. Suicides are up.”
    Facts First: This claim is premature because complete national data on suicide in the last year is not yet available, two experts on the subject told CNN. Dr. Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which is part of the federal National Institutes of Health, said in an interview that while it is very clear that surveys show that suicidal thoughts have increased among Americans during the pandemic, it is not clear if this increase has translated to a national increase in people actually going through with the act; he said “we always look at survey data with a grain of salt,” since there is a lot it cannot tell us, and there are also some indications that the number of people reaching out for help is up. “If we look at deaths from suicide, the data so far that we have available does not yet show an increase for 2020,” Gordon said.
    Gordon also said that the mental health consequences of disasters are often “not fully realized until the disaster is over,” so it is possible that the impact of the pandemic could show up in suicide data after the immediate threat of the virus itself has passed.
    Jonathan Singer, president of the American Association of Suicidology, said nobody can definitively say today that suicide deaths are up nationally — and even if the data does end up showing that there was an increase, “it’s going to be really hard to say it’s because of the pandemic.” Singer pointed out that suicides had annually increased for years before a slight decline in 2019.
    When we told the White House what the two experts had told us, the White House official who responded to most of our queries pointed to: reports about suicides increasing in particular areas of the US, the evidence that suicidal ideation is up in the US, evidence that suicide in Japan has increased during the pandemic, and an NPR article that noted the absence of nationwide numbers but also said, “NPR spoke with providers at hospitals in seven states across the country, and all of them reported a similar trend: More suicidal children are coming to their hospitals — in worse mental states.”
    All of that is fair enough. But it doesn’t change the fact that we don’t yet know for sure whether Biden’s general claim that “suicides are up” is correct.
    Biden’s role in the 2009 stimulus talks
    Biden said in an economic speech on February 5: “When this nation hit the Great Recession that Barack and I inherited in 2009, I was asked to lead the effort on the economic recovery act to get it passed. It was a big recovery package, roughly $800 billion. I did everything I could to get it passed, including getting three Republicans to change their votes and vote for it.”
    Facts First: This needs context. Biden certainly did play a role in persuading three Republican senators (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania) to vote in favor of the 2009 stimulus bill, but Collins objects to how Biden portrayed his role here. Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark told CNN that Collins did not “change” her vote — Collins had never decided to vote No before she voted Yes — and that, while Biden was “was among those who advocated for the bill,” Collins negotiated the actual details with four other Democratic officials: then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, then-Senator Joe Lieberman, and then-Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag. (After the vote in 2009, Collins also noted that President Barack Obama met personally with her.)
    Biden didn’t claim that he was the only person responsible for securing the three Republicans’ votes, so his claim isn’t false. But he would’ve been more accurate if he had made clear he was part of a team and if he had not suggested that the three Republicans flip-flopped on the bill.
    Specter died in 2012. Snowe left office in 2013, and her institute did not respond to a request for comment.
    Hunger in January
    Biden said during January 29 remarks on his pandemic relief plan: “Thirty million Americans don’t have enough food to eat this week.”
    Facts First: This figure was slightly outdated. A Census Bureau survey for December 9 to December 21, which was released in early January, found that just under 30 million people said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the previous seven days. However, the latest version of the survey at the time Biden spoke, released two days before his speech, put the number at just under 24 million people.
    Oil subsidies
    Biden said in a January 27 environmental speech: “Unlike previous administrations, I don’t think the federal government should give handouts to Big Oil to the tune of $40 billion in fossil fuel subsidies.”
    Facts First: Biden has a reasonable factual basis for this claim, but it’s worth noting that the accuracy of the “$40 billion” figure depends on what you consider a “handout to Big Oil” and what time period you are looking at.
    There is no single accepted figure for what counts as a “handout to Big Oil”; the question of what qualifies as a subsidy for fossil fuels is complicated. And Biden was unclear about what time period he was referring to. When we asked the White House about this claim, Biden’s team referred CNN to a 2012 Bloomberg article about an Obama-administration budget proposal to cut more than $40 billion in various forms of subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies over 10 years — so at least 2.5 presidential terms.
    Similarly, a 2016 estimate from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, listed nine oil and gas tax breaks whose elimination would save more than $39 billion between 2016 and 2026.
    Biden’s “$40 billion” figure is very close to at least one estimate for annual US subsidies for fossil fuels. The estimate, provided to CNN by the research and advocacy group Oil Change International, which seeks to transition away from fossil fuels, is $39.4 billion. That $39.4 billion figure, however, also includes subsidies for coal (so not just to “Big Oil”), relies largely on figures from 2015 and 2016, and includes billions in subsidies from state governments (not only the federal government).
    Masks and lives
    Biden said the day after his inauguration that “the experts say by wearing a mask from now until April, we’d save more than 50,000 lives going forward; 50,000 lives.”
    Facts First: The White House official said this figure came from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). An IHME study published in October estimated that if 95% of the US population wore masks in public from September 22 through February 2021 “an additional 129,574…lives” could be saved. That math comes out to 809 lives per day, which would mean 56,630 lives could be saved from January 21, when Biden made these remarks, to April 1.
    Trump and health care
    In a January 28 speech about health care executive orders, Biden said the orders would “undo” damage done by Trump. He said, “There’s nothing new that we’re doing here, other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became President, which by fiat he changed — made more inaccessible, more expensive, and more difficult for people to qualify for either of those two items: the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid.”
    Facts First: This needs context. Actions taken by the Trump administration did make it more difficult for people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act or qualify for Medicaid. The question of whether those actions also made coverage more expensive is more complex.
    According to Robin Rudowitz, Co-Director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured, the Trump administration’s proposals and actions “mostly focused around limiting the scope of Medicaid coverage.”
    For example, in a historic step, the Trump administration allowed states to apply for waivers to require certain Medicaid recipients to work, volunteer, take classes or search for jobs in order to receive coverage. A dozen states received permission to do so. About 18,000 people were stripped of their insurance in Arkansas — the only state to fully implement the rules before being stopped by a federal judge — within a few months of the mandate taking effect. The Supreme Court agreed in December to hear the case.
    The Trump administration also made the Affordable Care Act less accessible by cutting the enrollment period in half and slashing the advertising budget by 90%, which meant certain individuals likely weren’t aware of the shorter time frame to sign up or aware of their coverage options and possible subsidies for them. Additionally, in his first year in office, Trump required those seeking coverage during special enrollment periods because of a major life change, like job loss or divorce, to provide documentation proving their eligibility.
    On the question of affordability, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2018 that Congress’ reduction of the individual mandate penalty to $0 would drive up individual premiums starting in 2019. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, certain insurance carriers added an average of 6% to premiums in 2019 which the carriers stated was the result of Congress’ effective elimination of the individual mandate and the Trump administration’s promotion of loosely regulated plans as alternatives to the comprehensive ones sold on the ACA exchanges.
    However, it’s worth noting that since 2018, the average premium for the benchmark plan has decreased 8%, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
    While the Trump administration has tried to take credit for that, the decrease is likely a result of the market stabilizing as insurers figured out how to set the proper premiums based on their enrollees’ health, which in turn drew insurers back into the exchanges and prompted new carriers to offer policies. This decrease also comes after a massive increase when insurance carriers raised the average premium for the benchmark plan by 37% for 2018 coverage. Therefore, despite the recent downward trend, according to CMS, average benchmark plan premiums remain higher on average than before the Trump administration’s changes.
    – CNN’s Tami Luhby contributed to this item.
    Biden getting ‘shot at’
    Biden said at the State Department on February 4: “I’ve been with some of you when we’ve been shot at.”
    Facts First: What counts as being “shot at” is subjective, but there is enough evidence for Biden’s vague claim that we say it is somewhat accurate at minimum. The White House pointed to five incidents during Biden’s career as senator and vice president, at least two of them corroborated by media outlets.
    In 2009, the New York Times reported that the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq was “attacked by rocket fire for a second night on Wednesday, this time just after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had made brief public remarks and sat down for a traditional dinner to break the Ramadan fast.” (The Times reported that one rocket landed about a mile away from where Biden was.)
    In 2010, CNN reported, “Three mortar rounds struck harmlessly inside Baghdad’s Green Zone on Sunday night during a weekend visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.”
    The White House sent CNN a list of three other incidents Biden says occurred: another Green Zone mortar incident in 2005, an incident in 2005 in which Biden said a bullet narrowly missed a helicopter carrying him from the Green Zone to the Baghdad airport, and an incident in 2004 in which Biden said he was leaving Iraq in a military plane that had to take evasive action after its missile warning system was activated.
    Some of Biden’s critics have noted that, as a senator in 2007, he walked back a claim about having been “shot at” in the Green Zone. According to a report in The Hill in 2007, he said then that it would have been more accurate to say, “I was near where a shot landed.”
    He could have been more precise then and now. Still, his claim that he has been with American diplomats as they were “shot at” is not baseless.
    Racial disparities and the pandemic
    Biden said in a January 26 speech on racial issues: “Black and Latino Americans are dying of Covid-19 at rates nearly three times that of White Americans.”
    Facts First: Biden was correct at the time he spoke; these figures were taken from published Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data at the time. However, it’s worth noting that updated CDC data published later, in mid-February, shows smaller disparities.
    The updated CDC data shows that, through January 30, Black people had died of Covid-19 at 1.9 times the rate of White people, down from 2.8 times in the previous data. Latino people had died at 2.3 times the rate of White people, also down from 2.8 times in the previous data.
    Attitudes about climate change
    Biden said in the environmental speech: “And I might note, parenthetically: If you notice, the attitude of the American people toward greater impetus on focusing on climate change and doing something about it has increased across the board — Democrat, Republican, independent.”
    Facts First: This is correct, but it’s worth noting that survey data suggests there has been a much smaller increase among Republicans than among Democrats. Of Pew Research Center survey respondents, for example, the percentage of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who thought that dealing with global warming or climate change should be a top priority for the president and Congress spiked from 47% in 2008 to 78% in 2020. For Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, the increase was 15% to just 21%.
    “Over the last decade, we’ve seen little growth in the shares of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who view climate change as a major threat to the U.S. or call it a top priority for the president and Congress,” Cary Funk, Pew’s director of science and society research, said in an email.
    Pew asked all respondents about “global warming” from 2008 to 2014. In 2015, it asked half of respondents about “global warming” and half about “climate change.” From 2016 onward, it has asked all respondents about “climate change.”
    Clean energy
    Biden said in the environmental speech: “Already, 84 percent of all new electric capacity planned to come onto the electric grid this is year is clean energy.”
    Facts First: This is true if you accept a certain definition of “clean energy.” According to the US Energy Information Administration, of the new electricity generating capacity planned to come online in 2021, 39% is solar, 31% is wind, 11% is batteries and 3% is nuclear. That adds up to the 84% Biden referenced. However, there’s debate over whether nuclear power and batteries should be considered sources of clean energy generation.
    Climate change and the military
    Biden said in the environmental speech: “[T]he Defense Department reported that climate change is a direct threat to more than two thirds of the military’s operational critical installations.”
    Facts First: This is accurate. A 2019 Pentagon report on the “Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense” looked at “79 mission assurance priority installations based on their operational role” across the Navy, Army and Airforce, and a few other related agencies. The report says two-thirds of these installations are vulnerable to “future recurrent flooding.” Separately, “more than one-half are vulnerable to current or future drought. About one-half are vulnerable to wildfires.”
    Here are some other claims Biden was correct about:
    Race and the economy: Biden was correct in saying that about 1 in 4 Black households and 1 in 5 Latino households reported not having enough to eat; that 1 in 10 Black people and 1 in 11 Latino people were out of work; that more than 10 million people were out of work in total, four million of them for six months or longer; and that more than 40 percent of the active-duty military is made up of people of color.
      The pandemic: Biden was correct that January 2021 was the deadliest US month of the pandemic (with more than 95,000 deaths, per the latest Johns Hopkins University data); that more than 24 million Americans had been infected with the virus as of late January; that the US had 25 percent of the world’s confirmed Covid-19 cases with just 4 percent of the world’s population (though it’s important to note that international statistics do not capture all actual cases); that studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of death from Covid-19; that there was initial talk that it could take years or even decades before there was a Covid-19 vaccine; and that, in January, experts predicted more than 100,000 more US deaths from the virus.
      Assorted: Biden was also correct that Trump reversed a late-Obama-era move to reduce the use of private prisons; that there are more than 80 million displaced people around the world; that China has trains that go more than 225 miles per hour; and that Biden is the first president in 40 years to have a child who served in a war zone.

      Continue Reading
      Advertisement
      Click to comment

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

      Politics

      Biden to take first limited steps on gun control, including on ‘ghost guns’ and pistol braces

      Published

      on

      By Kevin Liptak, CNN
      Updated 10:57 PM ET, Wed April 7, 2021

      (CNN) — President Joe Biden will take his first, limited actions on gun control Thursday, directing his administration to tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns and pistol stabilizing braces that allow the weapons to be used more accurately, according to a senior administration official.

      The steps — which also include nominating a gun control advocate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — fulfill a commitment Biden made in the aftermath of two deadly shootings last month to take “common sense” steps right away to address gun violence.
      But they fall short of the sweeping actions Biden promised as a candidate that must be passed by Congress, including a ban on assault weapons or enacting universal background checks. Senior administration officials framed the upcoming announcements as initial steps that would be followed by additional actions later on, including applying pressure on lawmakers to act.
        Biden said last month following a mass shooting in Colorado, “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future.” But he has acknowledged that passing a massive new infrastructure plan — and not new gun laws — is his top legislative priority.
          Biden will make the announcements Thursday from the White House alongside his attorney general, Merrick Garland, whose Justice Department will be responsible for drafting the proposed rules.
              The announcements will come as the President is expected to nominate David Chipman as the next director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a White House official told CNN. Chipman is a former ATF agent who serves as senior policy adviser at Giffords, the organization led by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who became a gun control advocate after being shot in 2011.
              The ATF has been without a permanent director since 2015.
              Biden also plans to announce new investments in intervention programs in violence-prone communities; a directive to the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” laws for states that allow the temporary removal of guns from people deemed at high risk of harming themselves or others; and a comprehensive report on firearms trafficking.
              Taken together, the actions amount to the first real steps by Biden’s administration to combat gun violence. Inside the White House, efforts to devise executive actions have been led by White House Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice and Office of Public Engagement Director Cedric Richmond, administration officials and gun safety advocacy groups told CNN.
              That included meeting with some of those groups and fielding ideas for steps that Biden could take on his own. Some advocates had been clamoring for steps earlier in the administration, pointing to Biden’s pledge to prioritize gun control during his campaign.
              But initial reaction from gun safety advocacy groups Wednesday evening was positive.
              “Each of these executive actions will start to address the epidemic of gun violence that has raged throughout the pandemic, and begin to make good on President Biden’s promise to be the strongest gun safety president in history,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement.
              “These much-needed executive actions will start saving lives right away, and our grassroots army of nearly 6 million supporters looks forward to standing behind President Biden as he urges the Senate to follow his lead and act,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.
              While campaigning, Biden had said he would task his attorney general with instituting better enforcement of existing gun laws as a means of slowing gun violence. He also made a campaign pledge to send $900 million for community programs meant to combat violence, something the administration is sorting out how to fulfill.
              Following last month’s shootings, Biden called on Congress to take steps like reenacting an assault weapons ban, with Vice President Kamala Harris, who argued for executive actions on the campaign trail, telling “CBS This Morning” that “if we really want something that is going to be lasting, we need to pass legislation.”
              The Democratic-controlled House passed gun legislation that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales last month, but the bills face tougher paths in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 50-50 majority and would need significant Republican support to overcome a legislative filibuster.
              Biden acknowledged during a news conference that his main legislative priority was passing an infrastructure package and that he believed careful timing was key to the success of any proposed bills.
              And he has acknowledged that his political capital is limited.
              “I haven’t done any counting yet,” he said in March when asked whether he believed he had enough votes to pass significant reforms.
              As the nation’s posture on guns has evolved, Biden has been front-and-center at most every stop along the way for more than three decades, from the triumph of a 10-year ban on assault weapons in 1994 to the disappointment of a failed push for universal background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.
                Recent shootings in Georgia and Colorado had raised the question inside the West Wing over how much political capital Biden should expend on the matter, which has so often ended in frustration.
                This story has been updated with details about Biden’s executive actions and reaction to them.

                Continue Reading

                Politics

                Virginia lawmakers OK marijuana possession starting July 1

                Published

                on

                By Paul LeBlanc and Kay Jones, CNN
                Updated 9:45 PM ET, Wed April 7, 2021

                (CNN) — The Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill legalizing simple possession of marijuana, becoming the latest state to modify its laws around cannabis use and possession that disproportionately jailed Black people for nonviolent offenses.

                The new law, which goes into effect July 1, allows anyone in the state 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The law also “modifies several other criminal penalties related to marijuana, and imposes limits on dissemination of criminal history record information related to certain marijuana offenses,” according to a summary posted to the Legislature’s website.
                “Virginia led and made history once again today,” Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who cast the tie-breaking vote in the state Senate, said in a tweet.
                  “I was proud to cast the tie-breaking vote to legalize marijuana and bring long overdue justice, fairness, equity and opportunity to the people of our great Commonwealth.”
                    The bill had originally passed in late February, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam sent it back to the Legislature with a series of revisions, including a proposal to accelerate the timeline of its enactment to this July instead of 2024.
                        Still, the measure was met with fierce opposition from state GOP lawmakers Wednesday, including Del. Chris Head, who called it a “train wreck” during a virtual House floor speech.
                        “If this policy change is to be undertaken, it has to be undertaken prudently, and I understand the enormous pressure on the majority party to make this change right now. I understand that opposing immediate legislation and legalization is going to anger many of your constituents. And I understand that taking the time to do this right might possibly even lead to charges of racism,” he said.
                        “But we have to do this right. And doing it right takes time.”
                        Legalization advocates have long touted the righting of past criminal justice wrongs, eliminating illegal market activity and generating additional tax revenue when they’ve pushed for overhauling state cannabis laws.
                        “At the end of the day, economics talk and jobs talk,” Jessica Billingsley, chief executive officer of Akerna, which makes regulatory compliance software that helps states track cannabis sales from seed to sale, previously told CNN.
                          “I truly believe we’re going to see some very meaningful and important movement coming out of this as states and governors look for a way to bolster their economy.”
                          Cannabis sales in states that have legalized the plant for medical and recreational purposes totaled about $15 billion in 2019, and are expected to top $30 billion by 2024, according to data from BDS Analytics, which tracks dispensary sales.

                          Continue Reading

                          Politics

                          Biden’s planned pick for ATF director a fierce advocate for gun control

                          Published

                          on

                          By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
                          Updated 9:30 PM ET, Wed April 7, 2021

                          Washington (CNN) — David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s planned nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has a long history at the agency and sports credentials in gun control advocacy sure to excite firearm safety groups.

                          If confirmed, Chipman will lead the agency that enforces gun laws at a critical point in Biden’s early tenure, as the President looks to take fresh action on the issue in the wake of two deadly shootings last month.
                          “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future,” Biden said last month. The President plans to announce new executive actions on guns Thursday, a person familiar with the plans said.

                            Longtime ATF special agent

                              Chipman, if confirmed, would return to the agency where he worked for 25 years as a special agent.
                                He lists “Violent Crime Reduction Strategist,” “Certified Explosives Specialist” and “Interagency Liason Specialist” among his specialties on his Linkedin profile, and Giffords notes his expertise includes ghost guns, the gun industry, law enforcement and assault weapons.
                                In the President’s first, limited actions on gun control Thursday, Biden will direct his administration to tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns and pistol stabilizing braces that allow the weapons to be used more accurately, according to a senior administration official. Ghost guns are handmade or self-assembled firearms that don’t have serial numbers, and some can be fabricated in as little as 30 minutes using kits and parts purchased online.
                                The ATF has been without a permanent director since 2015.
                                In recent years, the bureau has become most visible in the aftermath of mass shootings around the US and at other crimes involving firearms. But the agency has a broader scope than just guns.
                                According to its website, ATF “protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.”
                                “We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology,” the bureau’s website states.

                                Gun control advocacy

                                After leaving the ATF in 2012, Chipman became a senior adviser at Everytown for Gun Safety, where he was “consulted frequently” by lawmakers considering gun control legislation, according to his Linkedin.
                                Chipman then served as senior vice president of Public Safety Solutions for almost three years before arriving at Giffords as a senior policy adviser in 2016.
                                It’s in these roles that Chipman’s voice as a fierce advocate for gun control was elevated, as he frequently wrote op-eds and made media appearances to advance the cause.
                                “As a former ATF special agent with more than 24 years of experience at the bureau, I know all too well how serious our gun violence problem is and how desperately the agency lacks for the law enforcement tools that are necessary to help curb this national epidemic,” Chipman wrote in a 2013 Politico op-ed.
                                The country’s gun safety laws, he wrote at the time, “make it all too easy for guns to fall into the wrong hands — and since Congress has failed to address these gaps legislatively, ATF must chart a new course to combat the scourge of gun violence. This requires strong leadership.”
                                More recently, Chipman voiced support for limiting high-capacity magazines in a 2019 interview with PBS NewsHour.
                                “Talking to any gun owner, a 100-round magazine is just not traditional. It’s not normal. And I can’t think of a purpose, beyond killing a lot of people, for having it,” he said. “So if the debate is, should it be 10 or what have you, it can’t be 100. And so I think there’s room where we can have progress, although we will not have perfection.”
                                  And in light of FBI records last summer showing US firearm background checks having skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Chipman told CNN at the time: “My biggest concern involves the potential number of first time gun buyers who, before March, did not think they needed a gun.”
                                  This story has been updated with additional details Wednesday.

                                  Continue Reading

                                  Politics

                                  Andrew Giuliani, former Trump aide and son of Rudy Giuliani, says he plans for to run for governor of New York

                                  Published

                                  on

                                  By Devan Cole, CNN
                                  Updated 12:16 PM ET, Wed April 7, 2021

                                  Washington (CNN) — Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, says he’s planning to run for governor of the heavily Democratic state next year.

                                  “I plan to run,” Andrew Giuliani, who served as an aide to former President Donald Trump, told the Washington Examiner in an interview published Wednesday.
                                  Giuliani’s gubernatorial bid could set up a high stakes, headline-grabbing showdown with Andrew Cuomo, should the embattled incumbent Democratic governor decide to seek a fourth term. But Giuliani would face a steep uphill battle in the heavily Democratic state, and his candidacy could help hand another win to the party as his proximity to Trump would likely be seen as a liability in a state where the former President is widely unpopular.
                                    “I believe I can win the race,” Giuliani told the Examiner. “I think I’m the right candidate, and this is the right time to help change New York State, and we’ve got a playbook that works.”
                                      “Outside of anybody named Trump, I think I have the best chance to win and take the state back, and I think there’s an opportunity in 2022 with a wounded Democratic candidate, whether it’s going to be Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo, whether it’s going to be a radical (attorney general), Letitia James, whether it’s going to be a no-name lieutenant governor, I think there’s a very, very real chance to win,” he said, according to the magazine.
                                            Asked if he expected Cuomo to seek reelection to a fourth term next year, Jay Jacobs, the state party chair and a close ally of the governor, demurred.
                                            “I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I think that he’s more focused on getting through his current troubles, then seeing where he’s going to go,” he said. “These investigations are going to be critical in all of that. It’s hard to tell. I’m sure that, given his druthers, he’d like to run for reelection.”

                                            Continue Reading

                                            Politics

                                            Stephen Breyer worries about Supreme Court’s public standing in current political era

                                            Published

                                            on

                                            By Joan Biskupic, CNN legal analyst & Supreme Court biographer
                                            Updated 9:07 PM ET, Tue April 6, 2021

                                            (CNN) — Justice Stephen Breyer, who may be nearing the end of his Supreme Court tenure, expressed concern on Tuesday about the standing of the high court and the possible erosion of public confidence in its decisions.

                                            In an expansive, two-hour lecture at Harvard Law School, Breyer bemoaned the common practice — by journalists, senators and others — of referring to justices by the presidents who appointed them and of describing the nine by their conservative or liberal approach to the law.
                                            “These are more than straws in the wind,” the 82-year-old Breyer said. “They reinforce the thought, likely already present in the reader’s mind, that Supreme Court justices are primarily political officials or ‘junior league’ politicians themselves rather than jurists. The justices tend to believe that differences among judges mostly reflect not politics but jurisprudential differences. That is not what the public thinks.”
                                              Breyer also warned against proposals to expand the size of the Supreme Court from its current nine members. Public trust was “gradually built” over the centuries, he said, and any discussion of change should take account of today’s public acceptance of the court’s rulings, even those as controversial as the 2000 Bush v. Gore case that settled a presidential election.
                                                “The public now expects presidents to accept decisions of the court, including those that are politically controversial,” he said. “The court has become able to impose a significant check — a legal check — upon the Executive’s actions in cases where the Executive strongly believes it is right.”
                                                  Some of Breyer’s most compelling opinions, it should be noted, have been written in dissent. In 2007, for example, he objected to an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts rejecting school integration plans in Seattle and Louisville. Roberts said districts could not consider a student’s race when making school assignments to reduce racial isolation throughout the school district.
                                                  “This is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret,” wrote Breyer, whose father, Irving Breyer, was a long-serving school board member in San Francisco. Breyer still wears the wristwatch his father received upon his retirement from the district. Breyer said the Roberts opinion threatened “the promise of” the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
                                                  Breyer said Tuesday that differences with his colleagues were based on their distinct views of the structure of the Constitution or how they interpreted statutes. He did not refer to instances in which his colleagues themselves have publicly questioned each other’s motives.
                                                    Breyer did allow that sometimes justices weigh public opinion or the future ramifications of a decision. And he acknowledged that the nine are products of their individual backgrounds and experiences.
                                                    Still, he said, “judicial philosophy is not a code word for ‘politics.'”

                                                    Continue Reading

                                                    Trending